The Common Good

How Advocacy Works

Advocating for the poor is crucial in this time of recession, but maybe you're a little nervous about actually walking into your member of Congress' office, even after the great training you can get in preparation for the Mobilization to End Poverty's Capitol Hill Day this April. But, as New York Faith and Justice director Lisa Sharon Harper told Sojourners in a recent phone interview, walking through that door can actually lead to a whole world of being welcomed and making a difference. -The Editors

New York Faith & Justice has been going for two years. And we started as four strangers who met on Capitol Hill, at a Sojourners conference, at Pentecost 2006, in Charles Rangel's office. We were kind of thrown together that day to do lobby day -- and we just were fascinated that our legislative representatives actually want to hear from us!

We were flabbergasted by that -- none of us had ever done lobbying before. And we realized, "Wow, we're a key part in the way things work, and if they don't hear from us, then they're left to their own devices to form policy that's going to affect us!" When we left our senators' office and our congressman's office, again and again they just kept giving us their cards, [saying,] "Please contact us, we really want to hear from you, keep in touch." The legislative director for Rep. Rangel remembered us the next year when we came back.

It was just so amazing to see how crucial hearing from the constituent is to the legislative process. That's something that we -- most of us had roots in the evangelical world -- just didn't know. So over lunch that day, we said, "You know, we really should keep this going, or start something like this in New York City; why just keep this in D.C.?" That's actually how we began.

Lisa Sharon Harper is the executive director of New York Faith & Justice and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican ... or Democrat. Sojourners spoke with her recently by phone. Visit www.sojo.net/mobilization to learn more about and sign up for the Mobilization to End Poverty, which will happen April 26-29 in Washington, D.C. Immediately after the Mobilization, Lisa will be presenting a special bonus training on "organizing a city-wide faith and justice network."

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