It’s been 50 years since several significant events of the civil rights movement of the 1960s occurred, yet our society is still plagued with systemic racism. It’s been almost 150 years since we abolished slavery in this country, yet many are still enslaved daily by the oppression of discrimination and poverty. While significant strides in equality and justice have taken place, new systems of injustices have been instated and threaten the integrity of our much-stated rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I am most presently thinking of the system of the “New Jim Crow,” something author and advocate Michelle Alexander has awakened society to with the recent publication of her book with that title. The New Jim Crowrefers to the web of injustices related to mass incarceration and the stripping of basic rights of returning citizens reminiscent of the Jim Crow laws of our nation’s history. Today, returning citizens face “legalized discrimination” from employers and landlords, making it extremely difficult for them to get a job or a place to live. Additionally, in many states they are not allowed to sit on a jury or express their right to vote, meaning their voices are stifled.
Honoring the landmarks of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail (April 1963) and the March on Washington (August 1963) 50 years ago this year, a diverse and interdenominational group of church leaders and pastors in Washington, D.C., have felt moved by the Spirit to host a series of church revival meetings to express the need for the church to rise and wake up to the much-needed work still to be done. Monthly gatherings for worship and teachings, centering on the New Jim Crow, will start in April and go through August to state “Why We Can’t Wait” and to rededicate ourselves, as church, to Jesus’ Way.
I have attended a few of these initial planning meetings and have been amazed at the work of the Spirit. Through prayer and contemplation, plans have arose and collaboration forged with Latino, African American, and white pastors of churches in the SE, NE, and NW quadrants of the District of Columbia. We are striving to be the church, and through our efforts, God is blessing the work of the faithful.
The first gathering and teaching will be April 14 at 3:00 p.m. For a full schedule of the monthly gatherings, see the brochure here.
If you’re in the D.C. area, I hope you will join us there to pray, learn, and act on continuing Dr. King’s fight for justice. If you’re not a local, please join the movement in prayer, or think of ways you can do something similar in your city.
Martin Witchger is Mobilizing Assistant for Sojourners.