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VOICE's Response to Coronavirus

Message from VOICE Co-Chairs: Rev. Kristen McBrayer & Rev. Dr. Keith Savage

We hope everyone is, first and foremost, prioritizing taking care of themselves and their families.

These times call us to find new ways to be relational in this unprecedented moment and act collectively on the needs we are hearing. VOICE and our sister affiliates have learned when in the midst of chaos, such as when Katrina struck New Orleans or after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, our best strategy has been: 1) Listen & caucus; 2) Do research actions to understand this moment and how it is impacting us and our communities; 3) Act strategically.

VOICE, we are calling on you to act with us to build community and then respond strategically on the needs we are hearing collectively.

Please know that similar campaigns are being held by our sister Metro-IAF affiliates across the United States and that organizers and key leaders have already started sharing stories, strategies, and results. From time to time, we will send updates of our collective achievements, like the strong work by VOICE Arlington, shared below, or those of our sister affiliates.  We will also start holding VOICE strategy sessions virtually for us to connect, share what we are hearing, and act strategically.

Below are some concrete ways you can act with other VOICE leaders.

1) LISTEN: Build community via phone or zoom

VOICE's organizing always starts with listening. Join us in calling people you know in order to hear how they are doing and what issues they are facing or hearing about. Some ideas of people to call are -- neighbors, members of your congregation, workplace colleagues, and, of course, family and friends. Please also include those who you know who are most impacted because they are 60 or older, have health issues, lost their jobs, are underemployed, live alone, or are small business owners, principals, teachers, doctors, etc.

Below are a sample script and some suggestions.

Stay tuned for VOICE Strategy Sessions by phone and online to report back on listening and discuss next steps on how we can respond.

2) DO RESEARCH ACTIONS: What is happening now? What are the new resources available?

Volunteers are needed to research available resources in order to create a one-stop Coronavirus Resource site on VOICE’s webpage. In addition, volunteers are needed to research and summarize legislation to provide relief for people impacted due to being laid off, eviction moratoriums, utility cutoffs, etc. Also, to summarize federal bills and the implications for Virginia.

Already, we are hearing from VOICE leaders the questions they have about what is available, such as, “Does the new eviction moratorium include people like me who live at mobile home parks?”

If you are interested in being part of the VOICE Research Team, please contact Marjorie Green at vagreenfam@verizon.net.

3) ACT STRATEGICALLY:  VOICE will act at the local and state levels as needed. And, at times, VOICE will also align with our sister affiliates in Metro-IAF in order to multiply our power.  

Congratulations to VOICE Arlington leaders on some great results already!

    1)  VOICE Arlington leaders stopped a store owner from robbing his own customers, after they heard about a store price gouging Latinx Arlingtonians, requiring shoppers to purchase $50 worth of goods in order to be "allowed" to purchase a single bag of flour. South Arlington VOICE and Kenmore Middle School leaders put an end to it.

    2)  Action taken to stop evictions. VOICE leaders heard from parents during their school organizing that due to the coronavirus their jobs were being canceled and work hours reduced, leading them to wonder how they would pay their rent. VOICE Arlington jumped into action by launching an online petition to ensure no one would be evicted due to the pandemic, specifically requesting the County to: 1) put a moratorium on all current and future evictions; 2) allocate more funds & relax existing limits for immediate assistance; 3) put forward guidance to landlords asking them to provide a rent grace period during the crisis; 4) Convene a video conference with leaders of the community to discuss how to work together to ensure the most vulnerable members of the community get support.  So far, three of the four petition requests have been met!

Stay tuned for VOICE Strategy Sessions on next steps. We are holding you, and all people everywhere, in our prayers.

 

Sample Script and ideas to build community and act on needs

FRAME:  While we may be in a time of “physical distancing,” it should not become a time of social isolation. If we stay in relationship with people, we can more powerfully respond to support one another, and especially the people most impacted at this time. We need the power built through relationships to support one another at all times, particularly at times like these. 

PROPOSAL: Listen through relational phone calls (or Facetime video calls) to:

  • To “show up” to people at a difficult time; 
  • To hear how people are being impacted and listen for ways to act through immediate service, political action, or longer term organizing and systems change;  
  • To learn ideas people have and what we are doing to support one another, especially people impacted the hardest at this moment. 

WHOM TO CALL:

  • Members in your congregations, school, workplace, sports teams, health care clinic etc. 
  • Anyone who has ever attended your institution --  anybody not strongly connected to a larger community could be at risk. 
  • The organizations and people who rent space in your institution.
  • Those who come to you for outreach services such as food pantries. 
  • Allies in organizing, ministry, community, service, etc. 
  • People in your life:  Work your own phone contacts first. Co-workers, teachers, coaches, neighbors, health care providers, babysitter, your taxi/ Uber/Lyft driver etc. 

Jot down 5-20 names of people you will call this week. 

Read through the SCRIPT BELOW.  Adapt it, and make it your own. 

REPORT BACK WHAT YOU ARE LEARNING:  We will set up ways for VOICE leaders to compare notes and come up with some proposals for next steps on how we can act to support each other and also connect with our regional & state officials and corporate leaders to act to fill gaps as we identify them. If you need to reach out to VOICE staff right away, you can do so at voice@voice-iaf.org.

FUTURE TRAININGS / CALLS FOR ACTION:  We are open to training teams of leaders on organizing in this “new normal” time.  Please reach out to VOICE staff, and we will work with you to set up a time. Also stay tuned for training, call to action & volunteer need updates.

SAMPLE SCRIPT 

Hi my name is_____.  I am (your neighbor, a member of ___ congregation, a parent from your _____ school etc.). I am reaching out to see how you and others in our community are doing in light of the coronavirus crisis. I’m a leader in VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement), which is listening to residents throughout the community to see how we might support one another.

How are you?  (This is a real question, not just a pleasantry.)   What is it like to be YOU right now? (What is it like to be a small business owner? A pastor? A parent who has to work, parent & homeschool? To be without work? Etc.)

What are you and the people you care about concerned about right now in regard to Covid-19?  Are there other people experiencing the same challenges? 

Remember, it is important that you also share how you are doing (briefly) if you want others to share how they are doing. 

What ideas do you have for how we can support one another right now? What actions have you taken already to address needs for support?  

Are there things that we should be alerting government or corporate leaders to act on? Is this something you have witnessed or has impacted you directly? Why is this important to you? 

Invite people to join you! Members from ________ (congregation) & VOICE, like myself, are making thousands of these calls because, like I said before, we want to make sure you are ok. We will also be sharing what we are learning about the current need.  

Please listen carefully to people's responses to discern what question(s) below are most appropriate to ask--

  • Do you want to join our team in making calls, the way I checked in with you? If so, here is a copy of a sample script and some suggestions about who you might call.  
  • Do you want us to keep you in the loop on that?  What is the best way to reach you? Phone, text, email? We will send out periodic updates.  
  • Do you have a pen so you can write down the VOICE webpage and Facebook addresses, where we will also post updates?  www.voice-iaf.org; Facebook: Search for Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement.