The agenda extended beyond food and fellowship at the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast held at McCarty Memorial Christian Church. Instead, voting registration, health care and affordable housing dominated the conversation.
The gathering, hosted by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California on August 28, brought together ecumenical, civic and union leaders to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the March on Washington as well as highlight issues that still impact communities of color decades since the historic 1963 campaign.
“We’re still facing a lot of the problems that we faced in 1963,” said Pastor William D. Smart, Jr., SCLC-SC president/CEO. “But this event is focused on voter registration and passing Proposition 8, which deals with correcting the dialysis industry and Proposition 10, the affordable housing act.”
With the Nov. 6 election only two months away, the push to register voters is critical, said the Rev. Judi Wortham-Sauls, who announced that Sept. 23 has been designated National Voter Registration Sabbath.
“We are asking our partner congregations to emphasize the importance of voter education, registration and participation by African Americans in the 2018 mid-term elections during their worship service. Proclaim, explain and educate your members. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while others determine our fate,” insisted Wortham-Sauls.
As for the attention on Proposition 8, Smart said its passage would authorize the state regulation of kidney dialysis clinics and limit charges for patient care. According to Balletpedia.org, clinics would be required to issue refunds to patients or patients’ payers, such as insurers, for revenue above 115 percent of the costs of (a) direct patient care, such as wages and benefits of non-managerial clinic staff who furnish direct care to patients, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and (b) healthcare improvements, such as staff training and patient education and counseling.
Pastor Kelvin Sauls, who serves as the ‘Yes on Proposition 10’ faith community organizer, stressed the importance of that ballot measure and its connection to the vitality of neighborhoods and cities.
“I do this as a faith leader because one very important aspect of the beloved community is accessibility to quality housing. Accessibility provides stability for families and facilitates the opportunity for people to live their lives with dignity,” noted Sauls. “I’m glad to serve because, after all, the rent is too damn high!”
Echoing similar comments, Pastor Eddie Anderson said, “Our church (McCarty Memorial) is involved because we worked to break the housing covenant in our West Adams neighborhood so our community could move here. Now, because the rents are so high, we see a lot of community members being displaced.”
The passing of Proposition 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prohibited rent control on single-family homes and apartments, and allow local governments to regulate rental housing. In Sauls’ opinion, the passage would “directly fight this humanitarian crisis on homelessness and the moral crisis around ongoing displacement of people in so many different ways.”
The homelessness crisis – along with hunger, health, immigration and other issues – will also be addressed at the Tent City event, which SCLC-SC and its partners will hold on Sept. 23-29 at downtown L.A.’s Grand Park.
“It will be a mass mobilization for five straight days,” Smart said. “We will have job training, medical, dental and optical screenings and many other free services for people. This event is being staged to commemorate the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy’s Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C., 50 years ago. Many community groups are coming together to put this on.”
SCLC-SC’s partners, who assisted with the prayer breakfast and will contribute to Tent City, include AFSCME Local 390, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), Christ Liberation Ministries, Holman United Methodist Church, Jewish Center for Justice, L.A. Voice, National Action Network – L.A., SEIU Local 721 and SEIU UHW.