Kearni Warren Makes History in Race for Chester City Council - A Urban Missiology Interview
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
"Change will not happen if the people remain silent and still. We must fight for our children and their right to receive a quality education and to be guided by appropriate leaders who have our children's best interest in mind."- Kearni
'Kearni Warren Makes History in Race for Chester City Council" read several recent newspaper headlines in Chester, PA. Ms. Kearni Warren's inclusion on the 2021 ballot marks the first time a Green Party candidate has challenged Chester's Democratic Party. As a member of the advisory board of Urban Missiology, we salute Kearni and all influencers who seek to make a change in their communities.
As a candidate in the November 2, 2021, General Election, Kearni has taken a strong stand for union rights and fighting for caregivers to be respected, protected, and paid what they deserve. On September 24, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania endorsed Green Party candidate Kearni Warren, who ran for Chester City Council. SEIU Healthcare PA said on Facebook, "Pennsylvania healthcare workers are proud to support Kearni Warren for Chester City Council At-Large. As a home care worker, union member, and leader in SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, Kearni will fight for caregivers, working families, and good union jobs." Kearni Warren said, "Home care work has been ignored and shamed for many years. Domestic work, including care work, was left out of the early labor laws due to the workers being primarily women and disproportionately women of color. Home care work has had harmful stigmas attached to it. Many people look down upon caregivers because they have never had the honor of caring for someone unable to care for themselves entirely. Unless you care for someone, you don't know the level of skill and the amount of mental and physical strength and stamina required to keep the people you care for alive.
"This is why I believe Congress must pass the Better Care Better Jobs Act (Senate Bill 2210, House Bill 4131). The Better Care Better Jobs Act will bring a long overdue and needed investment into the care economy."
In a recent interview, Urban Missiology asked: "Kearni, although you live in Chester, PA and are no longer living in Atlanta, Charlotte or Baltimore, cities where I know you lived previously, are there social or political issues that cities of all sizes across America should prioritize during these challenging times, and if so, what are they?" Kearni response was, "As a resident of urban centers for most of my life, beginning with childhood, I can say each city suffers from many of the same issues that affect all Black and Brown communities that are grossly under-resourced. I can say this with the juxtaposition of having lived in affluent cities such as Scottsdale, AZ, Pasadena, CA, and Woodland Hills, CA. The pandemic and the natural disasters we are experiencing have revealed the weaknesses in our ability as a country to care for citizens. The pandemic has laid bare the racial and socioeconomic disparities, challenges, and brokenness within healthcare, housing, education, federal aid support, and food availability. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said budgets are moral documents, meaning the systems our elected officials choose to fund or not fund, show their priorities. People continue to suffer, particularly now as we live through what seems to exist as a never-ending nightmare. Congress must boldly prioritize re-building our country's infrastructure, not only including roads and bridges but a dedicated and deliberate focus on care, the climate, justice, and jobs. People are tired of feeling like the ball in a ping pong game because our lives depend on their actions, we have undergone suffering for far too long from inaction, and too many have died and are continuing to die."
Who is Kearni, and how did she learn to work for social justice and transformation?
I have known Kearni since she was an infant because her mother, the late Rev. Bernice Warren, and I were in seminary together at the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia. In 1950, Kearni's grandmother migrated from Sparta, GA, to Chester for a better life.
Kearni was born in Chester in the Sacred Heart Hospital and was raised in the Ruth L. Bennett Homes with her two aunts, mother, and grandmother.
Kearni has seen first-hand the value of hard work and achieving the impossible through difficulty. Her mother and grandmother were single parents. Her mother, Rev. Bernice Warren, was a strong force and voice in Chester and believed in peace with justice. As a Minister, Activist, Pastor, and Executive Director of Chester Eastside, she partnered with neighboring communities to create social and educational programs to improve the lives of Chester residents, particularly the children.
Her mother was an advocate for exposure and thinking outside of the box. As a result of the direction she received from her mother, Kearni saw community disparities resulting from different zip codes. She understands the importance of booming communities and how our environments impact our abilities to thrive. While attending private school, she saw differences in school districts and the level of education offered to students. As a youth, she traveled and noticed differences in housing, finding quality food, accessing recreational activities, and different living environments. These experiences are why she wants to make a difference to 'Re-Claim and Re-Frame' the city of Chester.
Her family taught her by example. Through their life of missions, Kearni learned the importance of giving back to her community and paying it forward. She follows the Bible verse from Luke 12:48. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
Showing her love and dedication to her family, she has been a family caregiver for 20 years. She continues to support her community. She is the founder of The Caregiver Society, an intentional and inclusive community supporting caregivers' spiritual, mental, and physical needs. As a proud union member leader, she fights for healthcare and home care workers' dignity, respect, and union rights. Before running for City Council, she was a member political organizer and lobbyist with the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania (SEIUHCPA) and United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania. She recently served on Governor Tom Wolf's COVID-19 Racial Task Force Subcommittee. She assisted with Chester being 1 out of 10 locations in Pennsylvania designated to receive financial grants from the United Way to support outreach for vaccine hesitancy. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Covid-19 Response Team.
Kearni believes Chester residents are worthy of clean communities where streets are maintained, trash is picked up on time, and the grass is cut in parks and on public properties. As an advocate for Environmental Justice and a supporter of the Green New Deal, she speaks up against Environmental Racism, fighting for the residents of Chester to breathe clean air and to have the ability to open their windows or sit outside without smelling the unhealthy stench of burning trash from Covanta's incinerator.
Kearni wants equity and prosperous communities for Chester residents. She believes the people in Chester deserve the same opportunities as others located in different zip codes. As an underdog, she has never taken the road for popularity; instead, she is not afraid to take the road less traveled to go against the status-quo to stand up and use her voice to fight for what is right.
Continuing in the social justice spirit of her mother, Kearni believes in the values of hard work and education. As a graduate of Eastern University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Kearni has become a fearless activist and political and union organizer. She is an author, speaker, environmental and racial equity activist, and healthcare advocate and is a member of the Emerge PA class of 2021. UrbanMissiology.org wishes Kearni well, and you can learn more about Kearni Warren's Campaign at her website, www.warren4chester.com.