The Power of Moving Together

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber addresses clergy, activists, advocates, and people impacted by extremism, during the Sept. 12 "Higher Ground Moral Day of Action" march at the Capitol building in Raleigh, NC. 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber addresses clergy, activists, advocates, and people impacted by extremism, during the Sept. 12 "Higher Ground Moral Day of Action" march at the Capitol building in Raleigh, NC. 

By The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

On Monday Sept. 12, thousands of clergy took one step forward together toward what Dr. King called a “moral revolution of values.” In 30 state capitols and the District of Columbia, rabbis, imams, priests and preachers stood with people impacted by unjust policies to publicly declare that some issues are not left versus right, but right versus wrong.

We delivered the Higher Ground Moral Declaration to sitting governors and asked all candidates running for public office: do you believe that education, health care, voting rights, criminal justice reform, equal protection under the law, immigration and war are moral issues? If not, please explain why.

I was in my home state of North Carolina, where Governor Pat McCrory’s voter suppression bill was recently overturned by a federal court for targeting African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.” McCrory did not meet with us, but hundreds of people of faith made clear that individual preachers who bless extremism and stir up hate do not represent us or our God. After sharing the story of North Carolina’s moral witness across the country, it was good to be with my Moral Monday family in Raleigh.

But by the time the evening news reports were coming in from around the country, I was crying. I couldn’t stop the tears even to read the stories, because I knew something powerful had happened.

Historians told us before Monday that this had never happened before—a coordinated witness at the same time in state capitols across the country. From an organizing standpoint, our whole team knew we were involved in something historic.

But what moved me wasn’t just that sisters and brothers across this land were making history. What moved me was the pictures of people I’ve sat with in churches and synagogues across America over the past year. I looked at their faces and I saw a confidence and assurance that I haven’t seen in my lifetime. It reminded me of pictures from Birmingham in 63 and Selma in 65.

On Monday of this week, state-based coalitions across this nation stepped into the truth that they have the power to move together.

It’s one thing to go to church and sing, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.” But it’s something else to meet security officers and politicians who are not ready to welcome you and say with both respect and determination, “We know why we’re here. We’re not turning back. We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us ‘round.”

As we go into revival in Houston tonight, I’m reminded that this is what revival is always about. Yes, we want to touch hearts and have people come forward at the altar call. We’re inviting people into a movement. But the measure of a movement—the true measure of any revival—is whether people walk out determined and able to walk forward together in a new way of life.

This Monday’s Moral Day of Action is a sign for our time. Amidst all the turmoil of the 2016 election season, a moral movement is emerging that looks like the America we’ve not yet become. It is a leaderful movement, and the faces of those clergy who stood outside statehouses across the nation say it all:

We know that we can move together. And we ain't gonna let nobody turn us around!