By Angel Pittman
In my first months of ministry, I remember a faith leader offering a challenge to not simply create programs and services that serve people who are caught in tough situations in the river of life, but instead to go upstream and see who is pushing people into the river. That analogy stuck with me. Heading up the river is what advocacy is all about.
Recently I was able to be a part of CBF’s training event, Advocacy in Action, held in New York City. Throughout the four-day event, pastors, faith leaders and seminary students from across the country joined together to learn practical ways to put faith to action while impacting the most pressing issues of the day including immigrant and refugee issues, religious liberty and human rights.
Our group visited the United Nations to learn about global advocacy and hear about interfaith work being done from a panel of UN advocate experts. During our week, we viewed refugee stories up close at the Tenement Museum and stood beneath Plymouth Church in Brooklyn in the same room as those escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad. All of this was a great reminder of both the importance and the investment required for advocacy.
It seemed fitting that the following Monday, I would get to be a part of putting my new advocacy learning into action at a Pray-In and Press Conference to denounce the abusive practices of the payday lending industry.
This gathering brought together the Center for Responsible Lending, the Florida Council of Churches, the 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida to protest outside of the Trump National Doral Resort in Miami as the national payday lenders association, The Community Financial Services of America (CFSA), held their annual meeting.
Touching Miami with Love joined this effort years ago and continues to learn about the industry that grows wealthy off a debt trap designed to force borrowers to take out increasing loans to pay off previous loans. It was encouraging to join prominent leaders in this movement as we prayed and called for justice to uphold the rights of the poor. We held signs attracting the interest of the police and media as we condemned the industry for their 400% APR rates and predatory practices that lead to an average of ten loans per borrower.
Following this experience, I was invited to join a researcher from the Center for Responsible Lending to be a local voice on Miami’s local public radio station WLRN’s show, “Sundial.” It was a privilege to shine light on the abusive practices of payday lending because no one should be thrown in the river drowning in debt.
Angel Pittman is a CBF field personnel serving as the Vice President of Touching Miami with Love. Since 1995, Touching Miami with Love has been serving the neighborhoods of Overtown and West Homestead, sharing the love of Christ through providing hope, opportunities, and resources.