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PICO leaders, during a Dec. 1 action and press conference, call on President Obama to use his clemency power to protect families. (LaGloria Wheatfall/PICO National Network)

PICO is responding to President-elect Trump’s promises to push immoral policies that would deport immigrants and criminalize Black and Brown communities with a resounding “not on our watch!” On Dec. 1, PICO leaders from federations and congregations across the country participated in the launch of a new campaign calling on President Obama to pardon undocumented immigrants and grant clemency to individuals with low-level, nonviolent federal drug offenses before he leaves office next month. 

(Join the push by signing the petition asking President Obama to take immediate action)

"We are asking the president to do this because we know he can," said Denise Collazo, PICO's chief of staff. "We're asking President Obama to unite and keep families together." 

Rich Morales, PICO’s immigration policy director, said promises made by President-elect Trump mean “our neighbors are at risk, at a level never seen before. As a network of people of faith, we are requesting immediate action from all levels of government to protect the most vulnerable before the new administration takes power."

“It is always the right time to do the right thing,” said Rev. Greg Holston, executive director of POWER. "It is his moral call right now, he has the absolute power, no one doubts that he has the power to make this moral judgment for 11 million [undocumented immigrants] and tens of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. He has the opportunity, and we’re praying for him that he does not miss this opportunity."

Speaking about the urgent need to pardon immigrants living in the United States without documentation, Miguel Oaxaca of Together Colorado said he wants President Obama to use not only his power but his heart to help families such as his own. "Today I'm not asking President Obama as a president, I’m asking him as a father, to keep families together," he said.

PICO leader Reyna Montoya, who is a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient, said that she doesn't have the luxury of thinking even of herself in this moment--her entire family is at risk. "As a woman of faith, I’m going do anything I can to make sure my parents stay together with my brother and my sister. It is my moral responsibility to do the same thing for my neighbors....we’re going to protect them no matter what.”

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Sign the petition asking President Obama to protect our families by pardoning low-level drug offenses and civil immigration infractions and help us spread the word by watching and sharing this morning's full Presidential Pardons press conference on PICO's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PICOnetwork/videos/10155253163251754/

Posted In: Racial Justice, Immigration

Do You See Me?

By Scott Reed

Perhaps you also are stunned by the election results.

While it is evident that economic anxiety and an anti-elite message helped elect our new President, his words and actions during the campaign portend a frightening and unstable presidency.

More significantly — and certainly more sobering to me — is the level of support Americans have offered a man who campaigned with an anti-immigrant, homophobic, sexist and racist agenda.

The America that elected him is not an America that I celebrate and have labored for 40 years to help construct.

The level of his intolerance was embraced by large segments of our country, or at least acquiesced to as they embraced the rest of his message. The question we need to ask ourselves is why?

If we correctly diagnose the impulses of his supporters we may find ways to heal.

There is a huge difference between annihilating whiteness and decentering whiteness: the former would erase the identities of those whose culture has given them few constructive sources of identity; the latter steadfastly refuses to embrace that exclusionary whiteness, but invites it to a more expansive embrace the full humanity of all. If we are to heal we need to speak into this difference. And we must do so in ways that do not deny that many Americans of all races and ethnicities have come to feel unseen and unheard in our politics.

The demographic trends are clear to all. Any attempt to grasp onto a past where those who were white dominated the political, economic, cultural and social forces will either fail or will destroy American democracy by making some Americans irrelevant and invisible.

Ultimately, the question all of us are asking is this: do you see me? Do you really see me?

White anxiety and alienation showed up in this election. And I encountered deep alienation in poor and multi-ethnic communities that I walked this election season as well. These anxieties and alientations, as different as they are, share common roots in people not being seen.

Perhaps in our response to the current moment, we can draw on a bit of African wisdom. There is a Zulu word used in greeting: sawubona. The word means “I see you”. The response is sikhona which means “if you see me, then I am here”. Perhaps this can help us truly see one another, and in being seen help us to realize that we all belong here.

We can create spaces of radical empathy where we invite and hear stories. It is in the telling and listening to our stories that we can resist the commodification and ‘othering’ embedded in our society today.

Faith institutions — moral communities of all traditions that are intent on helping people make meaning of their lives — have constructed our organizing network. These institutions adhere to sacred texts. The sacred texts of all traditions call for resistance to a false hierarchy of value. This resistance compels us to see one another in all of our glory and through our difference. That is a calling for all times and all places, but perhaps in this historical moment it is a particularly sacred obligation.

