Intro: It’s my honor to introduce our keynote. I’m going to give him the full measure of his intro, so we can turn the stage over. So, please bear with me and listen closely.
William J. Barber, II is a pastor and social justice advocate building a broad-based grassroots movement, grounded in the moral tenets of faith-based communities and the constitution, to confront systemic racism, poverty, environmental devastation, the war economy and the distorted moral narrtitive of religious nationalism in America today. As pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina (since 1993) and president of the North Carolina conference of the NAACP (2005–2017), Barber approaches social justice through the lens of the ethical and moral treatment of people as laid out in the Christian Bible, the Reconstruction and civil rights movements of the South and the United States Constitution.
He is effective at building unusually inclusive fusion coalitions that are multiracial and interfaith, reaching across race, gender, age, and class lines, and dedicated to addressing poverty, inequality, and systemic racism. When his work to expand voting rights, health care, living wages, immigrant rights, public education and LGBTQ rights was thwarted by extremist state lawmakers in North Carolina, Barber began a series of “Moral Monday” rallies outside of the statehouse in Raleigh to protest laws that suppressed voter turnout, cut funding for public education and healthcare, and further disenfranchised poor white, black, First Nations, and LGBTQ communities. The Moral Mondays rallies and associated nonviolent acts of civil disobedience grew to involve tens of thousands of participants across North Carolina and spread to states across the South. The movement waged successful legal challenges to voter suppression and racial gerrymandering, winning twice at the Supreme Court.
In 2014, Barber founded Repairers of the Breach, a leadership development organization, in order to expand and build a national movement rooted in moral analysis, moral articulation and moral action. In 2016, he led a moral revival tour that covered 26 states and attracted thousands. In 2017, he and colleagues launched a revival of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign that was spearheaded by Dr Martin Lither King, Jr and many others. Beginning with an audit of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy in the United States since 1968, the campaign has been recast for the twenty-first century, building state and local, non-partisan fusing movements committed to shifting the moral narrative, building power, and challenging laws and policies that hurt the poor and threaten our democracy.
In 2018, the Poor People’c Campaign launched 40 days of moral, nonviolent civil disobedience in 40 states and Washington, DC, resulting in over 5000 acts of simultaneous civil disobedience in 36 state capitols and the U.S. Capitol. Merging moral and activist traditions, Barber is providing a faith-based framework for action that strengthens civic engagement and inspires the country to imagine a more humane society.
William Barber received a B.A. in 1985 from North Carolina Central University, an masters in divinity in1989 from Duke University, and a doctorate of ministry is 2003 from Drew University. He has also received seven Honorary doctorate degrees. From 2006 to 2017, Barber was president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and has been a member of the national board of the NAACP since 2005. He is also a distinguished visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary. Barber’s publications include the co-authored books Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation in 2014, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement in 2016, and Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing in 2018 and he is a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and the Washington Post. Barber is also a 2018 MacArthur Fellow, 2018 Tar Heel of the Year, an Auburn Seminary Senior Fellow and holds the Visiting Social Justice Chair at St. John’s University.
We are so lucky, so blessed, so gifted with his presence. Please show your love, your undying love for the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: While you’re standing, would you join me in saying forward together?
Audience: Forward together.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Not one step back.
Audience: Not one step back.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Come on, say it louder. Forward together.
Audience: Forward together.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Not one step back.
Audience: Not one step back.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Forward together.
Audience: Forward together.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Not one step.
Audience: Not one step back.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Give yourselves a big hand for being here today. I am deeply humbled and to be invited, to be here and to be with such a body as this in times like this. I’m so thankful to the grace of God and the spirit of the universe to brother John Powell, Where is he? Somewhere in here. Let’s give it up, and the institute, and to all of you who are gathered.
I want to ask you to go to www.breachrepairers.org — Repairers of the Breach — and make sure you sign up to get connected and to also click on the Poor People’s Campaign, A National Call for Moral Revival icon. Also if you would take now 90975, and texts moral, that’s three things to do. Go to www breachrepairers.org, click on that, so you’re connected with Repairers of the Breach where I’m the president and senior lecturer. Hookup with us on Twitter and otherwise, and then go to your phones and do 90975 at sometime today, and click in moral.
We the people must refuse to be otherized and ignored. We the people must refuse to be otherized and ignored. If my spirit seems a little somber today, is because yesterday the 9th … and some people forget this, would have been the day, that Martin Luther King was buried, 51 years ago. In his last sermon on the evening before he was shot down by a vicious system that produced an assassin, outside the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King offered a conclusion that serves us well as a starting point for how we understand our work, our callings in this moment in 2019. Now, oftentimes when we remember Dr. King, we make some fatal errors. One is that we remember him like he was some lone individual, and not deeply committed to movement and movement building and organizing.
