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The continued struggle for voting rights

Our guest blogger, the Rev. Kwame Pitts, helped draft and present the ELCA Social Policy Resolution “Voting Rights to All Citizens” adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in 2013. She shares her poetically presented thoughts in 2018 here.


By guest blogger the Rev. Kwame Pitts, Campus Pastor, Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park in Chicago (bio)

Simply because they refuse to assimilate
Kowtow to the dominate culture
To the poisonous American nationalism.
We are still having this conversation
They tried to wipe our rights.
They tried to cripple the peoples of Georgia
The tired, the poor, the abused, the violated.
We are still standing.
So please,
Don’t tell me to conform
To stick to the sickly sweet,
Feel good Gospel
That does not address the suffering
That chooses to ignore the cries for justice
That co-signs off on the slavery and the destruction
Of God’s People,
Of Black and Brown Bodies
Of Indigenous and Ancient Bodies
Of those who Love Authentically,
Even if that makes folks uncomfortable
OF those who rejoice the Creator,
In so many beautiful and original ways…
Will not be the religious tradition that I will ever follow.
What side are YOU on?
Will you speak prophetically,
And defend
The right

Biographical submission: The Rev. Kwame Pitts understands her role in the scheme of things as a weaving of both academics, theology and the practical. Currently she serves as Associate Pastor for Body and Soul UChicago Campus Ministry at Augustana Lutheran Church, Hyde Park. Campus Ministry, under her tutelage, is being redefined as a resource for public theology and an example of public Church. Pr. Pitts holds a M.Div. degree from LSTC, is working on her final STM thesis on syncretism and oppression and has been accepted to an Ecumenical D.Min. program concurrently. In 2013 she wrote and presented to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly the Social Policy Resolution regarding Voting Rights and subsequently partnered with ELCA Young Adults and Racial Justice Ministries to form #ELCAVotes. Currently she serves on both boards of SOUL (Southsiders Organized for Unity and Leadership) and Emmanus Road, another faith rooted organization located in NYC. Pr. Pitts has no apologizes for her voice and where she places herself in faith rooted organizing for all people. She is also known for her poetic voice both academically and theologically, and this is reflected in the blog.

Stress of farm life addressed by Farm Bill

“I was so moved,” said Elena Robles of a talk she heard about stress and farmers near the end of her term as a Hunger Fellow with the ELCA Advocacy office. Farm Bill conferees are engaged in the task of bridging differences between the Senate’s (S.034) Agriculture Improvement Act and the House of Representative’s (HR.2) Agriculture and Nutrition Act, aiming for Farm Bill consideration before upcoming midterm elections. The speaker Robles heard, Matt Perdue, shares his insights here with us about very human elements the Farm Bill addresses.

By guest blogger Matt Perdue, Government Relations Representative for National Farmers Union

There is a lot that weighs on a farmer’s mind. Farming is a tough occupation. Unpredictable weather, staggering financial risk, volatile markets, and the strain of heavy workloads are all routine aspects of a life in farming. Spend a few minutes in a small town coffee shop, and you quickly realize that the struggles of farming often dominate those conversations. Farmers are comfortable talking about their stressors. What they rarely acknowledge is their actual stress.

The reality is that mental health struggles among the farming population is a persistent and growing problem. Farmers and agricultural workers have a much higher rate of suicide than the general population. This is exacerbated by the fact that 60 percent of rural residents live in areas that suffer from mental health professional shortages. When farmers do acknowledge their stress, they often find that there’s nowhere to turn for help.

Farmers are under greater stress today than anything most have experienced since the 1980s. Net farm income has declined for five years and is now less than half of what it was in 2013. As trade uncertainty compounds already low commodity prices, experts suggest that a rebound could be years away. While the economic challenges aren’t necessarily the same as those of the 1980s, many worry that a similar farm suicide crisis is brewing.

Many are optimistic that a new Farm Bill will, at the very least, bring farmers and ranchers a desperately needed measure of certainty. Among the legislation’s hundreds of pages is the farm safety net, which supports farmers when market forces make it all but impossible to turn a profit. It includes credit programs that can keep a farmer afloat between the costs of planting and the revenues of harvest. The Farm Bill also includes programs covering conservation, trade promotion, rural development, renewable energy, and everything in between.

As Congress makes progress toward passing a new Farm Bill, a bipartisan group of legislators has worked diligently to address the agricultural community’s growing need for mental health services. Led by Congressmen Tom Emmer and Tom O’Halleran, and Senators Tammy Baldwin and Joni Ernst, the coalition has resurrected a long-forgotten and never-funded program: the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.

FRSAN was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide grants to extension services and nonprofit organizations that offer stress assistance programs to farmers, ranchers and farmworkers. The program would fund farm hotlines and websites, community outreach and education, support groups, and home delivery of assistance. In short, FRSAN helps communities better support farmers when they need it most.

The Senate and House have each passed their versions of the Farm Bill, and each includes reauthorization of FRSAN. As they hurriedly work to reach agreement and pass a final product, it’s important that a strong and diverse coalition of groups continues to advocate for the inclusion of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. It’s important that members of Congress hear from farmers, health providers and the faith-based community about the need to better support our agricultural community.

Beyond the Farm Bill and far from the politics of Washington, it’s equally important that we continue the conversation around farmer mental health. We need to educate members of our communities to better recognize and respond to the signs of distress. We must also identify those mental health resources and services available in rural areas and leverage those to better serve our agricultural population. Most importantly, we need to make sure that when the stress mounts, farmers have somewhere to turn.