Rev. William Barber in ABQ: A Life-Changing Experience

The church holds 500, but  last night 600-700 packed every inch, with scores standing in the parking lot. What happened was transformational, and the Rev. Barber’s plan is bold, specific, compelling, and timely. Let’s call it what it is: we have been subject to class warfare for 40 years and some would say 250. It is time to fight back.

Why Do We Need a Poor People’s Campaign?

Last night Reverend William Barber conducted the second Mass Meeting launching his Poor People’s Campaign: A Call for a Moral Revival. I am not a religious person; but morality isn’t about religion, it is about our core sense of what is just. Our country has drifted so far from anything like a moral society that we are well past the time when we can just fix a few laws, elect a few folks, and expect things to change. I have read and I have shared with you in many posts the pattern of injustice that is ruling this country and this earth. Many, if not most of you fully agree. We KNOW it. But last night half of the Retake leadership team and I’d guess about 700 folks in a church that holds 500 felt it in our guts and hearts in ways that really can’t be described. Reverend Barber connected the dots, he introduced real people who suffered at the expense of the immoral system in which we live. We sang songs. We joined hands. We cried and we shouted. And by the end of the evening, we were ready for revolution.

I don’t think there was a person in the room who didn’t complete the card indicating they would be involved in this movement. They brought 500 cards. They ran out of cards. This is the kind of galvanizing, energizing and meaningful campaign that can change the national conversation about how we treat the poor, the planet, the young, and the elderly. Fundamental, systemic change is needed, not tweaks. Half of the Retake leadership team was at this meeting and we three committed to playing organizing roles in the campaign. The Retake leadership team will meet soon to discussing our organization’s support of the Poor People’s Campaign. Leaders from OurRevolution, Indivisible, Working Families, PDA and I am sure others were at this Mass Meeting. And calls and emails will begin circulating today to coordinate our work. In this post, I’ll do my best to explain why:

  • When a child in East Oakland falls asleep hungry while 2 miles away in the foothills another child has all his needs met, that is wrong.
  • When an entire community in Flint, Michigan is exposed to intolerable levels of toxins in their drinking water, are not informed about this, and then has a city, state, and national government that does nothing to redress it, that is wrong.
  • When a Native American resident of southern New Mexico can’t afford chemotherapy for the cancer she developed because of radiation exposure that has permeated the genes of those living there during the 1945 A-bomb test, that is wrong.
  • When over the last 40 years the wealth in this country has been concentrated to obscene levels within the 1% and the 0.1%, while others can’t pay their rent, that is wrong.
  • When every African American mother in America fears that someday her son could be stopped for a burned out tail light and wind up killed for reaching for his ID, and when our government doesn’t view this as a national emergency, that is wrong.
  • When we have a President who can see “both sides” to the horrifying murder of a young woman who had the audacity to protest white supremacists, that is wrong.
  • When the majority of Americans favor healthcare for all, a shift to renewables, tuition-free college, a fair tax system, and a living wage, and our government can’t deliver any of it, that is wrong.
  • When gerrymandering and a variety of voter suppression policies across our Nation prevent millions of Americans from voting, that is wrong.

And when you add them all up and you connect the dots, it is no coincidence and it is no longer a just wrong. It is a strategic and well-implemented class war against 95% of us. We need to call it what it is and act accordingly.

If we are going to mount a sustained campaign to Retake Our Democracy, to mount a Poor People’s Campaign, to create the kind of moral, ethical country that we deserve but have never had, we can’t just sign petitions, march, rally, tweet, or post and expect the powers that be to suddenly say, “Damn, you are right. This isn’t fair. I’m making $150M a year right now and have 4 homes and 6 cars. From today forward, I am making $150K a year and I am going to make my homes into transitional housing programs and give all but one of my cars to the poor.” They know the situation isn’t just; they like it that way.

