March 20th, 2013
On Wednesday morning, we met together at Tabernacle United Church to hear from Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild.
POWER is made up of faith communities from all across Philadelphia, intentionally bringing people together across the lines of race, faith, income level and neighborhood — lines which have historically kept Philadelphians divided. POWER’s partners include people of faith who are committed to the work of bringing about justice here and now, in the city and region. By strengthening and mobilizing networks of relationships, they seek to exercise power in the public arena so that the needs and priorities of all Philadelphians are reflected in the systems and policies that shape the city.
Bishop Royster led the group in a creative and dynamic exercise, splitting the large group into four smaller groups to tackle real issues that the students face on their university campus. Each group needed to brainstorm ways that they would empower the student body to bring about positive change. Who would they go to? Which university leaders did they need to engage? There was much spirited discussion and I was very impressed with the results of each group’s deliberation.
Afterwards, Bishop Royster informed the group about an issue facing Philadelphia residents–jobs at the Philly International Airport. He shared the urgency of informing local residents about the need for these new jobs to be offered to Philadelphians. More than 500,000 Philadelphians are ineligible for 62% of the jobs because of low literacy skills. Nearly 200,000 Philadelphians lack a high school diploma. As a result, barely 1/3 of them are able to find full-time employment. Half of public high school students do not graduate on time and half do not read, write or perform math at the appropriate grade level.
POWER congregations are responding to this crisis by calling on public, business, non-profit and labor leaders to work with POWER to create a comprehensive plan to educate, train and connect 10,000 Philadelphia residents to new, living wage jobs in the coming years. As part of this commitment, POWER has produced a petition to encourage the community to rally together to encourage Philly leadership to keep airport jobs available to Philly residents.
The students, petitions in hand, walked to the University of Pennsylvania campus.
They spoke with students or any other people who happened to be walking down the street. Some ignored the students; others enthusiastically signed the petition; some made snide comments. In the end, though, the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire students collected a large number of signatures and learned a lot about this type of advocacy.
After lunch, the group headed to Philly SHARE food program’s warehouse, near the East Falls section of the city.
SHARE Food Program’s mission is to promote healthy living and stronger communities through affordable, wholesome food. Through the efforts of our volunteers and the support of our community SHARE distributes thousands of pounds of food a month and education and outreach throughout the region.
“Do Good. Feel Good. Eat Good.”
A smart idea that brings community and healthy food together.
Various faith groups, schools, and other secular organizations volunteer at SHARE. Their murals adorn the walls of the warehouse.
After a brief orientation, the group got to work!!!
It was a full day with a workshop on pluralism to follow in the evening.
Needless to say, this group has formed deep bonds.