Marlon Millner

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The Suburban Promise of Brown

Marlon Millner

MillnerThe Reverend Councilman Marlon Millner is the pastor of the McKinley Memorial Baptist Church of Upper Moreland, PA and councilman-at-large in the municipality of Norristown, PA. Both communities are located in Montgomery County, a wealthy suburban jurisdiction outside Philadelphia.

Millner is the co-chair of the statewide organizing project – Building One Pennsylvania. Under his leadership, B1PA won a campaign to have the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development invest $500,000 in Southeastern PA for a housing mobility program to stop concentrating housing choice vouchers in poor neighborhoods and communities. Rev. Millner was a co-founder of Heeding God’s Call – A Gathering for Peace, which birthed an anti-gun violence movement in metro Philadelphia. Millner worked with historic peace churches, and sat on the gathering’s interfaith committee with Jewish and Muslim leaders.

His public theology extends to public service as councilman-at-large in the municipality of Norristown, PA. Elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2013, Millner has fought for affirmative action and supplier diversity. He has worked to combat youth and gun violence in town.

A former awarding-winning journalist, Rev. Millner worked as public awareness manager for Philadelphia’s KEYSPOT: Powered by Freedom Rings Partnership. KEYSPOT is a citywide initiative to bridge the digital divide. Millner managed a broad public information campaign.

His work has been covered by the Associated Press, Religion News Service, The Philadelphia Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and he has been published in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies and Sojourners Magazine.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a master of divinity from Harvard Divinity School.

He is pleased to mark the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. The Board of Education after having been the closing keynote speaker for the Harvard University Black Law Student Association Spring Conference in 2004, marking the 50th anniversary .

Speaker Abstract

Beyond the Academic – Analysis, Advocacy, and Action: The Organizing Model in the Pennsylvania Southeastern Suburbs of Housing policy as Education policy

In 2007, a group of leaders in small communities outside of Philadelphia, which understood themselves as inner ring, or “first” suburbs began to mobilize a conversation about sustainability, diversity and opportunity. As communities that were some of the first to grow after the World War II boom, as people left big cities, many of these communities now face the same challenges faced by cities, often abandoned for reasons of white flight and reinscribing social practices and structural policies of segregation and inequality.

First suburbs were at one time for white and black alike, places of opportunity, access to quality, yet affordable housing, good schools and low taxes. But as the persistent patterns of racial discrimination continued to drive policies in housing and education, these first suburbs found themselves under increasing financial pressures, with increasingly diverse schools, an influx of working class and poor people seeking opportunity, and continued divestment by black and white middle class constituents.

Such patterns created stark geography of opportunity, where wealthy counties around Philadelphia have concentrated poverty in a handful of inner ring communities, as evidenced by the use of the federal housing choice voucher program. Rather than being a program that provides mobility, and opportunity to jurisdictions that are job centers, with quality schools, and low taxes, the housing choice voucher program has increasingly shuttled families from poor schools, and communities in big cities into similar communities in the suburbs, destabilizing them with this concentration of poverty that is a direct result of wrong-headed housing policy.

After making gains on statewide education policy, specifically a more equitable school funding formula, members of what is now Building One Pennsylvania recognized that housing policy is education policy, and began to tackle federal policies that concentrate poverty and inherently reduce opportunity and destabilize public education systems.

The presentation will talk about the power of organizing to open the doors of opportunity through a direct action campaign against the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and suburban housing authorities.