MacKenzie Baris Interview

The Washington Peace Center recently conducted a series of interviews with local activists and organizers seeking their views & opinions on the recently released DC Principles, along with how national movements interact with local organizations/issues.

MacKenzie Baris

“It’s about trying to build long term relationships between people so that they understand each other’s issues across organizations and across parts of the city…” – MacKenzie Baris

MacKenzie Baris is the lead organizer and director of DC Jobs with Justice, a position she’s held for almost nine years. She took her first steps towards organizing in high school, working around environmental justice. She then became involved in various labor actions in college, after which she began working on community organizing.

Washington Peace Center: Could you introduce yourself and tell me very broadly how you got to where you are right now?

MacKenzie Baris: My name is MacKenzie Baris, and right now I’m the lead organizer and director of DC Jobs with Justice. I started doing environmental justice stuff when I was in high school—I was trying to organize kids at my high school around doing educational stuff and making smart choices about what we bought and doing river clean ups and tree plantings. When I went to college I got involved in labor work because I’m from a union family. I got involved in different labor things that were happening in the town my college was in—things like walking picket lines and trying to be helpful, trying to get our school paper to actually cover this stuff.

Then I got involved with community organizing. I had been teaching at a school, helping with a mentoring program as my job, and I got involved in community organizing in the neighborhood where I was working. I ended up living there for a couple of years working out of a Catholic worker house and organizing with churches in the neighborhood around vacant properties and creating affordable housing. I eventually found my way to Jobs with Justice when I got involved with trying to organize my workplace at George Washington University.

Washington Peace Center: Can you tell me a little bit about Jobs for Justice? What it’s about and what it does?  Read more

A Pope of the Poor

A Pope of the Poor


Washington does not quite know what to make of Pope Francis. Some ecclesial and political spinners are trying to fit him into their own agendas and biases. Before the conclave we heard contradictory hopes for a new pope: culture warrior or less focused on sexual matters, manager or evangelizer, enforcer or communicator. Instead we have a humble, hopeful and holy pastor. Like his namesake, Pope Francis is likely to make the powerful uneasy. As he declared: “Francis of Assisi—for me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation…. How I would like a church which is poor and for the poor!”

It would be hard to identify three priorities that draw less attention in Washington than poverty, peace and protecting creation. Official Washington is about helping the “middle class,” confronting global enemies and economic growth, not lifting up the poor, seeking peace or caring for the earth. On parts of the left, secular deities are sexual freedom and unrestrained choice. On the right, many worship at the altar of unlimited economic freedom and the unfettered market. Both ideological orthodoxies reflect overwhelming individualism and neither focuses on the common good or protecting the weak. Read more

‘Labor priests’ being trained to help immigrant, low-wage workers

LABOR-PRIESTS Jul-6-2012 (1,070 words) With photo. xxxn

‘Labor priests’ being trained to help immigrant, low-wage workers

Father J. Cletus Kiley, a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago, is pictured in the lobby of the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington July 5. The priest is director of immigration policy for UNITE HERE, a union for hotel, restaurant and textile workers. Father Kiley also serves on the AFL-CIO immigration committee. (CNS/Bob Roller)

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The concept of “labor priest,” epitomized by Msgr. John Egan and Msgr. George Higgins in the 20th century, has been given a new twist to meet the realities of the 21st century.

The priests — more than two dozen of them, and all working with the approval of their diocesan bishops — are being recruited to help immigrant and low-wage workers.

The clerics met in Chicago in June with a number of mentors, speakers and labor leaders to hone their focus and to give them tools for the work ahead. Read more