I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the founding assembly of Working Together Jackson at New Horizon Church International, on June 14. Being a transplant, I never heard of the coalition of more than two dozen area churches and nonprofits, so I did a little research. The goal of the diverse coalition is twofold: to identify specific problems that Working Together Jackson wants to fix and to find people capable of leading others in creating a solution.
The group has been organizing behind the scenes for over two years and the assembly meeting’s purpose was to recap house meetings and discuss issues the group will tackle this fall. Well, judging from the audience of more than 600 people in these institutions, I could tell they were fired up and ready to get to work.
During the meeting, a theme was constantly mentioned: “We have a mind to work.” The coalition members have one thing in common: they see the trouble their beloved city and metro area is in, and want to make a difference. Positive civic and social change. So far, 94 house meetings and 906 leadership training sessions have been held.
“People come together and discover a common good, come together as a people that dare to cross the lines that undermine progress,” said Rev. Mark Williamson, of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “We have rolled up our sleeves and we are ready to go.”
The are many issues the coalition will address: education, health care, neighborhood revitalization and housing, living wage employment, infrastructure, crime, youth issues, family issues, economic development, senior issues and disability issues.
Things have already taken shape with Working Together Jackson. For instance, Lake Elementary is working with True Vine and Rosemont Baptist churches on fixing the campus and increasing parental involvement. The coalition helped establish the Hope Credit Union branch in Utica and is working to develop one in Edwards, to help citizens establish financial literacy and access to finances.
The next steps will entail more training sessions and organize teams to look for leaders. Then, the coalition will begin to look at what issues to address. Over the summer, research actions will seek solutions to the problems and ways to implement them. Working Together Jackson will also partner with other institutions and city leaders on mutual interests. Then, on Oct. 25, 2012, Working Together Jackson will conduct a training and strategy session looking at results and beginning to form metro area-wide issue action teams.