Program seeks the common good in Metro Jackson

Representatives from approximately 50 organizations based in Jackson, MS, came together on June 14, 2012, to kick-off Working Together Jackson, a community development initiative three years in the making. The well attended event was held at New Horizon International on Ellis Ave., pastored by Bishop Ronnie Crudup. The majority members of the broad-based coalition of institutions in the Jackson Metro Area are churches. However, the remainder of the groups are service oriented, such as Stewpot, Spencer Perkins Center, United Auto Workers, Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance and Zoo Area Progressive Partnership. “Each of our congregations or organizations has a mission. We believe that there are parts of that mission that each of us is unable to fulfill alone,” stated Bishop Crudup. “We are building an effort that grows out of our individual traditions, but which will allow us to work together to have a much larger impact.” Working Together Jackson members said they are concerned about how their state rates nationally. Presently, Mississippi leads the nation in infant mortality, obesity, teen pregnancy, school drop out rate, just to name a few. Disparities in household income are not only apparent between Mississippi and other states but within its own counties. Working Together Jackson covers Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. On the national scale, the median family income is $51,914, and the percentage of people living below the poverty level is 13.8 percent. In Mississippi, the median family income is $37,881, and the percentage below poverty is 21.2 percent. Madison and Rankin counties are both above the national average when it comes to income — with $59,585 and $54,028, respective, yet falls short on people living below the poverty line at 13.9 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively. A bleaker picture exists in Hinds County, with a median family income of $39,215, and 22.2 percent of its residents living below the poverty line. However, Working Together Jackson is not alone in its mission. Several regional and national agencies have signed on to help Working Together Jackson reach its core objectives, which are: (1) to build relationships across Jackson based on trust and a willingness to listen to and learn from each other; (2) to equip members and leadership with skills and practice to get results; and (3) to achieve change on concrete issues, as part of their common call to justice. “We have a mind to work,” says Rev. Frank Spencer, Executive Director, Stewpot Community Services. “Nehemiah brought the community together not by getting them to help each other, but by getting them to work on the part of the wall nearest to their homes. In our next steps, we will first act in our own neighborhoods and then move toward citywide and metro-wide action.” Stewpot, which began as a simple soup kitchen, has developed into an organization that provides shelter, clothing, counseling and children’s programs. Over the summer, Working Together Jackson will initiate a metro-wide needs assessment outreach campaign to determine future community projects. Then on Oct. 25, 2012, a training and strategy session will be held that will take into consideration the data compiled over the summer months. From this training, metro-wide issue action teams will be created to carry out the agenda. Working Together Jackson is receiving assistance from the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), credited as the nation’s oldest and largest organizing network with 65 units across the country, including a number of projects in the South. For more information, call 601-594-2017, 601-460-0797, email workingtogetherjackson! or friend them on facebook.