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NCC President Discusses 'Let Justice Roll'
with congressional Black Caucus

Washington, D.C. -- “If it had not been for the CME Church, I would not be doing what I’m doing today,” said Congressman Danny Davis (IL) in opening a meeting on July 7, 2004, with Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., President of the National Council of Churches USA and Bishop of the Fourth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), along with a delegation of leaders from the CME Church and NCC staff.

The delegation met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to discuss NCC’s efforts to overcome poverty in the U.S. as well as a new project spearheaded by the CME Church to help ex-offenders.

The purpose of the meetings was to share information about NCC’s Mobilization to Overcome Poverty, including the “Let Justice Roll: Faith and Community Voices Against Poverty” campaign -- a multi-city collaborative effort with the Center for Community Change to register, mobilize and protect voters, especially low-income voters -- and to garner support for the CME Church’s Project Renaissance, which is a comprehensive model for economic development in North Central Louisiana that promises to help ex-offenders by creating jobs, providing social services and offering education and training opportunities.

Also present at the meetings, which took place on Capitol Hill, were U.S. House Representatives Bobby Scott (VA) and Barbara Lee (CA) as well as staffers for Reps. John Conyers (GA), Major Owens (11th-NY) and Edolphus Towns (10th-NY). In addition, the delegation met with Senator Mary Landrieu’s (LA) office.

Bishop Hoyt informed those present at the meetings of the efforts by NCC and the CME Church to address the issues affecting those our society often overlooks, including the poor and ex-offenders. The “Let Justice Roll” campaign, which some CBC staff members were already familiar with, has already had thousands of people participate in Seattle, Wash.; Portland and Eugene, Ore., and Rochester, N.Y., as faith and community groups advocate for local, state and national public officials as well as delegates to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to commit to shape public policies that will meet the needs of people living in poverty and, ultimately, help lift them out of poverty.

“There are different levels of oppression and standards of living that we have to address,” said Bishop Hoyt. “Many classes of people have been overlooked and we want to change that.”

Ex-offenders are one group of people who are often ignored. However, under Bishop Hoyt’s leadership that is likely to change. The CME Church has developed Project Renaissance: Return to the Village for those re-entering the community after having served time in prison. The project will use 80-acres of land in North Central Louisiana that is owned by the CME Church to provide a full service, faith-based “transitional living” environment for African American males to reverse the adverse impact of being involved in the criminal justice system. Project Renaissance will include: the Power Academy, a youth re-direction center that will house, train and educate approximately 400 “at risk” boys; a community center for social services delivery; light/medium manufacturing plants and warehouse/distribution centers to help create jobs and for training purposes; a retreat/conference center; a 200-bed elderly assisted living facility; and, a theme park focused on the history of the area including its participation in the underground railroad.

Rep. Bobby Scott (VA) quoted alarming statistics about the U.S. criminal justice system-statistics that he and the Congressional Black Caucus are eager to change. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the incarceration rate in countries like Russia and South Africa is 600 incarcerated per 100,000 people. For African American males the rate is 4,834 in prison per 100,000 people (see The Sentencing Project website for more information, www.sentencingproject.org

“We need early prevention and intervention programs. If the goal is to reduce crime we know what to do. But if the goal is to play politics, we know what to do, and the two go in different directions,” said Rep. Scott.

The vision for the project was met with such enthusiasm that Bishop Hoyt was invited to return to Washington, D.C., in September to present the program at the Congressional Black Caucus’ 34th Annual Legislative Conference, which is considered the foremost conference on policy issues for African Americans.

“This is a brilliant vision,” said Joel Segal who is the outreach coordinator for the Public Safety, Sentencing and Incarceration Caucus for the Congress and works for Rep. John Conyers (MI). “America is a ‘throw away’ society. We tend to just throw people away. But this is the beginning of challenging that paradigm,” he said.


In addition to Bishop Hoyt, shown above on the far right, members of the delegation included: Don Wills, the Presiding Elder in the Fourth District of the CME Church; Rev. Carmelita Pope Freeman, a CME pastor in Louisiana; Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, NCC Associate General Secretary for Justice & Advocacy (next to Bishop Hoyt); Rev. Leslie Tune, NCC’s Washington Communication Officer; Rawle King, President of the National Center for Proactive Approaches to Community Supervision (NCPACS), who helped organize the visit to Capitol Hill; David Robinson, a member of the CME Church from Dallas; Aaron Williams, Vice President of NCPACS; and, Angela Luckey, Recording Secretary of NCPACS.

-end-

NCC Media Contact: Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350 x 11; ltune@ncccusa.org


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