It’s the last panel of the day at Netroots Nation, but energy still seems high. We start out the panel with a video by the Reverend William Barber, who was unable to make it to the convention because of a court case. In this video he talks about the need for a rhetoric of morality, because ideological or partisan narratives each fall short. He traced a line through topics like voting rights, poverty, Reconstruction to highlight the importance of the Moral Mondays movement he helped to start. In this he also highlighted the importance of intersectionality and talking about multiple issues to create a transformation in our society.
After the video the Reverend Jennifer Bailey gave a rundown on recent developments in the Black Lives Matter movement and made sure that Sandra Bland was remembered, because black women can be easily forgotten in the movement. She made sure to point out that if outrage is not in our analysis of these killings, the God she worships and the God we worship are not the same. In the last part of her introduction she points out that many Christians jump too quickly to hope and reconciliation in the face of these killings, and not to much in the lament and grief as a path forward to creating a just society.
Reverend Alisa Guardiola Gonzalez and Daniel Neyoy Ruiz were then introduced, as part of the Sanctuary movement here in Arizona. The Sanctuary movement is a faith-based movement, based upon the religious practice of sanctuary, which works to stop deportations and provide support and protection to people facing imminent deportation orders. The Reverend explained the history and practice of sanctuary, and how the movement was revived (many of the churches involved were also involved in the sanctuary movement in the 80s which housed refugees fleeing violence in El Salvador and Guatemala.
Daniel then explained his story, which was also written about in an article by The Nation two months ago:
Neyoy Ruiz says that he had just had his car worked on before the incident and was never issued a ticket. His car was impounded on the spot.
“I think they stopped me because I looked Hispanic,” he says.
Neyoy Ruiz’s case kicked off the latest incarnation of the sanctuary movement when he moved into Southside Presbyterian and announced that he would stay as long as it took to win a stay of deportation. Less than a month passed before he was granted a one-year stay and returned home.
“What it means to me is another opportunity for me and my family to fight for me to stay,” he says. “If it were just me, maybe I would go back. But I have my son here; he’s a US citizen.”
In this panel, Daniel stated that he didn’t know how long he would have to stay at the church he was seeking refuge, but it was the face of his son that got him through that time. He’s been able to receive two stays of removal, a testament to the strength of the Sanctuary movement.
Macky Alston was the last panelist. Macky is a founder of Auburn Media, which trains faith leaders in media relations to help them succeed in their struggles for justice. He showed us a video where a Methodist church leader successfully interacted with Lou Dobbs to defend someone who had taken sanctuary in a Methodist church. This panel came full circle to the video by Reverend Doctor Barber at the beginning, of the importance of leading these conversations with values and moral stories.
He explained a piece of research he did, to find a Christian case for LGBT rights. They found it with what he termed “conflicted Christians” who knew people that were LGBT and knew LGBT folks that were in many cases “better Christians” than they were. They found it, and used these frames to train organizers in the marriage equality referendums of 2012.
He reemphasized that “high school debate mode” doesn’t win. People need to be identified, and their stories need to be told. Facts and data aren’t going to be compelling, something here at NPI that we have tried to consistently talk about in our advocacy.
There were a couple of questions from the audience, first about framing, and then a question about forgiveness from the families of the Charleston shooting victims to Dylan Roof, where the Reverend Bailey spoke about the need to not judge someone’s morning or grief, but that there needs to be an understanding and a place for rage at these actions, and rage at systemic racism and oppression.
This was a very compelling and important discussion about progressive faith-based movements, and how crucial they are to social justice movements. Many times they are discounted by other progressive organizers, but these movements make up the moral backbone of the work we do for a better world.