Approaching the 50th anniversary remembrance of the March on Washington, in this post-Trayvon Martin period of history, what have we learned? Has there been any progress toward a civilized, equitable society?
Do those who were unborn at that time, or too young to remember, grasp the gravity of the systemic institutional racism that still exists today? Are we deluded into thinking that big houses, fine cars and luxury vacations have closed the inequality gap? Are we satisfied sitting at the decision-making table, failing to realize that the agenda and final decision has been made prior to the meeting?
How is it that in the greatest country in the world people are homeless and hungry? How is it that the 1% continues to amass huge fortunes while hardworking American families are expected to survive on minimum wage jobs, providing approximately $14,000 annually for food, clothing, shelter and health care? How is it that in the greatest country in the world our students lag globally in math and science?
A permanent underclass is the order of the day. The cast of characters has changed since the 1960’s, but the scenario has not.
As we watch the archived news files of the civil rights movement and see peaceful marches, fire hoses and dogs used against demonstrators, soldiers escorting students into schools, and Emmett Till’s body in a casket, how far removed are we?
Poverty is the nation’s greatest unaddressed problem. Yet we fail to talk about it as a prelude to making sweeping changes, improving the quality of life for millions of Americans. Some would deny health care, a basic human need. We subsidize farmers while cutting food stamps for the poor. Our veterans return from putting their lives on the line for us, only to be fighting a battle on the homeland for survival. We need quality education for all students regardless of their cultural, linguistic or ability diversity.
National religious leaders must step up, answering God’s call for a better world. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life to make the world – this country – a better place. United Black Christians calls The United Church of Christ, predicated on justice, to set the standard of leadership for the faith community to address the multiplicity of issues of poverty, including but not limited to the cradle to prison pipeline, immigration, voter suppression, gender rights, quality education, health care inequities and civil rights.
As Jack White said so eloquently recently in his column in The Root, African Americans are in America but not at home.
“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,”on Saturday, August 24, 2013, wherever we are – at the March on Washington or in our homes -- as we stand, pray, witness, sing and lift our hands and eyes to you, may we hear YOUR voice. Motivate us to push our spiritual, community and political leaders to do what is right. What you would do. For the least of us. For all of us.
We must strive to be more like Thee.
Lest we forget.
Carol A. Brown is the 13th National President of United Black Christians, United Church of Christ.