HISTORY OF MICAH 1988-PRESENT
Founded in 1988, MICAH is a multi-racial, interfaith organization committed to justice issues of greatest importance to Milwaukee city and county residents. Our membership includes 40 congregations, a growing number of other organizations, and individual supporters. Of many religious traditions (including Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) we remain dedicated to our basic founding principle: the promotion of justice in ways that change lives and how we live together.
Our beginning is rooted in efforts in the fight against hunger. During the late 1980s, the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee had been working for 15 years to keep community food pantries stocked and to establish a school breakfast program. However, they also realized that effectively ending hunger required raising people out of poverty. So in 1987, task force member Cheryl Spivey Perry attended a week-long training session in Chicago conducted by Gamaliel, a congregation-based community action organization.
The experience inspired her to conduct a series of one-on-one conversations with members of the Milwaukee clergy. As a result, seven congregations committed to work together across denominational lines to focus on social justice issues. MICAH’s original “magnificent seven” were: Calvary Baptist, Incarnation Lutheran, St. Michael Catholic, Cross Lutheran, Mt. Zion Baptist, Calvary United Methodist, and Providence Baptist
One of our earliest, most significant victories was the “Banking Campaign,” led by MICAH’s first president, the Rev. James Leary (Calvary Baptist) and the Rev. Dennis Jacobsen (Incarnation Lutheran). Under their joint leadership, the campaign persuaded 17 lending institutions to set aside more than a half billion dollars in loans to first-time home buyers. In addition, the banks promised to drop discriminatory loan barriers in historically “red lined” central city neighborhoods, allowing more than 50 families every month to purchase their own homes. Finally grasping the viability of a previously shunned population, banks began to establish new branches in these former red-lined areas.
With new homeowners invested in their communities, neighborhoods that had been in decline began to stabilize.
Over the years and under the leadership of 10 presidents and seven different lead organizers, MICAH has continued a strategy of congregation-based organizing dedicated to a tradition of community action through conversation, mutual trust, and understanding. Core teams and task forces work on specific justice issues including: high central city unemployment; mass incarceration; voter suppression, unjust immigration policies; inadequate transit service; and education equality. While, in unity, MICAH provides opportunities for clergy and residents alike to develop a shared vision for a better future.