A Mind to Work: Faith Leaders Act against Unjust Working Conditions in New Orleans

Alaina Beverly
Date Published: 
April 13, 2007


Although racial and community justice advocates may not first consider churches natural partners for addressing discrimination and barriers to equality, African-American faith leaders and congregations have historically been among the strongest voices and most committed activists for social justice.  The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) provides a powerful example of the commitment of churches nationwide to partner with community justice advocates and speak out against the exploitation of communities of color. 

Based in Chicago, Ill., the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. is the nation’s fastest–growing, ecumenical, social justice organization.  In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, SDPC has worked tirelessly to galvanize Black Churches in a unified demand for the restoration of New Orleans.  In 2006, SDPC convened a National Katrina Justice Commission with hearings in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Houston, which recorded and published Katrina survivor stories of suffering, human compassion, and perseverance in a report entitled, The Breach: Bearing Witness

In February 2007, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference hosted their 4th annual conference in New Orleans and invited participants from across the nation to bear witness to the paralysis of New Orleans, to place national attention on the government inactions that have degraded and excluded the poor and minority residents of New Orleans, and to renew their individual commitment to combating injustice.  More than 1,000 faith leaders, including several prominent clergy who partnered with Advancement Project in carrying out the Voter Revival Program last fall, participated in the four days of learning and working during the conference.  Social justice ministers and dedicated congregation members formed synergies with participating community activists and racial justice lawyers to be a positive force for change in Louisiana, the nation, and the world.

As part of the conference, Advancement Project partnered with community organizer Saket Soni to facilitate a Day Labor Field Workshop. Soni is co-auth