Corporations are not going to just stop spewing toxins into the air because they read a compelling brief from or New Energy Economy or even because a hundred of us show up and testify at the PRC. They know they are poisoning us, but they are making money and so they really don’t care. And they know our government isn’t organized around us, so they don’t care if we testify. There is a reason New Energy Economy spends so much time in court. Force is needed to move these folks. But all we have been doing hasn’t worked very well so far. We are in the worst shape in my lifetime, so maybe we need to do something different. Rev. Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival was launched last week in Charlotte, North Carolina. His second convening was last night in Albuquerque. Read more about the new Poor People’s Campaign here.

In an amazing moment at the end of the meeting, the Rev. asked young people in the room, if we had their permission to launch the movement and shake up their future. They said yes.

The focus of Rev. Barber’s plan is to spend the next six months replicating in 25 states what we saw last night. We were honored to be the first state in that tour aside from the launch in his home state of North Carolina. He is using that tour to identify hundreds of people at each stop who will commit to working together to organize at least 1,000 people in each state who are willing to participate in 40 days of civil disobedience that will begin in May 2018. In all 25 states on the same day in 2018, civil disobedience will begin with people lying down in state legislatures, Governor’s offices, and in other strategic locations, and in each of these states these actions will continue and continue and continue. And this is just the launch of the campaign. While the Rev. didn’t describe more, I am sure these actions will be accompanied by coordinated and aligned national and local messaging that makes one thing abundantly clear: WE HAVE HAD IT.

If you want to be involved in this effort it starts now. No more nice-nice. We are getting royally screwed, we are on the verge of war with North Korea, we have a President who defends racists, and we have two parties who for far too long have been unable to do anything like create the kind of just society to which we aspire.

I had to thank the man.

There is much we need to do, but it’s not enough for Rev. Barber to deliver a message that shakes you to your core. You must decide to weave a commitment to activism into your everyday life. If you want to hear personally what happened at Rev Barber’s talk, I will be leading the canvassing launch this afternoon and the Town Hall on Saturday (see below) and I will stay afterward to talk with you. More importantly, these are two opportunities to get into the game. Never canvassed? It doesn’t matter. This isn’t like canvassing. It is chatting with your neighbors for 10-20 minutes and seeing if there is common ground, if they want to be kept informed or be involved. You’ve just contributed hugely to changing our community as it starts one person at a time. Never been to one of our Town Halls? Try it. You’ll make new friends and find a way to get involved. Let’s do this. If we want to save this planet and our future we have no choice.

In solidarity,

Roxanne, Paul & Reverend William Barber

Opportunity to Engage Your Neighbors: Community Conversations Canvassing, 4pm today, Aug. 16, 1420 Cerrillos Rd.  Retake Our Democracy is staging another community conversations canvassing launch today at 4pm. You will receive a brief training, get to practice the ‘script,’ which is introducing yourself as a neighbor and asking a series of questions that — for those who have done it so far — lead to meaningful and welcomed conversations. In the process, you will make new friends and identify people who want to take a stand, who want to get involved. Click here for more on how community conversations works. There is no better way to start actually committing to change than to engage your neighbors in conversation and help them get in the game. It will deepen your understanding of why you care and it will expand our base to create change. We need to reach everyone — one person at a time.

Town Hall. Sat. Aug 19, 3-5pm, 1420 Cerrillos Rd. Santa Fe. An Open Conversation with Richard Ellenberg, DPNM Chair; Jon Hendry, Labor Council Chair; and Paul Gibson, Retake Our Democracy.  You ask the questions, we respond. The focus:  How do we have a dialog in the Democratic Party with dividing it? How do we want the Party to lead? There will also be 20 minutes of open comment from the audience. We want to hear your voices and we want to share ideas. Click here to RSVP on Facebook or write to us at Most folks are RSVPing by email, but if you use FB, please RSVP there. It builds momentum. Click here for more information on the Town Hall. After the Town Hall, Roxanne and I will stick around and talk with all who are interested in the Poor People’s Campaign.

Categories: Economic justice

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