Quakers and the Poor People’s Campaign

Last night Rev. William Barber spoke to Quakers gathered for this year’s meetings of the Friends General Conference at the University of Toledo. He mentioned attending Quaker meetings as a child. He spoke about two Quaker abolitionists who are heroes/sheroes to him, Lucretia Mott and Levi Coffin.


He said the Poor People’s Campaign of the 1960’s didn’t die, it was killed when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Fifty years later the Poor People’s Campaign begins again.

Beginning in April, 2013, Rev Barber began the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. This movement is based upon building coalitions of many groups to work together on social justice issues. This is referred to as a “fusion” movement, where people and organizations put aside their differences, and work together on the issues they agree about. Secondly, the Moral Mondays movement is based upon peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience as the necessary means of being a moral, public voice, since laws are often used to silence dissent.

The Moral Mondays movement gradually spread to other states. Erin Polley (AFSC) in Indianapolis was one of the key leaders in Indiana. A number of North Meadow Friends, the Kheprw Institute (KI) community, our Keystone Pledge of Resistance group in Indianapolis were among those who organized and built Indiana Moral Mondays. Rev. Barber joined us for the launch of Indiana Moral Mondays in June, 2015. Slowly a network of similar groups working together on social justice issues was being built around the country.

The next steps were to provide MPOLIS (Moral Political Organizing Leadership Institute Summit) events around the country. These events occurred in about 20 cities in the United States, as part of a new organization named Repairers of the Breach.  Building on the work of Moral Mondays, this is the beginning of a movement to return moral values to our broken political and economic systems.  Rev. Barber explained this eloquently to the nation with  his wonderful speech at the Democratic National Convention. I was able to attend the Institute in Indianapolis in August, 2016.

The purpose of these MPOLIS sessions was to provide local faith leaders with the tools to examine social conditions from a faith perspective and for movement building.   One of the tools explored was the use of theomusicology.  A friend, Yin Min Kyi posted a short video of one song we sang:   We won’t be silent anymore

“Today we stand as truth-tellers witnessing to the pain and suffering caused by the injustices within our community and across this country.  We gather to declare that we need a moral revival, a radical revolution of values.”   https://kairoscenter.org/revival-time-moral-revolution-values/

Higher Ground Moral Declaration

We declare that the deepest public concerns of our nation and faith traditions are how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, children, workers, immigrants and the sick; equality and representation under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.

Together, we lift up and defend the most sacred moral principles of our faith and constitutional values, which are: the economic liberation of all people; ensuring every child receives access to quality education; healthcare access for all; criminal justice reform; and ensuring historically marginalized communities have equal protection under the law.

Our moral traditions have a firm foundation upon which to stand against the divide-and-conquer strategies of extremists. We believe in a moral agenda that stands against systemic racism, classism, poverty, xenophobia, and any attempt to promote hate towards any members of the human family.

We claim a higher ground in partisan debate by returning public discourse to our deepest moral and constitutional values.

The Revival

The idea of revivals is far removed from my Quaker experience, but I attended one October 3, 2016.  I rode my bicycle about 6 miles to a large church on the north side of Indianapolis that eventually completely filled with people–a rough estimate would be 700 or so.  This is related to the Moral Political Organizing Leadership Institute Summit I attended in August, where Rev William Barber taught us about the national campaign for the Revival: A Time for a Revolution in Moral Values.   These events are live streamed and also recorded.  You can see last night’s event here. The initial call to action is to get out the vote for the November elections.

The litany from the revival:

Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.  The truth must be told.”
Today we stand as truth-tellers witnessing to the pain and suffering caused by the injustices within our community and across the country.  We gather to declare that we need a moral revival, a radical revolution of values.  And we call on the prophets of old from the sacred texts of the world’s religions who proclaimed:
Congregation:  “This is what the Lord says:   Do what is just and right.  Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.  Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah 22:3
As with these sacred texts, we, too proclaim revival across this land as we sound the alarm and join hand in hand.
Leader:  We join voice with voice until all are heard and arm in arm until all are seen.
All:  Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Hallelujah, Amen.
Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Revive us again!

Rev. William Barber’s article The Third Reconstruction, was published in the Friends Journal, September 1, 2016. “Quakers, it’s time to get back into the public square. If you believe that there’s life above the snake line, it’s time to get back in the public square.”

More from the article:  “That’s what Quakers were doing when they stood against slavery. They said slavery was below the snake line. Hate is below the snake line. Racism is below the snake line. Homophobia and xenophobia are below the snake line. Greed is below the snake line. Injustice is below the snake line. It’s time for us to raise the moral standard above the snake line.”

For this moral revolution to succeed it will take masses of people going to the streets to let the world know that our society needs to move above the snake line. I’ve since written a series of articles about how we get back into the public square.

All this organizing and training has led to the launch of the new Poor People’s Campaign fifty years after the one in the late 1960’s.

“This coming Mother’s Day, the Poor People’s Campaign will launch 40 days of coordinated protests, including civil disobedience, in 30 states. On June 23, they will organize a mobilization in the nation’s capital, just as the 1968 campaign did only a couple months after the assassination of Dr. King.”

And the list of demands can be found here:   https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/demands/

The efforts now will focus on massive voter registration and turnout.

How do you respond when Rev Barber says, “Quakers, it’s time to get back into the public square”?


This entry was posted in Arts, Black Lives, civil disobedience, climate change, Indiana Moral Mondays, Keystone Pledge of Resistance, Kheprw Institute, Poor Peoples Campaign, Quaker Meetings, race, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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