Candle for Peace: Green For All

I’m Ron Beyna.  Ron Beyna lights the green candle

Some of you also know me as “Dumpster Man” – – but that’s another story.

Some of you know me as “Mr. Cub” – – but that’s also another story – – a  long  LOSING storyAnd a few of you know me as  THAT  Polack from Chicago.     Tak jest.   That’s right. I was born in Chicago on the North Side  – –  where I grew up – – went to school – –  to DePaul University, at the College of Commerce in downtown Chicago,  with a high-rise building as our campus, quite a different experience than some of you.  Well, in all my 23 years living in Chicago,  that’s about as close as I got to the South Side,  which,  to me, was another  world which I knew little about – – and about which I had some strong  prejudices. Recently I received an email from Diane with an interesting article,  which has given me a new perspective about Chicago’s South Side – – and which brings us to the reason  I’m here before you this morning. I’ll read just a small part of that article.

Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago is seeking to renew its vision for its surrounding neighborhoods, and to enlarge its definition of social justice.

The church is rolling out its plans for Imani Village, a 27-acre community next door to Chicago State University.  Church members hope to build sustainable housing, an urban farming and agricultural center, retail stores, and community health centers.

They’ve moved into a completely different mode of developing a sustainable green ministry, recognizing that green is the new area of social justice for our community.
People would be able to raise their children in a unique and affirming, powerful environment.    Send them to preschool, and send them to college next door.

But when new Pastor Otis Moss took over in 2008, he was troubled to see how church members neglected their environment and, likewise, their own health.  He said, “We reformulated it, saying: ‘What is God calling us to do?   A green, sustainable community.‘ “

Modeled after similar church endeavors in Atlanta and Dallas, Trinity’s approach is one of the most ambitious in the nation.  If it succeeds, church leaders said it could spark a long-sought renaissance on the city’s South Side.

“In our heart of hearts, that’s exactly what we intend,” said Michael Bennett, a longtime member of Trinity.   “It will probably end up even better than we currently conceive.”

Though it has been planned for decades,  the latest vision for Imani Village has grown out of the Green for All movement, which is a nationwide crusade to alleviate poverty by harnessing the energy of the green sustainable economy.  Green for All emphasizes the importance of educating minority communities that, organizers say, historically have been victims of economic and environmental injustices and left out of the quest for a solution.

Green for All initiatives include:  tapping alternative energy,  training ex-convicts for green jobs,  and urban agriculture.   The Imani Village enterprise will include all of the above and then some.  The church ought to be a part of that conversation (about healing the environment), sometimes even being in the forefront.

The church is the most democratic institution that African-Americans own, and one of the few that they trust.   Thus, Imani Village is an enterprise many expect the community would get behind to help revive the city’s Far South Side.

Since it’s a project of the church, it’s not your typical for-profit development.  It has some ethical and moral underpinnings about health care,  and food service,  and education,  and senior citizen housing.  There’s more to it than the bottom-line profit motive, and the church is an appropriate institution to initiate it.

For me, this is truly a welcome, positive eye-opener – – and perhaps for you, too. So, now I’ll light this candle for peace, for racial and social justice, and for a greener environment.

–By Ron Beyna, February 12, 2012

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