About Me

My photo
Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

Popular Posts

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Today our fair state of North Carolina is participating in a ritual of democratic governance through primary elections. I have been especially caught up in this election season for several reasons.

First, my church is part of a community organizing group called Durham CAN, and we are engaged with mostly local issues relating to poverty, youth, health, and other matters of quality of life in Durham. We held one of our most successful Delegate's Assemblies this past Sunday at the site of one of our newest member congregations, First Presbyterian Church. Our organizations showed up in strength, more candidates than we had expected showed up to interact with us, and the agenda went off as planned. We found candidates very eager to support our proposals concerning assistance to the elderly and disabled, job training for ex-offenders, and health department disease tracking.

We got a good report from Duke University that they have extended their policy of paying a livable wage to their own employees, extended to certain restaurant vendor workers a year ago a year ago, to include workers at 100% of vendors who do business with the university, and that by November all vendors will also offer health benefits comparable to the University's health benefits for workers. Duke is to be commended for its commitment to its workers. Durham CAN can claim some credit for making the livable wage a key issue of discussion in Durham. Before Duke made this policy official, already Durham CAN had helped to bring about its adoption by Durham County Government, Durham City Government, and Durham Public Schools.

At the assembly, I had my moment in the sun as I spoke about Durham CAN's relationships with similar groups: Charlotte HELP, Winston-Salem CHANGE, Orange County Organizing Committee, and North Carolina Latino Coalition. We operate together under the name North Carolina United Power. Our work together on issues affecting all our communities gives us reason to need relationships with the Governor, Lt. Governor, other statewide officials, and representatives in the NC Legislature. In the past we have also worked with member of the US Congress.

At this assembly, two candidates for Governor and two for Lt. Governor came at our invitation to publicly agree to meet with us and to make their case for why we should vote for them. My job was to ask them a question about agreeing to a future meeting and to tell them how long they would be allowed to speak. For a few minutes, I was able to tell these statewide officials where to stand and when to talk. It was a heady feeling, like being "King for a Day." The TV coverage, for some reason, was more interested in what the candidates had to say than in my speech or instructions, but you can see me for less than a second, standing in the elevated pulpit to the left of the screen, in a black suit.

Second, I have been very interested in this primary election because of the candidacy of Barack Obama. He has been a community organizer in the past, doing work similar to the work we do in Durham CAN. The way of organizing his campaign has demonstrated this experience, working to bring together everyday people to have their say. Moreover, his connection with Trinity United Church of Christ, a church with a strong record of community service and transformation, has piqued my interest. I've been writing here about Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright in recent weeks. Not all of the campaigning and campaign coverage has treated the racial politics of the U. S. with honesty and integrity, and I would hope that more people would be willing to put a mature conversation about race on the table, as Sen. Obama has said well in his Philadelphia address. So today I was pleased to have the opportunity to cast a vote for Sen. Obama in my precinct.

I have been accused for several rounds of recent elections of "wasting" my vote for president. Overall, I see little difference between the Republicats and the Demicans. Neither is committed to the ends and means of a politics that would pay attention to the convictions I hold dear. I have voted for Ross Perot (for a change), Jimmy Carter (a write-in on the basis of his life of service), and such. But I might be able to vote for one of the parties this Fall, if some of the commitments to health care, better international relations, a restructured economy, and grassroots participation continue to be on the agenda. Not only Obama has offered some of these good ideas. We'll see what today brings, and what the campaigns and ballots offer in November.

No comments:

Baptist Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf
Christian Peace Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf