Teaching the Art of Democracy
Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) is about people: developing their innate skills and ability to work with each other to identify common problems, to find or create workable solutions, and to work together to implement systemic changes within society to achieve the common good. As one of our leaders is so fond of saying: “The work is us.”
Founded in 1992, Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue group of religious congregations, schools and other non-profits in the Dallas metropolitan area with aggregate membership totaling in excess of 90,000.
Dallas Area Interfaith does its work by:
- Conducting thousands of individual and small group meetings with clergy and lay leaders.
- Training congregational representatives in how to understand and affect local and regional political processes
- Developing a large leadership core from those representatives.
- Identifying issues of concern to all sectors of the community.
- Strengthening relationships within and between member congregations.
- Forging alliances across the lines of religion and ethnicity to develop a broad-based vision for the Dallas area.
- Moving that vision into a multi-issue agenda of action for the organization.
Rinaldi's district in northwest Dallas County was one of five targeted by Dallas-Area Interfaith, a group that organized canvassing and phone banks to pump up voter turnout.
At an election night watch party at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dallas, a television report flashed on the screen and showed that Rinaldi was losing. Lily Rodriguez (in photo above) shouted out: “Why don’t you call immigration now?”
Rodriguez said she had quietly fumed when Rinaldi called ICE on protesters, but took action and began pushing parishioners at another Catholic church to vote.
She’d talked to them about the size of the Hispanic population, which in Dallas County is 40 percent and larger than any other group. “Hispanics are the majority and we continue to think like minorities,” Rodriguez said.
Interfaith organizer Socorro Perales said members were determined to get more people to the polls. Two weeks before polling began, the nonpartisan group held a community event at a church that brought in 2,000 people and five candidates, all Democrats.
“They are learning to organize, strategize, and this actually works,” Perales said.
All five candidates won, including Colin Allred, the Democrat who beat Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, a staunch ally of Trump, in the District 32 race for Congress.
Perales said she didn’t go after the low hanging fruit — those registered who had previously voted. Instead, she sifted through lists of registered voters who didn’t vote in the last election.
“They are just not used to voting,” Perales said. “There are enough registered voters and, if we can broaden the base, we can win. And we did.”
[Photo Credit: Ashley Landis, Dallas Morning News]
Latinos Could Turn Texas Blue in 2020 if Enthusiasm Holds, Some Say, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
On a Sunday October evening, two thousand leaders and parishioners from Dallas Area Interfaith institutions assembled at the Christian Chapel Temple of Faith to challenge candidates from the Texas Tribune’s 2018 Hotlist, including Texas House Districts 105, 107, 114, and 115, and US Congressional District 32. Republican and Democratic candidates for Coppell, Richardson, and Dallas Independent School District School Board positions also participated.
At the assembly, DAI leaders publicly challenged each candidate to, if elected, commit to working with them on immigration, job training, expansion of healthcare, payday lending, and public education. All participating candidates, including local Republican candidates, publicly committed to partner with DAI leaders in supporting and / or crafting policy in these areas. One journalist reported that “in a city that’s sharply segregated by race and class, the forum was a rare example of cohesive pluralism.”
The assembly and Get Out The Vote actions are the culmination of a two-year campaign on behalf of the families and communities of Dallas. Less than a year ago, DAI leaders successfully negotiated with Police officers of the cities of Dallas, Farmers Branch, and Carrollton to accept Catholic Parishes ID’s as a form of identification. For immigrant families, having a photo ID could help prevent deportation. Since then, the parish ID strategy spread to the East Coast through DAI’s sister organization in Baltimore, BUILD. Leaders from BUILD testified at the October 14th assembly that Baltimore police officers have committed to accepting the IDs as a valid form of identification.
Since then, leaders have pushed forward with parish-based Get Out The Vote walks across the Dallas area, so far knocking on hundreds of doors and contacting thousands of voters by phone. DAI has also partnered with the business community to encourage voters to participate in the midterm elections through a downtown press conference.
DAI Accountability Voter Forum [video]
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
From Levi’s to Southwest Airlines to Walmart, Business Tries to Turn Out The Vote, Dallas Morning News
On Wednesday, several groups are planning a news conference in downtown Dallas to continue pushing for higher turnout. They also plan to encourage candidates to speak at public forums.
“Unless people feel connected to the issues affecting them, they’re not likely to vote,” said Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a coalition of congregations, schools and nonprofits.
As residents learn about issues and candidates, they'll be drawn into the process. And institutions can have a bigger impact.
“If their business and church and school are saying the same thing — go vote — then we’ll see a rise in voting,” Paul said.From Levi’s to Southwest Airlines to Walmart, business tries to turn out the vote, Dallas Morning News
In response to undocumented families expressing fear about reporting crimes -- even when they themselves are victims -- because of an inability demonstrate who they are, Dallas Area Interfaith and the Dallas Catholic Diocese worked together to create a solution.
Last year, 1,500 leaders stood with Bishop Edward Burns to invite three police department chiefs to allow their officers to accept parish identification cards, in order to help build trust between the community and the police. Police department chiefs from Carrollton, Farmers Branch and Dallas agreed.
This year, parishes in the Dallas Catholic Diocese have issued tens of thousands of parish identification cards to parishioners, who now feel more confident in relating to the police. HBO covers this story in a special segment:
We've been here before. America has had a love-hate relationship with its Mexican population for centuries. Whether it is not being able to find a permanent solution to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), separating immigrant children from their parents or casting undocumented persons as criminals and rapists, these vile expressions of hatred against Mexicans have existed for centuries.
America loves to vilify and dehumanize Mexicans, despite our historic contributions to the U.S. economy. Traditionally, when the economy is flourishing and needs low-wage laborers, we're the go-to help. But when the economy is in decline, we become the targets for everything that is wrong with our country. In the current political climate, we're "the other," to be feared as the reason America is no longer great. But we have long been a part of the fabric of America.
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