The backside of the Confederate monument at the North Carolina capital building in Raleigh, NC.
I have spent much of the past month preparing to move from Raleigh, North Carolina back to Dallas, Texas to start a new job in my ministerial journey. As I have been mulling over these last five years and thinking about all of the incredible experiences I have had here, I have to confess that I have been horribly nostalgic. I have mourned my soon-to-be loss of tall trees, the pine cones littering the sidewalks, the beautiful falls and the glorious springs, the lovely Raleigh greenway complete with deer and foxes, my wonderful church family, and perhaps most sharply, my local yarn shop and the amazing people I sat and knitted with every Thursday night. I might even miss the geese, though not by much.
Then the events of Charlottesville happened and my nostalgic romp through the “Deep South” suddenly felt incredibly ill-conceived.
As I sit with this, preparing to return to my home state where bathroom bills are being debated and battles over Confederate monuments are raging, I can’t stop thinking about my experience attending my first activist march. “Historic Thousands on Jones St.” or more simply put, “HK on J,” is a march that has been happening in downtown Raleigh since 2007.
Stemming from the Moral Monday movement, HK on J is a pan-religious, pan-organizational, pan-activism march that brings together a wide spectrum of people representing a multitude of concerns, hopes, and dreams for the state of North Carolina and the world at large.
There was a recognition by Rev. Dr. William Barber II and the North Carolina NAACP that justice-seekers of all persuasions could get more accomplished if they came together. Moral Mondays, in a sense, tore down the walls that separated one “issue” from another. People began to realize that LGBT issues are not pertinent to only LGBT activists; they are pertinent to everyone. Black Lives Matter is not only a matter for those in the black community or those innately involved in the conversation on race; it matters to everyone. Education defunding, livable wage conversations, employment policy, environmental concerns, the ADA, healthcare, immigration: they are issues that belong to everyone. As activist Lilla Watson said, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
The undercurrent of Moral Mondays and HK on J is that we are bound together, and that we cannot do much apart from each other. When the Human Rights Campaign stands with those at the front of the Black Lives Matter movement, we are all stronger for it. When people concerned with educational funding and curriculum accessibility join hands with those lobbying for the ADA and better healthcare, everyone benefits.
The “call back” of the movement and one that we said frequently during the march is “Forward together” to which the crowd responds “Not one step back.”
As Christians, it is our call to pull forward together and call out the brokenness and sinfulness that is plaguing our nation and marginalizing our brothers and sisters. We have to do it together. It will not be easy. There will need to be some education and listening involved. While I was not there in the beginnings of the Moral Monday movement, I have to believe that the various interest groups had to learn to listen to one another and find common ground, and the church will be no different, but perhaps more challenging.
It will require being uncomfortable and not pulling away from the table when conversations become hard. It will require not rationalizing our family histories and “white-washing” (literally) the painful narratives of the past. It will require facing our own complicity and brokenness.
And, I have no idea how we will do this. Honestly, I am still sitting in the pain of the present and have few words for how we move forward, but I do know what we will have to move forward together, not one step back.