Hope is a Verb
October 21, 2021
On October 18th, NETWORK hosted a monthly Community Conversation titled “Called to Action– The Spirituality of NETWORK’s Political Ministry.” The event began with a presentation on NETWORK’s foundational history from Historian Sister Mara Rutten, RSM. NETWORK was founded in 1971 when 47 Catholic Sisters gathered at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. to form a lobbying group in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching. These Women Religious created a nationwide community of political justice activists and held legislative seminars to train new justice-seekers on priorities such as fair wages, tax justice, health care, workers’ rights, and more. Over the decades, our spirit-filled network has expanded to include thousands of people of all backgrounds.
NETWORK’S foundresses based the organization’s mission on Catholic Social Justice tradition– living out the Gospel values of pursuing the common good and uplifting every person’s inherent human dignity. When approaching federal policy through a Catholic Social Justice lens, we center the lived realities of those experiencing systemic inequalities such as sexism, racism, and economic exploitation. NETWORK’s principles of Catholic Social Justice continue to guide our approach to educating, organizing, and lobbying for transformative change.
After reflecting on NETWORK’s history, Community Conversation participants were asked to consider how Catholic Social Justice informs our current work as advocates. Many participants shared frustrations of living in communities where many Catholics are single-issue voters and are unaware of equally sacred issues. People agreed that our country’s divisive political climate can be discouraging on a familial, parish, neighborhood, and national level in the fight for justice and the common good. However, a profound message stood out to me on how we can sustain our work during difficult times.
In my small discussion group, I explained how advocacy work is very important to me, but can disheartening and emotionally draining at times. One of my group members, Sister Betty McVeigh, then shared a phrase that has stuck with me: “Hope is a verb.” In the moments where there seems to be only tragedy and an extreme lack of progress on the issues that matter, we must move forward with radical hope in order to realize our vision of an equitable society with justice and human dignity at the center. As the NETWORK community organizes and lobbies on priorities such as democracy, the Build Back Better plan, immigration reform, and more we must come together to rise above the brokenness and suffering, and live out the same Gospel call NETWORK’s foundresses were moved by.
Catholic Social Justice is not only doctrine, but a tool we can use to build relationships and work for societal change. So much can be achieved when we approach every situation with the hope of building our country anew to dismantle systemic racism, cultivate inclusive community, root our economy in solidarity, and transform our politics. Pope Francis calls us to be “social poets,” people that “have the ability and the courage to create hope where there appears to be only waste and exclusion.” As we embark on the journey of celebrating NETWORK’s 50th anniversary I hope we can all renew our dedication to the foundresses’ mission of rejecting exclusion and inequality and building a just world together. We be social poets together through hope, hope, hope.
Housing is Infrastructure
October 18, 2021
On Tuesday, October 12, I extended my support to Representative Maxine Waters (CA-43) Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee by attending their press conference on housing investments in the Build Back Better plan. During her remarks, Rep. Waters stated: “For decades we have put off making the [housing] investments we needed and just like a bridge that crumbles without maintenance our housing safety net is at its breaking point.”
— Jarrett K. Smith (@JarrettSmith) October 12, 2021
Of the original $3.5 trillion dollar package, $327 billion is allotted for housing. This transformative housing investment would connect millions of families with the housing assistance they need. Investing in housing is our once-in-a-generation chance to help close the widening racial wealth gap.
With only one in four families eligible for housing assistance actually receives it, homelessness and housing insecurity are becoming a reality for more families in the United States every day. We have a moral call to ensure that every person has stable, affordable housing. As Pope Francis said when he visited the United States in 2015, “we can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”
Rep. Johnson listed a few of the programs that the Build Back Better Act could fund, including:
- • $90 billion for rental assistance (Housing Choice Voucher and Project-Based Rental Assistance)
• $80 billion for public housing repairs
• $40+ billion for Community Development Block Grants and the HOME Investment Partnership Program
With the Build Back Better plan approaching the October 31 deadline Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer have set for its passage, congressional leadership is considering cuts to the plan to bring the final cost down, but it is unclear which programs’ funding will be impacted.
This week, Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15) led 125 lawmakers in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The letter urged them to keep $90 billion for rental assistance, $80 billion for public housing repairs and $37 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund in the final version of the bill.
It is critical to maintain these transformative housing investments in this final Build Back Better package.
There is no time to lose. Urge your legislators to keep the proposed housing and community development funds in the final bill.
