by Lynn Pinder
There is a powerful faith movement brewing in Baltimore centered around faith, dialogue and motion. This movement - called Kinetics - is an information ministry founded for the purpose of informing and equipping the faith community with resources to address social justice issues. Like its dictionary definition, Kinetics is about changing the motion of masses.
I had the opportunity to interview Jamye Wooten, the Founding Executive Director of Kinetics and an advisory board member of the National Faith & Justice Network. He is one of several faith leaders in Baltimore working diligently to build a unified group (Kinetics) of clergy, scholars, lawyers, social justice advocates, business owners and nonprofit professionals who are committed - in principles and action - to providing the faith community with the tools to (1) advocate and mobilize on local, national, and international issues; (2) build capacity to solve problems; and (3) use dialogue as a catalyst for social change.
LP: What inspired you to create Kinetics?
JW: A few things inspired me. One was growing up in the church...becoming a teenager and looking for a more meaningful relationship with God. I often refer to church like being in college, and every year you take the same courses and no one ever graduates. Year after year, it was the same programs, revivals, Men’s Sunday, Women’s Sunday, Youth Sunday, National Convention and the list goes on. I began to wonder what all these events were really preparing us for. Was there a real purpose behind all of the events and what were the expected outcomes? I began asking how does what we sing about, preach about and shout about on Sunday show up in our daily lives. How do we put feet to our faith? Secondly, as I began to get a better understanding of the world and the problems facing African ancestral people, I began feeling that the church was disconnected and uninformed. I wanted to create a platform for dialogue that would promote critical discourse while integrating theological reflection and practice. Our theory of change is “if we knew better, we would do better”. I believed if we could inform people of faith and equip them with the proper tools, we could make a greater impact in our community. Hosea 4:6 reads “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." We often hear the first part of this verse without reading the consequences for rejecting knowledge, “I also will reject you from being My priest…I also will forget your children.” It seems as if we are living in a time where our children have been forgotten.
LP: What is Kinetics' mission?
JW: Kinetics' mission is threefold: (1) develop new ideas that work to strengthen social movements within the African-American community; (2) bridge the gap between church and community while providing the tools and skills to pursue justice and better address the needs of those whom the church serves; and (3) support the development of Christ-centered organizers and faith-rooted justice movements.
LP: Who is your target audience?
JW: Our primary target audience is African-American people of faith who want to engage in critical discourse which integrates theological reflection and practice.
LP: What methods do you use to engage your target audience?
JW: We use a tool called Groupsite.com which was founded by a cousin of mine. Groupsite.com is a platform to help groups better communicate and share resources. Our Groupsite is called Kinetics Faith & Justice Network (www.Kineticnet.org). We also have a monthly Enewsletter that has almost 5,000 subscribers. We are in the process of developing a new website that will use a new format to stream video and audio from our upcoming events and trainings.
LP: How is Kinetics making an impact in Baltimore?
JW: We have started the T.R.U.C.E. Movement in Baltimore. The T.R.U.C.E. MOVEMENT is a program designed by Kinetics and Allen "Big C" Baker to unite gang members for the empowerment of their community. Allen Baker is a C.R.I.P. member. While incarcerated, he began uniting rival gangs leaders to create peace within the prison. I received a call from Chaplain Christopher Wallace about facilitating a dialogue between the gangs, and I anxiously accepted. We developed the TRUCE Institute and hosted monthly workshops for the incarcerated. Through T.R.U.C.E., Kinetics acts as a liaison between the incarcerated and community and/or faith-based organizations working focused on re-entry issues. Also in Baltimore, Kinetics has also worked with United Workers to help advocate for living wages for workers in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Last session, Kinetics worked with Delegate Jill P. Carter to introduce the Juvenile Lead Bill. This bill is now State law and authorizes the juvenile court to order a child to undergo blood lead level testing after a petition has been filed and before an adjudication. In the area of dialogue, Kinetics has hosted The Stop Snitching Town Hall Meeting, Economic Empowerment and the Role of the Black Church and Why Most Black Men Don’t Go to Church, a panel featuring Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu, Dr. Cain Hope Felder, Dr. Earl Trent, Dr. Raymond Winbush and Dr. John Jackson. We have also been in talks with Coppin State University about launching the Black Church & Public Life Institute for Civic Engagement and Capacity Building. Kinetics is part of the National Faith & Justice Network, and we just completed our first national training in Washington, DC hosted by Sojourners. We have consulted, partnered and /or coordinated clergy issue education trainings for many local and national organizations including the African American Leadership Institute, Institute for Urban Research, the Maryland Democratic Party, the Collective Banking Group, Inc., Ekos Ministries, Inc., Union Baptist Church, Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, United Workers, TransAfrica Forum and Clergy Strategic Alliances.
LP: How is Kinetics making an impact globally?
JW: Globally we are working with Friends of the Congo, TransAfrica Forum, Africa Action, Africa Faith & Justice Network and the Institute for Policy Studies to educate communities of faith about the Congo and the estimated 6 million Congolese to die since 1996 as a result of a resource war.
LP: What outcome(s) do you hope to achieve through Kinetics?
JW: Through Kinetics, we hope to (1) create a more informed body of Christ that is equipped with the knowledge and tools to do holistic ministry; (2) build a bridge between church and community; and (3) end the fragmentation and duplication of ministry. We envision a day when the church and community are informed and no longer reactionary but proactive: building institutions that will sustain our community and enhance our quality of life.
LP: Why should people get involved?
JW: There is a lack of dialogue in the church around many of the issues that our congregants are facing everyday. Kinetics provides a platform for all to be heard and work together on solutions.