By Jane Stoever
“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around,” intoned the Gospel singer Sept. 19, 2016 at a black/brown/white revival for racial justice.
“Ain’t gonna let racist politics turn me around,” she belted out, leading about 400 of us in song at St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Mo.
“Ain’t gonna let no hatred turn me around,” we sang.
Opening the jam-packed revival with about five songs, the Gospel singer insisted, “Our ancestors wrote these songs because they knew we were coming.”
“Just a quiet little sister”
Preachers called for the “beloved community” that Martin Luther King envisioned. Sister Simone Campbell, of Nuns on the Bus, said, “I’m just a quiet little sister, not much used to revival-ing. But I said yes to the revival because I’ve seen communities torn apart without words to bring them back together. We need the revival with the fabulous music and the quiet words to speak to each other.”
She noted, “Your (Missouri) legislature approved (photo) IDs for voting but did not approve getting a permit to get a gun. That’s nuts!” The audience applauded. “Last year, in Kansas City,” she added, “I met Stephanie, a 16-year- old who takes care of her four sisters and brothers because their parents have been deported. Who are we as a nation that we are making our families struggle?”
Fast-food workers—no health insurance, no vacation time, no sick leave
Soon, a speaker asked each person of color to get up and move next to a white person and share reflections about injustice. Later, Terrence Wise shared his story with the whole audience: “I’m a 37-year-old, a second-generation fast-food worker, the father of a family, and I work at McDonald’s. Fast food is a $200 billion industry, and McDonald’s makes $56 million a year profit. For us, there’s no sick leave or vacation time, no health insurance. I haven’t been to see a doctor or dentist in 18 years.”
Since 2013, Terence has been part of Stand Up KC, working for $15 an hour, a living wage. After he went on strike for a day, he was so concerned that he may not be allowed back on the job that a minister accompanied him, and he kept his job.
Keynote speaker Rev. William Barber commented concerning the movement for justice, “Sister Simone told me the real movement has to come out of lament. The nation’s heart needs to be broken.”
Suffering of the gay community
Rev. Kendyl Gibbons, of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, spoke of the suffering of the gay community. “I have sat with teens in my office who are sick because their personalities don’t ‘match up’ with what they ‘should’ be. I have sat with people who are couples but couldn’t marry or the courts would take away their children.”
Rev. Barber, leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina that is pushing for fair wages, health care, and racial justice, said, “In Jesus’ first sermon, he comes to the hood because people in the hood had begun to believe the hoodlums in government—the myths of domination. He gives an ‘intersectorial agenda,’—good news to the poor, deliverance to the captive, sight to the blind.”
Shifting to Isaiah 10, Barber preached, “Woe to those who legislate evil!—who issue unjust laws and deprive the poor of their rights. Woe to those who cut money from children so they can get a tax cut for the wealthy.” Twenty-four states are taking 8 million people off health care, Barber said. “This is what government-sponsored murder looks like.”
He added, “They write immigration laws in such a way that your own grandmother couldn’t get into the country.”
Calling for action for racial justice, Barber noted, “First the people will be mad. Then you’ll open their eyes and their moral consciences,” and change will bubble up.
—Jane Stoever is a former PeaceWorks board member.
Top image: Rev. William Barber: “Open their eyes and their moral consciences.” Photo by Lu Mountenay.