Rev. Dr. William Barber Asserts a Moral Imperative at the @AFTunion Convention

The American Federation of Teachers Union (@AFTunion), an organization of 1.6 members representing professionals across various strata, took the Left Coast by storm!

Beginning its Los Angeles Convention with a moral imperative, it was appropriate to have as the first speaker, the inestimable Reverend Doctor William Barber, who lit the stage on fire (click here to watch his speech):

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After his speech, a handful of us had the privilege of interviewing him and I was able to ask my own, pointed questions:

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We asked and he answered as follows:

How can we sing, “America, America, God shed his grace on thee” but then deny grace to immigrants, LGBT, the poor…? This is not a stunt… How can we treat people that way? … We call for fair immigrant policy… Everywhere you look in the scriptures, we lift people up…

Question: What if you lose an election or a majority Congress in any of these upcoming elections?

We always knew we had to operate in the streets, the courts of public opinion in the courts and at the polls… The first thing a Moral Movement has to do is shift the moral center… We have effectively shifted the electorate… 50,000 new voters and many young people who are inspired… See, [the Right] did the one thing you aren’t supposed to do— get everybody mad…. You must shift the debate and the consciousness… People are not going to vote just because you say vote… How voting will give them a chance to change their society… I’ve never seen anything like this… I don’t believe our living, our energy is in vain… We have already won the public consciousness. … [What’s upcoming is the] “Forward Together Moral Movement Seven Days of Action.” What if we march in the capitol for seven straight days?…

Question: I asked what does #MoralMondays in North Carolina speak to the hearts and minds of young people throughout the nation, especially those in cities with a great deal of violence and who might be filled with hopelessness and despair? He relied:

Young people came up with the idea of each person registering 50 people… They wanted an agenda of hope… and we teach that If you want to be serious about incarceration, you have to be serious about public education [and] healthcare… The more we draw people into an environment of hope, the more they will leave an environment of danger and fear… We have a redemption program for gang bangers… There’s one man named Vegas Don, who helps bangers explain how politics affect their daily lives…. You actually get street credibility if young people see how you make the connection to their lives… It’s easier to get a gun than healthcare… I believe in personal responsibility, I’m a pastor, but I also believe in public responsibility and accountability.

Question: I had to ask Rev. Barber, an intellect in his own right, who serves as his intellectual source of inspiration? He answered,

My father and grandfather who always said, “you don’t have to have a degree to know that right is right,” Paul Tillich, Bob Marley, the book, In His Steps, Ghandi, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower on Public Education and also, “my own mother, who goes to work everyday, the same school where they used to call her nigger but now the children of their children call her “Mother….”

There are more scriptures about the Movement in his new book, Forward Together:

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