May 11, 2017

Moral Mondays leader goes national

The remarkably successful North Carolina moral activist Reverend William Barber is retiring from his leadership of the state NAACP in order to help organize a new Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C. and twenty-five states across the nation.

NC NAACP - In 2016, Rev. Dr. Barber co-led “The Revival: Time for a Revolution of Moral Values” with Repairers of the Breach, a national organization that trains faith and moral leaders in moral activism, theology, and public policy.  His decision responds to a call by moral leaders, activists, and people across the country battered by immoral public policies to help build this movement with the lessons learned from the work in North Carolina. The state’s Forward Together Moral Movement, better known as “Moral Monday,” has become a large, diverse and vibrant “fusion movement” grounded in an ecumenical moral critique of both racism and poverty and founded upon our most deeply held constitutional and moral values.

“This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic poverty and racism, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable,” said Rev. Dr. Barber.

Through his more than a decade of leadership beginning in 2006, Rev. Dr. Barber has embodied the spirit of fusion politics by working with a powerful coalition of moral activists to build the Forward Together Moral Movement. “Moral Mondays,” which started with a few dozen people gathered at the state Capitol to confront political extremism, have now grown to tens of thousands of citizens working for justice; more than 80,000 people attended the Moral March on Raleigh earlier this year. In 2016, this state-focused fusion coalition won powerful victories over extremism in the state including the defeat of Governor Pat McCrory; a shift in the ideology of the North Carolina Supreme Court; and a federal court victory that struck down a voter ID law designed with the sole intent to suppress black and poor voters. 

“Rev. Dr. Barber has been considered a prophetic voice across this nation. It appears that he is now a force that the Biblical tradition calls an Apostolic voice, when an individual is sent on a particular mission,” said the Rev. Dr. James Forbes Jr., pastor emeritus of the historic Riverside Church in New York City.

Rev. Barber will focus attention on The New Poor People’s Campaign co-led by the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary, where he is a distinguished professor of public theology. Throughout 2017 and early 2018 he will lead training and organize alongside moral leaders, including poor black, brown and white communities.  In early 2018, moral activists will lead 40 days of simultaneous direct action and civil disobedience in state capitols, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Congress.

“Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King called for a radical ‘revolution of values’ inviting a divided nation to stand against the evils of militarism, racism, and economic injustice. In the spirit of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68, we are calling for a national moral revival and for fusion coalitions in every state to come together and advance a moral agenda,” said the Rev. Dr. Barber. “There is a need for moral analysis, articulation of a moral agenda, and moral activism that fuses the critique of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and national morality in a way that enables organizing among black, brown, and white people, especially in regions where great efforts have been made to keep them from forming alliances and standing together to change the political and social calculus ,” he said.

Some history

The Poor People's Campaign shantytown was built on the Mall - it was called Resurrection City - designed by a team headed by John Wiebenson, architect and longtime cartoonist for the Progressive Review

IRIS KRASNOW, MUSEUM & ARTS, 1991 - In 1967, when the Bay Area rocked with protests, Wiebenson was recruited by John Hill, the founding dean of the University of Maryland architecture school, to become one of its first faculty members. He got more action than he could have ever imagined. As his first major project in town, Wiebenson headed up a team of architects as the master designer and planner of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Resurrection City. It was the last stop of King's Poor People's Campaign, just weeks after his assassination.

King had a plan that he hoped would force the federal government to take notice of the nation's poverty. He brought poor people from across America to Washington to set up temporary housing on the Mall, smack in Congress' backyard. For Wiebenson, working with the carpenters, plumbers, and electricians on the construction of plywood tents for some 2,800 inhabitants was a logistical nightmare. But, as he says, "I loved the turmoil of putting a city on the Mall and doing it for a higher purpose." Former students at the University of Maryland say Wiebenson's role at Resurrection City and his commitment to social architecture greatly enlarged their view of the profession. They remember that this laid-back "even slightly ratty looking" character who drove around campus in an old Volkswagen and wore tiny John Lennon glasses taught them to be motivated by the integrity of a project, not the size of commissions. It was during the height of political ferment in Washington.

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