“Here am I, send me.” The verse from Isaiah 6:8 provided the theme for Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH)’s Annual Public Meeting recently held at Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Members from the more than 30 congregations gathered to highlight the issues addressed by the organization. Each presentation during the evening was concluded with a call-and-response of, “I’ll go, will you go?”
A number of special guests attended the meeting, including State Senators Spencer Coggs & Chris Larson, State Representative JoCasta Zamarippa, County Supervisors Eyon Biddle & John Thomas, and Alderpersons Milele Coggs, Ashanti Hamilton, Nik Kovac and Wille Wade.
There was also support from many community organizations and a presence from the Milwaukee labor community as well, with Sheila Cochran, COO of the Milwaukee Area Labor council, Bob Peterson, President of the MTEA, Angela Walker, legislative director of ATU 998, and Bruce Colburn of SEIU in attendance.
MICAH President, Reverend Willie Brisco, delivered a roaring State of MICAH address, which received a standing ovation. In his address, he compared the road to justice, to the road to Jericho, declaring that this is not a road to be taken alone.
He also mentioned the hazards on this road, saying that the Koch Brothers, known to support policy that debilitates communities, are just waiting in the bushes for you to walk past.
A moving part of the program was the “Faces of MICAH,” displaying the organization’s diversity, and its role in the power of the group. Representatives form the various faith backgrounds stood together in unity to ask one another “will you go?”
Many see MICAH only as an interdenominational organization, but representatives from the Jewish and Muslim communities, displayed the true sense of MICAH as an interfaith body.
There were several issues raised, including the continued fight for equal employment at the Westlawn redevelopment site, by the Jobs and Economics task force.
Members of the immigration task force called on a diverse set of religious leaders to open their congregations, to at have conversations about immigration, noting that many are unaware or unaffected by policies that demonize the immigrant community. They were joined by Representative Zamarripa to fight to keep the Dream Act alive.
The Education task force rolled out the community schools initiative touting how a well-rounded education experience, not just for the student but for parents as well, will benefit and raise the standard of an entire neighborhood.
The AODA (Treatment Instead of Prison) task force, restated their opposition to SB-207, and took the opportunity to thank Supervisor Biddle for his leadership and collaboration with the Ban the Box initiative. They also called on Common Council members to support their campaign for a City of Milwaukee “ban the box” ordinance that would work to prohibit any employer from discriminating against an applicant based on criminal past.
Midway through the program, loud chants could be heard outside of the church doors. Earlier in the day, Occupy Milwaukee protesters gathered on the North Avenue Bridge that hovers over I-43 to declare an economic emergency for the 99%.
The march to the bridge began with an electrifying send-off by Minister Greg Lewis of St. Gabriel C.O.G.I.C., a member of MICAH. Lewis told the crowd once again, “if you’re not fired up, you might be dead” and in keeping with the theme of the MICAH meeting, he asked protestors “will you go?” to the bridge.
MICAH has been supportive of the Occupy movement, with Reverend Brisco addressing the initial Occupy Milwaukee march, held on October 15th. After the Occupy movement declared victory Thursday night, the saw it fit to join the MICAH public meeting because of their support, and were welcomed by standing ovation into the program by Rev. Brisco, and Mount Zion Pastor, Louis E. Sibley III.
The crowd, that peaked at over 500 participants that night, was encouraged and challenged in a powerful conclusion, that they should not give up, by Pastor Ken Wheeler of Cross Lutheran Church.