Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Note From Tracy Hipps: Equity Together

Tracy Hipps, CSM Executive Director
The buzz word used today in so many speeches, by organizations and in the media is the word “equity.” Equity provides access to opportunities for living a long and healthy life. CSM is a faith-based organization that seeks to live out equity in our city and create a new culture in Birmingham. Organizations in Birmingham have been meeting together for several years to create a new language and culture for our city. By creating a new language and culture, we have the opportunity to define and create equity together.

As I have served on these committees, boards and sat in these meetings, I haven’t seen many local churches represented. A new culture of equity is really a part of Biblical culture, and we should be living these values because of our faith. Equity is another word for “justice” and “neighbor.” Justice is to walk in harmony with our neighbor. Neighbor is everyone who was made by God. The Royal law is to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

We can begin to live out our values together in our city because equity calls for a change in mind, heart, hands, action, behavior, life and in all areas of culture. In a culture of equity, we would have new behavior, action, speech, thought, reaction, sight, hearing, as well as our sense of place, space and time. Our senses are affected because our hearts are being changed from the inside out.

Birmingham is a city deep in a rich history, and depending on where you live, it has been good to you. But, some are those by whom the city was built, and who still feel the struggle and pain. Steel was Birmingham’s primary industry of the past. Today’s Birmingham, the “Steel City” with equity, is a city that WE build together walking side by side and treating people with respect.

A movement was started in Birmingham which we refer to as the “Civil Rights Movement,” a movement foundational to the equity of the 60’s. Building from this movement is our next step of equity for all people. It challenged us then, and continues to charge us all, to pursue a new day and a new dawn where barriers and divisions are broken down and equity can thrive.

But the division of culture, class, character and conduct continue to exist in Birmingham, and in some ways we have circled back to our old culture. We have 99 neighborhoods in the city of Birmingham, we have 38 or more municipalities, three counties with more zip codes than we can recall. Our glorious Red Mountain still represents division and divide. We have railroad tracks, interstates, malls and restaurants that divide.

Birmingham’s neighborhoods have replaced grocery store for payday loan companies by the hundreds. Birmingham’s transportation problems have created even wider equity divisions in our culture. We are all deeply affected by education, because it is foundational to the equity of our current society. Birmingham’s many education systems; public, private and religious; educate our children in inequity, though education is a tool that could bring equity. Some of our brightest people, who could help create solutions to our systemic education problems, are focused on their own systems and zip codes rather than the whole picture.

Birmingham has its own dialect that serves inequity. “OTM,” “UAB,” “AARP,” “ATRS” are a few abbreviations that identify and separate us.  We have code language to describe people groups such as “they,” “those,” “them” and “least.” We need a new language of equity where “we,” “us,” “our” and “together” is commonly used by all. We must live the language of the Postmaster where all zip codes represent “Birmingham.” The airport is Birmingham. The maps say Birmingham. Many can say they were born in Birmingham. This is our city— Birmingham.

To define equity in this culture is to build the future hope we all should hold dear. But to move forward, we have to look back to build a future stronger than steel. Equity of the past sought to build industries on the backs of laborers, so equity of the future must build on all of our shoulders as we stand side-by-side. creating the prosperity of the city we all hold dear, will come from working for the good of ALL, not ours. 

If we can retrain our minds, renew our hearts, refocus our eyes, retune our ears, realign our thought, and retool our actions— then God will restore our city. We need to influence Birmingham with the value of His Kingdom, which will be in “equity.” God created us in “equity”– in the image and likeness of Himself so we can walk in unity and harmony. To experience “Shalom” in our city, we must live in “equity.” To be prosperous and see good, we must live out “equity.”

“Also, seek the peace (Shalom) and prosperity (welfare) of the city (Birmingham) to which I have carried you... Pray to the (Our) LORD for it, because if it (Everyone) prospers, you too will prosper." Jeremiah 29:7


Before and After- Dodson House Dedication and Tour

Mr. Dodson's house - BEFORE
Mr. Dodson in front of his house AFTER
 The heartbeat of our ministry is to see lasting change in lives, in communities, and in our city that results in beauty and restoration in the context of relationship and responsible care. There is nothing that illustrates this vision for healthy transformation better than these “before-and-after” pictures of Mr. Dodson’s house.

We have been sharing this story for the past few months of how we came to know Mr. Dodson and were able to step into a very difficult and seemingly hopeless situation. We were finally blessed to dedicate the house for God’s glory on September 15th with dozens of individual, City and corporate partners who had helped financially and with volunteer labor and were there to join hands in unity, prayer and celebration!

This extremely well-crafted make-over was carefully executed by multiple teams of people motivated by God’s love. So many of you volunteered, contributed and have been involved in bringing the dream of a reconstructed, retro-fitted and refurnished home for Mr. Dodson to life. The original condition of his house was so dire, the city inspector had declared it should be condemned. Now that same house is effectively brand new from top to bottom, with new siding, a re-engineered roof structure, and a completely remodeled interior.

Mr. Dodson surrounded by his new family in the Lord during the dedication
Mr. Dodson is also a before-and-after picture of the grace and provision of God. When we encountered Mr. Dodson, he was alone and extremely discouraged. During the process of assessing, demolishing and rebuilding his house, CSM team members were there almost every day for months. Randy, Aaron, and Tracy advocated for him and spoke into his life. Mr. Dodson has been well loved by groups and individuals who came from far and wide to help CSM with this multi-layered project. He has encountered true believers in his own community. He has seen city officials and inspectors react with amazement to the process and results of this project. His house has effectively lifted his whole neighborhood, and he is beginning to see how he can reach out to others. Mr. Dodson has a new sense of hope and purpose, and a new connection to community and the family of God.
Mr. Dodson overwhelmed with emotion on move-in day 
We think there is a significant difference between having a front row seat and being a part of the action… effecting change. We are on mission to mobilize and empower you to be on mission. We walk together, bringing you along with us— in the action and mobilized to empower and impact lives! You are helping to make things happen with hands-on assistance and with your financial support.
Volunteers came from far and wide, ready for prayer and action
Isaiah 58:10-12  TLB

Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Your sons will rebuild the long-deserted ruins of your cities, and you will be known as “The People Who Rebuild Their Walls and Cities.”

The rebuilding begins

Mr. Dodson is astounded by the huge welcome

Circled in a prayer of unity and thanksgiving
Charged by the City of Birmingham
City Inspector and Wells Fargo representative commends everyone
Tracy Hipps presents a flag to a proud and deserving veteran
Covered in love and prayer
The big reveal and home tour!
Bedroom #1
Bedroom #2
A brand new kitchen
King of the castle
A new brotherhood
The electrical inspector was impressed with the quality of work
A happy man
Welcome home, Mr. Dodson!