Martin Luther King spirit seen in honor Posted by Marjorie Kauth-Karjala | The Ann Arbor News January 14, 2008 14:01PM Categories: Breaking News This Sunday, Barney's lifelong social advocacy will be acknowledged with The Award for Servant Leadership in Building a Beloved and Just Community, presented by the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor. By MARJORIE KAUTH-KARJALA The Ann Arbor News As Jane L. Barney, 93, prepares to receive recognition this weekend for her lifetime of work for the poor and voiceless, she acknowledges the evolution that was necessary for those Americans - including her family - who lived through the civil rights era of the 1950s and '60s. The work of Jane L. Barney, 93, will be acknowledged with an award from the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor. By growing up as a member of the white majority, she says bluntly: "We were racists. It's almost impossible, if you're growing up in that culture, not to be a racist." Even the religious community to which she and her late husband, an Episcopal minister, belonged, was not immune. Parishfield, in Livingston County, was a community of Episcopal ministers, who with their families lived closely to one other, sharing meals and conversation while focusing on the mission of teaching lay people to take on some ministerial roles. The knowledge that the ministers were not immune to racism came in the form of a young black man, now a professor, who visited the community. He didn't make accusations. He just listened and made observations during discussions among the ministers, and the truth inevitably came out, Barney said. "We had to admit we were racists. We had to deal with it," Barney said. Barney had come to Michigan with her husband, Roger, and four children in the late 1950s, living in Detroit, Parishfield and Ann Arbor. Her husband was a minister at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor for a short time before his Jane L. Barney death in the late 1960s. Honor: The Award for Servant Leadership in Building a Beloved After her husband died, Barney earned a master's in social and Just Community will be work from the University of Michigan and began researching presented to Jane Barney for a the care given at nursing homes, which were just starting to lifetime of social advocacy by the spring up. During the research, Barney learned that the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ in Ann most important people to educate on proper care at nursing Arbor. The annual award, given in homes were the nurses' aides, who dealt most directly with memory of Martin Luther King Jr. the elderly. and timed to the national holiday in his honor, will be presented Later, in the 1980s, she helped form the Turner African Sundayjan20 at the 10:15 a.m. service at the Church of the Good American Services Council, which was dedicated to helping Shepherd, 2145 Independence Blvd. black people get medical services. For information, call 734-971-6133. Although white, she was invited to join the group, which had Age: 93. discussions about the relationship between African Americans and the University of Michigan health system. Family: Widowed, three grown sons and a daughter. "We had people who really blew their tops (about treatment of blacks.) We had open, frank discussions," Barney said. Education: Master's in social work from the University of Michigan, This Sunday, Barney's lifelong social advocacy will be master's in divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York, acknowledged with The Award for Servant Leadership in bachelor's from Wellesley College. Building a Beloved and Just Community, presented by the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor. The annual award is given in memory of Martin Avocation: Lifelong social activist. Luther King Jr. and timed to the national holiday in his honor. Philosophy of life: "I'm a longtime faithful Episcopalian and that's where my philosophy abides." Those who have worked with Barney say she has a knack for generating good problem-solving discussions. Hobbies: Reading, visiting with friends, cooking. Jean Carlberg, a former Ann Arbor City Council member, said she's know Barney for about 20 years. When Barney Favorite reads: "Whodunits mostly. and others became passionate about affordable housing I try to read a few edifying things." and homelessness issues, Barney urged people to find Currently reading "Love Over solutions, Carlberg recalls. Scotland," by Alexander McCall Smith. "She'd say, 'Come to my house at 4 o'clock. We're going to hash this out,' " Carlberg said. Favorite restaurant: The Gandy Dancer, especially the encrusted shrimp. Barney was part of helping establish Avalon Housing, a supportive housing program based in Ann Arbor. Other endeavors included helping establish New Hope Outreach Clinic for geriatric care. Barney worked with members of the New Hope Baptist Church to establish the clinic, which is affiliated with the University of Michigan Health Systems. Carlberg also remembers Barney's zeal in campaigning for the Democratic Party. The two were precinct chairs of their respective city wards and worked on organizing leaflet drops and door-to-door canvassing. Today, although Barney still has a firm handshake and a quick mind, her health problems mean she likely won't be going door to door campaigning for the Democratic Party. But she still has an avid interest in the political process, with a sign supporting presidential candidate Barack Obama posted on the living room window of her Old West Side home in Ann Arbor. Her interest in solving problems and finding solutions comes out when she says that she is willing to compromise on his youth and experience level. "I think his message is the most optimistic and he has the best chance of bringing all the people together," she says. Contact Marjorie Kauth-Karjala at 734-482-2961 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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