Progressive Revival

Earlier this week, a group of thirty or so
young Jews, Christians, and Muslims came together to participate in a voter
registration drive in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.  Working in
partnership with the local ACORN branch,
the interfaith activists received training on non-partisan voter engagement,
participated in conversation about the spiritual underpinnings of their civic
commitments, and canvassed in small interfaith teams.

This program was initiated by the Righteous
Indignation Project
, a progressive
Jewish justice program aimed at mobilizing the Jewish community to voice issues
of social justice and environmental responsibility as religious and ethical
priorities during this historic election season. 

We invited our friends and allies from
Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries and the Muslim
American Society, Boston Chapter
, to join us knowing that they share the conviction that to create a just
society, we must work to involve as many people as possible in the democratic
process.  We chose to canvass in Dorchester because this urban
neighborhood, with its large low-income and minority populations, has had lower
voter turnout than other, more affluent areas of Boston, and is in great need
of quality government services.  

As Mimi Ramos, State Head Organizer for
ACORN commented, “Some people in this neighborhood simply lack the knowledge
about the voting process, but many others have given up on the process. 
It is hard to believe that your vote matters when you suffer from
discrimination and poverty and are trying to be a responsible citizen.  We
have to help empower people, reminding them that without their votes we will
not break the cycle of injustice and despair.”

I was proud to be a part of this program not
only because of the voters we were able to register, but also because of the
positive relationships we were able to forge among people of different faiths
and ethnicities in just two hours.  By coming together for dialogue and
action, we bound ourselves to one another through a shared commitment to
religion and social justice.  By
the end of the afternoon, it was clear to everyone present that we would resume
this sacred work in the near future. 

As I reflect on the voter registration
experience, I think of Thich Nhat Hanh’s wonderful little book Peace is
Every Step
.  The title encapsulates the spirit of our
Dorchester experience, as people from diverse backgrounds came together seeking
to advance the cause of justice one step at a time.

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