It is time our faith communities — and we in our work — more fully embody that sacred obligation. It is time we create spaces where we can see one another, listen to our stories and make meaning of our differences.

Imagine how healing could begin with such a simple act. In times of division, dialogue breeds transformation. Perhaps in a time such as ours, only real dialogue can generate the depth of transformation that we need — which some of our faith traditions call “conversion”, the conversion of heart, mind, and spirit to seeing others in all their humanity.

Democracy only works if we see that we are all in this together. Tuesday’s results are a painful reminder that our democracy is failing.
There is a path forward. It begins by saying “sawubona.” And hearing — really hearing — one another respond, “sikhona.”

Scott Reed is PICO National Network's executive director.

Hope. And standing on the right side of history from PICO National Network on Vimeo.

“They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” ~ Jeremiah 6:14

It’s been a tumultuous week. A candidate who spent the entire election cycle stoking racial animus and hate was elected President of the United States. Since his election, reports of hate crimes have ricocheted across the country. People of color, religious minorities, immigrants, persons living in poverty and those who believe America should be inclusive and welcoming for all are terrified.

To make matters worse, yet another white police officer, Ray Tensing, who fatally shot an unarmed African-American father, Sam DuBose, walks free.Tensing killed DuBose on July 19, 2015, after pulling him over for not having a front license plate. A jury of his peers failed to find him guilty of murder or involuntary manslaughter. We can never bring DuBose back, but there must be righteous resistance for the loss of life.
Faith leaders with the AMOS Project, a PICO National Network federation, are first calling for justice in DuBose’s killing, and then peace. They urged Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to retry the case.

“For 400 years, we’ve urged African Americans to be calm, promising justice in the hereafter,” said Elizabeth Hopkins, a faith leader with the AMOS Project. “However, we need to stand with the oppressed, and in America, oppressed people include African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Muslims, undocumented men and women, persons living in poverty and persons identifying as LGBTQ. God has great sympathy for the oppressed and the fatherless. Why don’t we?”

For more information on righteous resistance to police violence, please watch this video. And after you've viewed it, please share it on your social media networks.

Posted In: Racial Justice

Following a presidential election cycle marred by vitriolic and harmful rhetoric, this election exposed deep divides. As people of deep faith, we are uniquely poised to not only help our nation heal, but to serve as a moral compass for the country.

Our faith will not allow us to permit the criminalization of immigrants by conducting mass deportations, or sit idly in the face of racial profiling of African Americans, Latinos and religious minorities.

While it may be tempting to focus on the presidency alone, we should look down ballot. People of faith voted for key ballot initiatives, showing that Americans - even in states that voted for Donald Trump - will vote for measures that give all families a chance to thrive.

Regardless of what happened at the top of the ticket, we are proud of these local wins and are more committed than ever to pushing an agenda that leads to a more inclusive America.

Posted In: Together We Vote

By Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the Weekend of Resistance in Ferguson, Mo. Thousands of people traveled to St. Louis to take part in “Ferguson October” for a multi-day protest.

As I think back, I remember the overwhelming heartache of our nation’s black youth as they responded to the tragic killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer. I recall their anguish as they protested against racial violence and a flawed criminal justice system that demonizes black and brown lives. I am reminded of their grievances, which came to light during that time.

They were saddened. They were scared. They were angry. They said the political system was worthless. They said clergy and civil rights leaders from generations past failed to show up when it mattered. They said nobody heard their cries in the struggle against the pain of indifference, exclusion, and hopelessness.

Confronted with that trauma and anxiety, I, like so many of my clergy colleagues, realized that our communities across the country were entrenched in a life or death struggle with economic, social, and racial injustices that were and still are decimating our people. In the midst of this pain and trauma we, as faith leaders, hear a sacred call. Our faith demands that we heal the wounds and brokenness caused by policies that disregard black and brown lives and diminish our voices.

With less than two weeks before Election Day, faith leaders have another historic opportunity to answer that sacred call. In a democratic nation like this one, the ballot is one of the most powerful ways that people of faith can publicly disrupt the stagnant waters of apathy and compel the attention and policies that our communities so desperately need.

