But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Eddie Young sits in a small office in the basement of Redeemer of Church in Knoxville’s Ft. Sander’s District, a stone’s throw from the University of Tennessee, with usually about five or six people waiting to ask him a question or for help with something. A quiet, mild mannered and soft spoken man, Eddie is one of the strongest people I know. He is also the Director of the East Tennessee Peace and Justice Center.
Anyone who knows Eddie, knows that he fights for peace and justice all day, every day and has been doing so for a long time.
I first met Eddie last Fall, but I had heard about him long before that. He was kind of a rock star to me and he probably didn’t even know why I felt so honored to meet him when I did. I had moved to Knoxville in 2011 and was an avid reader of the now defunct Metro Pulse when I came upon this article about Eddie, “His claim to fame is a quirky mixture of projects that address Knoxville’s homeless and “radically underprivileged” population in Fort Sanders, from a 5K running group that sponsors its disadvantaged members to a Food in the Fort project that helps them eat healthier, to a recent mayoral candidate debate held in the top part of the same building, and the “voice of social change” Amplifier newspaper produced mostly by the disadvantaged and some University of Tennessee students, and sold by homeless and formerly homeless vendors.”
A hungry man has no ears.
Having experienced homelessness with my own family, I appreciated Eddie’s drive to represent and serve the “radically disadvantaged.” My family of my husband and our six children have evicted from more homes than I care to count anymore. so I know that people experiencing homelessness not only need an advocate, they need a voice and a way to get out of that cycle. Or, for some, just dignity while they are in that place. Eddie provided all of that through Redeeming Hope Ministries.
But a person like Eddie, his soul is never at rest, his thirst for justice is never satisfied. And he felt that what Redeeming Hope was doing was not enough, there was just so much more to be done.
We live in a world where people like 90 year old, Arnold Abbott can be arrested for feeding the homeless. Not just once. Not just twice. But three times.
There’s a very real war on poverty in America
So people like Eddie cannot quit. He cannot stop. So he has restructured Redeeming Hope Ministries to have a more inclusive and focused strategy into the East Tennessee Peace and Justice Center. The collective vision of the ETPJC is to “[build] on the success of The Knoxville Homeless Collective.” The ETPJC’s vision is that “this holistic transformation or this “pursuit for social justice,” would no longer be the efforts of those in positions of privilege and power, (no matter how well-intentioned) but would become the work of the collectively organized, trained and mobilized people in our community from a grassroots approach.”
In other words, Power to the People, right on….
Eddie’s holistic approach includes empowering those who he works with. He doesn’t just give them something to pacify the moment, he invites them to be part of the solution. He amplifies their voices with the their newspaper, aptly named, The Amplifier. The Knoxville Homeless Collective holds a coffee shop every Friday and also works tirelessly to keep legislation in Knoxville from following the incredibly vicious and demeaning laws criminalizing homelessness that other cities have enacted. They work with Food in the Fort to bring healthy food to the neighborhood, with the organic vegetables provided by Beardsley Farms. They also work tirelessly to form many other meaningful community partnerships.
The East Tennessee Peace and Justice Center lists five core values that I think will transform the world if we would all take heed:
- The inestimable worth of our planet
- The inherent worth of the individual
- The power of the collective
- The effectiveness of engaging in solution-based dialogue
- The use of peaceful means to achieve the desired results
Eddie and his small staff believe that peace and righteousness can flow like a river. It starts from the ground up and not from the top down. And based on the current war on poverty and laws enacted that criminalize homeslessness in our nation’s cities, we need more people like Eddie. He’s willing to teach you how to be a part of the solution. For more information on how to become a member of the East Tennessee Center for Peace and Justice, click here.
Silence = Compliance