Service Title: Struggle & Lament: We Are Not Afraid
Scripture: Matthew 28:5-10

Rev. Leonina Arismendi, La Iglesia del Pueblo

“Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living.” -Mother Jones

The most dangerous woman in America of her time was a grieving mother, scorned by the conditions that took her family’s life such as a pandemic and constant worker exploitation. 

(from wikipedia) A school teacher, born in Ireland, she changed her name to Mother Jones after her husband and four children died of yellow fever in 1867, and her dress shop was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, she became an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union. In 1902, she was called “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing mine workers and their families against the mine owners. In 1903, to protest the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, she organized a children’s march from Philadelphia to the home of President Theodore Roosevelt in New York.

Her words, filled with raw pain touches the heart of all that have felt the premature loss of a loved one to capitalism–be it because of racism, militarism, police abuse, ecological devastation that create health problems to those in the population that cannot afford hospitalization and all the costs associated with grave illnesses or accidents and all the other evils that prey on poor people everywhere that we fight against. 

I think of my comrade Callie Greer, who tears our hearts when we hear her lament as she testified her lament over the premature loss of her daughter Venus. And the fight that she continues fighting as a mother, not only honoring her daughter but also fighting so that no other parent feels this pain that she carries. And the way we collectively grieve and resolve to continue fighting every time we think of Miss Pam, she is present with us, as an Ancestor in the Movement. Her spirit along with others, even Dr. King himself rests within our campaign. As the Bible says, crowds of Saints cheer us on our way. I created this piece [art from the FCOP flier] with the idea of giving them their flowers, in line with the Latinx tradition of laying marigolds for the dead.

Something that touched me this week about Ukraine was seeing a captured young man, a kid, a Russian soldier with a group of Ukrainian moms, calling his mom, explained through an interpreter to the Russian mom that her son would be sent home unharmed. The mom weeping called her son, “Come home son, come home.” Can you imagine what it would look like if the mothers of the world would call their sons home. In the campaign not only imagine it, but we live it.

As Erica Williams writes in We Cry Justice, “May we all be ignited with holy fire to fight like hell until the poor and dispossessed all over the globe have the dignity and basic necessities they deserve. I am committed to fighting until I give my last breath. Even then, I plan to leave this world declaring, “Give them hell until justice runs down like a mighty stream.”

I pray Erica’s prayer: Creator, mold us in the mindset of “Mother” Jones, who professed, “I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please. Let us fight for justice until it rolls down like a mighty stream.

Ashe and amen.

Shailly Barnes, policy director at the Kairos Center

It’s really powerful to think of how these struggles continue through generations. As a Hindu, it makes me think that maybe reincarnation isn’t just about my own soul returning over and over again in this world to realize my own individual potential, but maybe it’s actually about these struggles for justice, equality, equity, dignity, and the lessons from those struggles, being carried forward, generation after generation, until we realize our true potential as a society.

What was born out of the fight more than 50 years ago in Selma reminds us that we cannot give up, not only because of the blood that we carry forward, but because we know we can win.

There are all of these attacks going on right now on democracy and the right to vote. In 2021 alone, 19 states passed voter suppression laws that make it harder for 55 million people, disproportionately brown, black, and poor people, from participating in this democracy. This is a trend that’s been unfolding for more than a decade, since 2008, when an historic coalition of black, white, latino and poor and low-income voters turned out in record numbers to change the political maps of this country.

Seeing these current assaults from that perspective opens us up to seeing how we can actually confront these attacks. That is, if it was a coalition of poor and low-income people, coming together across race, that precipitated these attacks, then maybe we need to build that coalition again, stronger, deeper, broader, than it was before to push back against them today.

The solution lies in the struggle itself. Since 2008, the ranks of the poor have only grown. We are 140 million strong. Every race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, living in every part of the nation. And within these 140 million, there is a powerful political force waiting to transform society.

In 2020, poor and low-income voters accounted for one-third of the votes that were cast nationally, even higher percentages in some of the battleground states, and millions of eligible poor and low income voters didn’t vote. I’m not saying all of them voted the same way, we know they didn’t. But consider the political potential of bringing those voters together around an agenda that they share in common: for democracy, health care, living wages, decent housing, clean water, debt relief, for safe, equitable, and high quality education, and more.

King said in 1957, give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal govt about our basic rights. Now, he said that before the victories and gains of the CRM, before Bloody Sunday. And after those wins, he also saw how important it was to organize poor and dispossessed people, to amass their power – their political power, their economic power – in a way that the government could not but implement these demands.

We have the benefits today of learning from all of that, from the CRM, from Selma, from the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, and from the struggles that have been waging every since – around housing, wages, welfare, health care, policing, peace and climate – to build the power of the 140 million to change what is possible.

