On this auspicious day, my attorney is pleading my case in my capitol city, having been arrested in the General Assembly building for “trespassing.” I spent a large part of my summer participating in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Convened by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the Poor People’s Campaign is rooted in “our deepest religious and constitutional values,” and demands justice for all, and at the same time, it includes all—children, women, people with disabilities, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Indigenous peoples, the Earth, those impacted by militarism, LGBTQIA folx, workers, the sick. The major focus of the Poor People’s Campaign is connecting the dots between poverty, militarism, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and all the other isms.
I also traveled this summer to Alabama (my home state, by the way), a state so racist that the welcome center on I-85 greets visitors with a monument built in 1923 by a known white supremacist, Marie Bankhead Owen, with the state motto, “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” My husband and I were visiting Montgomery where there’s lots of signage, history markers, and directional signs for the confederate memorials, but finding Dr. King’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church isn’t easy at all.
Once there, we visited the new Legacy Museum and Memorial—the museum that traces the history of Black people in these United States from enslavement to mass incarceration, from lynching to police brutality against Black bodies. We walked around and under the rusty brown coffin shaped hangings—with names etched in them, names of brown and black people killed, more than 4,000 people, killed in acts of terror, racial brutality, killed because of the color of their skin.
What this trip solidified for me is the connection between the separation of children from their parents at our border to charging children (as young as 7 years old) as adults in our so-called justice system, and separating Japanese children from their parents in internment camps during World War II, and ripping Native American children from their parents from the 1870s to the 1970s, and, until 1865, ripping children of African heritage from their enslaved parents.
You see, white supremacy has been ripping Black and brown babies from the breast of their mothers since its beginning. This is who we have been, from the beginning. But this is not who we have to be.
Consider one more connection, if you will. Many of us are feeling powerless when it comes to our national politics. If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at David Brooks’ op-ed The Localist Revolution. He writes, “Localism is the belief that power should be wielded as much as possible at the neighborhood, city and state levels.” He says, “Success is not measured by how big you can scale, but by how deeply you can connect.”
It is that connecting—connecting the dots that all forms of injustice are connected, but also connecting that the way to change our trajectory is connecting. Brooks makes a point that Washington asks “How can we fix homelessness?” but localism asks, “How can I help you find a home?” It’s soul-work, this connecting. It requires listening to our local communities (especially those communities most marginalized) and creating the bonds of friendship to overcome this deep despair that we’re feeling.
The message of Jesus is very local, you know. It’s a message that says we can live a different way. We can live a life where we do not center our own needs, where we do not center our own power. And maybe even give up the need for power all together, instead centering on connection. We can choose to love our neighbors. We can expand the borders of our lives so that no one is left out. We can share our goods so that everyone has enough.
How can you make the connection?
Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).
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