Od’Juan Whitfield pursued a military career after leaving his home in Indianapolis.
He served in the United States Army, was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, and served in Iraq and Kuwait after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Today, he serves as a democracy reform organizer for Faith in Public Life Florida (FPLF), the state chapter of a dynamic organization that brings together faith leaders and activists from a variety of faiths to pursue social justice in the Sunshine State. FPLF brings a unique voice into the public sphere by combining faith leader advocacy with strategic planning at the statehouse: fighting for economic justice, equal protections for LGBTQ people and an end to gun violence.
“We bring people together to live their values out in public life,” said Whitfield, who has worked in various social service and political organizing roles in Jacksonville, Florida, and describes himself as having a strong faith in God.
FPLF has worked with the SPLC Action Fund in Florida on several issues, including LGBTQ rights and criminal justice reform.
The organization has played an important role in changing the narrative about the role of faith in politics, winning major progressive policy victories and empowering new religious leaders to fight for social justice and the common good.
“Our faith tells us we fight for justice,” Whitfield said. “Our faith is what causes us to pursue these missions. All their faiths ask for congregates to speak up for the oppressed, for injustice. Our faith tells we are all equal under God.”
FPLF’s mission statement describes an ambitious and far-reaching effort: “Faith in Public Life is a national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. Together, we are leading the fight to advance just policies at the local, state and federal levels. Our network of 50,000 leaders engages in bold moral action that affirms our values and the human dignity of all.”
For Whitfield, it has meant working on campaigns for the FPLF voter program, which aimed to increase voter turnout by working with pastors and congregations. It also provided transportation to the polls. One of his greatest organizing successes was working with the faith community to help pass a Human Rights Ordinance protecting LGBTQ rights in Jacksonville. He’s also passionate about criminal justice reform, and he looks forward to being more involved with that work, specifically bail reform and working to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.
Bringing together the faith community to pursue social justice in the halls of government in the state is a natural fit to Whitfield.
“Florida is a key state in politics and a melting pot for faith,” he said.
For more information on Faith in Public Life, please visit faithinpubliclife.org.
Florida residents: The state Legislature will begin committee hearings the week of Sept. 20 in preparation for the 2022 legislative session. This would be a great time to introduce yourself to your senator and representative and to discuss issues of importance to you. We’ll update you on various SPLC Action Fund priorities through this blog, so please bookmark the link and check back regularly.
Donn Scott Jr. is a policy associate for the SPLC Action Fund.
Photo at top: Od’Juan Whitfield