This reflection was written in response to the Winter 2015 immersion course during which we traveled to North Carolina to join the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Moral March and learn from the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Movement.
This course was truly educational in experiential and academic ways about poverty in America, the Poor People’s Campaign, to the weekend trip to North Carolina. I say all the above as a person who had only been in one protest prior to this class, who’s last knowledge of social justice movements was from a public High School in Queens ten years ago, and as a Soldier who had been focused on issues outside of America. I had been to other events hosted by the Kairos Center and Poverty Initiative, so I was not completely thrown off course when I saw the statistics of poverty in America, however, it is still painful down to my very core, the very center of my soul.
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The moral march experience was therefore extremely uplifting. To have been given such hospitality first in the United Church of Christ and then the Baptist church in Raleigh, was amazing. The Friday night Mass was so powerful, which included a historical account about Rosa Parks, then to have the interfaith prayer and sermons given by various denominations and NAACP on the seven values. Especially when Rev. Dr. Barber brought the people of different faiths (or lack thereof) together to stand in solidarity at the front of the sacred space. It was a truly blessed moment. While I have strong religious beliefs and am part of a church, towards the end there was a section for those who were “unchurched”. I chose to go forward at this point because I know many people who would be represented and on behalf of them I felt called to move forward.
On a more personal note, my denomination the Unitarian Universalist Association had a strong presence in the march. Additionally during the Friday service, one of the ministers from the denomination was able to preach and participate, to which I was proud. Our Social Justice Advocacy branch was heavily represented, both in the march with a banner, and with the prayer shawl of the minister on Friday evening. They are called “Standing on the Side of Love”, with a yellow background. I have not been proud in a long time but I was proud to see that. Furthermore I saw the “Veterans for Peace” flag and group of them in the center front of the march by the stage. Along with Breast Cancer, public education reform, mourning for the Muslim students which were shot and many more groups; I can honestly say it was the most diverse and inclusive march I had ever heard of. And then we were all became defibrillators, thanks to Rev. Dr. Barber, trying to cure the heart problem in Raliegh. I can honestly say I was tempted to get the phrase Code Blue tattooed on my heart. His speech along with the other presenters was very moving to me. And it began with a drive at 5am the day before, continued with an African song in the mass service, and us all checking for pulses at noon.