The Struggle Continues… By Sherry Cannon – When Silence is not an option
Dr. William Barber is the Martin Luther King Jr of our day. It appears most clergy have decided to take a sabbatical; Dr. William Barber has picked up Dr. King’s mantle that lay unclaimed, since his death in 1968.
Dr. Barber’s mantra is “Forward Together, Not One Step Back.” He boldly proclaims the moral importance of truth, justice, and equality. Dr. Barber is leading a movement for social change called Repairers of the Breach.
The Repairers of the Breach is a non-partisan and ecumenical organization, which seeks to build a progressive agenda rooted in a moral framework.
On April 2, 2017, at the historic Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. Barber preached a message, “When silence is not an option.” His sermon came from John 11, where Jesus resurrected Lazarus and Ezekiel 37 when God asked Ezekiel, can these bones live again?
Barber likened the political oppression and the duplicity of the priest of that day, to the political dishonesty and hypocrisy of many evangelical preachers today.
Barber reminded the congregation that fifty years earlier Dr. King preached in that same pulpit, the sermon “Beyond Vietnam.” After that sermon, 120 newspapers came out against him, unions came out against him, and preachers came out against him. A year later King was murdered.
Barber reminds them that Dr. King was a moral voice, a prophetic voice, not bound by the opinions of the day, but by the burden of truth-telling.
While in a Birmingham jail Dr. King wrote, “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws… The poor are often dismissed from our conscience by being branded as inferior and incompetent. A nation that continues to spend more on military defense than programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Dr. Barber told the congregation, “The power structure that supported Donald Trump knew he wasn’t really meaning, Make America Great Again, but make access to America’s resources white again.”
He said, “This moment we are in, is not about one man, but a moral deficit this nation is in. We must challenge what is going on now, and declare that silence is not an option. Ever stride toward freedom in U.S. history has been met with the same backlash. We must reclaim again the pulpit and the public square. Silence is not an option.”
Dr. Barber is picking up where Dr. King left off in organizing the Poor People’s Campaign. The goal is to repair the breaches caused by centuries-old systems of racial and gender inequality; to develop leaders with a clear progressive moral vision for leadership in the 21st century; Leaders who will withstand the temptation of opportunism; Leaders who will remain true to a principled approach to eliminating poverty and racism.
Dr. Barber said we must stop the funerals, eliminate gang banging and the drug culture. When asked, who was going to fund this movement, he emphatically replied, us!
His plan is to train 1,000 individuals in every state. In 2018 there will be an 80-day Poor People Campaign, 40 days of prayer and preparation, and 40 days of direct action.
Barber told the story about when he was leaving for college. He remembered his dad saying, “You owe all the shoulders you stand on. All that couldn’t go, you owe. Because a lot of children died on the night you were born, you owe God. You can’t love Jesus, and not fight for justice, and love must be in the center.”
Barber said that we live in a day, where money is worth more than mercy; and lies worth more than the truth. We need a balance in the operations of power.
We are at a time, where those in power use the law, to take from the poor, so the rich can have more. Poverty is more than a state of mind. Hunger, homelessness, sickness is real.
Poverty exists because those who have, have no compassion. A time when people believe not everyone is equal. The very fact that poverty exists strips us all of our humanity.
While working on this piece, I came across an article written by Daniel Cantor and Barbara Dudley. They contend that the election of Donald Trump was not a historical aberration.
As Cantor and Dudley’s article stated, we only need to look back on our history. This country was birthed in colonialism, genocide, and slavery as well as revolution and democracy. We have always been a paradox.
The article goes on to say, getting rid of Trump will not fix everything that has gone wrong in the United States. Donald Trump is merely a symptom.
Our most difficult challenge will be reclaiming or reinventing our democratic institutions. We must limit the influence of billionaires and corporations in our politics and make it possible for non-wealthy to win elections.
I hear Dr. Barber when he says, “We must shift the narrative; we have to penetrate and recover the moral narrative of this nation and of God. This movement must survive, and if it doesn’t, it will dishonor God.”
Each one of us must decide if the fight for civil rights, voter rights, fair housing, women’s rights, and rights of the LBGTQ community is worth fighting for.
It is up to us, to determine what kind of society we want to leave to our children. We must decide that silence is not an option.