Participatory Democracy Now by Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs

Recent conversations with my millennial children caused me to think more deeply about what it means to live in a society that is structured as a Participatory Democracy.  Our talks focus on this year’s presidential election.  Consistent with their generation, they became almost religiously enthralled by the Bernie Sanders’ candidacy.  The irony of their choice captured my attention.  Clearly, he was the eldest in a field of old candidates seeking the highest office in the land.  “Feeling the Bern” and giving enthusiastic support to an avowed Socialist who gave up his New York residency for Vermont also seemed a far cry from my children’s urban upbringing.

Yet, like millions of voters in this election year, my children are mainstream among the flow of people who sincerely desire a change that matters.  Bernie Sanders represents and articulates the important issues on their hearts and minds.

A candidate who did not possess the obvious, visual qualities of a magnet who could attract the millennial vote, Bernie Sanders actually earned their loyalty, confidence, and staunch support right through the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.  My children did not flee from their choice of the best possible candidate who addressed and met their needs.  Even after Bernie’s race was over and he joined the Democratic Party’s parade, he remained their sole candidate.

The revelation of this electoral process in which the ultimate candidates on the November ballot are not my children’s first or second choice pushed me to look at this Participatory Democracy anew and what it means to voters who are left to make decisions based on the spoils.

In order for a Participatory Democracy to work, residents, citizens, and voters must do much more than cast votes on Election Day.  Yes, you read that right.  “Residents,” “citizens,” and “voters” have to be fully engaged in the democratic process long before entering a polling booth.  Based on recent voting records with very low voter turnouts, more people must get involved in the civic affairs that affect their communities and quality of life.  Even if they are residents without citizenship status, their voices need to be raised and their opinions heard.

People who are citizens must act like citizens by registering and voting.  The process begins long before they vote.  The issues and candidates on the ballot not only should be familiar to the voters, but should appear only after residents, citizens, and voters have determined they deserve the public’s decision.  That is, local people should have a greater say about what measures are worthy of their vote.  Participatory Democracy means the people convene, discuss, decide, and act on issues that originate with them and are critically important to them.

All politics is local and affects the lives of real people in locations where their homes, jobs, schools, religious affiliations, parks, and watering holes are situated.  In order for a real Participatory Democracy to function, the people must insist on taking action from the genesis of the process to its conclusion, including the ballot box.  Participatory Democracy does not take a holiday.  There is no time for people to just sit back and watch what happens.

In fact, in a Participatory Democracy voting is the very least element that drives it forward.  The last thing a person does is vote on Election Day.  Candidates should not be allowed to come around only during campaign time and show up as one of the people.  Instead, there is constant accountability without any ambiguity about who the candidate represents.  The interest of the people who elect politicians is always first and foremost over all other considerations.

My millennial children “felt the Bern” because at least one candidate running for President of the United States of America understood his role and stood above the rest as the one candidate who did not lose sight of what a Participatory Democracy demands: that the voice and the vote of the people matter.



September 22, 2016

Blog: Campaign #diapersnotdetention

Written by: Miriam Noriega

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity joined a national campaign #diapersnotdetention by organizing a prayer vigil at the Federal Building in San Francisco and delivered 100 signed diapers to Rep. Nancy Pelosi. The messages about liberating the families and closing detention centers were written by people of different faiths. This action was in solidarity with 3,000 mothers and children refugees from Central America who have been detained in prison-like facilities for an unnecessarily prolonged time. Recently, 22 mothers have been on a hunger strike at Berks County, PA family detention center as a response to the Secretary of Homeland Security, J.  Johnson’s comment, that the maximum stay for families in detention centers should be 22 days or less.

At the federal building in San Francisco, faith leaders held a prayer vigil and shared their reflections, “We are not politicians, much less the powerful of the system; we are men and women of faith and of family, the faces of those who have been deprived their freedom, their voices and their heartbeat of their hope”. The visual of the diapers made people chuckle, especially when they saw that a small brown paper was inserted in the diapers that said “BASTA” “ENOUGH”. Nonetheless, the diapers are symbolic for the basic needs of children that mothers need to take care of their children. They represent the morally just attitude that the federal government of the United States should have towards asylum seeking families, which is of caring hospitality instead of criminalization.

FullSizeRenderAfterwards, we entered the federal building and dialogued with the staff of Rep. Pelosi as people of faith, we spoke on the moral obligation to protect and welcome vulnerable women and children fleeing violence and seeking protection. Concretely, we asked that she use her influence with President Obama and Sec. J. Johnson to terminate the 3 family detention centers and immediately release all the women and children. Also, to curtail the approach of enforcement policies to support bills in Congress that address the root causes of migration from Central America. The staff listened to each person and we listened to them explaining that Rep. Pelosi has signed a letter, along with other congress men and women, that expressed dissent and urgent demand to end the detention centers that was addressed to Secretary Johnson.  Finally, our presence at the federal building was conscientious effort to hold the U.S. federal government accountable the day after President Obama gave a final address at the historic United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants. He said, “At this moment, we all face a choice. We can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration. Or we can retreat into a world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion.”  IM 4 Human Integrity chose to organize this public demonstration and prayer vigil believing that it can be a non-violent model for all communities of faith to integrate our belief of honoring the dignity of all people, regardless of their immigration status.


IMMIGRATION VIGIL Sat. Sept. 3rd- Northern California

Immigration Vigil Sat. Sept 3rd.
11 am- 12 noon West County Detention Facility 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond
Tell Congress: #NoMoreDiapersinDetention
Tell Sacramento:  #DignityNotDetention – Pass SB 1289
Join us for our monthly vigil at West County Detention Facility to pray, advocate, and stand in solidarity with the incarcerated immigrant in the Bay Area.
This month’s vigil will be led by participants in Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity’s Latino Leadership Retreat participants:  Fe’ y Justicia.  We will lift up testimonies of children, youth and families held in detention.