Two, we remember the end of his various sermons, like, I Have A Dream or I’ve Been To The Mountaintop. But we don’t, and for reasons that corporate America has chosen to keep us from doing it, we don’t look at the substance of what he was saying, and the radical nature of what he was saying.
I was just at the monument last week, and if you go … and my fraternity helped place that monument there. But if you look at that monument, none of his most radical quotes are there. Well, that won’t happen today.
51 years ago, April the third Dr. King preached and he said this, “America is a sick nation.” Then he said, “We must give ourselves to the struggle for wholeness until the end, and nothing would be more tragic than for us to stop at this point. We must see it through, and we must recognize, we either go up together or we go down together.”
This is the Martin Luther King, the Ph.D. who was a preacher who was standing with sanitation workers over against, even many members of his staff. This was the Martin Luther King that was engaged with welfare rights workers and Jewish persons and others, many others, Cesar Chavez and others who were planning the Poor People’s Campaign. This is the Martin Luther King that was standing with sanitation workers who were resisting political and economic otherization with a simple slogan, “I am a man.”
Dr. King at that time had named three evils, yes, he called it evil, that constantly work to divide and otherize people, racism, poverty and militarism. He saw them as a triune, evil, collusion, that could not be understood by separating anyone from the other, and by the way, this was not the first time he had made the connection. If you go back to some of his sermons at his church in ’58, one of them was Paul’s letter to American Christians, and he talked about the dangers of greedy, run amok, capitalism and economic injustice, war.
This was the King who knew one could not challenge one of these evils without challenging them all. This was the King who understood that we must have a kind of eternal discontent with the demonic forces of racism, poverty, and militarism. 51 years ago, however, Martin Luther King Junior didn’t live 24 hours after he said, “Nothing would be more tragic than for us to turn back now.”
None of us could have imagined when he was murdered that he would become a martyr in the struggle, and he was a martyr in the struggle for the beloved community and a multiethnic democracy. That somehow after his assassination, he would, within a half a century, achieved a status of a founding father on the National Mall.
King had been the target of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, when he named these three evils, President Johnson took his open expectation to the White House. When he named these three evils, church people put him out, his own denomination walked away from him. Civil rights organizations and foundations walked away from him. Because he constantly questioned systems that marginalized, diminished the place and humanity of some people.
He questioned the violence of war and a war economy. He questioned the evil of racism and poverty, and that’s why on today, the day right after he would have been buried yesterday, I had to remember this. Because we can never speak of his legacy without recognizing how he showed us that the America’s experiment in democracy always and will always require radical struggle to move us toward a more perfect union.
His was a radical witness that everybody is made in the imago dei — the image of God, the image of the eternal, and everybody has a place in the beloved community. He knew some words and an ethic that in 2/19/2019 we better know, nothing would be more tragic than for us to turn back from the fight for humanity now, nothing.
Now, to be sure, we find a similar vision in our Declaration of Independence and constitutional ideals, even though the white men who signed their names to those documents, never were truly faithful to them. Yet we can never give up on demanding what this country has said on paper. Now the King said it like this, “If you didn’t mean that you shouldn’t have written it down.”
Because what any people puts down on paper can become a basis for public accountability. A nation founded in revolution must always remain open to reassessment, and new revolutions in every era in order to hold, in order to fight for the full humanity of all people.
Every now and then, since, we ought to go back to those documents like the one that was written 243 years ago, July 4th, 1776.
“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men … mistake right there, all men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That to secure these rights, governments are instituted, but then I love this line that, “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.”
You want to have a conversation about conservative interpretation of the constitution, well here it is, we have the right to alter any political system. Whenever it becomes dangerous and detrimental to the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. That is why later on, Frederick Douglas would say in the 1800, when asked about the 4th of July, he said, “You ask me about your celebration? Well, let me tell you about your celebration. It is fraud, [inaudible 00:12:25], pompous, it is wrong. It is a coverup for evil, until you do right by the sons and daughters of slaves, and I would say to you, do right by all people.”
Or 1787, 232 years ago “We the people of the United States, in order to form,” … let me just put a pause here and say to my friends, I don’t know, you call yourself a radicals, revolutionaries, liberals, whatever you are, but stop letting the so called extremists have the constitution. “We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” There’s nowhere in the constitution where freedom is mentioned.
The conversation about liberty does not even come until after four moral criterias are met. Otherwise you do not have a liberty that’s worthy to be passed on. That is number one, the establishment of justice, and number two, domestic tranquility, not domestic division. And number three, providing for the common defense, not just the defense of a few lobbyists, and number four, to promote … here comes that word, most of us won’t say it any more today, the general welfare.
