On Sunday, May 20, IMAN leaders joined over fifteen thousand families across the country for the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s first ever Equal Voice Online National Convention, a dynamic and interactive forum that utilized social media and texting to reach American families all over the globe. The convention brought together working families and community organizations to vote on the issues that they felt were most important to their daily lives. Over 5,000 families voted, and education, healthcare, and jobs emerged as the three top priorities for American families. The convention was broadcasted live from Alabama, Texas, and Washington State, and viewing parties were held in 30 states.
IMAN’s engagement with the Equal Voice campaign has been part of our multi-ethnic and multi-issue community organizing under the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) umbrella. The launch of the Equal Voice campaign was punctuated by the release of a National Family Platform just before the 2008 presidential election. This Platform was a model for UCCRO’s own Grassroots Human Rights Policy Guide for Racial Equity, released and distributed to Illinois legislators in 2010. The goal of this Online National Convention was to update the Equal Voice for America’s Families National Family Platform for 2012.
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization—a member organization of UCCRO—hosted the townhall that IMAN leaders attended on Chicago’s South Side, and leaders from several different UCCRO member organizations engaged in the very lively conversation about their own priorities as families and community members of Chicago neighborhoods. Though some believed that education was key to eliminating the violence, plummeting employment rates, and unhealthy lifestyles that plague America’s cities, and others posited that without proper housing and access to quality healthcare, good education and physical health were unattainable, UCCRO leaders could all agree upon the fact that all of the issues their communities face are interconnected and can only be tackled by understanding the links between them and addressing the issues holistically.
The Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice for America’s Families National Platform is attempting to do just that and as a grantee of the Foundation, IMAN has been committed to realizing and enhancing the connections between each of the issues it works on and between each of the organizations it is in alliance with. The online convention not only allowed diverse communities across Chicagoland to discuss their own priorities, but helped to forge the road ahead for justice for all of America’s working families.