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Faith in Florida: Gov. DeSantis’ Latest Maneuver Another Attack on Democracy

For Immediate Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On Tuesday, March 30, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a two-map legislative package drawn with bipartisan support. The advocacy organization Faith in Florida issued the following statement, which can be attributed to Rev. Rhonda Thomas, executive director:

“Nothing Gov. DeSantis does surprises me or the people of our great state. Based on his actions, it is easy to surmise that the needs of Floridians are of little concern to Gov. DeSantis. His actions demonstrate a callousness toward Floridians that is difficult to understand. Unfortunately, the governor has a political agenda and plans for 2024 that are not aligned with current and future needs of Floridians.

“Vetoing legislative maps that drawn with bipartisan support is a huge disappointment. His actions will further complicate life for hardworking voters (many of whom are Black and Brown people), who deserve a say in our democracy and a fair shot at electing candidates of choice.

“Faith in Florida will continue to fight for what is right. We will not be deterred. We will continue working to protect and expand democracy by encouraging as many voters as possible to get out and vote. The resistance we see today is the response to our organizing success. Black and Brown voters will not be deterred, regardless of the undemocratic bills lobbed our way.”

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United Women in Faith to be Honored by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

For Immediate Release

NEW YORK – United Methodist Women (now United Women in Faith), will be honored during the Interfaith Center on Corporate qualita stanozolol oral winstrol con spedizioni Responsibility’s “ICCR at 50: Keeping the Faith” gala. The virtual event will be held March 31 at 5:30 p.m. ET. The honor recognizes United Women in Faith as one of the original founders of this effort, which arose out of the work against aparthied in South Africa and has extended its reach to promoting corporate accountability for deleterious impacts on people and the planet.

“We are proud to be a part of the work of the Interfaith Center for Corporate responsibility and are grateful to be recognized as we engage is this work together,” said Harriett Jane Olson, general secretary and CEO of United Women in Faith. “Given the current state of the climate crisis, we know that we cannot rest on our laurels; our advocacy to ensure corporate responsibility around climate, diversity and inclusion, conditions for workers and other urgent matters must intensify.  Threats to the planet show no sign of slowing down and the pandemic has laid bare the gender and racial disparities that must be addressed, as well as raising important issues of governance and executive compensation. While we celebrate the longevity and the impact we have made together, we know that the work demands ongoing active involvement and engagement.”

“From the recent IPCC report, we know that the climate crisis is escalating to a degree where the damage caused by pollution may be irreversible,” said Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee, executive for environmental and economic justice and climate justice lead for United Women in Faith. “Consequently, people across the world will continue to be impacted by rising sea levels and floods, reduced farmland and increasing drought, deadly heatwaves, extinction of plant and species. These realities will fall harshest on frontline communities, including women and children, persons living in poverty and communities of color, even though corporate actors are most responsible for negative impacts on the climate.”

United Women in Faith was an original founder of the ICCR in 1971. From the moment of its creation, United Methodist Women supported the organization’s commitment to building a shareholder coalition committed to justice and sustainability.

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Revolve Fund to Help Catalyze Businesses Led by People of Color

For Immediate Release

Baltimore – Revolve Fund today announced its pilot strategy to increase capital access. The program will bridge the gap between aspiration and reality for persons of color seeking to open, grow or scale their business or nonprofit. A philanthropic initiative, Revolve Fund offers interest-free, recoverable capital to support Black/African-American, Latinx, Native American, and other people of color-led businesses, nonprofits, and financial intermediaries. To date, the fund has raised nearly $1 million and expects to raise more than $2 million. It will provide at least 20 recoverable grants nationally. Revolve Fund has received anchor funding from JPMorgan Chase, Open Society Institute – Baltimore, and The Rockefeller Foundation.

“For entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders of color, systemic barriers disproportionately prevent their businesses and nonprofits from equitable capital access,” said James Wahls, Revolve Fund managing director and founder, and senior vice president of programs and initiatives at Mission Investors Exchange. “Revolve Fund intentionally deploys ‘friends and family-like’ funding to increase capital access, a critical factor for success.”