Call your Representative at 888-738-3058 and tell them to support a bold Build Back Better plan
Protecting Our Democracy and Ensuring Fair Elections
Sr. Quincy Howard, OP
October 15, 2021
Last week, I participated in civil disobedience in front of the White House — and spent the night in jail — to draw attention to how critical it is that we pass legislation to make the promise of our democracy real. What is it that makes this moment so important? Watch my conversation with NETWORK Deputy Executive Director Joan Neal to learn more.
This summer, NETWORK justice-seekers raised their voices and took action to strengthen our freedom to vote at rallies, vigils, farmers markets, and even the zoo. Under the banner of “Team Democracy,” hundreds of justice-seekers across the country called on Congress to support legislation that protects the freedom to vote. Meanwhile, thousands of Catholic Sisters signed onto a letter to Senator Schumer telling him not to let minority opposition prevent the Senate passing democracy legislation any longer.
We expect the Senate to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act next week. Will you call your Senators today to tell them that you support this urgently needed legislation?
Dial 888-885-1748. When you call, be sure to introduce yourself and say:
“I’m asking the Senator to support the passage of S.2747, the Freedom to Vote Act to protect the right to vote and save our democracy.”
Call twice to reach both of your Senators’ offices!
Hispanic Heritage Month Media Guide
October 11, 2021
Education has the power to humanize people who, because of larger structural inequalities, have been dehumanized or seen as lesser than. However, the U.S. educational system has not always benefited everyone equally. For decades, Hispanic and Latinx Americans have struggled and pushed to help create a more just educational system. Here are some notable pieces of media to educate yourself on the resilience of the Hispanic community in education: from landmark legal cases to high schoolers on strike.
Cristal Flores is a first generation Mexicana Americana in Orange County, CA. She is currently enrolled in her first year of her doctoral program for her Ph.D in Education with an emphasis on Cultural and Curricular Studies. Her research focus on the Latina/o/x communities in education especially parental engagement and migrant youth experience. As a practicing Catholic, Cristal sees her work, research, and advocacy as a way to further use the gifts that she learned in ministry and in her faith.
2021 Hispanic Heritage Month Playlist
October 4, 2021
We’re back with part two of our Hispanic Heritage Month playlist. Here are some selections that highlight a small part of the diverse kaleidoscope that is the Hispanic and Latinx world. We hope you enjoy these songs of celebration, reflection, lamentation, and pride!
La Jaula de Oro by Los Tigres del Norte
The issue of immigration on the U.S. southern border can become so two-dimensional in our public discourse, that the nuanced lived realities of migrants are often lost. This song, by beloved Norteño band Los Tigres del Norte, paints an honest and heartbreaking picture of the life of an undocumented immigrant living in the United States. The title, which translates to “The Golden Cage,” highlights the internal and external tensions that migrants face when building a new life in an unfamiliar place. The linked video is from the band’s recent live concert that they performed at Folsom State Prison (50 years after Johnny Cash’s famous concert), for both the men’s and women’s facilities. You can check out the documentary on Netflix.
La Negra Tiene Tumbao by Celia Cruz
The Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, left a significant mark in the music industry thanks to her illustrious 50 year career that made fans all around the world get up and dance. However, her late-career smash hit “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” (which can be roughly translated to “The Black Woman Has Style”) is a standout for its joyous and unapologetic celebration of Black womanhood. Give this one a listen whenever you need an extra dose of azucar in your life!
Breathe (from In the Heights) by Lin-Manuel Miranda
After reimagining the story of the U.S. Founding Fathers in Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda received widespread praise for his gifts of song and lyricism. These skills are seen in another one of his projects, In the Heights, a musical about the lives of several Black and Latinx residents of the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. In this production, the song “Breathe” is sung by Nina, a first-generation Latina college student who is returning to her neighborhood after dropping out of Stanford University. It’s a heartfelt reflection on the support and pressure that comes from community, and the struggles faced by many first-generation students. In the Heights was adapted into a movie which was released this past year.
Como La Flor by Selena
Tejano is more than just a musical genre — it’s the unique culture of the descendants of Spanish settlers in the Tejas area, established over 100 years before modern-day Texas became a U.S. state. And no one is more synonymous with Tejano culture than Selena Quintanilla-Perez, known widely as just Selena. Her music is a fusion of various Mexican and U.S. influences that is “ni de aquí, ni de allá” (neither from here, nor there). It also embodies the wonderful complexities of being a Hispanic/Latinx American. Selena’s life (and tragic death) was made into a biopic in 1997, with Jennifer Lopez playing Selena. Most recently it was also re-made as a Netflix series.
