Leader Spotlight: Janine Brown

Janine Brown is an active parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Atlanta, Georgia and is a powerful member of Gamaliel affiliate, ABLE. Janine was raised in a Catholic household in Boston and has had quite the faith journey, leading her to her present home at Our Lady of Lourdes working as a powerful community organizer within ABLE. 

How did your work with ABLE begin? 

I have been a union activist for most of my life. Part of my last job (retired December 2012) was to support coalition building for the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, a member of ABLE. I was staffing the labor council on the ABLE Executive Committee. Through this, I met Father John Adamski, a priest at Our Lady of Lourdes, who was also on the committee. He invited me to visit Our Lady of Lourdes. I had returned to my Catholic roots, joined the church and have been an active member since. The church tackles hard issues, and so does ABLE. I am excited to be a part of ABLE and a part of the church, especially during this time in our Church history. We have a new pope that I believe is going to highlight Catholic Social Teaching. This is in line with what Gamaliel is doing and what is happening within ABLE. We are trying to get people in touch with their faith and go back to their roots. At ABLE, as Catholics, we can showcase what we do best: hold up the banner of social justice. What work has been done within ABLE that you feel aligns with Catholic Social Teaching? Within ABLE, we are doing so much work around redemption and forgiveness in the state of Georgia. We are trying to change what happens to people as they come out of the criminal justice system. In the state of GA, we, with other partners, have made significant legislative change around what happens to people who have open arrests. This is all very exciting work for us in ABLE. Additionally, it is very exciting as Catholics because redemption is a major part of what we believe. We also had an anti-racial profiling campaign where we did a letter writing to our state legislators. As we delivered the over 800 letters to them, word spread quickly. The legislators knew how strong we, as people of faith, were within the state of Georgia. 

How has ABLE helped you to grow in your own Catholic faith? 

What I love about ABLE is that it is the place where my faith tradition lines up with my whole life work. It is where I see the spirit moving most in my life. I feel at home in the Church and as a member of ABLE. Whenever I talk about my own faith journey, I note how I am a powerful example of how community organizing can help build a parish and make a stronger church.

What are your thoughts on Gamaliel training and how it helps people become stronger as community organizers? 

I resisted going to training as a union leader because I had participated in trainings and had even developed trainings. However, I walked away from Gamaliel National Leadership Training knowing I had gained many tools to put to work in my community. At ABLE, we are working on encouraging more people to come to training. We even have a five year goal to get enough people within the state of Georgia to have a training in our own state! 

What has your experience been working in a multifaith network like Gamaliel? 

For me, since I have had a diverse faith journey, it was been very easy to feel at home within Gamaliel. I am very comfortable working across race lines and faith lines. As a union activist, I know that the only way we are ever going to change anything in Atlanta is by having a diverse and broad coalition. I think there are a lot of misconceptions around Catholicism, and I think we need to help others understand that the foundation of the Church is social justice. As a Catholic, I am blessed to be able to work across denominational lines and really show people the need to talk about issues across the board, not just one issue. Hard issues like redemption and forgiveness need to be discussed and we need to keep discussing them. We have a broad social justice teaching, and as Catholics, we are called to live out this teaching.

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