This program is about getting funding where it is needed most. Research indicates families of color often have less disposable income for funding business and nonprofits. In 2019, the median net worth of white families was 7.8 times that of Black families. Latino-owned businesses are more likely to experience funding shortfalls than white-owned businesses. Revolve Fund’s catalytic funding increases grantees’ ability to secure additional capital. Early data shows that Revolve Fund grants to debt and venture funds have resulted in a 275% increase in capital access for businesses and nonprofits led by people of color.

Revolve Fund’s recoverable grants are provided directly to organizations or co-invested with certified community development financial institutions, nonprofits, or venture funds. The approach maximizes Revolve Fund’s industry expertise and grantees’ sourcing, underwriting, and portfolio monitoring capabilities.

“Revolve Fund’s pilot approach offers a philanthropic model that intentionally eliminates financial barriers and catalyzes capital access for entrepreneurs and nonprofits led by people of color,” Dekonti Mends-Cole, vice president of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. “It is imperative that models such Revolve Fund are supported if we are to achieve a more equitable and inclusive economy.”

Revolve Fund is managed by Wahls and fiscally hosted by Maryland Philanthropy Network. It is also partnering with Mission Investors Exchange, the leading impact investing network for foundations dedicated to deploying capital for social and environmental change. Wahls brings 15 years of experience in the philanthropic, impact investing, and legal sectors. With stints at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, Wahls has managed or co-managed $240+ million in impact investing allocations comprised of grant, equity, debt, and direct investments. Notable strategies designed or led by Wahls include the Baltimore Small Business Support Fund and the Detroit Entrepreneurs of Color Fund. Wahls also executed investments in affordable housing, financial inclusion, quality job creation, and community development.

 

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 United Methodist Women Is Now United Women in Faith 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 2, 2022

NEW YORK, N.Y., Mar. 2, 2022: United Methodist Women is now United Women in Faith! The move is part of a refreshing of the organization that includes a new logo and an array of new and improved programs to nurture current members and welcome new women to join to put their love in action on behalf of women, children, and youth.

The organization announced the new operating name in the March-April edition of response, its bimonthly magazine for members, and is launching the rebrand with a new website and Face Book event March 3 at 1 pm ET.

The new programs are fruits of research conducted over the past five years with more than 24,000 United Methodists and women of other Christian traditions participating in the surveys, focus groups and interviews. This input informed the prayerful discernment of staff and elected leaders.

The changes are designed to address the different needs and life stages of current members and new women and expand options for membership and engagement. The new name also aims to welcome current members whose local churches may choose to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church as well as women of other faith traditions who want to join.

New and innovative programs will be rolled out throughout 2022, including:

  • A new, easier to navigate website with a homepage designed to pique new women’s interest in United Women in Faith and a special portal set to come online later this year where members can log in to access additional resources.
  • A new “All-Access” National Membership Option enabling women to join United Women in Faith via the new website and participate online or in person at local units or larger events
  • Soul Care Retreats, a pilot recruitment program for members and their nonmember friends and new women focused on nurturing women’s bodies, minds, and spirits.
  • Innovations to Mission u, the organization’s longtime spiritual growth and transformative education program. Beginning in spring 2022, Mission u will introduce new curricula each year—one for children, one for youth and one for adults—all focused on a shared biblical theme. The new Mission u curricula will be more adaptable for use in small groups, local churches, vacation Bible schools, retreats, and other settings. Through these vibrant, relevant, justice-oriented, and biblically centered curricula, Mission u will continue its commitment to learning together for the transformation of the world and expand its impact.
  • More targeted giving options and new interactive online resources for members.

“This is an exciting time for our organization!” said Harriett Jane Olson, CEO of United Women in Faith. “Looking back, we see the through lines for our organization—faith in    God, love for each other and commitment to putting our faith into action supporting women, children, and youth. These commitments have been expressed in different ways at different times using different names, always calling women to world changing action. This combination of a new look, more accessible resources for members and new ways to participate, positions us for impact in our own journeys and in how we engage the world that God so loves.”

‘Ainise ‘Isama’u, United Women in Faith board president, said the changes express the organization’s core values in ways that will excite current members and invite new women to join us.

“I’m confident our members will be excited about these changes,” she said. “Together we are creating more opportunities for engagement with more women through new programs and updates of long-standing programs that embody our core values. Things change. People change. But God remains, and that continues to be the purpose behind everything that we do in this organization.”

