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Living for Change News
September 12th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Poor People’s Campaign
In the spring of 1968 I joined thousands of other people occupying the Washington Mall. Still in shock from the murder of Martin Luther King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference decided to move forward with Dr. King’s dream of confronting the soul of America on racism, materialism and militarism. The Poor People’s Campaign was a difficult, dispirited and confused effort to keep the movement alive after the death of King.
A decade ago, as part of the Beloved Communities Initiative, we welcomed the 40th Anniversary of the Campaign. Union Theological Seminary and the Poverty Initiative were key movers in bringing together people from local struggles to see their common connections to economic injustice.
I have also been following the work of the Reverend Dr. William Barber II of North Carolina. As his state became increasingly right wing, oppressing people through legal chicanery, Reverend Barber emerged as a strong voice for justice. Moral Mondays mounted mass civil disobedience to awaken a more progressive, open-hearted spirit.
After years of sustained actions, North Carolina holds the promise of our ability to challenge and change one another, even in the face of well funded, right wing authority. The leadership of Rev. Barber of this new campaign is sure to move beyond nostalgia, and invites us to transform our public conversations toward deeper questions about the kind of country we are and who we want to become.
The Poor People’s Campaign calls on people to recognize that we are in a time of enormous danger and possibility, a Third Reconstruction for the soul of America and the heart of Democracy.
I attend one of two events last week in Detroit. Wednesday’s meeting at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History was packed. This session was part of the 4th Annual celebration of the life and legacy of General Gordon Baker. Baker’s long time comrade, Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights opened the panel session, emphasizing the fighting spirit for which she has become nationally recognized. Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, who considered General Baker a friend and mentor followed. Rev. Pinkney was recently released from prison on what is widely understood as state retribution for his effort to challenge the corrupt emergency managers in his home town. Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis provided an overview of the careful organizing for the new campaign. She also wove together political action and Christian principles.
These three set the stage for Rev Barber who gave a spirited speech, challenging us to once again stand up against powers of greed and white supremacy, saying that he, like Dr. King, is “unwilling to give up on the soul of our nation.”
Rev. Barber put forward a sharp critic of the current president and his attack on immigrants, explaining that the young people targeted by the elimination of DACA are “More American than the President.” But we should not be fooled into thinking the challenges we face are only those of the current person in office. He said, “There is a cancer on the soul of our nation” and the nation needs “a new prophetic movement” to address the “deep spiritual malady of our people.” The new Campaign is an opportunity to “open a new season of moral revival.”
The aim is to engage 1000 people in 25 states and the District of Columbia in non violent direct action for 40 days, pushing for a new commitment to a progressive political covenant.
Calling on images of the moral outrage of the cold killing of a single person in the streets, Rev. Barber asked where is our outrage when 250,000 people are coldly killed by government policies? Invoking the images of Emmett Till, whose mother insisted on an open casket to show what the violence of racism was doing to our children, he said, “We should have open caskets of all those who die from poverty, saying our governments policies killed them.”
Rev. Barber raised a lot of questions. But he offered a certainty: We can create a “new dream” for our country.
“THIS IS MORE than a riot,” stated a Detroit police officer. “This is war.”
Fifty years ago, the Motor City was the center of national attention as it erupted in an urban rebellion on a scale unprecedented in modern American history. Prompted by a police raid targeting African Americans in an after-hours establishment, the 1967 mass uprising from July 23 to 27 resulted in 43 deaths and over 7,000 arrests. The officer declaring “war” was just one of the 17,000 Detroit cops, state police, National Guardsmen, and US Army troops sent to restore order.
Scenes from a neighborhood rising…
The Heidelberg Project is ready to create Heidelberg 3.0 but Mayor Duggan and the City of Detroit have been uncooperative.
What We’re Reading
‘Not In Our Name’: Rosa Clemente Challenges A Puerto Rican White Supremacist Seen In Charlottesville
I am a Black Puerto Rican woman.
Two days ago, while watching the “Vice News” report on what happened in Charlottesville, I noticed a man getting into a van with David Duke and I saw the Puerto Rican flag folded in his hands.
All day, I kept watching that clip and then when my husband came home, I asked him and he said, “Yeah, babe, that is the Boricua flag.” I got up and went outside and screamed. I was physically sick, hot all over my body and infuriated
Emergent Strategy’ is food for thought during the time of Trump
Somebody put a copy of adrienne maree brown’s new book in my hands a couple of months ago. Then a few weeks ago I was in a workshop for which she was the facilitator. After that I decided to actually read her book and scheduled time early last week to read brown’s Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.
It turned out to be fortuitous timing. As President Donald Trump came out swinging in support of white supremacists and it seemed the world was totally askew, brown’s book gave me a bit of succor and hope in a time of despair.
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