Read the rest of the piece on the Sojourners blog: https://sojo.net/articles/taking-god-s-righteous-justice-and-resistance-voting-booth

Posted In: Together We Vote, Racial Justice

Love VOTES - Day 7


This is my 8-year-old daughter Eva. She is casting her vote for her next school district superintendent. Eva ends up accompanying me to many community meetings. She is often bored.

On this night last week, however, I witnessed her move out of her own self-interest and love for her classmates and school. You see, Eva lost her teacher to another school that had "too many" students and "not enough" teachers. Two and a half weeks into a new school year and she and others had to start over with a new classroom, and a new teacher.

She told me "I want to know who is going to care about me and my friends so we don't lose more teachers we like." She listened and took notes and had the chance to vote.

Afterward Eva tells me "Mom, I'm really proud of myself for taking notes and listening and getting to choose."

Love votes when our communities get pushed around. Eva's world, her classroom, got pushed around and she could still feel some pride and power by pushing back. I am learning a lot from this kid. We all could.

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Sarah Silva is the executive director of Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFÉ), an affiliate of PICO National Network. She and Eva live in Las Cruces, NM. Follow CAFÉ at @OrganizeNM.

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Find out more about PICO's Together We Vote voting campaign: www.piconetwork.org/campaigns/together-we-vote

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Originally posted on www.westandwithlove.org


Posted In: Together We Vote

Love VOTES - Day 6

Against the various forms of fear that drove the religious establishment and political arrangements of his day, Jesus never gave in to fear. As the embodiment of humanity, Jesus never acted out of the instinct to survive. When confronted with enemies, he turned the other cheek. When exploited, he offered all that he had. When betrayed by his closest disciples even unto death, he forgave and made them business partners. Jesus was the model of humane love.

The proven path for an oppressive regime to legitimate its power is to overwhelm history with ideology. The myth of American exceptionalism rooted in the delusion of our nation's immaculate conception is one such example. Christian denominational division is another. The way to cast this demonic ideology out is by following the flesh and blood Jesus of the Bible, not the mascot Jesus of imperial religion.

The vast majority of the voting public in the US claim to be Christian, yet enable endless militarism, economic injustice and political corruption. Politicians anesthetize the public with religious rhetoric about God and country, mom and apple pie. Civil religion has been reduced to patriotic songs and prayers at sporting events, and the incessant demand that God bless America, dammit! We understand America's special calling to be living into our myth of national redemption, with European immigrants forging a new ethnos called 'white people,' who together would lead the world into the heights of 'civilization.'

Some are still pushing this toxic idea like dope. But it ain't real. When we truly love God and all our diverse neighbors, we represent God's love in this world, and we drive out fear and hate. Voting is one way that we put love into action.

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Jin S. Kim is the founding pastor of Church of All Nations (www.cando.org) and founder of Underground Seminary (http://www.undergroundsem.org/) in Columbia Heights, MN. He grew up in the Deep South after emigrating from Korea with his family at age 7. Jin is a clergy leader with ISAIAH, an affiliate of PICO National Network. Follow him on Twitter at @JinPCUSA.

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Find out more about PICO's Together We Vote voting campaign: www.piconetwork.org/campaigns/together-we-vote

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Originally posted on www.westandwithlove.org


Posted In: Together We Vote, Racial Justice

Love VOTES - Day 5

Voting is an act of love. Many of our ancestors have taught that the core teaching of the Bible is, "Love your neighbor as yourself." In the Jewish tradition we are taught that to love someone is to share his or her pain. When anyone of us sees from a place of love what is happening to some of our neighbors, we feel pain, sadness and anger. Love is knowing that what happens to you affects me.

We live in a culture that doesn't want us to notice that. The powers that be would rather we were distracted with shopping, playing video games, or addicted to sugar (admit it that a sweet makes you feel good for minute), alcohol or drugs. If we do feel the pain, we are told there is something wrong with us and we need to take medication or be in therapy.

Feeling the pain, sadness or anger is an act of reclaiming our humanity. It is the proof of our love for our brothers and sisters. Voting is an expression of that love. Voting is deciding who gets to make the policies that will either continue the oppression or move towards justice. Love requires that we act for justice.

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Rabbi Mordechai Liebling is the Director of the Social Justice Organizing Program of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a member of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Renew), an affiliate of PICO National Network. For twelve years he was the executive director of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the congregational arm of the movement.

