Civil rights leader and organizer of the Moral Monday’s protests in North Carolina took to the pulpit in two churches in D.C. last Sunday to promote the Revival for a Moral Revolution of Values.
Early Sunday morning Reverend William J. Barber II spoke to a welcoming crowd at Shiloh Baptist Church in Northwest. His fiery sermon was aimed at provoking parishioners to join a national movement to protect democracy in America.
Later that day, more than 50 members of the clergy representing a broad spectrum of denominations and faiths joined hundreds of supporters who packed the sanctuary, the overflow room and spilled out onto the surrounding church lot for a Justice Rally and Revival at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Southeast where Barber, again, was the featured speaker.
In honor of the 53rd anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington held at the National Mall on August 28 in Washington, D.C., Barber said he found it fitting, 53 years later, to host a rally on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The march served as a call to America to defend the rights of all Americans to vote, to receive a quality education, and equal housing opportunities, jobs and justice.
“America needs some mourning,” Barber told the congregation. “Don’t be afraid to weep, for if we don’t weep there can be no joy in the morning.”
Barber’s presence in the Nation’s Capital represented one of the final cities in a 15-state, 23-city tour sponsored by Repairers of the Breach, a national organization founded by Barber, and Kairos, The Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, and other social justice organizations.
When Barber delivered his famous speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, he called on all Americans to “fight for the heart of this nation.” It was clearly a prelude to the message he has been delivering on his tour co-led by Dr. James Forbes, Jr., senior minister emeritus of Riverside Church in New York.
The Revival website explains that the revival tour is based in “the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; of democracy and equal protection under the law; of a just and righteous God; and of our responsibility to love and care for one another. For too long, these values and their sources — the Bible and other sacred texts, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — have been turned upside-down, used to shame us and divide us in the service of the powerful,”
“The Revival national tour is about working on national and a state level to revive the true meaning and power of those values, along with our ability and our determination to fight alongside one another and not against one another,” Barber said.
Barber’s sermon mirrored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “The Other America” speech in which he described two Americas. “An America overflowing with prosperity and the honey of opportunity,” King said. And the other America, that “tragically and unfortunately” faces despair, including high unemployment, inferior housing, extreme poverty and a hopelessness that impacts “little children who are forced to grow up with clouds of inferiority; who grow up in an arena of blasted hopes and shattered dreams.”
“Today,” Barber demanded, “it’s time to have a real conversation about race.”
In what he called an “avalanche of attacks” by legislators in 26 states against the Voting Rights Act, Barber called on supporters to commit to a movement that stands for protecting rights in America, particularly the right to vote.
“We are seeing more attacks on voting rights since we saw in the 1930s” Barber said. “Here we are right now when people can get elected through unconstitutional laws. All of this is happening because the Congress of the United States, with a smile, has refused to fix and restore the Voting Rights Act since June 25, 2013. Our Congress has engaged in over 1,160 days of filibuster, refusing to fix the Voting Rights Act.”
Barber referenced the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down Section 4, a significant part of the Voting Rights Act, in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder. As a result, voters in states including North Carolina and Texas faced new restrictions to their right to vote. The impact, Barber warned, impacts the quality of life for all Americans who have been denied opportunities that voting helps to ensure.
“This attack,” Barber said, “is not just a black issue. You can’t talk about race without talking about class. An attack on voting rights is an attack on public education, health care, worker’s right, women’s rights, equal protection under the law and immigrants’ rights.”
“Even among us who call ourselves progressive, we haven’t cried enough,” Barber preached. “There is no lifting of the spirit where there is no lamenting.”
In two weeks, on September 12, Barber is calling on clergy in all of the 15 states and D.C. to “lead a movement with a heart,” – diverse and daring – “that will fight for what’s right” on what he has called a National Higher Ground Moral Day of Action.
On that day at 11 a.m. participants are asked to deliver to elected officials and candidates a declaration “to move away from extremist politics and policies that benefit the few and move toward policies and laws that are just and fair and guarantee a better life for the majority of the people.”
To find out more about the Moral Revolution Tour or the National Day of Action visit: www.moralrevival.org