Some of you all scared to say it. Try it one time, say, welfare.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: You let these folk make you throw away the language that is ours. Any pretense about liberty, that does not establish justice does not provide for the common defense, that divides people rather than pulls them together, and it undermines the promoting of the general welfare is contrary to what is put on paper.
That’s why Fannie Lou Hamer, In 1964, 55 years ago at the Democratic Convention said, “I was in jail when they murdered Medgar Evers. Many of us have had to deal with death threats, and our phones being tapped and all kinds of brutality, just because we want the right to vote. If this is America, then I question America.” There must be a remnant that is always willing to question America.
Or like Rabbi Heschel, Rabbi Heschel, who in 1963 just before the march on Washington, wrote to John F. Kennedy, and the Rabbi said, “Mr President, America forfeits the right to worship God, until you do right by the Negro,” period.
Or Coretta Scott King, who after her husband’s murder went on a tour during the days between the funeral and then afterwards, and somebody asked, “Mother Coretta,” said, “Your husband was shot and murdered, tell us about, what is violence to you?” She said, “Well, violence is my husband’s murder, but violence is so much more.” She said, “Poverty can produce a most deadly kind of violence.”
She said, “In a society, violence against poor people and minority groups is routine.” She said, “I remind you that starving a child is violence, suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence, discrimination against working people is violence. Ghetto housing is violence, ignoring medical needs and healthcare is violence. Contempt for equality is violence and watch this, even a lack of willpower and an apathetic spirit that refuses to challenge these other forms of violence is itself violent.” So sometimes the question for us is, are we going to be on the side of violence or non-violence?
In this moment, we in the Poor People’s Campaign, A National Call for Moral Revival, believes we are in the midst and we must have in this nation a third reconstruction. We must find a way to make clear today that the moral and constitutional crisis we face in America is not just about Republicans versus Democrats or liberal versus conservative. It is really instead about fundamental right against wrong, fundamental humanity, who we will write off and who we will include.
We are in a struggle for the heart and soul of this nation, for years to come. In a real sense, right now we face a question and we are not the first ones, but it is our time to face it. And that question is, whether or not America can be? Whether or not the list, the ideals of the constitution written by flawed men can even be amended and can be, can survive?
Because for a half century now, political operatives who paved the way for Trumpism, used Richard Nixon’s southern strategy to pit black, brown and white people against one another. They have hijacked our moral narrative to frame narrow cultural differences as the only moral issue in public life. They’ve tried to paint the resistance to their consolidation of power as anti-American or socialism. We cannot remain silent while America’s experiment in democracy is being trampled in front of our faces.
We must have a movement, a moral fusion movement, because not only have extremists done that, many times progressive’s have chosen to seek, “How can we find a messiah, a political campaign candidate to save us, rather than build a movement that will transform the entire political landscape of this nation? Because you do know that Trump is not America’s biggest problem? I knew I wouldn’t get too much agreement with that, but the reality is if you think this is the first time we’ve had a racist president, evidently you haven’t read.
If you think this is the first time we’ve had an Islamophobe, a xenophobe, a homophobe in the White House, you haven’t read, you missed a whole lot of history classes. Nell Painter, that Princeton scholar says, “Trump is the iconography of a too often repeated American reality. We take a few steps forward and then we go backwards.”
Trump benefits from an audience that’s been prepared for more than 50 years. Kevin Phillips, when he wrote it for Richard Nixon said, “Listen, if we’re going to win in the days to come,” he said, “Here’s a plan to win the country, to control the country without having a majority of the votes for the next 50 years. But you got to learn how to pit black and white and brown, poor people against all one another. You can’t use straight up racial language, so you got to come up with code language.”
Lee Atwater described what that code language was, “You don’t say Nigger, can’t do that after 1954, ’55, ’56, so what you talk about is forced busing, entitlement reform, gay people, praying in school, vouchers for private school. Then you get real clever and you talk about tax cuts, which is all nothing but code words because those policies hurt blacks worse than whites. But it also makes many poor whites think that their problems are because of black and brown people. Thereby you split and you split and you keep the 13 southern states split.”
“Why? Because if you can control the 13 southern states in any presidential election, you start with 178, 70 plus electoral votes. So means you only need 99 from the other 37 states. If you can use this otherization politically, you can control 31% of the United States House of Representatives by just controlling the 13 southern states from Maryland to Texas. You can control 26 members of the United States senate, means you only need 25 from the other 37 states.”
