“We can make a difference” + “This is what solidarity looks like”
More than 50 sisters, associates and colleagues in ministry joined the Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Below are reflections from two sisters who participated.
We can make a difference
By Sister Carren Herring
“We won’t be silent anymore!” chanted an estimated 100,000 people gathered in the shadow of Capitol Hill on June 18 calling for a moral revival on behalf of the 140 million poor and low-income people in our country. I was proud to be a Sister of Mercy among people of all faiths or no faith telling our legislators that we the people stand together against systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, the war economy, and religious nationalism. Now is the time to give all people access to adequate food, shelter and health care.
“Lift from the bottom and everybody rises!”
“39 million workers earned less than $15/hour in 2021.”
“End Dark Money.”
“$$$ for the poor not for war!”
Mothers told stories of how they had to choose between medicine or food, of children dying by suicide because mental health care visits reached a limit, of children neglected because parents were working two or three jobs.
It was tempting to feel that nothing has changed in all our years of justice work. Racism is still a scourge; military spending continues to rise; homophobia, sexism and every other “ism” are still marginalizing people. The $7.95 federal minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2009.
Spending 30 hours waiting for and riding on a bus and just six hours at the rally was daunting, but it was important for me to show up. This is our time. We must stand up and be heard. Had I not participated, I wouldn’t have met Ohio’s rally organizer, a Muslim woman whose young son was killed for $40 and his cell phone or heard her story of standing up in court to forgive the 14-year-old child convicted of his murder. I wouldn’t have heard the joys and sorrows of our bus captain, Zeva, a young transgender woman. I wouldn’t have been inspired by the people who endured bus cancellations, breakdowns and delays yet kept a peaceful spirit.
When I got home very early Sunday, I watched the birds at my backyard feeder. I realized I may not be feeding all the birds or achieving justice for all people, but I am helping some, and that makes a difference.
This is what solidarity looks like
By Sister Diane Guerin
“The arc of the moral universe is long. But it bends toward justice.”The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thousands of Black, White, Asian, Latinx, single people, families, old, young, and middle-aged, many religious denominations, as well as communities of women religious and countless others boarded buses headed to Washington, D.C., to join thousands of others on June 18 at Freedom Plaza in sight of the U.S. Capitol. Others, who were unable to travel to Washington, were streaming the march via their computers. The Poor People’s Campaign was beginning and the hopes and dreams of millions were tangible as the enthusiastic crowd began their march. This is what solidarity looks like!
The Poor People’s Campaign, reminiscent of a similar event in 1968, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was challenging many of the same issues addressed, more than 50 years ago, at the initial rally: poverty, health care, housing, education, voting rights, racism—essentially, issues disproportionally affecting those made poor by unjust structures and systems. Added to these concerns today we include gun violence, devastation of Earth, challenges endured by Indigenous, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
The Rev. William J. Barber, one of the campaign organizers, eloquently articulated these issues and concerns and challenged those gathered to become part of a movement for change. He emphasized that this was not a one-day gathering but an ongoing commitment to be willing to sacrifice for change. Key to this effort are inclusion and interconnection. A glance at the crowd confirmed this.
Some among the participants who joined us virtually were folks who for many years “showed up” and joined in such actions. Others are no longer with us but were models who ignited our own consciences and sparked our own thirst for justice. Some who are no longer able to march alongside those who were in Washington remain committed and stand in solidarity. These “wisdom figures” are still very much engaged and have much to teach us about staying in the struggle.
Solidarity means making meaningful connections between struggles and thinking and working intersectionally to unravel the intertwined oppressions that can’t be compartmentalized in our understanding or in our solutions. Solidarity is not a destination. It must be a commitment in the means and process through just and equitable human relationships and ways of being that will reflect themselves in the transformed world we are building.
(Social Justice Solidarity Circles, https:\\emerson.edu -social justice)
Consider, for a moment, the many ways you have been in solidarity with others seeking social justice. It may have been in a march or demonstration, but there are so many other ways to connect and stand with others. Have you ever sent a letter to a legislator, called the office of an elected official or met with a legislative aide about an issue of justice? That is solidarity. Written a letter to the editor or penned an editorial to a local newspaper? That is solidarity. Registered voters, participated in a phone bank to get folks out to vote or driven people to the polls? That is solidarity. Prepared lunch for those demonstrating, packed snacks for those traveling to a march, engaged family or friends in a conversation related to an issue of justice? That is solidarity.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A Moral March on Washington and to the Polls, reminds us that this struggle is a moral issue. Integral to this movement are integrity, dignity, respect. United in our struggles, the movement brings people across boundaries of race, religion, ethnicity—and all differences—to unite and influence to mobilize and act to change policy that continues to separate and divide.
Rev. Barber said that this was not an “insurrection” but a “resurrection.” Are you willing to stand with the women at Jesus’ tomb and witness and announce resurrection by your prayers as well as your committed actions? It is a question we should all ask ourselves as men and women of faith.