NAACP and Church Serve Together in San Francisco

Dozens of volunteers gathered Saturday morning, October 22, 2022, in San Francisco to help fulfill a prophet’s vision of coming together in community service.

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In just a few hours, the group installed an irrigation system at Florence Fang Community Farm. This system will help the growing farm, now in its eighth year, continue to provide fresh food to a diverse and underserved community that inhabits a food desert. Above all, the farm can now do this in a water-efficient way.

“This is an important step for us as we are really trying to develop a hyper-local food system for the Bayview [neighborhood]said Teddy Fang, the farm’s executive director and son of its namesake. “This project is the cornerstone of what we will do in the future.”

Saturday’s collaboration is the first of many U.S. humanitarian efforts the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will engage in across the country.

In 2021, Church President and Prophet Russell M. Nelson pledged US$2 million per year for three years to fund these projects.

San Francisco is home to the Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown, a renowned civil rights leader and pastor of the city’s Third Baptist Church. Reverend Dr. Brown is a friend of the Prophet, who established a scholarship for students in Ghana in his name.

Several months ago, Robert Turley, Stake President of the Church in San Francisco, California, sat in Reverend Dr. Brown’s office with a small group of people, brainstorming ideas for humanitarian action.

“On the whiteboard, we had so many great ideas,” Turley said. “And we said, ‘We have to start somewhere. Let’s start here in the community. Let’s start with this garden. … It’s fun to see things that were once on the whiteboard here in training and to see the happiness on people’s faces as they stand up with gloves and shovels and get to work.

“It’s a wonderful day,” added patrick kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy. “We are here from all kinds of backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, all working together to make this amazing garden a better place. And the real benefit today is working together. When society generally has so many fractures, it brings all kinds of people together, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.

Brother Kearon was accompanied by Mark A. Bragga native of Los Angeles and president of the North America West region.

“What touched me was not just the community and not just the diversity of the people who are here, but the diversity of what they do here,” Elder Bragg said. “You have crops here. You have chicken production. You have honey. You have organic farming. I love how they put it all together, and it really represents that area. I couldn’t think of a better project to start than this.

Jonathan Butler, the second vice president of the NAACP San Francisco branch, said such a service is essential to addressing “the division and isolation that occurs in our communities and harms our own health and well- be”.

“Love is the essence of what we do,” Butler said. “We love each other, and then we love each other. And that under the aegis of the love of God.

Veronica Shepard, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, called Saturday’s service “kingdom work.”

“We are lifting up the kingdom of God,” Shepard said. “The vision I see is that we’re going to learn and engage from each other – cultural norms, understand cultural experiences, unpack what we’ve learned about each other, good and bad. And then create a new narrative that embrace us all simply because we are the human beings we were created to be on planet earth so that we can then come together and understand our purpose. I am excited about this.

The NAACP and the Church of Jesus Christ have enjoyed close collaboration for nearly five years. The organizations met in May 2018 to call for more civility and racial harmony in society. President Nelson spoke at a NAACP National Convention in 2019. In addition to funds for humanitarian projects and the Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown Scholarship in Ghana, the Prophet pledged US$1 million per year over three years to fund scholarships for black students.

James C. Tibbs