It was 7 p.m. on a weeknight. Instead of watching Netflix at home, my colleague Mia and I headed to a Catholic church in City Heights to join the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP) in action.
There were barely enough mismatched folding chairs to seat the 60 congregation members who showed up after work to learn how to mobilize for justice in their community. This trilingual congregation typically hosts separate services for English, Spanish and Vietnamese-speaking community members, but tonight, they all came together.
Diverse church members overflowed into an adjacent room of the church, listening to SDOP Executive Director Kevin Malone explain why faith is best expressed when we stand united against injustices in our community.
“There’s a difference between 3,000 of us showing up to church on a Sunday morning and 3,000 of us showing up to City Council demanding justice,” he said.
SDOP unites and empowers congregations like this one across San Diego County. For the past 30 years, it has brought thousands of people of faith together to increase affordable housing, reform local policing practices, provide after-school programs for at-risk students, protect access to healthcare, teach immigrant families about their rights and more.
As I’ve gotten to know the organization, I’m inspired by how it brings people together from a spectrum of political parties, languages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds. As one of the most diverse movements in the region, SDOP unites brothers and sisters from diverse religions under one banner of faith.
At another community meeting a week or two later, Mia and I listened as dozens of community members expressed concerns about the new federal administration. Everyone’s perspective was unique, but the common thread was fear. We were afraid. We were all afraid of so many forms of racism and xenophobia threatening the rights and safety of our communities.
As the meeting continued, Kevin acknowledged every fear and encouraged the community to come together — to pursue hope and to choose faith instead of giving into fear.
At that moment in that room, the Faith Not Fear movement was born. In the following weeks, Mixte supported SDOP to host its first-ever Faith Not Fear Summit. The interfaith event gave religious leaders from diverse congregations a platform to inspire the community to put faith in action. More than 700 people lit candles and pledged to choose faith, not fear in these unsure, confusing and tumultuous times.
In spite of so much uncertainty, SDOP has shown us that now is the critical time to disrupt systemic patterns of hatred and racism that tear our families apart. Now is the time to set a new precedent for hope.
By realizing we are more alike than different, and by discovering that love is best expressed through action, SDOP harnesses a powerful voice for justice in San Diego. Mixte feels beyond proud to represent this movement — and we can’t wait to tell everyone about it. This is only the beginning.