2012 Worker Justice Summer: Reflections from the field

Cathy Junia |

"Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."  —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Internship collage

As if answering Dr. King’s call to action, a group of 23 courageous and passionate undergraduate and seminary students began their immersion in the worker justice movement yesterday through IWJ’s Summer Internship Program.

“Labor and organizing are all very new to me, but I do know that there’s important and sacred work that has to be, and can be done,” said North Park Theological Seminary student J.R. Green. “I’m both very frightened and excited to get started.”

Now in its 12th year, IWJ’s summer internship program, IWJ Summer, has produced some of the most inspiring and hardworking players in the worker justice movement today.

IWJ Summer is a 10-week program for graduate and undergraduate students who want to be active in the worker justice movement. Interns are placed at local unions, interfaith committees or worker centers across the country, where their responsibilities include outreach to the religious community on labor issues to involve them in local and national campaigns, and organizing workers.

J.R. and two other interns, Jeniffer Williams and Ryan Wallace, both McCormick Theological Seminary students, will work on organizing and mobilizing Chicago clergy in support of Hyatt workers.

“I’ve always had a distinct interest in organizing and have done some of that work before,” Ryan said. “This internship is an opportunity to once again to bring together the two things I am passionate about: faith and organizing.”

IWJ Summer participants come to the program with a sense of openness to new experiences and challenges, and a commitment to putting faith in action.

“We always talk about justice and now have this amazing opportunity to act on what I believe in and what I feel I’m called to do,” said Howard School of Divinity student Kyra Williams. “This will be one amazing summer.”

Kyra will spend her summer working on the Baltimore Airport Workers campaign. She first heard of interfaith organizing from “this amazing speaker who talked about the intersection of faith, social justice and organizing” at a conference she attended a few years ago. That speaker happens to be Keron Blair, an IWJ Summer alumn himself.

IWJ Summer interns will be blogging about their experiences around the country. Visit IWJ's blog regularly for their stories and reflections.