If you notice history, you understand why Trump is continuing to play to what he’s playing and why it’s not just him, but his enablers. I’ve used this and some people said, “I might not opt to use it, but I think it’s fairly analogous to what we’re seeing. Maybe it helps people because it shocks you to see what I’m trying to say.” Because every … I know most of the folk in here in this room think, “If we just have the right election.” I’m not saying not get rid of him, I’m not saying he ought not, go home to Mar-a-Lago or somewhere. I’m not saying that, but I want, I do want to say in this room, if you think that’s all we need to deal with. That it’s just about one person, that is a misdiagnosis of the otherization that is going on right now.
Because some people would be glad to get rid of him because they’ve already used him for what they wanted him for, the supreme court, the tax cuts. What you have to understand is … how many of you all ever had a cold, a bad cold? Raise your hand, nobody had a bad cold? I can’t hardly see [inaudible 00:23:00], I mean a bad … this man over here, he has never had a cold, you all need to learn him. He never had a cold in his life.
Everybody had a bad cold? Everybody ever had to sneeze? Everybody that’s had something come out when you sneeze? Okay, that’s what Trump is, and that’s what his enablers are. They are the septum of a sickness, and if you’re going to treat the cold or a flu, you wipe the septum, but you got to get some medicine that gets down in your vein and in your blood line. If you really got to deal with a serious, you got to find out what is it that’s poisoning the bloodline, that’s causing the symptoms in the first place.
We must have a movement, I believe that is committed, if we’re going to really deal with otherization to take on the five interlocking injustices and evils that thrive on and produce more of otherizations. The first one is, we must deal with the issue of systemic racism. To all my brothers and sisters, white, black and brown, and otherwise, if we are, if we don’t want to deal with systemic racism, we really don’t want to deal with otherizations.
Systemic racism is not just about what it does to black people, but as one of my friend Jonathan Metzl on that talks about, people who are dying from whiteness. I’m not talking about cultural racism, I’m about so sick of that conversation, where somebody says the N word or somebody talks about somebody calves being too big. That’s ugly, that’s grotesque, but that’s not the real racism. In fact, the truth of the matter is, in this culture, there’s a new book that’s come out that makes it plain.
In this culture, racism didn’t start with cultural antics and grotesque statement. Racism started with systems of injustice and then the grossness and the words followed as justification for the political racism. Real racism is not about what’s in your heart, it’s about what’s in your policies. You can sit beside me everyday and never call me the N word or never called me something negative, but work everyday on policies that have a disparate impact and othering impact on my life.
We got to deal with systemic racism, if we’re going to really deal with otherization. Systemic racism, systemic racism, systemic racism, like voter suppression. No, that’s the wrong term, racist voter suppression. When you leave this conference, don’t ever call it voter suppression anymore, call it what it is, racist voter suppression.
Voter suppression is directly targeted at black and brown folk to undermine the ability for black, brown, and white folk to build coalitions, racist voter suppression. Guess what? Long before Trump even thought of talking about birtherism, 26 states since 2008, ‘9, ’10, past racist gerrymandering, racist voter suppression. We have constantly seen our presidential elections in 2000, in the 21st century be impacted by the Electoral College, one of the last vestiges of the politics of a slave nation, that works in collusion to keep extremists in office. Racist voter suppression, redistricting, gerrymandering. There are racist voter suppression. Every state of those 13 states I mentioned has engaged in racist voter suppression.
Now here’s the irony my brothers and sister, you want to talk about a real irony of evil or real ugliness of evil. We did a study in the Poor People’s Campaign, and we looked at all the states that had passed racist voter suppression laws. Then we mapped those states based on poverty, based on women’s rights, based on LGBTQ rights, based on labor rights, based on health care, based on living wage, and guess what? Every state that has engaged in racist voter suppression laws, those laws have allowed people to get elected, who once they get elected, they pass policies that hurt mostly white people.
I go to conferences all the time and people are talking about issues and they act as though voter suppression is a just a black issue. Is targeted at black and brown people, but understand racism is ultimately against humanity. The same states that are voter suppression states, denied healthcare expansion. The same states that are voter suppression states have the highest levels of child poverty, and women in poverty. The same states that engaged in racist voter suppression, block living wages and labor rights. The same states that pass racist voter suppression law, have the weakest laws to support the LGBTQ community.
You cannot be concerned about all these other issues, and not be fundamentally concerned about America’s original sin that continues to be perpetrated through things like racist voter suppression, resegregation in high poverty schools, mass incarceration. The constant racist badgering of our immigrant brothers and sisters, where now it’s becoming okay for people to use terminology to promote racist policies against our immigrant brothers and sisters, that could very well be lifted from transcripts of Hitler. Don’t forget the constant racist attack on our first nation and native people. Who experienced the first genocide in this land. There is no way to fight otherization without dealing with systemic racism. But not only that, if we’re going to deal with systemic racism, we’ve also got to deal with the reality of systemic poverty. Somebody say systemic poverty.
