This past week I had the pleasure of going to the San Diego area for a gathering of Kellogg Fellows. This group is made up of about 80 selected individuals from all over the country. New Orleans, the only city cohort, has 11 Fellows and 2 mentors, and we each have an individual coach. The idea is to improve the leadership skills of identified community leaders, and to provide a forum for deep discussion of social justice and what that looks like in very practical ways.
In this group of members, I am the absolute minority. I’m a WASP male born to a middle class family. My family origins are from the East Coast and Midwest. My DNA shows that I am basically and almost exclusively from Northern England and Southern Scotland. Ya can’t get whiter than me.
The rest of the cohort, nationally, looks a lot different. Male/Female is split about evenly with a few more women than men. About 10 out of 80 identify as LGBTQ. The majority are people of color, mostly brown and black, with approximately 25% who are Native American, and, I guess, about 10% Asian. So, yes, I am in the minority and it was quite different. In a good way.
The weather in San Diego never got over 70 degrees (Eat your hearts out.). Most of the time we were in conference, but the evenings were a delight. One afternoon we took a field trip to Chicano Park and heard storytellers share their experiences of that park.
The neighborhood had been a Chicano neighborhood forever. Many of the residents could well claim to have arrived several hundred years before the Anglos moved in. It immediately reminded me of the North Claiborne corridor.
It was also a working class neighborhood. So, when “Urban Renewal” hit, the city decided that this neighborhood was the right place to rezone as Industrial/Residential. They then built a bridge and elevated expressway that divided the community and destroyed the fabric of the place.
The real story is in the response of the people. It was the era of civil rights the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. El Movimiento was birthed during this time. Some of us older folks may remember names like Felix Longoria who was a U.S. Service member who was denied a burial in his hometown in Texas because he was Chicano.
Our guide was a grizzled man who started life off in the farm workers movement. The entire experience seemed so old and so forgotten–ideas like Unions, Workers Rights, and Community Organizing. Yes, even socialism.
The history of these groups, of civil disobedience, and of pushing back against formidable odds, however, seems so timely. Perhaps the game-changing riots of the 1960’s began to ring in my ears. Clearly, the display of murals in that Chicano neighborhood in San Diego harked back to a deep history for that community.
Do we have a mural of Oscar Wilde for instance? Do we have any memorial to Harvey Milk beyond a t-shirt? Like Longoria, there are so many names not remembered but they are important to their respective communities and for the larger world. What names are being forgotten that are important to our Community? How will larger communities begin to appreciate what we can claim in bricks, mortar, steel and paint?
I left that little park somehow transformed with what in our tradition we call “The Prophetic Imagination” afire.
Does this sound familiar in any way? It should because it is about human dignity, human rights, and the right to stand with dignity. We should be mindful of all this history as we approach a touchstone of this Community’s own history, Stonewall (June 28, 1969) . Yes these various movements were unintentionally parallel.
In that same year, over 500,000 people marched in “The Moratorium” in D.C. to end the Viet Nam War.
In 1963, only a few years before, was the great march on Washington convened by black leaders and highlighted by Dr. King’s most famous speech. The people were rising, shouting for justice within their own communities. Indeed Justice worked out by Law is Justice worked out for all of us.
The question then arises how vested are you, we, in the justice for others? How concerned are we with deportation policies that intentionally or unintentionally split families and remove human resources from our communities? How vested are we in undoing racism in America? Exhausting work this social justice stuff.
Even taking in the whole of it is exhausting emotionally and spiritually. Yet if we are true to what we say about our own community — that we demand respect, dignity, and acceptance under the law for who and what we are or choose to be — then we must be true to our brothers and sisters who ask for nothing less.
For the immigrant fleeing oppression, economic poverty, violence (like queers living in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Angola, Egypt and many other places) simply to have a place to live and feed one’s family in reasonable safety, we must stand in solidarity.
For workers in a “Right to Work State” that cannot get a living wage because erroneous data says that business will lose out when facts show the opposite. We must stand in solidarity for a living wage for all workers. Black Lives do matter and saying White Lives matter is like saying we want “Straight Pride.”
This Community must stand in solidarity with those who seek justice, peace, and a full place at the table. This is true with religion, politics, and social issues of empowerment and acceptance. We must rediscover our “radical roots” and stand in solidarity. From 1962 to 1972 the whole American landscape changed, yet there is still work to be done.
I say all of this with such fervor because the faith that I know and the scripture that I believe says the same thing. There once was a church that could often be found located in the back of a bar. The Pastor was a disenfranchised gay Anglican priest. The name of the church is what I am talking about–Christ the Liberator.
Christo el libertador!! Solidaridad con el pueblo!!! Solidarity with the people!!!!
Reinas del mundo se unen !!!