Over 250 people filled the gym at St Francis Xavier Church on November 6, 2016 for the Building to ACTION event. Building to ACTION recognized the new advocacy group for social justice in Tulsa, which All Souls is a member. More than 50 members from our congregation attended this historic gathering where Tulsans and families shared challenges they are facing and pledging to advocate for. There the newly founded affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation adopted its new name, ACTION: Allied Communities of Tulsa Inspiring Our Neighborhoods.
Courageous individuals shared their challenges and demonstrated the power of coming together for the common good.
A woman from a mid-town church explained how for the first time, their congregation reached out to those living in low-rent apartments just blocks from their building where they discovered people living in poor conditions with uncaring landlords. They connected with one of the tenants who described water leaks, broken windows, parking lot drug deals, seeping sewage, and other conditions no one should have to tolerate in their home. They are now working together to improve living conditions for everyone in these apartments. When landlords can ignore the living conditions of their tenants, the system is broken.
The community liaison from a local school facing challenges told of the incredible involvement from the teachers outside the classroom, including to help feed families, provide a clothing closet, and even foster students when needed. Yet, these dedicated teachers are finding it necessary to leave their profession because they are unable to support their families on a teacher’s salary. ACTION stands together to let legislators know we value the education teachers provide and it is necessary education is adequately funded. When teachers can’t fill their important role and provide for their families, the system is broken.
One minister told of a parishioner who lives alone in poverty and suffers from mental illness. The church staff have tried to help her get and keep up with the medication she needs, but they are not properly trained and their time is limited by so many other needs. In spite of their efforts, this person has been committed to in-house treatment. She is not able to be part of society. When she is released they ask, what support will she have? When people don’t have the support to function to the best of their ability, the system is broken.
As each story unfolded, it became clear many public systems are failing people they are supposed to help—especially in areas of education, aging, mental health services, student loan debt, and community safety. This was not news to the diverse group of faith and community leaders who in 2013 began meeting to bring broad-based organizing to Tulsa. As Kara Joy McKee, a leader with Together Oklahoma, stated in her opening remarks,
“These leaders shared a belief that within our institutions, we have a lot of knowledge, talent, and lived experience that can help shape a better future for families, but only if we can learn to organize ourselves to work together on issues of common concern.” ACTION has since grown to encompass 17 member institutions from across the Tulsa area.
The work of this coalition is grounded in the stories heard from families in small group listening sessions called “house meetings.” Member groups have held these meetings over the past year, building a more relational and more responsive culture within their institutions. All Souls began exploring education and aging issues through discussion forums, and will hold additional forums in the spring.
Now, ACTION is poised to begin work in the community to hold our public systems accountable.
“When we start to hear stories expressing the same concerns over and over again, we know that is an area we need to pay attention to,” said Kathy McCallie, meeting chair and leader with Fellowship Congregational Church.
ACTION is moving forward with education and training for members, forging relationships with elected officials, and seeking changes in public systems so they better serve those who need them most. The time is NOW to take our seat at the table and be a part of the decisions that affect the everyday lives of our community.
Thank you to everyone who turned out to show that All Souls stands for ACTION and to demonstrate our commitment to continue working towards improving the lives of all Tulsans.
If you would like more information or would like to get involved, email ACTION@AllSoulsChurch.org.