Audience: Systemic poverty.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Systemic poverty, systemic poverty, right now in this country, there are 140 million poor people. Don’t you ever believe the government stat again that says, there’s only 37, 40 million people. When you look at the poor, poverty, and low wealth, there are 140 million people that are being othered as poor and low wealth. That’s 43.5% of this nation.
That’s 60% of black people, which is 26 million black people. That’s 33% of white people, but 66 million white people, which means that 40 million more white people are poor per capita than black. Even though 60% of black people are poor and low wealth in the richest nation in the world, in this nation, 400 of the wealthiest Americans own more wealth than the bottom 64%. 400 families earn an average of $97,000 an hour while they will lock you up in this country for going in the street for 15 and a union.
Now, I here some of you saying, “But Reverend Barber, we hear these facts. Why The facts?” “Because most people don’t know it, and we are accepting the otherization.” We admit … too many people don’t understand that the real crisis is not the, our border. Because really they didn’t, the people in Mexico didn’t cross the border, our borders crossed them in the 1800s, if I can tell the truth.
When Texas wanted to keep it’s slaves, and Mexico was anti-slavery before Texas. That’s why as a black man and a Tuscarora Indian, you ain’t going to never get me to be against Latino people, because I know who wanted my freedom first. You can’t run a game on me. But the real emergency is not at the border, it’s in the borders.
The poverty, the lie about scarcity, the damn lie about scarcity. There’s no scarcity when we want to give 2 and $3 trillion tax cuts to those who don’t need it. Over the years, last 30 years, Dr. King was talking about poverty and 50 years ago, and the word poverty is also almost been erased from our national dialogue. We had 26 presidential debates in 2016, Democrat and Republican, and not one of them was on systemic racism or poverty.
Not one with 43.5% of the people of this country living in poverty. Over the last three years, rents have gone up faster than income in nearly every urban area in this country. Since 2010 the affordable housing stock has declined by 60%, in 2016 listen, there was no state in America or county in this nation where somebody earning the federal minimum wage of 7.25 could afford a two bedroom apartment at market rate, no where in America.
Audience: Tell the truth.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Nowhere. In most places you’d have to work 80 to 84 hours a week, just to earn a basic two room apartment. There are 500,000, or over a half million people experiencing homelessness every night in the richest nation in the world, with empty houses everywhere. Of this population, 41% are black, 47% are white, 2.5 to 3.5 million people are sheltered, homeless. 7.4 million are estimated on the brink of homelessness, the largest number of women and young people are LGBTQ youth who represent 20 to 40% of the homeless population. Yet every time a presidential caravan comes into a city, they make sure they take the route around.
Sometimes even we do, we come to our conferences straight from the airport, straight to the hotel, and never even see, we’re never even shown a picture of what it’s really like in San Francisco or Oakland. Nothing would be more tragic than for us to turn back on facing the issue of systemic racism and poverty, but not only that, we have to address the war economy and militarism. Because every time somebody asks, “Where can we get the money to do right by the poor?” “It’s in the military and militarism.”
At the height of the Vietnam War, the military was spending $354 billion. Today we’re spending $668 billion, while anti-poverty programs only receive $190 billion, 53 cents. If Trump and his warmongers have their way, it’s going to be 62 cents of every discretionary dollar will go to war, while only 15 cents goes to anti-poverty program, and they’re trying to cut that as well. By 2023, the goal is to so otherize the poor, that only 12 cents of every discretionary dollar goes to the poor. Nothing would be more tragic than for us to turn back now in the fight for humanity and for who’s included. We must resist being silent on the issue of otherization and who’s going to be included. We have spent nearly $5.6 trillion in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, $5.6 trillion. Yet everybody, when they talk about, “How are we going to fund healthcare?” “We’re going to have to raise taxes.” “No, if we would stop funding so much death, we could fund life.”
The majority of what we’re funding now are military contractors, not even our soldiers, and military contractors earn an average of $19.2 million a year, the CEO. While the average combat soldier only earns $30,000 a year, which means that even here in many places, they would be considered living in poverty. In 2012, more military personnel died from suicide, than the battlefield.
Then there’s this fourth interlocking injustice and evil that promotes and fuels otherization, that is ecological devastation. Fossil fuel and chemical and other industries, are poisoning the air, the water. No, they’re not, they’re poisoning the air, the water and the land closest to the most marginalized people.
