Scripture describes a vision for society where God’s bounty is plentiful and shared by all, and justice flows down like a mighty river. Yet poverty, violence, corruption and despair plague our cities. As people of faith, God requires us to “do justice,” and redeem fallen systems. DART’s mission is to engage congregations in pursuit of this vision.
Below you’ll find a timeline, documenting DART from inception to present. As you will see, DART continues to expand to new locations and seeks bright, talented, driven people to contribute to DART’s mission and history, like so many have in the past.
1977 – Rev. Herb White, staff to the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Church of Christ and several local leaders hires John Calkins, DART’s founding Executive Director, to organize a senior citizens organization in Miami known as Concerned Seniors of Dade. It quickly establishes itself as an organization capable of routinely producing hundreds of people to press city officials around fairness issues concerning seniors
1980 – A three-day riot erupts in the city of Miami after an all-white jury acquits several white Miami police officers of beating to death Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance salesman. Eighteen people die during the riots and more than $100 million are lost in property damage. Leaders from Concerned Seniors of Dade sponsor an organizing drive among African-American congregations throughout Miami, which eventually becomes People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE) organization
1980-85 – Along with winning several local issues related to minority hiring and job creation, PULSE turns its attention to the continued lack of accountability within the Miami police department. Several highly suspicious incidents of police killing African-Americans occur, yet officers are consistently being acquitted of wrongdoing in court. PULSE discovers attorneys are routinely allowed to strike African-Americans from the jury pool without question using what is known as peremptory challenges. PULSE prevails at the state level making it illegal to use peremptory challenges based on race.
1982 – The DART Center is officially incorporated to answer invitations presented by community leaders seeking to build congregation-based community organizations to do justice. The original notion is to build a statewide network of local organizations in Florida. Later, DART accepts invitations to build organizations outside Florida. That same year, DART builds its first official affiliate to the north in Broward County, Florida
1987-88 – DART assists local leaders in founding an organization in the Hillsborough/Tampa Bay metropolitan region and also a second organization in Miami, Florida
1989-98 – DART expands rapidly by working with local leaders to build organizations in 8 metropolitan areas including: Florida (Volusia County, Jacksonville, Palm Beach County, Sarasota, Lakeland); Ohio (Columbus, Dayton); and Louisville, Kentucky
1999 – DART hires a fulltime National Training Coordinator, marking a dramatic increase in DART’s capacity to develop organizing skills among local leaders. In time, DART expands its annual training roster to its present schedule including: a Five-Day Orientation Workshop, an annual Clergy Conference, an Advanced Leader Training Institute, as well as, providing regular local training workshops.
2000 – DART accepts an invitation to explore organizing in Virginia where an organization in Richmond is founded.
2001 – DART successfully launches the DART Organizers Institute to identify and train professional community organizers. DART ultimately adds the Organizers Institute as a major element in its annual strategic plan to include a seven month national recruitment search, a two month interview process, and a four month intensive initial training followed by two years of on-going advanced training and professional organizer development.
2001-04 DART expands to build organizations in 4 metropolitan areas: Evansville, Indiana; Lexington, Kentucky; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Charlottesville, Virginia.
2006 DART adopts a goal of building steadily growing power among religious congregations to act locally on issues of justice with a combined total turnout of 75,000 people by 2015. That year, DART organizations produce a combined total turnout of 10,901 to fourteen public meetings.
2007 — DART expands to build an organization in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The network of DART-related organizations produces a combined total turnout of 15,897 people to 17 large Actions.
2008 — In keeping with its goal of building a local movement on issues of justice, DART organizations’ ability to organize large numbers of people grows to 20,248 people. The DART network expands with the creation of a sponsoring committee in Lee County, Florida.
2009-10 — DART organizations continue to chart growth by producing a combined turnout of approximately 24,000 people in 18 cities.
2015 — DART board adopts strategic plan to expand to 30 organizations averaging 3,000 people at local actions by 2027.
2012-19 — DART expands to build and staff organizations in Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina, Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Pensacola, Florida
2018 — Affiliates are raising, on average, 76% of their budgets from local member efforts.
These four core values unite the organizers, clergy, and leaders working to build
congregation-based Justice Ministries throughout the DART network.
- We believe in the biblical story of justice.
The biblical story offers abundance, love, hope, promise, and community. In this story, loving God and your neighbor as yourself gives life meaning (Leviticus 19:18 and Luke 10:27). We believe that fighting for justice is fundamental to our identity as people of faith (Micah 6:8 and Matthew 23:23-24).
- We stand over and against the “cult of money.”
The cult of money uses consumer culture to promote stories of scarcity, hate, fear, despair, and “me-ism”. In opposition to the biblical story, meaning comes from accumulating more and better “things,” i.e. greed.
- We need the power of organized people to win justice (Nehemiah 5).
Through direct action, organized people from a cross-section of faith traditions publicly hold decision-makers accountable on justice issues that affect their communities. We cultivate relationships with people who share the values of abundance, love, hope and promise. We support one another in this struggle for justice.
- We embrace high standards and rigorous accountability because our task is so important.
Those who build the power of organized people are recognized and promoted at all levels in the network. Leaders and staff conduct evaluations to achieve understanding, not to assign blame. Each of us celebrates when another succeeds. We embrace pragmatic, not dogmatic solutions. We are in this work for the long haul.