Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'Don't Be Left Behind Now

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'Don't Be Left Behind Now

Article excerpt

I got on a bus to help someone else's justice movement-and discovered it was my own.

On Feb. 8, tens of thousands of people gathered in the North Carolina capital city, Raleigh, for what organizers called the Moral March. It was a follow-up to last year's "Moral Monday" movement that started in April 2013 when Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, and 16 others were arrested inside the North Carolina legislature for protesting sweeping voting restrictions proposed by the Republicancontrolled state government.

I ALMOST DIDN'T go to the Moral March. I kept looking for excuses. There was all that work to be done for next week. I told my professor I'd miss Friday's preaching class. I hoped she'd chide me and I'd feel guilty enough to stay. Instead she said, "Great, go with my blessing." I told my tutor I'd miss tutorial. She said, "I'm so glad you're going to the march."

Why couldn't I go to a normal graduate school where no one lefttheir rooms? But instead I went to seminary, and to Union, of all places!

I said, God, I'm crazy to go. Mild laughter was the only response. I glared at my reflection in the dark window. The reflection raised her eyebrow and said, don't be leftbehind now.

The little voice in the window stayed with me as I put an extra pair of thick socks in my bag. Don't be leftbehind, reading books about other people's marches and other people's spiritual revelations and other people's religions. This march is historic, my reflection informed me. Go and be part of history. This is your history.

This is your time.

But a "this is someone else's march" voice also lingered as I boarded the bus. I'm from California, and we've got a whole 'nother set of complications that seem pretty distant from North Carolina.

As we traveled for hours through the relentless monotony of shopping malls into a world of cold bare trees and peeling white picket fences, I felt we were going into a state that had been leftbehind. The people I knew from the Carolinas (outside of progressive bubbles such as Chapel Hill) had been glad to leave their home state and forge their own path to freedom-somewhere else.

Was it our absence, of moving "ahead" without taking our brothers and our sisters with us, that now made it so that we needed to go "back" to North Carolina, to see what could be done about a state that had been "leftbehind" to the whims of hyper-conservative GOP leaders? The past year has seen voting rights rapidly eroded by a ridiculously wealthy minority, and health care and welfare stripped. The platforms that enable poor people to survive are under attack, and the few ladders out of poverty are being systematically broken and burned. Was I going into one of the vortices that mobility, globalization, and the idolizing of individual "freedom" have helped to create?

But once we got there, it felt more like it was we New Yorkers who were in danger of being leftbehind as the "voiceless" people of North Carolina spoke for themselves. This was no missionary journey to save the poor. It was we who were at risk of falling behind.

We walked into the middle of a prerally already underway. Bishop W. Darin Moore of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was preaching. The Spirit was upon him so strong that the others on stage were walking and dancing and almost crying behind him, in black suits and cufflinks and high heels. His sermon covered human rights and poverty, how prophets rarely get profits, the importance of reaching out to Republicans, and the wisdom of his mother. But the phrase that grabbed me around the heart like a new lover was when he asked, "God, why North Carolina?" and God said to him, "Why not North Carolina? Is there a better place for me to make my name known? A better place to show my glory? Has the ground not been perfectly prepared for me to show what I can do?"

And it was as if a wind had captured those gathered in that hall and none could stay sitting. …

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