RACINE — For the first time since its founding 26 years ago, the Racine Interfaith Coalition has a full-time organizer.
Prentiss Robbins Jr., who has been the pastor at New Beginning of Faith Church, 2711 19th St., since 2009, was appointed to his new position on Monday and will lead the 28 faith groups affiliated with the coalition.
He promised that there will be “more activism” in the future, and that the Racine Interfaith Coalition won’t shy away from contentious issues related to race, immigration, incarceration and poverty.
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Pressing the ‘hot button’
The RIC has longed dived into controversial waters, organizing marches last summer after a string of alleged undocumented immigrants were arrested around Racine and by advocating for allowing undocumented immigrants to earn driver’s licenses.
“There are some hot-button political issues that RIC will have to demonstrate on, whether it’s an African American issue or an immigration issue,” Robbins said. “I think you’ll see more engaging community projects going on … you’ll see us (become) more visual in youth and poverty, and youth and mental health.”
Even though some of those topics have the propensity to divide, Robbins — who is a Racine native and a 1979 Horlick High School graduate — wants to use RIC to build bridges within the wider Racine community.
“I’m hoping to come as a unifier,” he said. “I want to work with things we can agree upon (and) try to find common ground we can build on. … That will be the catalyst of what I do.”
Robbins said his other goals include becoming more involved in education to break the “school-to-prison pipeline,” reduce the disproportionate rate of poverty among African Americans in Racine, address poverty across racial divides in the area and engage in more community conversations so that RIC can “get the pulse of the city.”
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Support and background
Robbins was picked for the job by the Racine Interfaith Coalition’s Board of Directors. In addition to community organizing, Robbins will also be tasked with providing leadership and advice to area clergy.
“We feel very blessed that Pastor Robbins has agreed to join RIC as our full-time organizer,” RIC Co-President Linda Boyle said in a statement. “His energy and passion for the work has already proven to be invaluable in helping RIC expand our outreach and our work in the community.”
Before becoming RIC’s first full-time organizer, Robbins had been working part-time as an organizer with RIC since September of last year. He’s also led the RIC’s Ministry Leaders’ Caucus, is currently a member of Racine’s Police and Fire Commission, previously worked for American Airlines, and was on the United Way of Racine County’s board in the late 1990s.
“I am continually impressed by the dedication and commitment of Pastor Robbins to RIC and to its mission to create ‘The Beloved Community’ in Racine,” stated Rev. Dr. Don Francis, Pastor of North Pointe United Methodist Church, 3825 Erie St.
Robbins’ father, Prentiss Robbins Sr., was born in Mississippi, moved to Racine at age 19 to work at SC Johnson, and went on to become a pastor and found a church. He died in September 2011.
Robbins Sr. had seven daughters and his lone son: Prentiss Robbins Jr.
“I am continually impressed by the dedication and commitment of Pastor Robbins to RIC and to its mission to create ‘The Beloved Community’ in Racine.” Rev. Dr. Don Francis, Pastor of North Pointe United Methodist Church