Researching Activism – Faith in Action

By David Perez, student at University of West Florida

As individuals in a constantly changing society, it is our moral duty to remain aware of social injustices – and the groups that engage in activism to help unite people to counter these problems. For my research on this topic, I reached out to Faith in Action, and spoke with Denise Collazo, Senior Adviser of External Affairs for the organization. She has been involved Faith in Action for twenty years, and focuses on forming long-term partnerships with individuals and organizations, as well as philanthropy. Her inspiration comes from  her grandmother, who emigrated from Puerto Rico in the mid-1940’s as a poor mother of six who worked tirelessly to provide for her family. Ms. Collazo has always carried an inspiration to invest a multi-racial movement for change led by the people most affected, which started when she joined Faith in Action as a community organizer a few years after graduating from Harvard University.

Faith in Action is a national and international social justice organization with offices located in 26 states across the country and internationally in the countries of  Rwanda, Central America, and Haiti. It was founded in 1972, growing to become a well-established (formalized) organization and national network, despite not being as a household name. Its members are linked by smaller federations which are connected to a number of churches. An exact census on their members is unknown, but it’s approximately close to two million.

Faith in Action handles issues on both the national level and the local level. Gun violence is one of the main concerns Faith in Action fights against, whether it be the headline-grabbing mass shootings or the day-to-day violence that follows in local communities,  This issue is tackled through their LIVE FREE campaign, which also focuses on mass incarceration. Faith in Action also fights for immigrant justice through their LA RED campaign, whose work includes putting pressure ICE to reduce the number of individuals held for small misdemeanors. Another campaign of Faith in Action’s is called Flipping the Formula, which encourages and mobilizes people across the country to become more engaged in their cities and communities by voting and attending local government meetings. Fighting issues such as this help support Faith in Action’s main goal of creating a unified society filled with diversity and faith among people.

It can be easily concluded that Faith in Action is a very diverse organization; they have embraced a broad version of the concept of   “Targeted Universalism,” (originally founded by dr. john a. powell) where in creating an environment where black and brown people thrive, the rest of society will also thrive. This include staff and leader training to discuss inclusion and diversity, along with racial caucuses to help staff members understand their role in a multi-racial society and how can they most effectively present themselves or others as equals.

At its core, Faith in Action works to educate people on what’s happening in their communities and why it’s happening. Some of the challenges they face include the commonly passive separatism among people in which someone of a certain race, faith, social or economic class, or ethnicity will want to stick with someone of the same values. Faith in Action wishes to push those pre-defined boundaries and promote people to work together, support each other, or even call on each other when in need, in hopes of building a more equal and interactive society.

David is a student at University of West Florida. This is an abridged essay of the paper he wrote for his Researching Activism class, republished with his permission.