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Find out more about PICO's Together We Vote voting campaign: www.piconetwork.org/campaigns/together-we-vote

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Originally posted on www.westandwithlove.org


Posted In: Together We Vote

Love VOTES - Day 4

In 1974, I registered to vote the day I turned 18. In November, in the wake of Watergate and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, my suburban Virginia congressional district voted out a 22-year incumbent. I felt powerful.

Thirty years later, my older son registered to vote in his small, Ohio college town. The Ohio Electoral Commission provided only one working voting machine for this progressive town. It was 2:00am on Wednesday, November 3, 2004 before the last student voted. My son knew his vote mattered.

Privileged by race and education, my son and I knew as young adults that we mattered and that our votes mattered. The poor and immigrant young men and women in my parish in Lynn, Massachusetts find it hard to believe that their lives or their votes matter.

At St. Stephen's and in Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), we care about the Essex County Sheriff election because we love Sean, Prince, Jonathan, Sam, Marty, Larry, Danielle, Twin, Jalen, Kadeem, Heather, Antonio, Cody, Hector, Teresa, Jorge, and countless others who have criminal records. They are under-employed, blocked from housing, burdened by child support payments accrued during incarceration, prevented from volunteering at their children's schools, and limited by addiction and behavioral health issues. Electing a Sheriff who will stand with us as we seek to engage criminal justice reform and dismantle mass incarceration matters to those we love.

At St. Stephen's and in ECCO, we care about our Presidential and Congressional elections because we love Angela, Juan, Jose, Joseph, Sid, Carlos, Marian, Enos, Emily, and countless others who are undocumented. They fear deportation dismantling their families and suffer when they cannot return home for the funeral of a loved one; they lack access to in-state tuition and scholarships for college; and they live in an economic underclass, which makes them vulnerable to unsafe work conditions and wage theft. Electing a President and Representative who will support pathways to citizenship matters to those we love.

As an Episcopal priest, I believe that each of us is created in God's image and beloved of God. God knew us before we were born and we are "wonderfully made." (Ps. 139) I love my privileged white, male, straight, educated sons and want the world for them. But I also love the people whom I serve in Lynn. I know my sons will vote in November. I work with ECCO to make sure that my congregation and city will vote on November 8 because these elections matter to those I love. And love votes!

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Jane Gould is the rector at St. Stephens Memorial Episcopal Church in Lynn, MA (http://www.ststephenslynn.org/). She is a clergy leader and board member of Essex County Community Organization, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, and PICO National Network.

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Find out more about PICO's Together We Vote voting campaign: www.piconetwork.org/campaigns/together-we-vote

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Originally posted on www.westandwithlove.org


Posted In: Together We Vote, Economic Dignity, Racial Justice, Immigration, Live Free

Love VOTES - Day 3

"I love you enough to fight for you," those were words that my mother shared with me about why she was driven not by fear or hate but by love to hitch a ride day after day 50 miles down Highway 80 from Demopolis, Alabama to Selma.

My mother the late Carrie Thelma Jefferson pressed her way to Selma to put her body on the line to ensure that not only would her 4 children have the right to vote when we were eligible but that her neighbors, seen and unseen, known and unknown would have the right and the opportunity to vote because love includes and hate excludes.

Steeped in our Black, southern church tradition I am certain my mother heard the words that she repeated to us often, "love conquers fear, love conquer hate." Alabama circa 1960 was the byproduct of fear and hate. Fear that produced dogs, in the streets and set off bombs in churches where little girls sat in Sunday School. It was love that produced resistance and even after being struck by a nightstick and jailed, mom loved enough to fight until all of GOD's children had access to the ballot box.

I asked her was she afraid she said her only fear was leaving the world the same and having her children bullied, bombed and barred from the ballot box.

On the streets of Ferguson, I faced tanks and tear gas, my faith and the DNA demanded that I resist retaliation and exhibit love. At the conclusion of this chaotic election season marred by hate filled rhetoric I will act out of love and choose candidates from City Hall to the White House that represent inclusion. Love votes; love votes for our future, the future of our children, love votes for the least of these.

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Reverend Dr. Cassandra Gould is the pastor of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Jefferson City, MO. She is the Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices, an affiliate of PICO National Network. She is an activist, a mother and a daughter. Follow her on Twitter @DRCGould.

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Find out more about PICO's Together We Vote voting campaign: www.piconetwork.org/campaigns/together-we-vote

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Originally posted on www.westandwithlove.org


Posted In: Racial Justice, Together We Vote

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