New campaign aims to end racism in Fresno

The Fresno BeeMay 31, 2014 

Chris Breedlove November 2012

SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Hundreds of people from all parts of Fresno gathered at Fresno High School on Saturday morning for Faith in Community's call to action and presentation of its plan to achieve "equality and dignity for everyone in every place."

Faith in Community -- the organization known for organizing Fresno Night Walks seeking to create a more just and equitable city-- set five goals for Fresno:

  • Preserve the Medically Indigent Services Program as a health care safety net. Fresno County is considering ending support of the program that has provided medical care for two decades.
  • Reach out to City Council members to pass ordinances limiting the ability of businesses to profit off Fresno's poor by flooding poverty-stricken neighborhoods with payday loan stores.
  • Reform Fresno County Jail's bail system so that three out of four inmates aren't stuck in jail while awaiting trial.
  • Reinvest in south Fresno's neighborhoods, which were ignored as sprawl took development dollars northward.
  • Call on members of Congress to renew the fight for immigration reform and to stop inhumane deportations.
Faith in Community is the multifaith-based organization in Fresno that partners with PICO National Network, whose goal is to increase peace and end violence.

Saturday's program began with prayers by pastor Natalie Chamberlain with the United Christian Church of Fresno, Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel and Irfan Ali, director of information services at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, who read from the Quran.

Organizers outlined the strategies and tactics to create "One Healthy Fresno" -- a city cured of problems created by what many community leaders credit to racism.

"Every justice campaign that Faith in Community will introduce today has at the core of its problem an insidious seed of racism that must be named," said pastor Chris Breedlove of Community United Church of Christ.

The issues of concentrated usury, city planning, health reform and mass incarceration were addressed by community members through testimonies. Fresno State sociology professor Janine Nkosi noted that 66 payday loan stores in Fresno are located in 22 neighborhoods. Fifty-four are south of Shaw Avenue, she said. Eight of those are located in the same half-mile radius.

As the Rev. Booker T. Lewis II took the stage, he quoted Isaiah 1:17, saying "Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, and plead for the widow."

Lewis called on the audience to be creators of revolutionary change in the community, city, state and country. "Regardless of where we reside, the color of our skin or the primary language we speak, we desire equality and dignity for every person in every place, and we need one healthy Fresno," he said.

After the Faith in Community goals were presented, community members were asked to fill out a call-to-action slip. The slip encouraged Fresnans to pray for peace in the city, vote and contact Congress, county supervisors and city council members about the issues discussed in the presentation.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6679 or bvaccari@fresnobee.com.

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