Saturday, August 28, 2010 found me marching through the streets and neighborhoods of Washington, DC in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic 1963 march on Washington and speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
Having been on staff with the UCC Washington office for 20 years, I can safely say I have been to a lot of marches, on all kinds of issues. Some would argue, what is the point of marches anymore? And to some degree, I understand that sentiment – I don’t think marches alone bring about change. But then again, I don’t think any one thing we do does bring about change.
What is important to me about marches and rallies and interfaith services and public witnesses is the act of actually putting my body somewhere specifically because something matters to me. There is something about physically locating myself in a particular time and place with a particular community of people that connects me to the work of justice in a deeper way – taking me to a place beyond words, as I put one foot in front of the other. Or for some, one turn of the wheel after another.
These are perplexing and troubling times for our nation and our world. It seems like I am always saying that, or at least thinking that. But as I marched along on August 28th, my eyes caught the women marching directly in front of me for a moment. A group of 3 older African American women, with graying hair and knowing eyes, walking steadily along, carrying their folding portable chairs.
Yes, I thought, they know we are in it for the long haul, and you better bring a chair if you plan to stay because it is going to go on for a while.
It brought to mind one of my favorite sayings about the work of justice, one that keeps me going when my spirit is weary: “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet you are not free to desist from it.” [Rabbi Tarfon] And so it is, as we follow the arc of the universe that bends toward justice.