Why We Unite with the Moral Mondays Movement
The Kairos Center and the Poverty Initiative
At Union Theological Seminary
On Saturday, February 8, 2014, the Kairos Center and the Poverty Initiative will bring over 70 leaders to the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina organized by our sisters and brothers of Historic Thousands on Jones Street who have been leading the Moral Mondays struggle. Our delegation will include leaders from the Domestic Workers United (NYC), United Workers (Baltimore, MD), Vermont Workers Center, Picture the Homeless (NYC), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Student Labor Action Movement (NYU), Alabama Fisheries Cooperative (Bayou La Batre, AL), National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), religious leaders from Union Theological Seminary, Union Forum, Middle Collegiate Church, Auburn Theological Seminary, Abyssinian Baptist Church, Auburn Theological Seminary / Groundswell, Judson Memorial Church, Riverside Church, Occupy Faith, the Micah Institute, independent media makers, labor unions including United Federation of Teachers, SEIU, National Writers Union, and many, many more.
The Kairos Center and the Poverty Initiative unite with the leaders of the Moral Mondays on understanding poverty in the United States as a moral issue.
In these times when the ranks of the poor grow in the face of abundance, and the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a few, the Poverty Initiative and the Kairos Center believe it is necessary to build a broad social movement to abolish poverty. Poverty is intrinsically linked to the range of challenges our families, communities, and nation face. For instance, the attack on voting rights happening in North Carolina is calculated to disenfranchise the poor across color lines, and is an affront to our country's claim to be a democratic nation.
The first step in building today's movement is to unite the leaders of what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr called "the poor and dispossessed of this nation." Dr. King goes on to say, "... If [the poor and dispossessed] can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life..." We see Moral Mondays as one of the most significant things happening in this country right now that contains the seeds to build the movement to abolish poverty.
The Kairos Center and Poverty initiative unite with Moral Mondays in its declaration that the concern for justice – what God requires – is a public matter. As Rev. William Barber, NAACP North Carolina chair and Moral Mondays leader, puts it, “It is not about right or left; it’s about right or wrong.” It is said that Rev. Barber cannot be found without his Bible and a copy of the US Constitution. Across the nation and world we are seeing outbreaks as communities and congregations respond to healthcare crises, low wages and unfair labor conditions. All of these social ills of poverty plaguing the families and communities of our divided nation have found expression in North Carolina, and its people are responding across lines of difference.
The Moral Mondays movement has proven itself to be rooted in faith and a belief in human rights and democracy that is genuinely connected to the people of this country in our sacred tradition of struggle for justice - from the American Revolution to the Abolitionist Movement to the Civil Rights Movement.
What is the Moral Mondays Movement?
The "Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly
" is the force behind Moral Mondays. Jones Street is a reference to the state capital in Raleigh, NC. To date, more than 900 people have committed acts of civil disobedience at the state capital. "Members from the more than 125 North Carolina State Conference NAACP branches, youth councils, high school and college chapters from the four corners of the state and members and friends of over 150 other social justice organizations make up the HKonJ People's Assembly." From the original 17 arrested at the state capital on April 29, 2013 the Moral Mondays arrests have surpassed 900 to date. These unsung saints are “North Carolinians who choose nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of an avalanche of extremist policies that threaten healthcare, education, voting rights, especially the poor, African-Americans, Latinos, women, seniors and students.”
What is Moral Mondays fighting for? Though they say they started as a resistance movement (“a struggle against”) they have evolved into a movement with an alternative vision and a program ("a movement for"). They have identified five principles that are “bigger than Democrat or Republican but good for the whole”: 1. Economic sustainability and ending poverty; 2. Education equality; 3. Healthcare for all; 4. Fairness in the criminal justice system; and 5. Voting Rights.
In conclusion, we unite with the Moral Mondays movement because we see the necessity to build a movement in this country - not just in North Carolina. It is not enough to be an "ally" to our sisters and brothers of Moral Mondays. We must see that their problems are our problems and our problems are their problems. It is not possible for any of us, wherever we may be, to prevail over the injustices we face if we remain alone and isolated. What we're up against is much too big and all-encompassing. We must see, as Dr. King once said, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" - and an injury to one is an injury to all.
Our sisters and brothers in North Carolina, in their struggle, have emerged as leaders for us all. We are reminded of the role that the Montgomery bus boycott played in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. It galvanized a movement but there would have been no movement to speak of had it remained in Montgomery. If we know our history, we know it is not enough for us to mobilize to a one-day rally in Raleigh. We must grasp the times in which live, and in so doing, we must see that a social movement is not only necessary... it is possible. Now is the time!
“Our preaching and teaching must address the injustices of poverty, domination, inequality, and denial of health care that still impacts our social reality.” – Rev. Dr. William Barber, II
The dispossessed of this nation—the poor, both white and Negro—live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize . . . against the injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty. There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life..."
- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trumpet of Conscience (1967)
Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly