*but I really wish I was
For 12 brief hours, I really thought I could cough up the $400 to fly to Raleigh on Friday and return on Saturday. I so wanted to put my name on the list of people committing to march side by side, committed to answering the call from our sisters, brothers, and siblings in the modern North Carolina civil rights movement who issued a call for us to come. I so want to be that kind of minister-type who shows up when justice partners ask it of me, ask it of us, ask it of UUs.
Then budget reality hit and I realized that though my heart, head, and spirit were there, my wallet was not. I wallowed in some self-pity, then some externalized and somewhat misplaced rant about class privilege, then came ‘round to where I am now.
But you might not even know of which I speak, because I just recently learned about this and keep encountering people who don’t know, so let me tell you a little bit about all this.
A perfect storm of unchecked far-right Republican power in the North Carolina General Assembly (that’s what they call their state legislature) and governorship is bringing about restrictions on voting, making devastating cuts to an already loose social safety net, censoring full educational opportunities at public universities, severe restrictions on access to abortion, regressive tax laws and cutting of unemployment benefits, refusal to expand Medicaid, thereby barring half a million people from affordable healthcare, and so much more. This kind of thing is happening not just in NC, (think Michigan, think Georgia, think Wisconsin), but it is happening there and happening with a vengeance.
The ACLU tells us that over half of these United States have voting restrictions in place, many of which were rushed into place as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down Section Four of the 1965 Voting Rights Act last June. What we know is that these restrictions, touted on the Far Right as protections, are actually disproportionate barriers to voting for people of color, for students, and for people with disabilities. This is not fading echoes of literacy tests during Jim Crow; this is modern digitized exclusion: what some people are calling Jim Crow 2.0.
What is also happening is an amazing coalescence – some might call it a coalition – of people standing against this storm. Multi-racial, multi-issue, the Forward Together Movement is spearheaded by the head of North Carolina’s NAACP, the Reverend William Barber II. Every Monday since the end of April, people have been gathering at the state Capitol in Raleigh, protesting and sometimes being arrested for civil disobedience. This has come to be known as the Moral Mondays movement and the numbers of people attending these protests has been increasing.
The organizing members of Forward Together/Moral Mondays has put out a national call, asking for “all people of faith and conscience from Southern states and across the country to join” them for a Mass Moral March in Raleigh on February 8. The March organizers say that in addition to this one day of action, they “hope to form partnerships across the country that will last more than just this day.” They are also “asking for…spiritual support in this movement,” holding them in our hearts and prayers.
Unitarian Universalists are taking this call very seriously. The president of the UU Association of Congregations has committed to attending and called on other UUs, particularly clergy, to attend. Other lay and clergy leaders, including seminarians, have voiced their support and intention to travel to North Carolina. We have a long history being at the forefront and in support of civil rights movements. We want this to be not historical, but present-day.
In many Unitarian Universalist congregations, part of the worship liturgy includes a communal recitation:
“Love is our doctrine, the quest for truth is our sacrament, and service is our prayer.”
So if I can’t make it to North Carolina, and there is a request for prayer, I can’t just see myself sitting with folded hands, wishing the cause well. I know that works for some, but it won’t work for me in this particular situation.
Instead, there will now be a Solidarity Action at my home congregation, the Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence. As part of our congregation’s Standing on the Side of Love effort, we will gather together at just about the same time as folks in Raleigh are stepping off to march. We will educate ourselves about what is going on in North Carolina, we will network and converse, making connections with other national and local efforts to protect our democracy, protect the powerless, to defend the integrity of our governments and politics. We will listen to some inspirational words of the Rev. Barber. We will hold a vigil on the front lawn, on Main Street in Northampton, standing on the side of love, standing with the people of North Carolina, standing with all those whose inherent worth and dignity are under threat.
IF YOU ARE ANYWHERE NEARBY, PLEASE COME AND BE WITH US. THIS IS A CALL TO YOU COME AND BE A PART.
The Mass Moral March organizers asked the following in their call. Let it be a prayer that passes through our lips, wherever February 8th finds us living on the side of love:
Please hold us in your hearts and in the prayers of your congregations. May our children’s children be proud of how we walked on this earth and whom we chose as our spiritual companions.
This post is part of the 30 Days of Love UU Blog-a-thon.