The organization remains incorporated in New York as United Methodist Women and is     doing business as United Women in Faith.

United Women in Faith seeks to connect and nurture women through Christian  spiritual formation, leadership development, creative fellowship, and education  so that they can inspire, influence and impact local and global communities. 

 

 

Congregation Beth Israel Releases Statement Following Anti-Semitic, Hate-Filled Flyers

For Immediate Release

COLLEYVILLE, TX – In response to reports that the Colleyville Police Department contacted the FBI to investigate anti-Semitic and white separatist flyers distributed throughout the city the morning of Feb. 20, Congregation Beth Israel today issued the following statement:

“Following a harrowing ordeal at our congregation on Jan. 15, where four congregants were held hostage, several of our members today received anti-Semitic flyers in their respective driveways.

“We understand that the Colleyville Police Department and the FBI are investigating, and their involvement brings comfort. We are hopeful that the individual(s) responsible will be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Circulating hate speech cannot be taken lightly.

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is a reality in the United States and around the world. Each of us has a responsibility to root out hate, and work towards building a community where all belong and all can thrive.”

 

Power Coalition for Equity & Justice Releases Testimony During Louisiana Redistricting Process

For Immediate Release

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Power Coalition for Equity & Justice today released public testimony its president and CEO Ashley K. Shelton gave to the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. The testimony, which is copied below, makes clear the importance of an equitable and fair districting process. It was delivered before the Louisiana Senate voted down Sen. Cleo Fields’ congressional redistricting map and prior to the Louisiana House voting down Rep. Randal Gaines’ congressional redistricting map. Those proposals included two minority-majority districts, something Black voters in the state advocated for. 

Good Morning, Speaker of the House and Members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. My name is Ashley Kennedy Shelton, and I am the Founder, President and CEO of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. I join you here today to speak on behalf of the state and the people I love.

I often say, “everything I love is in this place and that is why I fight for it.” The criteria for the redistricting process is clear, we must first comply with the Federal law which includes the Voting Rights Act, Section Two. Louisiana has the 2nd largest Black population in the country and this map does not create additional majority-minority districts beyond the 29 we already have, which very likely violates Section 2 of the VRA. Speaker, you mention tradition and keeping your decisions in line with the elected officials who came before you…however, those that came before you have allowed and have maintained significant racial gerrymandering. We know that there is an opportunity for Louisiana to add at least 9 additional majority-minority seats, we understand and find it unfortunate that because of the political reality in our state this will not happen. I want to be clear however that the people of Louisiana deserve Representation and not merely “protection.” You cannot protect anyone that does not have a voice or an elected leader willing to give them voice.

This process will determine voice and representation for the next ten years and whether our communities grow because there is true voice and representation. We have been engaging in voter engagement for the last five years, and what I know is that our engagement work of a universe of 500,000 to 800,000 has consistently shown 62% or more of our universe turns out to vote. This makes several things clear to me…that when engaged, minority voters vote! We also know that having candidates that excite them also moves people to the polls.

It feels important to acknowledge that in this process all maps had to include no split precincts. In meeting the letter of the law, we must first comply with federal law, the VRA Section Two, then state law…and by forcing no precincts be split, has impacted map drawing and voices of communities of color.

In closing, Louisiana is the second poorest state in the country and failing at most quality of life indicators clearly, our elected leaders at every level of government have work to do…and in talking to your constituents all over this state, I am always struck by how we don’t differ much on the things that are important to us. It is however not lost on me or the voters of this state that there is a clear disconnect between our voices and values and the types of policies moved by our elected leaders.

For more information or to speak with Shelton, contact press@spotlightpr.org.

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Black Women Executive Directors in the South Say Gerrymandered Maps Are About Maintaining Power

For Immediate Release

Feb. 15, 2022

ATLANTA – On the heels of 39 states adopting new legislative maps and with redistricting in process in states such as Florida and Louisiana, a collection of Black women executive directors in the South outlined the conundrum facing voters. The Black Southern Women’s Collaborative (BSWC) noted that despite population growth, unfair redistricting processes will make it harder for voters of color to elect candidates of their choice. The group issued the following statement:

“There are currently 5 million unheard voices in Florida,” said Rev. Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida and a BSWC member. “I am determined to make those voices heard. To do so, we need an equitable and fair redistricting process and the elimination of restrictive voting laws.”