Let’s be real about it. Now, eventually if it gets in the air, it’s going to kill everybody. It seemed like they would know that, but right now, an estimated 9 million premature deaths occurred worldwide in 2015. Three times as many deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria coming from poisoning our environment.
Water pollution alone kills 1.8 million people a year around the world. In the U.S, 13.8 million low income houses, cannot afford water, and while we talk about Flint and should, and the governor should go to jail, under the jail for what they really did. But the reality is 4 million families get up everyday, and they can buy unleaded gas and can’t buy unleaded water.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: The 20 counties with the highest percentage of households lacking access to plumbing, are all rural counties, and 13 of those counties are majority Native American and Alaskan native population.
It is the policy of otherization, kill them, poison them. Nothing would be more tragic than for us to turn back now on fighting for full humanity and who will be included. Then not only do we have death, 37 million people, even with the Affordable Care Act, are without healthcare, do you know what that translates to? 5,600 people die for every 1 million that are denied healthcare. That’s 24 people every hour. That’s policy murder. Because all the people in the congress that are fighting people getting healthcare free, get free healthcare.
By virtue of being elected, and for the life of me, I just can’t believe that when they were born, their mama looked at them and pick them up and said, “God, I thank you for giving me a child that will keep other folk from having a healthcare. God, I just thank you, I am so glad that you let me have this child that will help other people die. It’s the most blessed thing in the world, Lord. Thank you.”
Where did folk become so sickened in their spirit? We must fight not against our fellow citizens, but against the systems and the evil that are destroying, in hopes that even some of them will be transformed. In my days, there’re days I pray for Trump, because if a man could do this much foolishness with lies and hate, how much good could he do with truth and love? I really do. I don’t want to other nobody, I believe in the possibility of everybody’s redemption. If it never happens, I have to believe it. That’s why I can’t fight you like you fight me, because I can’t become what I hate. Do you hear what I’m saying?
Then lastly, Oh yes, there’s this fifth, there’s this fifth thing that really fosters otherization, and that is the false and distorted narrative of Christian and religious nationalism. Lord have mercy. When you have these people claiming they’re speaking on behalf of God, and they say so much about what God says so little, and so little about what God says so much. Let me give you all a news flash, ain’t no such thing as Christian, right or Christian left, you’re either Christian or your ain’t it, kind of like being pregnant.
You don’t get to choose, you don’t get to choose what the ethic is. You don’t just get to say, “Well, this is the Christian, right,” if you call it Christian, you got to run by Jesus. Jesus was clear about his public policy agenda, and he ain’t no republican and he’s not a Democrat, but I heard him in the Bible.
Oh Lord, I’m ready to have a bible conversation, because Jesus said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” In Greek, that’s [foreign lalnguage 00:41:24], it means those who’ve been made poor by the economic unjust systems in this world. That’s what he said at the beginning of his life, and at the end of his life he said, “I’m going to judge every nation, America, Afghanistan, Egypt, South America. I’m going to judge every nation.”
How? “When I was a stranger, an undocumented worker, did you welcome me?” “When I was sick, did you heal me? “When I was hungry, did you feed me?” When I didn’t have any water? Did you contaminate it, or did you get me something to drink?” It’s high time that we call much of these stuff what is, modern day heresy.
Whenever you have ministers, so called ministers who will go and pray for any president, P-R-A-Y that president, while that president or senator is preying, P-R-E-Y-I-N-G on the very people that God says he cares the most about or she cares the most about, you are engaged in a lie, and theological malpractice.
These five interlocking injustices and evils, that promote and feed off of otherization, in order to address them, we believe that we had to launch the Poor People’s Campaign, a National Call for Moral Revival. Notice we didn’t say another organization, we don’t need another organization. We needed an organism, where all of us can come together and do some things together.
I know we got our silos, but every now then, there’s a time comes in the nation, we must join together in a moral fusion, and understand the interlocking injustices, and we meet that with a moral fusion, intersectional response. That’s why we’ve come together black, and white, and brown, and native, and Asian, and gay, and straight, and young, and old. People of faith like Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu people, not of faith but who believe in the moral arc of the universe. And we must stand together to say that, “America’s future depends on yet another revolution.”
Not just another election, even though that election is important and it may be a part of the revolution, but we need a movement of the people committed to reconstructing democracy and guaranteeing equal protection for every human being, rooted in deep love and deep truth.
That’s why the Poor People’s Campaign now we have 41 coordinating committees, in 41 states in District of Columbia. That’s why last year we launched, and over 5,000 people put their bodies on the line in 41 states and District of Columbia, were arrested as the launch. That’s why thousands joined and millions by video.
