Because of Our Stories
We asked members of our
staff to share what moves them to do justice work. This month Vivan Lucas,
Director of the Franklinton Center at Bricks, reflects on the stories, and the
lives behind the stories, that inspire her to do justice advocacy.
Because of Our Stories
The middle-aged gentleman’s voice
breaks as he tearfully yet powerfully tells the audience about the termination
of his continuation health insurance coverage from the employer who laid him
off work. Despite the fact that he urgently
needs medical treatment for progressively worsening congestive heart failure, he
has no job; he has no health insurance; and he has no medicine. His heart is broken.
The single mother of three daughters is
desperate for answers. With the little
more than $600 in unemployment benefits she receives each month, she cannot pay
for food, clothes, rent, and healthcare, much less the exorbitant utilities
bill she receives each month. She
worries if the lights will still be on when she gets home from job-searching,
if her daughters will go to bed hungry, and what she’ll do if someone gets
sick. She is depressed.
He is a pastor, husband, and father of
two. He serves his church on weekends although he also used to work a full-time
secular job during the weekday. It is
his sixth month being laid off; his wife’s job ended a year ago. He has not
been able to make mortgage payments and the housing assistance programs cannot
help because of his history of late payments. Foreclosure is inevitable. His family qualifies
for $6 in food assistance. He is anguished;
he is anxious; he is angry.
These are just a few of the stories I heard
recently during a stopover of the Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina. The tour seeks
to put a human face on the statistical evidence that the social condition of
poverty has been worsened by the national and world-wide recession. These individuals and families live in
communities with legacies of inequality, persistent poverty, and historic
injustice. I grew up in one of these communities. I have seen such faces all my life. These are the faces and stories that
constrain me to carry out the work of justice.
I am a descendant of sharecroppers, farmers,
teachers and pastors in the rural south. I was born and fashioned during a time
when Jim Crow laws were a way of life. I was indelibly scarred by a society
built upon beliefs, policies, laws, customs, practices, and institutions of
racism, political and social injustice, and economic inequality. My parents taught my sisters and me to love
God, get a good education, work twice as hard as members of the majority race
worked, and live in a manner to help others live a better life. My
sharecropping grandparents sent my mother and all her 8 siblings to college despite
being threatened to be “put off the plantation.” They had been inspired by
lessons on courage, faith and freedom passed on to them in a church started in
the 1880s by their family and loved ones.
In spite of being poor, my paternal great-grandfather was the first
African American certified to teach in Nash County, North Carolina. His brothers built churches in 1916 and 1921
that provided spiritual, social, and academic nurture in a society that did not
recognize the human rights of people whose blood derived from survivors of the Middle Passage of American slave trade.
Like those before me, family and faith compel me to work for justice for
The told and untold stories of the
named and unnamed who suffer today, constrain me to work with others so that
everyone can have access to good education, affordable healthcare, jobs that
pay living wages, healthy food, etc. In remembering why I work for justice, I
recognize that it is because of a wonderful and shared legacy. It is not a heritage of pride; rather it is the
recognition of the deep appreciation for all workers for justice. And most
importantly, it is founded by faith in the Great Liberator, Jesus Christ, who
heals broken hearts, lifts bowed spirits, and comforts anguished souls.