What does the Syracuse Peace Council have in common with 35 local faith communities with whom we met recently at Henninger High School? The answer goes back to a wintry February, 2009 weekend when SPC members met to reflect on our mission, evaluate our work and plan for the coming year's projects. We realized that we wanted to both focus more on local issues and to involve ourselves with more diverse groups of people than those typically drawn to SPC.
Enter the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS), an "Interfaith, multi-racial,urban, suburban, diverse coalition of faith communities and community organizations with the mission to address the social, economic, educational and political concerns of our communities." In the late summer, SPC joined ACTS and on November 1st SPC members were part of a crowd 1200 strong at the ACTS Public Action Meeting at Henninger High School. ACTS' task forces presented their recommendations to the community and local politicians in the areas of Justice, Civil Rights for Immigrants, Food Access on the Southside, Youth Issues, Economic Development, Jobs and Healthcare.
One task force presentation I found especially compelling was given by SPC member Aly Wane. Aly spoke powerfully about his experience of being stopped by police for "DWB," an acronym for "driving while black." Specific recommendations were made to the mayoral candidates that within sixty days of their election, racial, ethnic and religious profiling would be reviewed, to be repeated on an annual basis. Aly also introduced a beautiful young family with two young children, who have endured great pain and hardship at the hands of our government, which is trying to break them apart by deporting the husband /father to Honduras.
Other task force presentations were equally riveting, such as Emily Napier's description of the grossly unjust system of "Background checks" /CHAIRS* reports, sold by the Sheriff's office and often misused by prospective employers and landlords. And who could forget Mable Wilson's first-hand description of the appalling lack of fresh affordable food on the Southside of Syracuse and her action team's demand that the new mayor address this by signing on with a major supermarket for a full service grocery store on the Southside by June 2010?
What is the future of this newfound relationship between ACTS and SPC? I began by asking what in fact we have in common. Both organizations hunger for peace and justice. "Educate, Agitate, Organize," the SPC mantra, is akin to ACTS process of "Dialogue, Education, Training and Action," described in the ACTS mission statement. On behalf of SPC we look forward to continuing to build our relationship with ACTS and applaud their tenacity and vision in tackling many critical issues that affect the quality of life for people in Syracuse.
And the people said "Amen"!
- Peter Sinatra
*using Criminal History Arrest Incident Reporting System reports