The Midlands Organized Response for Equity and Justice (MORE Justice), an interfaith and diverse organization of 35 (Christian and Jewish) congregations throughout the Columbia community will hold their Annual Rally as a hybrid event 6:30pm on Monday, March 22, 2021 in the parking lot of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church, 3401 Trenholm Road, Columbia, SC 29204 and on Zoom.
Hundreds of community members from across Richland and Lexington counties will gather in-person and virtually to prepare for action in advocating for justice for all of Columbia’s residents. Last fall, over 500 community members attended small gatherings to share personal stories about community-wide problems. Hundreds of stories were shared about members’ personal experiences with drugs, crime, education, policing and mental health. As a result of those gatherings, MORE Justice members voted to continue researching and taking action on problems surrounding Affordable Housing and Gun Violence (this year).
This year’s Rally will prepare attendees for the Action to advance on a solution for the city’s current housing crisis prior to the pandemic. Columbia currently ranks in the top 10 of the nation’s eviction rates, with Richland County having an average of 19 evictions every single day. That’s hundreds of families being displaced every month. Moreover, more than 16,000 households in Richland County pay more than half of their income on rent and utilities, and this makes it nearly impossible to supplement the cost of other necessities like food, medical expenses, and transportation. For a person making minimum wage in Lexington or Richland County to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment at the average price, a person would have to work 82 hours a week. However, there is a solution for this issue. Across the country, more than 780 communities are attacking the affordable housing crisis by establishing and funding an “Affordable Housing Trust Fund”. The Trust Funds use local public money to spur the creation or rehabilitation of affordable housing with a goal to have more subsidized housing. The organization will be calling on members of Richland County Council at the April Action to push the Affordable Housing Trust Fund forward, since there has been no movement on this matter since July of last year. Everyone deserves safe, decent housing that is well maintained.
On Monday, attendees will hear the first-hand account of a Richland County resident who experienced what far too many here do – witnessing families and communities being ripped apart by gun violence. Seventy three people were shot in the City of Columbia last year. In January of this year, 2021, three people were gunned down in one day. Columbia is listed by CBS news as the 43rd deadliest city in the nation. The City has a framework in place that has similarities to Group Violence Intervention, but our city has not seen the drastic reduction in shootings and homicides that GVI has been proven to prevent. We need consultation from the experts at the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College to collaborate with our community and our law enforcement to see considerable change. With people being shot nearly every week, we have no time to lose.
MORE Justice is committed to seeking justice for all of Columbia’s citizens. Since its 2017 inception, the organization has won the commitment from the Police Chief and Sheriff to have 100% of officers certified in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) by April 2021 and worked to push for more transparency in discipline practices in Richland One and Two and for the implementation of proven practices like PBIS to reduce suspensions by addressing misbehavior at the root. We differ from many others groups in the area because we do not engage in direct service programs, but rather we advocate the implementation of policies and practices that will ensure that all of our community members are treated with fairness and justice.
For additional information, or to set up interviews with the MORE Justice leadership, please call MORE Justice Co-President Rev. Carey Grady (217) 433-7959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.