By Barb Arland-Fye
On a shopping trip with their 6-year-old son, Leslie Kilgannon’s husband was stopped by the mall’s security personnel who searched his shopping bag. It wasn’t the first time her husband, a U.S. citizen who immigrated to this country 22 years ago, has been a target for racial profiling.
Her point in sharing this story at the Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) “Building Our Common Future” fundraising breakfast Nov. 19 was to illustrate the need for QCI’s advocacy for social justice at the grassroots level.
Kilgannon, QCI’s executive director, wants to ensure that her two sons — the 6-year-old and a 13-month-old — aren’t treated the way their father had been. She sees QCI as a “powerful vehicle” for Quad-City faith groups to build a better community that respects the rights of all.
Another goal of Kilgannon, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, is to move QCI from being one of the best-kept secrets in the Quad-Cities to one of the most well-known organizations for social justice in the region.
QCI traces its roots to the severe economic downturn of the 1980s, said the Rev. Ken Keunning, a past QCI president and one of its early clergy leaders. Rev. Keunning, pastor emeritus of Church of Peace, UCC, Rock Island, Ill., credited Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a priest of the Davenport Diocese, for his role in helping QCI come to fruition.
“Quad Cities Interfaith did not set the agenda, but the concerns of the congregations set the agenda,” Rev. Keunning said. In its beginning, QCI focused on three issues: jobs, welfare reform and quality, equal education, he said.
Rita Cunningham, a QCI leader from Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, said her commitment to QCI began with an invitation from Msgr. Mottet to attend a meeting. There, she learned about predatory lending and how vulnerable people were being caught in a financial nightmare.
“I grew up poor,” she said. “But we never had to use predatory lending because we had our Christian community and our church.”
Her mission is to see the Iowa and Illinois legislatures place a cap on the interest rate that such lenders are able to charge their customers. Currently, the rate is as high as 400 percent, she said.
In the meantime, she helped lead an effort between QCI and various credit unions to offer an alternative to predatory lending. Brochures on the program are available through QCI.
Judy Morrell, director of the Davenport Civil Rights Commission, expressed her appreciation for QCI in the work she does. (The commission and QCI have worked together on such issues as racial profiling by law enforcement authorities and housing discrimination, Kilgannon said.)
“I’ve known Quad Cities Interfaith to be a zealous advocate for racial and ethnic minorities and other disenfranchised groups,” Morrell said. QCI “opens dialogue for critical issues in our community.”
For more information about QCI, visit the Web site at www.qcinterfaith.org. To contribute to QCI, call (563) 322-4910 or write to Quad Cities Interfaith, 111 E. Third St., Suite 423, Davenport, Iowa 52801.