This morning I attended the 2009 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast. We heard words and prayers from the Governor, a Muslim Minister, a Rabbi. We heard an introduction for the speaker by Thad Woodard, the President of the North Carolina Bankers Association. Mr. Woodard sponsored Durham Nativity School boys last year when Gen. Colin Powell spoke at the airport. Mr. Woodard also helps our rising 6th graders attend Camp Challenge in the summer before they begin studying at Durham Nativity School. Mr. Woodard told a story of segregation and health-care injustice when a black man, run over by a lawn mower and almost bleeding out from a leg injury was denied treatment at Rex Hospital in the early 1950s.
As the keynote speaker prepared to take the mic, my heart and mind were turned in the direction of economic justice. By Thursday, the 44th President will be long past the hurrah's of tomorrow's celebrations and will be knee deep in economic crisis, meeting with advisors to discuss plans and strategies. Will his new political role mean that the nations strategies cater only to the rich and the middle class, those who vote, and hold real political clout? I pray as each of you do that this President will be different than politics as usual--and I mean that both as a judgment on Democrats and Republicans of the past. Or will phrases like "Yes We Can," become living breathing embodied actions and the poor, the real poor, those who have no home and no job and no food, they will somehow have a voice. Who will speak for them? Will any of our strategies for returning to economic dominance include economic justice for those who go without food as my lunch digests? The appreciation on my home may be in the tank, but I am not going hungry.
Dr. Gregory Moss took the floor and I was ready to hear a sermon. His remarks were unsatisfying if one was really listening. They were unsatisfying not because they were poorly prepared or poorly delivered, in fact, I knew from my friend Dr. Steve Shoemaker who presided at my ordination last year that Dr. Moss was among the great ones. Instead, the pastor's remarks were unsatisfying because of the squirminess they invoked if the 1000 plus people gathered were really listening. He claimed that Violence and Poverty are in a direct relationship to one another. Reverend Moss claimed that to deny economic justice is to inflict violence. Now that is unsatisfying, because it means that I, a committed pacifist, am woven into the fabric of societal violence that denies economic justice to every brother and sister in my midst. I know this, ironically, because even now I am afforded the time and technology to type these words. I'm affluent and I must tell that truth and then turn and become a witness to sharing my resources with others.
I'll start today, by returning to the very tenants of Non-Violence laid out by Martin King.
THE SEVEN STEPS OF NON-VIOLENT ACTION
1.Remain Calm and Gather Information:
In order to understand and articulate the issue or problem facing you, you must first research, investigate and gather vital information that will increase your understanding of the problem. Know all sides of the issue, including the other person's position.
It is essential to inform others about your issues. This minimizes misunderstandings, solidifies your resolve and gains you support and assistance.
3. Personal Commitment:
Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, in necessary, in your quest to solve the problem.
Using grace, humor, intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for resolving these wrongs.
Nonviolent communication does not seek to humiliate, but to call forth the good in an opponent. Control emotional outbursts--they only compromise your strength and position.
5. Direct Action:
Used to morally force the opponent to work with you in resolving the injustices. Direct action imposes a "creative tension" into the conflict. Most people will change their behavior once they know that you are aware and determined to make things right.
Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent, but to seek his/her understanding. It is directed against evil systems, policies and acts, not against persons.
7. Final Preparation:
Prepare yourself to live each day using techniques of nonviolence. If ill will or physical harm confronts you, protect yourself, vacate the premises, but refrain from initiating harsh or threatening language or violent reactions. Promptly report unprovoked attacks to your parents, teachers and law enforcement authorities.
If you live in the Triangle, get to know the source of this annual celebration for Dr. King, http://www.king-raleigh.org/welcome.cfm If you think this is just a weekend for people of color, come out next year, and see if you still think so.