Mi Gente by J Balvin & Willy Williams
If you’ve been to any quinceanera in the past 4 years, chances are that you’ve heard the infectious beat of Mi Gente playing loudly. J Balvin is a singer from Medellin, Colombia, and is often referred to as the “Prince of Reggaeton,” a musical genre from Latin America that has taken the world by storm and flooded dancefloors everywhere. The song is a collaboration between J Balvin and French DJ, Willy Williams, and has gained broad international success thanks to its wildly fun energy and bilingual lyrics which invites everyone to be part of mi gente (my people).
Watch Live: Keep the Faith, Build Back Better
Right now, what’s happening in Congress is complicated but we are firm in our values and moral vision. Congress has an opportunity to pass a once-in-a-generation investment in our families, communities, and futures. Build Back Better is our chance to rebuild and repair our communities devastated by COVID-19’s impact and decades of under-resourcing.
The next few weeks are critical for both ensuring the Build Back Better legislation is shaped to meet the daunting challenges of our time and that it passes to become law. Right now, your Representative and Senators are in their districts and states until October 18th and they need to hear from YOU! We invite you to join people of faith across the country in taking action while your elected leaders are back home and in the coming weeks.
Advocacy Outreach Ideas:
1. Drop the Build Back Better summary off at your members of Congress offices. Take a photo and share on social media to voice your support for Build Back Better. Use the hashtag #BuildBackBetter and tag your elected officials when you post the photo on social media.
2. Write and pitch a letter to the editor at your local paper. Check out this resource for a step by step guide and messaging to write your letter.
3. Call your Representative to tell them you support big, bold, faithful investments in our communities and to pass Build Back Better. Call 888-738-3058 to be connected to your Representative’s office!
4. Talk to your community about the importance of Build Back Better. This package encapsulates a wide range of policies and can feel overwhelming, so we want to provide you with a concise overview of the faithful priorities in the Build Back Better bill so that you can confidently talk about these priorities with your friends, neighbors, and Members of Congress. Check out this resource for members of Congress to guide your conversations.
EQUAL Act Passes House!
September 30, 2021
On September 28, the House overwhelmingly voted to pass the EQUAL Act 361 to 66! While there are many issues leading to racial disparities in the criminal legal system, passing the EQUAL (Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law) Act is a huge step forward to ending mass incarceration in the United States. The EQUAL Act (H.R.1693/S.79) is faithful, bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-AL), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), Bobby Scott (D-VA-03), and Don Bacon (R-NE-02). It seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, a major contributor to mass incarceration, and apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced.
According to FAMM, in 2019 alone, 81% of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses were Black, even though historically, 66% of crack cocaine users have been white or Hispanic. It is time to end this racist policy and restore proportionality in sentencing.
This May, more than 100 justice-seekers participated in NETWORK’s first virtual lobby day, conducting 50 lobby visits with their Representatives to push for the passing of the EQUAL Act, it is always rewarding to see our hard work pay off.
Before the House vote, NETWORK sent a letter urging all Representatives to support this legislation, saying: “We call on all Representatives to take a firm stance against institutional racism embedded within the criminal legal system by voting yes on the EQUAL Act so that it can swiftly make its way to the Senate floor. ”
Now it’s time for the Senate to pass this legislation. Sign up for our action alerts to join our team to put pressure on the Senate to pass this legislation. Text JUSTICE to 877-877 to sign up for text alerts or sign up for emails here.
Nearly 50 Years of Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
September 29, 2021
The annual observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month began this year on September 15 and continues until October 15. In September 1968, President Johnson signed the National Hispanic Heritage Week bill into law. The following year, Representative Esteban E. Torres of California proposed extending Hispanic Heritage week to a month, saying supporters of the bill “want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.” Unfortunately, Torres’s bill died in committee, but 20 years later in 1988, Senator Paul Simon of Illinois succeeded in passing a similar bill lengthening Hispanic Heritage Week to Hispanic Heritage Month. President Reagan signed the bill into law in August 1988.
The start date of September 15 coincides with Independence Day celebrations in many Hispanic countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their Independence Days in September.
Hispanic and Latinx individuals and communities have made a substantial impact on politics, pop culture, art, music, and more in our country. Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a time to honor and celebrate achievements and contributions made by Hispanic Americans in the U.S.
Check out the Calendar of Events from the Library of Congress to learn more and find out how you can celebrate this month.