EDITORS NOTE: In Ferguson, MO, faith leaders led a Moral Monday civil disobedience action today. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, chief architect of the Moral Movement in North Carolina, sent the following letter of support, encouragement, and lessons from the struggle.
My brothers and sisters,
I bring you greetings and offer solidarity from the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina. I so wanted to be there with you as you take this bold step toward addressing injustice, racial profiling, and systemic inequality. We are in Ohio, helping to train the organizers of this state’s Moral Movement, gearing up for the Long March to Justice here.
I know that you know this, but you are right to protest and to build a movement and not a moment. You must ensure that, as Jeremiah said, the cry of Rachel mourning over her children is heard throughout America. You must, like Jesus in the gospel of Luke, refuse to accept the untimely deaths and killing of our children. Just as Jesus shook the casket, you must shake the conscience of this nation.
We must declare that if death by police and mass incarceration and economic exploitation are the continuing forms of crucifixion, the crucifixion demands a witness against it. Someone must expose it for what it is and lift up a vision of a better way. We must bear witness to the resurrection.
You have said that your actions today are modeled after the Moral Monday events in North Carolina. Let me lift up just a few key elements that we have learned.
1. First, to make this a real movement, it must be led by indigenous leadership. Others can come in and offer support, but the leadership right there in Ferguson and St. Louis must give the guidance and framing and must lead.
2. Ensure that your agenda of protest is undergirded by an agenda of promise: a clear agenda and demands that do not just curse the darkness but show a way forward.
3. Clergy and religious leaders must be willing to sacrifice and frame the cry of the people for justice as a moral issue.
4. Youth in Ferguson, youth on the ground MUST be at the forefront of taking on this Goliath. A young David took on his Goliath. 50 years ago, youth took on America during Freedom Summer. When the moral voice and power of clergy and the energy and imagination of youth are joined with the tears and authenticity of mothers and fathers, united with a diverse coalition of justice loving people, it is a force that is unstoppable. That is why you must remember, forward together, it is your duty to fight and it is your duty to win.
5. Though Michael Brown was African American, your coalition must be diverse. White men and Black men and Latino men must speak out! Black women and White women and Latino women must speak out!
6. Finally, with a deep commitment to the principles of Dr. King, nonviolent civil disobedience is fully in order when it is deeply rooted in a moral commitment to challenge and stop “oppressive laws that rob the poor of their rights.”
As you begin this moral campaign, remember what Paul said, “We are not of those who shrink back unto destruction but we are those who persevere unto the salvation of the soul. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Yours in the struggle and fight for justice,
Rev. Dr. William J Barber, II
Architect of the Moral Monday Movement and President of the NC NAACP