I believe that I just witnessed history in the making. It lasted a little over two hours.
It's May - a fellow mom friend of mine labeled this month "Mayhem" - and all parents of children in school anywhere will understand what that means. Throw a rookie book launch into the mix, and my cup is abundantly overflowing.
But when I heard the news that one of the men that I respect most in this world was stepping away from being president of the North Carolina NAACP and was taking his "Moral Monday" message to a larger audience, I knew I was going to show up for this press conference. It took place in a small church just an eighteen minute walk from my home.
As I settled into a pew to listen to the many, many people who offered words of encouragement and blessing to this man as he "gets on the path," I knew that this was a special moment. His family was there - elderly mom, wife, and at least a few of his five children - but he did not introduce them because, "some people are mean." He did honor them as well as his father who is no longer living on this earth.
When it was Reverend William Barber's turn to speak, he laid out a plan that he and many others have envisioned and feel a call to spread a "fusion movement of those who believe in the moral arc of the universe." That describes me. I want to be a part of that.
One reason that I love to show up as often as I can to hear this man speak is because he is not just a gifted orator, he is a humble man. He is a servant leader. Despite the attention he has received on the national scene, he will continue to be the senior pastor of his church in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He has deep roots in North Carolina, and he will continue to be an active member of the North Carolina NAACP.
When asked what was his greatest legacy as president of the NC NAACP, he answered that it was to be a part of a movement with so many others. He reminded us that he comes from a basin and towel tradition as he invoked the Jesus who kneeled down and washed his disciples feet. He conceives a world where more people are challenged to truly see and then tackle our systems of racism and greed. He wants to invite anyone and everyone to challenge these systems, to embrace the "center of authority of moral values" not the current designations of "left" and "right." He dreams of a huge coalition for justice and love. One can't help but remember Martin Luther King, Jr. when in the presence of this great man. Barber says that his work is "in the shadow of Martin Luther King."
Over the years, I have often wondered, "if I were an adult during the civil rights movement of the 1960's, how would I have responded?" Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated a few months shy of my 6th birthday. I don't have actual memories of this event. But I do have a memory of being in the first or second grade and seeing the very first African American in my slowly desegregating school walk onto the playground. My heart reached out to this child, but I didn't act on my compassion. In hindsight, I wish I had smiled or spoken to this girl across the playground. My six year old self did not make that choice.
But my almost 55 year old self is making a different choice. I am going to listen to Tupac who says "Keep Ya Head Up," and I will not be silent in the face of injustice. I agree with Reverend Nancy Petty who said that Reverend Barber has been called "for such a time as this." Just like Esther of the Old Testament, he has critical work to do. Reverend Barber reminded each of us sitting in a small, intimate church setting, that Jesus said that "to the one that much is given, much is required." I have been given much. How about you?
For more information on Reverend Barber, click here
For more information on Reverend Barber and his team's next steps, click here