Saturday, July 17, 2010

Washington Dollars for the Marginalized

Access to federal dollars was the thrust of the recent Capitol Hill Summit of African American Faith-Based Leaders hosted by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event was attended by around 200 spiritual leaders from New York looking for stimulus dollars, much of which, surprisingly, has not yet been awarded for this year.

Money is available to address the problems at the margins of society—employment, education, housing, prison, police and other social issues, according to Gillibrand who wants to make sure these dollars are used to make a difference.

While Gillibrand and her team appear committed to helping any church or organization through the process, nothing could mask the reality of how cumbersome the government grant process can be. To her credit, Gillibrand had streamlined a directory categorizing grants available.

The Reverend Al Sharpton spoke fervently during the light lunch pleading with everyone to make this opportunity count. “We are running out of time, we have to do this while we have the opportunity, or it may not come back around.”

Senator Charles Schumer complemented Gillibrand as a “trailblazer” and referred to the gathering as “the largest assembly ever of New York clergy gathered in Washington D.C.” Other notables on hand included Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Eliot Engel, Acting HUD Director Rev. Miniard Culpepper, Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black, Rev. Calvin O Butts III, and Rev Dr. Floyd Flake.

Peter Zehren is Vice President for Development and Insitutional Advancement at New York Theological Seminary.

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