Returning to my own belief, not only do we have the benefits of those lessons, but it’s our responsibility to carry them forward. I call this our dharma, or duty: once we know our path, we must follow it, to the best of our abilities. So on this anniversary, let’s all commit to carrying forward the struggles of Selma, to mobilize across the country, to head to DC on June 18, and to keep building the power of the 140 million poor and dispossessed people in this country, to change what is politically possible.

As we say in the Poor People’s Campaign: Forward together, Not one step back!

Communion service by Alex Zane and Charito Calvachi-Mateyko

(Adapted from by Katherine HawkerSelf. Use freely, adapting to your setting and noting source (K. HawkerSelf,  “Liturgy from Below,” by Dr. Claudio Calvalhares & from Joe Paparone’s communion liturgy at Freedom Church Sept, 2021)

Charito: Hoy nos reunimos en esta mesa en el espíritu de las comunidades cristianas del primer siglo: Ninguna de ellas afirmó que sus posesiones eran suyas, y compartían todo lo que tenían entre sí, la comunidad/comunión era, si se quiere, su “proyecto de supervivencia,” una forma de organizarse contra el imperio, satisfaciendo las necesidades de la comunidad, y en el proceso, mostrando una nueva forma de amor y justicia.

Alex: Today we gather at this table in the spirit of the first century Christian communities:  None of them claimed that their possessions were their own, and they shared everything they had with each other, community/communion was, if you will, their “project of survival.”  Their way of organizing against the empire by meeting the needs of the community and in the process showing a new way of love and Justice. 

Charito: Hoy llegamos a esta mesa de compañerismo de libertad y liberación con la esperanza y la determinación de que el empobrecimiento se puede terminar, no sólo aliviar, con la esperanza y la determinación de que cada persona sin hogar pueda ser alojada, que aquellos que tienen hambre puedan ser alimentados. Testificamos que el empobrecimiento no es causada por el fracaso moral de los pobres, sino por un sistema que crea, por diseño, con violencia económica, pobreza para muchos y riqueza para unos pocos. Empobrecimiento quiere decir, hacer a un ser humano, o an un pueblo, pobre.

Alex: Today we come to this table of freedom and liberation fellowship with the hope and determination that impoverishment can be ended, not just alleviated, with the hope and determination that every homeless person can be housed, that those who are hungry they can be fed. We testify that impoverishment is not caused by the moral failure of the poor, but by a system that creates, by design, with economic violence, poverty for the many and wealth for the few. Impoverishment means to make a human being, or even a people, poor.  

Charito: Esta es la mesa del recuerdo; recordamos que Dios elige a los pobres y condena a los ricos una y otra vez. Recordamos las historias de pan partido y compartido, multitudes alimentadas, historias de encuentros entre, enemigos y amigos, rechazados y marginados, juntos alrededor de mesas.

Alex: This is the table of remembrance; We remember that God chooses the poor and condemns the rich over and over again. We remember the stories of bread broken and shared, feeding a multitude. Stories of being gathered, enemy and friend, outcast and marginalized, together around tables.

Charito: Nos unimos para tomar y compartir el pan y el agua de vida. Dios nos recuerda que estas fuentes de vida no pertenecen a ninguno de nosotros de manera particular,  sino que  nos mantenemos unidos y somos bendecidos cuando llegan a todos. Este es el pan y el agua que nos permite a todos sobrevivir y prosperar.

Alex: We join in taking and sharing the bread and water of life. God reminds us that these sources of life do not belong to any one of us, but are held together by all of us and become blessed when they reach everyone. This is the bread and water that allows us all to survive and thrive.

Charito: Independientemente de cómo hayas elegido participar esta noche, te invitamos  a renovar tu compromiso con este movimiento que nos sostiene a todos, y con nuestra lucha colectiva por el mundo que necesitamos y merecemos, un mundo basado en la justicia, la verdad y el amor.

Alex: However you’ve chosen to partake this evening, we invite you in this time we’ve shared to recommit to that which holds us all, and to our collective struggle for the world we need and deserve, a world grounded in justice, truth, and love. 

Prayer after communion: Alex y Charito 

(from Ramona C Daily – Welcome to the Hungry Feast (Ray Mckeever)

Bienvenido a la fiesta del hambre

 Norte, sur, oeste y este

 En una tierra de abundancia, en abundancia

¿Por qué mi vientre siempre está vacío?

 Llegamos a la fiesta del hambre. 

 Venimos a la fiesta del hambre

Activado con los más pequeños de Dios

Guiándonos a la libertad

  Dios es nuestro destino

Bienvenido, bienvenido a la fiesta del hambre

Welcome to the hungry feast

North, south, west, and east

In a land of plenty, plenty

Why is my belly always empty?

We come to the hungry feast.

We come to the hungry feast

Activated with God’s least

Leading us to liberty

God’s enough is our destiny

Welcome, welcome to the hungry feast.