(Thank you Reverend Colin, Reverend Kevin A. Slayton, Bonnie Lane and Pastor Julius Jefferson At Heritage United Church of Christ for Labor in the Pulpit, Photo Credit: Rachel Kutler)
On SundayI had the privilege of addressing the congregation at Heritage United Church of Christ in northwest Baltimore. I was one of 50 people participating in Labor in the pulpit bringing issues of fair development into 50 area churches. This was a joint project of Interfaith Worker Justice, United Workers, Unite Here Local 7 and Housing Our Neighbors.
This is the speech I presented to the Heritage congregation:
“Working 40 hours a week as a pharmacy tech with benefits, I never dreamed this would happen to me. My hours were cut with no warning down to 15. I was upset because then I couldn’t pay rent. I became homeless on the streets. I wound up on a park bench downtown. Homelessness is a full time job. It’s work to figure out where you are going to eat and sleep. You have to wait in line after line after line to get what you need just to survive.
People stare at you like you are part of a zoo. HOPE is the way out. You have to go in every building that has a door. At one point I was on a park bench wishing that the Lord would call me home. I was defeated and scared. I had lost everything I owned. I had nothing but GOD. It wasn’t my time. He had other plans for me…
After 7 years struggling from streets to shelter, I got a home. I pay rent. It’s not my own. After I pay the bills, sometimes I have money left for food. Sometimes I still have to go to pantries. My friend works at the Maryland food bank. He said 38% of donations go to the working poor. The American Dream has been shattered for many. If you work, you should be able to eat. I cherish simple things more like a shower and a quiet place to think.
I now advocate 24/7 for the homeless, the poor and all good brethren. I work 50-plus volunteer hours a week fighting against injustice.
Imagine a city where you can live and work as well. Where you can pay rent and buy food, not have to choose. Where your children have a place to go after school. Where there are no vacant houses.
You can help Baltimore become a city of fair development, community, transparency, accountability, equity and universality; a city you are proud to call home. Ending violence starts with living wages and affordable housing; also access to education not discrimination.
Participation is the key. Remember Bonnie for Baltimore in 2016! Change is up to you and me.”
I wasn’t sure how the message was truly received until later in the church service. Senior Pastor Julius Jefferson had preached about many of the same things I had mentioned. It felt as though he was speaking right to me and through me. As the services concluded, I was approached my numerous church members. They hugged me and thanked me for sharing my story.
It was truly an honor to be able to do this. I would like to thank United Workers and Housing Our Neighbors for granting me this awesome opportunity. I am a member of both.
I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to Pastor Julius Jefferson and his congregation! They did something that I had no words for on Sunday. They took up a special offering for me. I have never been so honored in my entire life. Their offering helped me help the family of Anthony Anderson Sr. I went right over to the Andersons after church. Facing eviction, I had an urge to help this strong family. Thanks to Heritage United Church of Christ for blessing me to bless others.
Bonnie Lane is an avid activist and advocate here in Baltimore. She is very vocal about social injustices. Fighting against injustice isn’t just a slogan to her but a way of life. Lane is a soldier in the struggles for social justice, real change and human rights. Having been homeless is what inspired her to become an advocate/activist. A passion for writing consumed her at an early age.