On June 24th, our nation honored the anniversary of Freedom Summer. Fifty years ago blacks and whites, Jews and Christians set their course south to record the stories of communities robbed of every day freedoms. In doing so, they challenged a set of laws designed to strip voting rights from black Southerners. (include Freedom Summer photo and CCO training photo as well)
This summer hundreds of leaders across the heartland are gathering to make decisions about how the community will again participate in a long-term relationship-building strategy that grows the voice and power of their people. Most importantly, they are creating space for the spirit and values of our people to excite a renewed movement for human dignity.
This past weekend, Rev. Lloyd Fields dozens of other leaders from across metro Kansas City stepped into that powerful legacy. They negotiated how to bring the interests of people of color and women into a powerful faith based neighborhood-organizing campaign. Rev. Wallace Harstfield II, pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, hosted us in his congregation, a religious community long committed to neighborhood transformation and prophetic justice. He recognized the significance of our movement building work within our history. Rev. Hartsfield said, “we are building a movement that is incarnational and interventional. Instead of addressing a list of causes, our movement will be driven by the values that motivate.”
Communities Creating Opportunity is stepping into the legacy of leadership demonstrated by Freedom Summer in 1964. We launched a Freedom Summer fellowship for young professionals and students. Stephanie Feld and Isabelle Ciaramataro are volunteering their time to document stories that are all too close to the voter suppression experienced in the Jim Crow South. Congregational leaders from thirty communities such as St. Peter CME in Kansas City, Kansas and Grace Episcopal in Liberty, Missouri, and St. Mark’s in Independence, Missouri committed to continue the work of Freedom Summer leaders through Communities Creating Opportunity’s Dignity Votes campaign. This nonpartisan, values-driven voter engagement includes knocking on doors and following up with phone calls and regular contact to say to residents in neighborhoods around our congregations “your voice matters to us, and our community needs you.” While certain voting rights were won for women and people of color during the Civil Rights movement through a set of legislative advancements like the Voting Rights Act, we still have a long ways to go to achieve CCO’s vision for a society with human dignity at the center of public life.
In Kansas 20,000 voters are victim to the aggressive voter repression laws that go to extremes to limit voting rights. In Missouri Early Voting citizen led initiatives are being gutted and threatened by a state legislature determined only to listen to the highest bidder. Despite the protections offered in the Voting Rights Act being steadily stripped away, Communities Creating Opportunity leaders continue to say ‘your voice matters and your community needs you.’ There are few other spaces where racially, religiously, and geographically diverse communities gather to prioritize their common interests, calculate their voting and leadership power, and step into a plan for realizing their community vision. They do this all through CCO and this past weekend, our inspiring team leaders from across typically divided metro boundaries presented a goal of engaging 22,000 voters in the communities we serve.
I am proud to serve the vision of this organization to move human dignity to the center of public life. Will you join us and bring the interests of your congregation, organization and community more deeply into public life? Contact Molly Fleming, CCO Policy and Campaign Director, email@example.com
Thank you for everything you do,