That’s why right now there’re 28 bus tours going on across this country with AP and the press embedded, where they’re going into where the people are. The hurt people, not people talking about the people, but letting the people talk about themselves. That’s why in June, I want some of you all to come to the Poor People’s Moral Action Congress, where we’re going to release a constitutional justice poverty budget, and also an agenda. If the other folk got CPAC telling lies, we need PPMAC to tell the truth.
That’s what it is, PPMAC P-P-M-A-C. Then after PPMAC, we’re going to go back and be a power. We’re trying to shift this narrative, and we can do it together. The statistics tell us, I was looking at them just last night from a magazine from Prospect, that more people believe in the things we believe in, than we know believe in the things we believe in. But we need a sounding in the valley, because people are depressed and we need to go into valley and cry loud with a movement. So that the dry bones can get up, and we can all join together.
Next year on June 20th, 6/20, we’re calling for a Poor People’s Mass. Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington where we want thousands of people to come. When they get there, we’re going to give the stage away to the people impacted by racism, and impacted by poverty, and impacted by ecological devastation, so that Americans can see themselves.
Trump didn’t win the election, he lost by 4.5 million votes, he got in because of a racist Electoral College. But he also lost because a 100 million folks stayed home, because they don’t ever hear anybody talking about the real issues that impact their lives. Well, it’s time for us to change that, and the politicians can’t change it, they never have. You have to have a movement that changes the political climate and gives the politicians courage to make the adjustment. Yes.
As the constitution says, we must alter this government, and we must do it until living wages and guaranteed protections from the poor are not seen as a burning issue. Or as the mayor’s issue or as any one candidate’s issue, but as a moral issue. That expanding voting rights and transitioning away from fossil fuels, and guaranteeing labor rights and affordable housing and fair policies for immigrants. And critiquing warmongering and equality and education by guaranteeing every child receives a high quality well funded, diverse public education, and healthcare for everybody. And fairness in the criminal justice system, and fighting the proliferation of guns, and blocking the unholy alliance that the NRA has on our policy, and fighting for women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights, and demanding that equal protection under the law is non negotiable. These are moral issues. As I close, this is what those who struggled before us fought and died for. It’s not new, it’s just our time, and we have more than they have when they fought. We ought to be better, so [inaudible 00:47:36] your neighbor and say crying time is over.
Audience: Crying time is over.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: It’s movement time.
Audience: It’s movement time.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: I know we’re headed into holy week soon, so I need to preach a little bit. Put that time card down, I’ll be through in just a second. I didn’t fly five hours and bend my hip up, not to finish what I had to say. Oh Lord, 2000 years ago, out on the edge of what was called the Roman Empire filled with greed and oppression, violence and narcissistic leadership. 2000 years ago, there was a leader on the throne who loved to put his name on buildings, and said that he and he alone could save the whole world, his name was Trump, I mean Caesar, Oh God.
At that time, a brown skin, Palestinian Jew named Jesus started a poor people’s movement. He called people together, he said, “Oh, everybody.” He said, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” He called together to rejected, those rejected by the political establishment, those rejected by the religious establishment, and he blessed them. Through the centuries, a lot of people have tried to make Jesus into a lot of thing. But we are here together, and I’m here because in my faith, I’ve learned that through Jesus and through the other prophets, and through the various religious faiths. That the world doesn’t change when powerful people get new ideas, the world changes when people who been rejected come together and realize that they are blessed to show their neighbors that another world is possible. Change happen when those who have been otherized decide, “We ain’t taking it no more.”
I’ve been traveling across this country for the last two years, from the Bronx to the border, from Appalachia to Aberdeen, the deep south, the California coast, and it’s become clear that people are ready to come together that have been otherized. We’ve heard from mothers whose children died because their state refused Medicaid expansion, they’re ready to come together.
We’ve met with homeless families whose encampments in Aberdeen, Washington and other places have been attacked by police and militia groups, they’re ready to come together. We visited communities where there’s raw sewage in people’s yards, and nine year old children need CPAP machines to breathe. Because of the mold on their parent’s houses, and they’re ready to come together. We’ve been welcomed into the area communities of Appalachia, and white people and indigenous families, and urban African Americans, and Latinex have formed unlikely alliance. Singing and protesting and organize together, and we are seeing something happen across this country.
There’s a whole group of people that are saying, “We coming out the closet, we tired of being on the margins. We tired of being ignored and we are no longer going to be otherized, we refuse it.” We believe that a movement is happening, and we can build it together. There’s a song that says, “Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress, a thoroughfare for freedoms beat across the wilderness, America, America, God mend thine every flaw.”
