- February 13, 2014
The following post, part of HRC's Black History Month blog series, comes from Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, HRC's Director of Faith Partnerships and Mobilization:
Commencing the second week of Black history month, Saturday, the 8th day of February, I witnessed a sight that was emblazoned on my memory - nearly 100 thousand people of nearly every ethnicity in Raleigh North Carolina, standing in solidarity in the movement known as Moral Mondays. Those that gathered represented the breadth of justice issues affecting the most marginalized in the South and in the nation. They called for economic justice, access to health care, LGBT equality, women’s rights, and rights of organized labor, prison reform, the end to domestic violence, poverty, and a safe environment for all of us.
Carter G. Woodson and Bayard Rustin would be profoundly proud were they to see this march, the largest march in the South since Civil Rights leaders led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King marched for voter’s rights in Selma Alabama in 1964. The leader of this movement who also leads the NC NAACP, Rev. Dr. William Barber, refers to the moment we are in as the Third Reconstruction. The first Reconstruction took place after the Civil War when fusion politics--a governing coalition including Lincoln Republicans, freedmen and former slaves, and populists — ensured that former slaves would become business, community, and political leaders. Fusion politics suffered a violent and massive backlash under Jim Crow laws that led to the second Reconstruction period we think of as the Civil Rights Movement. The progress made from this movement suffered severe backlash culminating in the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and John and Robert Kennedy and most recently the decision of the Supreme Court to roll back the voting rights act.
Rev. Dr. Barber identifies the possibility of a third reconstruction, one that could actually succeed, with the launch of Barack Obama's campaign for president in 2008. Once again, this attempt at fusion politics that brings together a diverse group of justice advocates willing to lock arms across each other’s issues--has been met with a hateful backlash and attempts to pit one group against another. But the success of the march shores up the power of the Spirit and the limitation of such strategies.
To the extent that black history is about reflection on the achievements of people of African Descent, I firmly believe that we can see in the powerful movements of people in the past the expectant hopes of the future. The Moral March was the kind of event that brought the future alive through our commitment to the dreams of African American leaders in the past. It is clear to me we are at a cross roads, not just in terms of black history, but in American history. We must ask ourselves if the sacrifices of our elders and ancestors merit our present day action as we face voter disenfranchisement and suppression laws, particularly in Southern states. As organizations, is it ever “mission drift” to name an injustice; and thoughtfully consider how we might lend our voice to right a wrong? Could it be that our inactivity has created a climate of lethargy, standing as spectators instead of agents of change?
We cannot do everything but as Bishop Yvette Flunder routinely reminds me, “We all don’t need to have the same mind to mind the same thing” and as Rev. Dr. William Barber reminds us, as people of conscience we need to seek higher ground and work for the good for all people and particularly those most marginalized.
The Moral March in my estimation represents the future of Black history and American history. This march is a cry to break the silos that divide us so that we can get to the roots of human suffering. Fifty years after signage for the Voters Rights Act, voting rights remain a question – not an inalienable right.
This Black history month reminds us that you can be terminated from your place of employment and rejected for housing in 29 states, simply because of your gender identity or sexual orientation. These two injustices are inextricably linked by policies that target the most marginalized. Our job as justice warriors is to clarify their connection. I am moved as a member of the LGBT community to take action and join my voice with those who dare stand for justice. When our young people of color--lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people--can be slaughtered in our streets with impunity, I see it as my personal call to responsibility to take action as an African American and Mexican American gay man to align with those who are taking a stance against gun violence. When a woman’s right to make her own health choices is limited, I choose to stand beside her as her ally. When the lives of more than 12 Million undocumented citizens hang in the balance to be used as a political football... I see my role as a member of the LGBT community to stand up and work in alliances with others committed to finding a way forward with justice for all. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic rages among young gay men of color, I see it as my responsibly to stand up, take action and work in collaboration with others not only because I have been abundantly blessed to live with HIV asymptomatically for 27 years; but because my blessings and struggles are directly tied with the blessings and struggles of others who have felt the sting of marginalization and disempowerment.
As an ordained member of the clergy who is gay, I refuse to sit in a place of worship, where the hegemony of paternalism, heterosexism, misogyny, sexism, transphobia and homophobia are part of the doctrine or ecclesial culture. I know for certain we are all make in the likeness and image of God. Black history month emboldens me to live an authentic life and join with all those who work for justice.
Back History is calling us to create a new history. Our forbearers endured merciless cruelty so that we might live in this moment. As a father of four sons, a daughter, and a grandson, I don’t have that luxury to forget about a “future hope” and the continued sacrifices and work that must be done. Black history - Yes. Black history to be made - absolutely!