Ministers join together to rid the city of urban blight
By Ashley Luthern
In the movement to rid the city
of urban blight, area clergy members say they are following a mission of social justice outlined in their faith.
“Justice is a tremendous part, and when I say justice, I just don’t mean civil-rights justice. It’s about advocating for those who are downtrodden, who need a voice because other voices are speaking louder,” said the Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II.
The Rev. Mr. Macklin is pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Parkcliffe Avenue on the city’s South Side and president of the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods.
ACTION has put together forums for residents to voice concerns about problems in their neighborhoods. ACTION has implemented the hot-spot program, where residents anonymously mail in addresses where crime occurs and ACTION passes that information on to police.
Mr. Macklin and his congregation gathered Sunday to celebrate the church’s 60th anniversary and its continuing history of social activism. One event highlighted was the 1957 visit of Rosa Parks at the church’s former location on Rayen Avenue.
The Rev. Gregory Maturi of St. Dominic Church said the Catholic faith has a similar tenant of advocating for the downtrodden.
“The Catholic Church does have a preferential option for justice, and the poor are the ones who tend not to get justice,” he said. Father Maturi and the Rev. Edward Noga of St. Patrick Church, who is one of the founding members of ACTION, had Mass together Sunday, bringing together their congregations.
Rose Carter, an associate minister for Triedstone Missionary Baptist Church on the East Side and lead organizer for ACTION, said community organizing has its roots in the Bible.
“Jesus was a great organizer himself because he brought people together in all walks of life and organized them in groups and had them work together for a common cause,” she said.
Mr. Macklin said the murder of two St. Dominic parishioners this year has served to bring more people together.
“It’s like an awakening of the sleeping giants within the community,” he said. “... People believe that as long as crime’s contained in Youngstown proper, we’re safe. The reality is, crime knows no boundaries.”
He compared it to cancer that will spread if left untreated.
“It behooves us to understand we have to become part of the solution or inherently become part of the problem. We have two choices and no middle ground,” Mr. Macklin said.
Faith-based organizations are providing people with opportunities to get involved. Mr. Macklin and members of his congregation mentor youths and lead community-service projects, such as painting dilapidated houses.
Father Maturi, meanwhile, brought together federal, state and local elected and law-enforcement officials for a Safety Summit last month.
“In poverty-stricken areas, the virtue of justice includes patriotism in its most literal sense, respect and reverence for one’s home. I’m here to help,” Father Maturi said.
Carter attended the Safety Summit and said the plan from officials included many things that already had been implemented that need to be enforced.
“I’m concerned about what’s next. So far it’s been a week and we haven’t heard anything,” Carter said. “I know it takes time, but I am afraid that we’re going to go along and nothing’s changing. That’s the only thing that bothers me.”
“If we’re not excited or concerned, who else is going go be?” Carter asked.