When I was a youth leader with my church, I got to hang out with a lot of really cool, smart, fearless and passionate adult men and women who felt it was/is their life’s mission to come alongside disadvantaged, marginalized and targeted young men and women throughout the city. I could write much about my love for this way underpaid (if paid at all) crazy career and the folks who lovingly risk it all to give a thug a hug.
One of the leaders of this group (in a rather organic matter) is Phil Jackson (not that one) of Lawndale Community Church, and The House. LCC is one of the models for the Christian Community Development model (in which a church or church-based org works within the community to serve and uplift its people as one of them) and its head pastor helped to found the CCDA along with Civil Rights icon John Perkins. Fittingly, the church and its community centers (which include a fitness and health clinic as well as many social agencies—) are located in the neighborhood that Martin Luther King, Jr. used as his base for the Northern Civil Rights movement in the sixties. The House is a youth-led church that practices the gospel through the cultural context of hip hop. All of this fits under the rubric that I’ve noticed with the most successful Christian ministries – not just in the cities, but in any place. To be intentionally incarnational. To walk with the walkers and suffer with those that suffer, but with the hope of a redemption and the work that hints and grows toward that.
In other words, they don’t believe in waiting for the Kingdom Come – until after we die or are raptured up – to answer the problems of today. Consider the work of Phil Jackson and his team in North Lawndale. ” and that, according to the 1980 census, 58 percent of men and women 17 and older had no jobs. And The Firehouse Community Arts Center is an emblem of this, an abandoned firehouse in the middle of one of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods (from Wikipedia: Jonathan Kozol devotes a chapter of Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools to North Lawndale, which he says a local resident called it “an industrial slum without the industry.” At the time, it had “one bank, one supermarket, 48 state lottery agents … and 99 licensed bars.) that is being turned into a multi-use site for arts and community-building. Programs include a recording studio, music, photography and dance classes, video editing, and culinary arts training with an emphasis on entrepreneurship throughout the classes.
The site is within an African American community called North Lawndale (an area that is 94% Black) and next to a Mexican American neighborhood called Little Village (Latinos – mostly Mexican and Mexican American – account for roughly 80% of the population). Recently, a group of young Afro and Mexican Americans traveled to Veracruz, Mexico for an eye opening experience that Phil and his crew was able to be a part of. According to Phil (via his fb pix), this was the first time for many in the group traveled not just out of the US or out of their region, but out of their neighborhood. Many of these guys spent little time off their block. But not only was this a time to travel to pyramid sites, but to check out the history of the African diaspora in Latin America, in an effort to build bridges of reconciliation between these members of the African American and Latino cultures in the hopes that they would be ambassadors.
Check out what’s going on at The Firehouse here. But only if you want to be encouraged.
WLS Channel 7 report: