After a hard-fought election season that has left deep wounds within U.S. communities, President Joe Biden, in his inaugural speech, made a commitment to bringing the country together.
“I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said. “Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things.”
Taking Biden’s invitation to heart, faith leader, author, filmmaker, civil rights activist, and attorney Valarie Kaur is asking people across America to make the same commitment.
To help them get started, Kaur is set to launch The People’s Inauguration, a 10-day online event beginning today, Jan. 21, that invites people to challenge themselves to find ways to heal their communities.
“If one leader makes a commitment, we're not going to get very far. If each of us were invited to reflect on our particular role in healing and reimagining and transitioning this country, then perhaps we can take America across the threshold,” Kaur told Sojourners.
“President Biden said it's going to take all of us to reimagine and rebuild this nation. And to me that was an invitation to all of us.”
During his speech, Biden said that unity will help solve America’s challenges, which include a pandemic that has claimed 400,000 lives and revealed systemic inequality, growing extremism that threatens American democracy, and persistent institutional racism.
Kaur hopes to draw on the president’s words as she invites people to participate in conversations with faith leaders, activists, and artists who are working to reimagine and rebuild their communities. Taking part in the People’s Inauguration activities also might include each person making an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend dignity, justice, and joy,” for themselves, their families, and their communities.
“We're not swearing allegiance to the Constitution, necessarily, but we are swearing allegiance to the core values of dignity and justice and joy and making a promise to show up and be that with the ethic of love, which has always been the anchor of nonviolent movements and on the lips of spiritual teachers for millennia,” Kaur said.
The online event starts with a ceremony at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time that will feature music, poetry, storytelling, and reflection. Kaur is inviting participants to post their own songs, stories, and visions for America throughout the day.
Then every morning from Jan. 22 through Jan. 31, Kaur will share a video that explores the principles of her Revolutionary Love Project which aims to enlist love as a force for justice. In the evening, Kaur will host discussions with more than two dozen interfaith leaders and social justice advocates including Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Rev. Traci Blackmon, Simran Jeet Singh, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Najeeba Syeed, and Sister Simone Campbell.
“I've chosen people who I believe are among the greatest visionaries of our time,” Kaur said. “They inspired me. They emboldened me. They helped me find longevity and the labor for justice.”
Kaur plans to continue to engage participants over the next year and beyond.
“The whole purpose is to equip people with the tools to practice this in their own lives, supporting them to fulfill the commitments they make as part of the People's Inauguration.”