I just finished reading the late great John Lewis wonderful memoir, Walking With the Wind. At the end of the book, he refers to the old African proverb, “ when you pray, move your feet.” He then goes on to say “as a nation, if we care for the Beloved Community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build, and not to tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal not to kill. In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house – the American house, the American family.”
Moving our feet speaks to action to reach out and work with people who look different but are us. We share so much in common and it is those opportunities to engage and empathize with people with different backgrounds and see our shared interest and humanity. While COVID has made it difficult to interact with people, it has given me the opportunity to reflect and realize that I need to spend more time, once it is safe, with people with diverse backgrounds, needs, and yes skills. I have been volunteering in a limited way in West Oakland with an organization that feeds low-income families and helps them with energy costs and medical supplies. I want to redouble my commitment and get to know more of the families within the organization.
Another critical element of “when you pray move your feet” is organizing and coalition building. Housing, economic, health, and environmental conditions need to be improved. We need more effective policies, regulations, and resources to enable communities of color to thrive. We need to get rid of toxic waste, economic inequality, provide stable housing, etc. We have to be in coalition with other community organizing efforts, environmental justice organizations, community development efforts and others.
I hope that as a church community, MPC members will commit to working together in coalition with others to improve policies and resources to reduce the racial, economic, and environmental inequalities in Oakland and the larger Bay Area. That is the best way to achieve change. My five cents of advice would be to work on eliminating toxic facilities and improving air quality in low-income communities; repatriation that recognizes economic discrimination; and changing zoning laws to allow for more housing density near public transportation systems.
I know there are a number of excellent ideas from MPC members that we could explore and come up with some key priorities and action. I am optimistic that when COVID is behind us, that we can move forward and work to improve conditions for individuals, families, and communities of color.
We have the chance to use our faith to pray and move our feet to help build a beloved community. After all, John Lewis left a wonderful legacy of creating “good trouble.” That is a legacy that we can strive to live up to.