A coalition of religious leaders and non-profit organizations said that they had been insulted by the Mayor of Memphis, Jim Strickland, after he refused to meet with them – even though he was not allowed to meet them. he was sending an e-mail to several of their organizations asking for help.
The Strickland administration says it has planned to postpone the meeting.
"I think word number one is insulted," said Reverend Lucy Waechter Webb, working group liaison with the Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope and pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian. "This initial disrespect for the highly respected community leaders who did incredible work in this city and were put aside was amazing for us."
MICAH is a coalition of 50 congregations and non-profit organizations, including the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies, MIFA, the National Civil Rights Museum, Hope Church, JUICE Orange Mound and more.
Ursula Madden, the Mayor's Communications Officer, told The Commercial Appeal that they still intended to postpone the meeting.
"It's hard to imagine anyone being insulted by a call for childcare and cleaning up our city," Madden said. "This administration can not be distracted by a postponed meeting; we are committed to advancing the city and working with those who want to help. "
In October, a representative from Strickland agreed that the mayor and a MICAH working group would meet within 30 days. Strickland had met with MICAH leaders before their October event, but the new meeting was meant to discuss the Civil Law Enforcement Review Committee.
MICAH leaders told their delegates on Tuesday that the meeting was originally scheduled for December and then canceled. When representatives of MICAH repeatedly tried to reschedule the meeting, they were told that it would not happen at all, Waechter Webb said.
At the regular MICAH meeting on Tuesday, a MICAH leader asked delegates from their member organizations if they were also angry. The majority of the more than 50 people present raised their hands.
"We are disappointed that our meeting did not take place last week as planned," members of the MICAH working group on immigration and cross-cultural equity wrote in a letter to Strickland on Dec. 26. "Your office is publicly engaged on October 21st to meet with us within 30 days. When you scheduled us two months later, the following week, we accepted the appointment without complaining. We are expecting a meeting no later than Friday, January 11th. "
On January 3, several member organizations of MICAH and Rev. Stacy Spencer, senior pastor of New Branch Christian Church and founding president of MICAH, received an email from Strickland asking them to send people to support her Mentoring, tutoring and Adopt-A-Block activities. initiatives.
"It's a pleasure to meet you and other representatives of MICAH several weeks ago," read Strickland's letter. "It was nice to hear that we agree on a lot of solutions to the problems we face in Memphis, and I appreciate MICAH's support for some of our initiatives. Your help is needed on other issues. "
Spencer said the group had been insulted in part because many of their member organizations were already supporting these initiatives and that he had seemed insensitive to the cancellation of a meeting while asking for it. 39, help to the group.
"We support these initiatives, but we also want to go further," said Spencer. "We do not just want to scratch the surface in terms of what we have already engaged in. We want to dig deeper into the structural injustices that exist in our city."
Spencer said that was not what MICAH had learned.
"They're going to have a meeting, that's great," Spencer said. "It would be refreshing to sit at the table and, as the Bible says, let's reason together."
Katherine Burgess covers the county government and the suburbs. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @kathsburgess.