A draft preview for the "Americans Who Tell the Truth" unveiling of Barber's portrait, at the Asheville YMI on Sat. Sept. 19, 6:30 pm:
"REVEREND B, MEET GRANNY D"
I want "Reverend B" to meet "Granny D." That's Reverend Barber, of course, head of the NC-NAACP & the Moral Monday movement, both of them having been designated as "Americans Who Tell the Truth"—"Granny D," the crusader who, at age 90, completed her walk across the U.S.—over 3,000 miles- for campaign finance reform... And with both these portrait subjects inspired by an earlier "American who Told the Truth" —Dr. Martin Luther King!
In our touring show, "Go, Granny D!" she pays tribute to Dr. King in a speech she delivered in Little Rock from the same pulpit where he had preached... She said she felt like a white bread sandwich at a Paris banquet:
My dear friends, it is a great honor to stand here speaking where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stood and spoke. Here was a man who came into this world to speak the truth—and to use that truth and love to bring forth justice nonviolently. From Dr. King’s work good changes came—the Voting rights Act and the opening of universities and public facilities…His voice still rings in our ears… We hear you, Dr. King. And the truth was this and remains this: that we are brothers and sisters in our struggles to overcome injustice.
I know Reverend Barber still hears that voice, too, and I feel we are becoming "brothers and sisters" in his Forward Together movement... And I, for one, understand the "Southern context" of this movement; I grew up in Alabama; I ran away from it all... Now I'm glad I can carry a membership card in the NAACP... and wear this button: "I went to JAIL with Reverend Barber." I feel that I "have a dog in this fight," too, and I want us to continue joining forces.
It was exciting when "Go, Granny D" was touring in Blue Hill ME- that our sponsor was Rob Shetterly, the activist and artist who painted these portraits. Granny D had been an earlier subject, and talking with him after the show about future subjects—!!!—we both said, "William Barber!"
And now it's happening! The connection! Granny D had walked thousands of miles to try to reclaim our Democracy; Reverend Barber has been rallying thousands of people for the same cause!
Calling out: "We are Black, we are White, we are Latino! We are natives, we are immigrants! We are Democrats and Republicans! We are students and retirees! We are gay and we are straight—
confronting the North Carolina Legislature about how the people are hurting in the areas of healthcare, wages, voting rights, education, environment—and racial justice, too! Because most of those turkeys we have in office in Raleigh today don't care about the needs of the people. They've been put there by special interests and big money like the Koch Brothers and Art Pope—
(I'm told I need to calm down)
Even our votes won't count if the only candidates are those put up by big money—if they've been "hand-picked and bought" as Rev. Barber nails it in his book. Or plain ol' "bribed" as Jeff points out in our post-show discussions—where we challenge all comers to ask each candidate: How will you protect our votes? And end the corruption in our elections? Because we know that if we can't elect good people, none of these other issues will be taken care of!
Oh! And Granny D has spoken to this in that same speech:
But our leaders today pass laws that segregate the people into rich communities and ghettos of despair, that provide jails instead of schools, shelters instead of decent housing, toxic pollution instead of healthy environments. They do it to favor the wealthy elite who keep them in power through campaign contributions. This is no democracy... There can be no true equality or justice so long as only the rich and privileged sit in the room of power making rules for those outside the room... The essence of self-government in a free land is this: If I tell you what my children need, you will help me provide for them. If you tell me what yours need, I will do the same. The trick is to get us all in the room…
And that's what we're working on- inspired by these 2 models who speak such memorable truths!
For example, Granny D gave me my motto: "You're never too old to raise a little hell!"... And she wisely
reminds us all, "Democracy is a running game; you huddle and you go back in. You keep going!"
And, boy, that Reverend Barber "keeps going" all right! It's fun to see him in action—for example, citing valuable verses from scripture, occasionally contemporizing them:
"When I was sick, did you give me health care?"
"When I was hungry, did you find me a job?"
"When I was wrongfully imprisoned, did you fix the system?"
And, rallying the crowd, (while chiding the legislature), he gets us to participate, setting up a kind of "call and response" as in "Somebody say 'UH-OH!'"
"Instead of defeating us, they've made us defiant! UH-OH"
"Instead of dividing us, they've united us! UH-OH"
"Instead of doing their dirt in the darkness, now we've exposed them to the world! UH-OH"
"Even the real Pope is saying 'It's time to act up!' Say IT'S TIME TO ACT UP!"
Seriously now, we foresee more combining of these forces- "Go, Granny D!" and the NAACP -both aimed at taking back our Democracy from the special interests, and giving it back to the people.
Granny D—who said she'd walked all those miles for the sake of her grandchildren—would be pleased to know that my granddaughter, McKay Sharpe, started the first NAACP chapter on a Western North Carolina campus at her own Mars Hill University—coming about partly because when we did the show there, I was smart enough to get them to invite Laurel Ashton, Field Secretary, to be on the post-show panel... & Laurel was smart enough to bring along clipboards to pass around for sign-ups!
Leading to more combined college visits—& in Durham a "Go, Granny D!" fundraiser for the NAACP—
Culminating in Reverend Barber's speaking at Mars Hill- on the theme of "Dreams," encouraging those students to focus on their own dreams, as he himself had done in his 20's, in a wheelchair, and had been told that he might never walk again.
And with the dreams of Dr. King's forever ringing in our ears, as well-
Granny D concludes her speech with these words:
From this day forward, the civil rights movement and the campaign finance reform movement must join hands to sing a song of democracy together …with the spirit of Dr. King beside us, and in our hearts.
"Go, Granny D!" >