Redistricting is still underway in Florida, where the governor took the rare step of drawing his own legislative maps versus allowing the state legislature, which typically draws maps, to do so. Florida also has a controversial proposal that would harshly penalize groups for errors on voter registration forms. Advocates such as Thomas contend that such penalties would depress voter registration, thereby limiting the number of people who participate in the process.

“In addition to drawing unfair maps, far too many conservative legislators are taking draconian efforts that will limit who can vote. Efforts to restrict the franchise are not about election integrity, as many Republicans are quick to claim, but rather about making it harder for communities of color and persons living in poverty to vote and have their votes counted,” said Ashley K. Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice and a BSWC member.

In Louisiana, the Senate ignored advocates’ pleas to create a new majority Black district to reflect Black population growth. Advocates, who held a statewide roadshow connecting voters and legislators, are hoping Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoes unfair maps, especially since Black voters helped him get into office.

“In today’s environment, too many thought leaders are making conversations about voting rights academic, but the motivation for restricting voting is simply about power,” said Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project and a BSWC member. “Republicans wants to hold onto power. They want control at every level of government, from school boards to prosecutor and district attorney races to state legislatures to statewide offices to Congress and the White House. That creates conflict, because in the marketplace of ideas, fewer and fewer Americans are subscribing to the GOP vision for the nation.”

One of the tools at advocates’ disposal is litigation. In states such as Alabama and Ohio, litigation is the only thing blocking Republicans from implementing gerrymandered maps, which in many cases, are racially discriminatory.

“Power is everything,” said Tameka Greer, executive director of Memphis Artists for Change and a BSWC member. “It is so important to some that they will engineer the rules to maintain it. In Tennessee, as in other parts of the country, Republican map drawers are refusing to create new electoral opportunities for communities of color. They are actively dismantling Black voting power by carving up Black communities in some cases or packing Black communities into fewer districts in other places (and employing both tactics in some cases). These manipulative tactics make it harder for voters of color to elect candidates of choice, regardless of turnout or population growth.”

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Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker to Testify Before a Joint Hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security

For Immediate Release

Feb. 6, 2022

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker to Testify Before a Joint Hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Feb. 8 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Congregation Beth Israel Colleyville’s Founding President, Anna Salton-Eisen, to be Guest of Deborah Lipstadt for Senate Confirmation Hearing on Feb. 8 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Colleyville, Texas – Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) today announced that its rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, will testify before a joint virtual hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security’s “Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery” and “Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism.” The session will be held Tuesday, Feb. 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET.

Titled, “The Nonprofit Security Grant Program and Protecting Houses of Worship: A View from the American Jewish Community,” the event will feature Cytron-Walker; Yosef Konikov, Rabbi, Chabad of South Orlando; the Hon. Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America; and Michael Masters, national director and CEO, Secure Communications Network.

“Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox – those who hate Jews do not distinguish among us,” said Cytron-Walker. “Antisemitic attacks and incidents have increased throughout the country. The Jewish community is concerned, and we are struggling. We know we are not alone. There have been terrible moments of harassment, violence and bloodshed at churches and mosques. Every religion has experienced challenging moments or tragedy. Now is the time to invest the resources necessary to help worshippers feel and be safe in their sacred homes.”

Feb. 8 is a big day for Congregation Beth Israel of Colleyville. In addition to the aforementioned event, member and founding president of CBI Anna Salton-Eisen will travel to Washington, D.C. and be the guest of Deborah Lipstadt for Lipstadt’s Senate confirmation hearing. President Biden nominated Lipstadt to be the U.S. Department of State’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

“After what my father endured during the Holocaust and what we in America continue face – from Charlottesville to Colleyville – I am delighted to go to Washington to support Deborah Lipstadt during her Senate hearing, also on Feb. 8 at 10:00 a.m. ET,” Salton-Eisen said. “We need her in this position helping to address antisemitism, hatred, racism and violence.”

In addition to her work with CBI of Colleyville, Salton-Eisen is author of the forthcoming book, “Pillar of Salt: A Daughter’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust.” She is also the daughter of Holocaust survivors. To watch Lipstadt’s Feb. 8 hearing, visit: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nominations020822.

