My week at Isaiah Weeklong

By Rev. Rick King

I spent from Sunday evening, July 17, to Friday evening, July 22, at Weeklong, short for Isaiah Weeklong Leadership Training.

Weeklong “is for leaders from all over the country (grassroots organizers, people of faith, elected officials, labor leaders and public health officials) who want to learn to make a difference. Leadership training teaches ordinary people to unleash their capacity to impact the social, political, environmental and economic decisions affecting their lives.”

That’s how Isaiah’s website describes it. Isaiah and its sister organization, Faith in Minnesota, are part of Faith In Action, a national community organizing network that gives people of faith the tools that they need to fight for justice and work toward a more equitable society. It’s non-partisan and issue-based.

I call it boot camp for grassroots organizing.

Held at the College of St. Benedict, and running from 8 in the morning till 9 at night and beyond each day, Monday through Friday, we built community in four groups where most of the teaching, training and learning took place. There were also three plenary sessions with the entire group of 135, which came from organizations in Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, and New Jersey.

Our smaller learning groups were mixed, with folks from each state in every group. So we got to know people doing the same kind of organizing and power building for change that we do here in Minnesota—AND to compare the problems and issues we’re facing with those in other parts of the country. These can range from disaster recovery in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Ida (yes, that long after!), to healthcare disparities because of race, to organizing single moms in rural Indiana on women’s health care, to Islamophobia and fully-funded childcare in Minnesota, to the problem of mass incarceration in Ohio among people of color.

You have heard me say often that systems, not simply individuals on their own, manifest injustice that continually benefits those who have white skin and have wealth and power—and disadvantages people of color, women, children, and low-wealth people who, because of these things, don’t get their voices heard in the corridors of power. All the organizations at the training work at the level of state, county and local government, where participation in our democracy is most threatened, but also holds the most potential for lasting change and greater equity.

I have returned from Weeklong grateful for the church’s and Isaiah’s funding (I qualified for a $400 scholarship for the $700 tuition), clearly grounded in my focus on securing voting rights in Minnesota as a path toward dismantling white supremacy.

Our country’s democracy is on the line this fall and in 2024, and the lives of women, children, immigrants, and people of color along with it.

Would you like to know how YOU can help in the most consequential period in our lifetimes?

I’d love to sit down with you and have a conversation. Mother Jones once said, “Don’t get mad; get organized!” And I would add, “Don’t despair; go from the grassroots!”