Education equity, economic equity, and race and class in the justice system will be the centers of conversation at MICAH’s third annual public meeting.
On Sunday, October 25, at 4 p.m., the Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope or MICAH will share a slice of its task forces’ work towards a more just Memphis. Its youth council will also present asks to the Memphis Police Department and City of Memphis.
The meeting is free and virtual. Guests can find more information and register here.
The event’s title, “Getting Into Good Trouble,” is a nod to late statesman and civil rights leader Representative John Lewis.
He encouraged all Americans to get into the “good trouble” of justice and equality.
“People of faith are supposed to act justly. That may sometimes get us into trouble with those who benefit from unjust and unequal systems,” said Reverend Ayanna Watkins, MICAH’s executive director and lead organizer.
MICAH is an alliance of 70 local organizations—faith, labor, and community groups—that have joined forces to address inequity and injustice in Memphis. They include faith-based groups and congregations, as well as secular organizations dedicated to uplifting human dignity.
The coalition hopes the meeting will help Memphians find a place in that work. Watkins said many people think about how they can affect change in their personal and professional lives, but there are few places to gather and pool efforts towards large-scale shifts.
“Where can we catalyze our power to make a change in the public arena—the policies, the laws that affect the bias and discrimination that plays out in the public realm?,” she asked. “When can we address those things?”
Reverend Ayanna Watkins is executive director and lead organizer for Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope or MICAH. (MICAH)
Watkins said the public meeting is one such space and will also serve as a way for Memphians to hold public officials and community leaders accountable.
“They serve us in a public way. They call themselves public servants,” she said. “This is our invitation for them to come forward and recommit to what the people are actually calling for. To hear the people out. To see the things that are bothering us.”
Watkins said the coalition is working on timely issue—like COVID-19 safety in Shelby County’s jail facilities and utility cutoffs in the pandemic—while also focusing on more complex, long-haul equity work to dismantle entrenched, systemic injustices.
The October 25 public meeting will focus on the latter.
“We're trying to move barriers that exacerbate those crises we're seeing manifest today,” said
MICAH’s youth council members will make their first public asks of MPD and city government. The youth council establishes its own priorities and working groups but overlaps with the larger organization on juvenile justice reform.
“They decided they wanted to get more hands-on, face-to-face interactions with the police department and with those who are determining public safety, which falls under the mayor's office,” said Watkins.
Watkins said now is the time for everyone who feels called towards justice to step up and get involved. She believes moments of social upheaval are windows of opportunity because people are motivated to see change and focused in the same direction.
“There is so much good energy happening now from people all over the world, in terms of them acting in favor of the justice, equity, and equality that they've always believed was the right way,” she said.
She hopes people new to these issues will walk away from MICAH’s public meeting with a deeper understanding of systemic inequities. She hopes people who are already doing the work find encouragement.
“I hope it's a reminder that they're not alone,” she said. “That they're not fighting alone, that they're not crying alone, but that we're with them and that there are people who care and who are invested in this work for the long haul.”