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Contact: press@spotlightpr.org

UndocuBlack Network Celebrates Black History Month

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON – The UndocuBlack Network, a network of current and formerly undocumented Black immigrants, today celebrated Black History Month. The group recognized the occasion by honoring the triumphs of Black Americans. It also paid homage to Black people across the diaspora – Claude McKay, Marcus Garvey, Miriam Makeba, Shirley Chisholm, Cicely Tyson, Kwame Ture, Chinua Achebe – who came to this country, and linked their liberation to that of Black Americans. The group issued the following statement:

“Black History Month is an opportunity to honor the sacrifices and triumphs of Black Americans,” said Patrice Lawrence, executive director of the UndocuBlack Network. “The progress that many of us enjoy today is on the backs of Black martyrs of the civil rights movements. Some of us, including many people in the South, have stood or walked on soil where Black Americans were beaten, maimed and lynched. We cannot enter this month without paying homage to those who cleared the way for all and did so embodying selfless advocacy even though they would be unable to see the fruits of their labor. This month is also an opportunity to create cross-cultural dialogue on the challenges facing Black people, whether they were born in the United States or elsewhere. Black Americans and Black immigrants are linked in struggle; our liberation rests in one another’s hands.”

“White supremacy wrongly seeks to separate people based on where they were born, ability, sexual orientation or how much money one has in the bank,” Lawrence said. “But unless Black Americans are free, Black immigrants will not taste freedom. Claude McKay, Marcus Garvey, Miriam Makeba, Shirley Chisholm, Cicely Tyson, Kwame Ture, Chinua Achebe all understood this and worked toward the uplift of the Black community. The extent to which Black Americans fight for the safety and security of Black immigrants is the degree to which Black Americans secure their own future. No one is free unless we are all free. Moreover, the same system oppresses both communities. This Black History Month and beyond, we must look for ways to build bridges of understanding and empathy.”

“One of the reasons we launched our ‘Immigration Is a Black Issue’ campaign is because we understood that Black immigrants face intersecting oppressions of being Black and undocumented,” Lawrence concluded. “We knew that immigrants are subject to the same exploitation that Black Americans experience. The true measure of freedom is whether it benefits all. We can never enjoy a system where some are free and others are in the bondage of mass incarceration, housing insecurity, criminalization based on immigration status, etc.”

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Levi Strauss & Co. to Partner with LIVE FREE to Help Address Gun Violence and Mass Incarceration

For Immediate Release

Oakland, Calif. – LIVE FREE, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence and mass incarceration, today announced a partnership with Levi Strauss. A long-time supporter of LIVE FREE’s gun violence intervention and prevention work, Levi Strauss has pledged $25,000 to the organization, a photoshoot of leaders working to interrupt the cycle of gun violence, promotion of LIVE FREE’s work from the Levi Strauss social media accounts and other support. LIVE FREE issued the following statement in response:

“Gun violence prevention is a communal responsibility, and LIVE FREE is proud to welcome the support of Levi Strauss,” said Michael McBride, executive director of LIVE FREE. “It is important that companies and individuals from all walks of life see themselves as part of the solution to ending gun violence; it is an issue that impacts us all.”

In addition to their donation, the company will help amplify the LIVE FREE brand and message, organize pop-ups (featuring branded LIVE FREE merchandise) at select Levi stores and help share information on gun violence prevention.

Levi Strauss previously affirmed its commitment to ending gun violence by launching the Safer Tomorrow Fund, designed to support grassroots organizations nationwide working tirelessly toward that very goal. This latest endeavor is a continuation of its work to help ensure that all people, chiefly Black and Brown people, can live free from the threat of gun violence and mass incarceration.

LIVE FREE is a movement of interfaith groups committed to stemming the causes of violence in communities of color. The organization recruits churches to be peacemaker congregations, identifies and engages credible messengers, offers stipends to individuals seeking to leave the gang lifestyle, and organizes peace walks and bedside intervention.

“The pain of gun violence is often under-reported. LIVE FREE seeks to amplify the voices of people closest to the pain of gun violence and mass incarceration,” McBride said.

In addition to supporting LIVE FREE, Levi’s is also highlighting and supporting the work of the Black Futures Lab, which works to transform Black communities into constituencies that change the way power operates locally, statewide and nationally.

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