I attended my first PATH (People Acting Together Howard) meeting last night along with 45 of you. As I listened to presenters that included mostly clergy and public-school officials whip the audience into a social justice frenzy, I became caught up in the passion that Rev. Paige and many others have for making life better for everyday people in Howard County. PATH is structured based on the IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation) model of community organizing.
The meeting started with representatives of dozens of organizations – mostly religious congregations – introducing themselves at a microphone. In rollcall fashion at the front of the room, each reported how many members of her/his organization were present and how much money the organization had pledged toward PATH. I was impressed. Every major faith was represented and they were joined by the teachers’ union and a couple of other community organizations.
Suddenly it struck me. PATH is a union. I was a unionized employee for nearly 30 years, so I understand the influence that individuals have with leaders when they bind themselves together, raise money and speak with one voice. In union, there is strength. In PATH’s case, public officials must pay attention to its agenda. PATH is too formidable to be ignored.
Money is Power
UUCC helps to fund PATH via our operating budget. I think it’s important to know what we are getting for our money. Each year, through a democratic process, PATH selects several local social justice causes for focus and campaigns are launched. Typically, they include things like interfaith solidarity, affordable housing and improved schools.
At last night’s meeting, our own Bill Harris did a phenomenal job of kicking off one of this year’s causes, GOTV (Get Out The Vote). He identified the five Howard County voting precincts that experienced the greatest decrease in voter participation over the past several years. Each precinct happens to have a PATH member congregation within it. Owen Brown is one of the five – UUCC’s home turf. Bill asked people to commit to at least 10 hours of GOTV work over the next 18 months to help increase voter participation in the precincts. Collectively, the folks present last night pledged more than 900 volunteer hours to this cause. Impressive!
If an organization can demonstrate that it can turn out voters for elections, its political stature increases. Bill gets it. The man has a coal shovel in each hand. He is working hard to feed the engine that will drive justice-based decisions.
Members can participate in PATH in multiple ways.
- Contribute money. PATH is a 501(c)(3), non-partisan organization. Your contributions are tax-deductible.
- Attend the PATH Choir Showcase, a fund raiser, on Oct. 7, at 7 pm, at OBIC.
- Attend PATH meetings and volunteer for causes that move you. The next meeting will take place on Oct. 24, at 7 pm, at First Baptist Church of Guilford, 7504 Oakland Mills Road.
If you are moved to participate in a deeper way, consider becoming part of the UUCC PATH Core Team. We are in the process of building the core team. Here’s some language Rev. Paige used last spring to describe what we envision a core team doing:
- strengthen bonds among the members of the core team itself – so that we have the strength of relational power at the heart of leadership
- represent a diversity of UUCC’s ministries and programs – i.e., not only that which is associated with the Social Action Council
- lead the ongoing work of building a stronger relational community at UUCC by engaging deliberately in one-to-one conversations with fellow congregants, and encouraging others to do the same
- listen and “research” within UUCC so that we invest time and energy in issues and action that truly matter to our community
- lead action in response to the listening
- be the primary team of persons for organizing UUCC engagement in PATH action
About a dozen individuals who have been involved in PATH – many of whom have been to IAF three-day training – were invited to be part of this core team. Members who have been participating: Jenny Bonilla, Carla Gates, Bill Harris, John Harris, Jen Hayashi, Tina Horn, Rae Millman, Lisa Schlossnagle, Laura Solomon, Maureen Harris and Paige Getty.
Members interested in joining the Core Team should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have trouble connecting the dots sometimes. Many social justice initiatives are too theoretical, nebulous and indirect to get me excited enough to join them. If you’re like me, and you want to take specific action toward an end, PATH might be for you.