A message from Ellen
May 1, 2019
Forest Lake is a founding member congregation of the MORE Justice organization in Columbia. [Midlands Organized Response for Equity and Justice] This is a grass roots organization that helps to leverage the people of faith in our community to achieve small, measurable steps towards justice for all of God’s children.
In the last year, MORE Justice has been effective in many areas. The consistent pressure on local elected officials has resulted in the City of Columbia Police force training more and more of their officers in a de-escalation model called Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) that provides tools and training to officers dealing with the chronically mentally ill. This means fewer mentally ill people being sent to prison, but instead getting help or returned to their families for treatment. That means savings in municipal budgets and lives saved. MORE Justice has also continued to work on ways to understand how Richland School Districts 1 and 2 are working on reducing out of school suspensions, improving school climate, and maximizing in-class time for all children. We have not made as much progress in our work with the School Districts, but are continuing to reach out to work on school discipline in ways that will bring a positive effects to teachers and students in our communities.
This year, in addition to foci on mental health and education, MORE Justice added a focus on housing. We learned that there is a critical need for affordable and safe housing for low income residents. Did you know that the registration process for all four public housing programs available through the Columbia Housing Authority has been closed for more than two years? And that was before two of the residents of Allen Benedict Court died of carbon monoxide poisoning and the residents of that housing complex were displaced.
If you often feel frustrated and don’t know what to do about the injustices in our community, and if you would like to know that your faith could make a difference in someone else’s life, then you are invited to come and to see the Nehemiah Action on Monday, May 6th at the Koger Center. The Nehemiah Action will be the large group event at which people of faith will gather at the Koger Center to witness our local officials respond to requests for commitments to take measurable steps to work on housing and education discipline reform.
It does not cost anything to attend, but you do need a ticket. This ensures that everyone who attends is affiliated with a community of faith (no rabble rousers) and that we have a good count of how many people attend. A group will leave the FLPC parking lot at 6:00 on Monday, May 6th. We will return to the parking lot sometime around 9pm. Coming to the Nehemiah Action does not commit you to DO anything, but allows you to witness people of faith in Columbia organized to ask our elected officials to do small things that may lead to justice for more of God’s children. What have we got to lose, except our comfortable assumptions and the feeling that there is nothing we can do?
Talk to Drew Radeker, Xan Skinner or Peggy Carey if you would like to know more, or just join us in the parking lot before 6:00 on Monday, May 6th.
See you there!
Ellen Fowler Skidmore