We got some flaws to mend you all. There’s some stuff wrong in America, and there’s no way to mend the flaws of this nation, and be one nation under God with liberty and justice for all, unless the rejected people are at the center. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “We’ve never seen anything like this before, this Donald Trump.” Well, you don’t remember Woodrow Wilson, you don’t remember a whole lot of other folk down through history, Nixon and even before then, who were just as racist and wrong as Trump.
How before [inaudible 00:51:19] was in the White House, Birth Of A Nation was played in the White House in 1914. We’ve seen this before, and because we’ve seen it before, we know what beats it. We know what overcomes it, is when moral fusion coalition, we come together, discovering our common humanity, we link arms together, and we refuse to be denied. One of my favorite passages of scripture is the one in Psalm 118 that says, “The stones that the builders rejected can now become the chief cornerstones.”
In other words, the scripture says, “When God wants to produce a revival, he goes to the rejected,” and I bet you in this room there are some people here who’ve known rejection. Am I right about it? I need about 25 of you all to make your way to the stage. If you’re known rejection, some of you been rejected because of your sexuality, come on and come on up here.
Some of you been rejected because of who you love, some of you been rejected because of how you were born. Some of you been … come on around the other side. Some of you been rejected because of your Palestinian ancestry, you’ve been rejected because somebody needed somebody to hate in order to try to feel good about themselves? Aren’t there some folk in this room who’ve known rejection? You’ve been rejected because of your income, you’ve been rejected because of your faith. You’ve been rejected because of your race. Where are you?
You’ve been rejected because of your lack of faith, you’ve been rejected because somebody decided in their own ugly ideology, that they had a right to demean your humanity, and you’ve been rejected. But I want you to know in San Francisco at 4:45 PM, I want you to know that tonight, the day, the stones that the builders rejected are coming together to build a new cornerstone here in America.
I want you to know that today when hands that once picked cotton, join Latino hands and join Progressive white hands, and join faith hands, and join labor hands. And join Asian hands, and join Native American hands, and join poor hands, and join wealthy hands with a conscience. And John gay hands, and join straight hands, and join trans hand, and join Christian hand, and Jewish hands, and Muslim hands and Buddhist hand. When we all get together, when the rejected join hands together, we can turn this nation around. We can turn this nation, we can alter the course of history.
Together, we will make sure that hope not hate has the last word. Together, we will ensure that all of God’s children are taken care of together-
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Together, we will make sure that nobody is invisible in this world together. Can I preach for five minutes?
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: I know the power of getting together because when Moses and the people that had been rejected got together, and his rod got together, Pharaoh came down, and the Red Sea had to open up. When Esther and her uncle Mordecai got together, the rejected, they were able to stop the plots of a mean, narcissistic leader in her day. When David was overlooked by Samuel, but when he and his slingshot got together with his faith, Goliath fell and the next day the San Francisco Chronicle read, “The bigger they come, the harder they fall.”
When Shadrach, Meshach and and that bad negro got together, way down in the fiery furnace, God blessed them and God brought them out of the fiery furnace. The truth is, when we who are rejected have come together, we’ve never lost.
We might’ve been beaten, we might’ve been broken, but justice has never lost. I didn’t say justice hadn’t not been fought, and justice hadn’t never been hurt, but it’s never lost. During slavery, it looked like justice had lost, but when Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and some white quaker, and white evangelicals got together, they formed a movement and brought about abolition.
When women didn’t have the right to vote, it was Sojourner Truth, a black woman and Elizabeth Cady Staton and Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglas. When they got together, women won the right to vote. Plessy versus Ferguson looked like it had the victory, but when Thurgood Marshall got white lawyers and black lawyers, and Jewish lawyer and an all white supreme court, one member, a former member of the KKK. But when they got together, they had to vote nine to zero. That’s separate, but equal was unconstitutional.
It looked like Jim Crow had been beaten down, and justice couldn’t rise again. But when Rosa Parks and Martin King and Bayard Rustin who was gay, and Glen Smiley and Jonathan Daniels and a white woman named Viola Luizzo and so many others got together, they tore Jim Crow down. And 26 years ago when the doctor said I would never walk together, because for 12 years I was on a walker and in a wheelchair. But when my faith got together, and my doctors got together, and my pharmacy got together, and my therapist got together, and my family got together, and the prayer warriors got together, good God, almighty. Because when we all get together, what a day, what a day, what a day, what a day, what a day of justice, it will be.
The people united, will never be defeated. The people united, will never be defeated. The people united will never be defeated. The people united, will never be defeated. The people united, will never be defeated. The people, united, will never be defeated. The people united, will never been defeated.