By Scott Reed
In 1977, Star Wars opened; Jimmy Carter was sworn in as President; and the first Apple II computers hit the market.
This was also the year I began working with what was to become, the PICO National Network.
In 1977 PICO formally birthed our first organizing federation—OCO (Oakland Community Organization). Fr. John Baumann and leaders in Oakland had been building and it was time to launch this new organization. I was offered the job as Director of OCO and I have been a part of the PICO family ever since.
We were one organization in 1977. Today, we are a network of 50 organizations in 21 states and four countries internationally.
The forms of our organizing have changed and adapted to new conditions in our society. The substance of our organizing remains remarkably consistent: people in radical relationship with one another can change the world.
Life is different for millions of people who have benefited from our organizing. We have been in the center of fights that have cleaned up neighborhoods, improved schools, held police accountable, elected new prosecutors, expanded children’s health insurance to 4 million children; enacted– and then protected– the Affordable Care Act. Our network has helped protect families from deportation; earn better wages by passing state policy; secure better access to transportation and affordable housing; change sentencing laws for people unfairly sentenced to reunite thousands of men and women with their families.
Few of these fights have been won alone. But I have no doubt that none of these fights would have been won without the presence of a disciplined, organized people demanding that they be treated with dignity and respect, that they be offered equitable opportunity, that they be seen and heard.
This is what organizing does—it provides a path to victory on those issues most important to us.
Organizing does something else equally important: it provides a pathway for people to learn new things about themselves and to write a new story about who they are. Leadership is not a talent given at birth; it is something learned and earned in community and in battle. Thousands of leaders have learned to be leaders by being in radical relationship with one another. Leaders think and learn about power, think and learn about strategy, think and learn about investing in others and building organization.
In May 2018, PICO begins to write a new chapter in our story about power and organizing.
We are changing our name to Faith in Action. The name change represents a fundamental commitment we are making to fight for something larger than ourselves. We proudly proclaim that we are a people who believe in the dignity of all; we believe that all belong; and we choose abundance over scarcity as we help construct a new future.
We understand that this country needs Faith to remind us of our values and who we profess to be. We believe this world needs efforts able to articulate moral clarity and back that clarity with political muscle. We know that to construct big change, we need lots and lots of people to re-imagine who we, as a people, need to be.
We believe we need Faith to show up on the streets, in communities as well as in halls of power. Just as those who fought for racial and economic justice before us, we need Faith to remind us of what is truly important and to restore and sustain us on the long journey of justice. We need to claim Faith as inspiring us to act. And so we become known as Faith in Action.
Just as Faith in Action enters this new chapter, so also do I start a new chapter in my life. June 1 marks my retirement. I have traveled for 42 years with a host of thoughtful, passionate, generous clergy, leaders and staff. You have treated me with love and respect, taught me important lessons, held me up when I have needed support, and shown me the shape of what is possible. For that, I thank you.