the journey continues.

26 Oct

The Living Legacy Civil Rights Pilgrimage officially ended almost two weeks ago, on October 13. I still have one or two blog entries I want to write about the journey and my experience/reflections. But something happened that I just can’t help but connect as another step in this journey.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day talking about Mountain Top Removal and the Coal Cycle with Unitarian Universalist ministers, dignitaries, and representatives from Louisville and KY organizations that tie into the cycle. All this in an effort to prepare for our General Assembly, which will bring 4000 or so Unitarian Universalists to Lousiville in June 2013. It was a day full of stimulating conversation and ideas and connections.

And then, as luck would have it, I ended up at an event that I had not even known about one week ago: Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light brought the Rev. Gerald Durley to come and speak about “Race, Faith and Climate Change: Why Global Warming is a Civil Rights Issue.”

Rev. Durley is Baptist Minister from Atlanta, Georgia. He shared his story about he converted to environmentalism less than a decade ago and he connected it directly to his work and experience as a young man in the Civil Rights movement.

As Rev. Durley spoke about names and places and events that helped to form his worldview during his young adult years, I realized that a month ago, most of the names and places would have meant almost nothing to me. I would have not understood his story the way I do now, after having been there and listened to the stories of other people who lived through that important time in history.

He continued to speak about how he had not been concerned with the environment through most of his adulthood and ministry, because the people in his congregation had other worries on their minds: home forclosures, getting food stamps, raising children in an increasingly violent world, and so much more.

The pivotal point for him was when he realized that he will not be around to minister to his people if he dies from cancer caused by environmental factors, and his people will not be alive  if they die earlier than the majority of the population (because enviornmental crises hits the poor, first and hardest).

He realized at the hospital, at the side of one of his congregants who struggle with asthma caused by environmental factors, that he can work for access to medical care all day long but until he addresses the root causes of the medical issues, he is applying a bandaid to a gaping wound and it is simply not sufficient.

He talked about the importance of putting a human face on the climate change issue: that it cannot be just about polar bears and honey bees, because human beings are being adversely affected right now by our poor relationship with the environment. And he talked about how important it is that there be legislation that addresses the issues, much like there needed to be legislation to address accomodations and voting rights.

The connection was so powerful to me. I had been wondering what “the” Civil Rights issue of this time might be, among so many unjust, oppressive wrongs that need to be righted. Durley connected the dots for me.

And, if I needed any further convincing, a friend came up to me afterwards and talked about when he was arrested in Washington, DC, protesting the Tar Sands Pipeline. He shared that as he was being handcuffed and placed in the paddy wagon, he felt more powerful than he ever had in his life.  Because they had spent time learning how to protest, immersing themselves in the cause and in the action.  And I would imagine (though I don’t know for sure) probably singing and building community. He felt powerful because he knew he was a part of a just cause. Because he knew he was part of something bigger than himself.

Thank you, mysterious universe, for connecting the dots for me and for helping me understand how the journey continues.

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