By Ken Epstein
Three Oakland pastors are taking the lead to bring together interfaith religious leaders to participate in coordinated faith community actions next month at statehouses across the country to revive the country’s moral commitment to jobs, justice, immigrant rights and an end to mass incarceration.
California’s action in Sacramento, which will be part of the nationwide protests on Monday, Sept. 12, will be coordinated by: Rev. Ken Chambers of Westside Missionary Baptist Church, Servant B. K.
Woodson of the Bay Area Christian Connection and Unitarian Rev. Kurt Kuhwald.
Teaming up to organize the protests in California and other states is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and an organization called The Revival, which calls for “a moral revolution” in the country’s values, is headed by Rev. Dr. William Barber of Moral Mondays in North Carolina and Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. of Riverside Church in New York City.
SEIU is a leading force in the Fight for $15 campaign, which seeks to raise the wages of low-income workers across the country.
Rev. Chambers, who along with the other two ministers recently returned from a national Fight for $15 rally in Richmond, VA, says the central issue of the Sept. 12 action will put state legislators and candidates on notice that they are expected to address the intertwined crises that are suffocating people in this country.
“This is about reforming America, the incarceration system, the housing crisis, the fight for 15 dollars an hour and labor rights, lack of jobs and skilled training, immigrant rights and excessive college tuition,” said Chambers.
“These things are necessary for America to thrive. We’re going to continue to deteriorate if we do move to higher moral ground.”
Speaking during a national conference call Wednesday, Rev. Barber said that already 116 faith leaders – including Muslims and Jews – are participating in the national call to action.
“We’re taking on the Christian Right,” Rev. Barber said.
“Somebody has to take on the way morality has been limited by the right, with the backing of big business, rather than to focus on the fundamental issues of jobs, justice and civil rights.”
Rev. Barber spoke at the recent Democratic National Convention, talking about the need to address the country’s “heart problem.”
The Revival has been circulating a moral declaration that says, “Our moral traditions have a firm foundation upon which to stand against the divide-and-conquer strategies of extremists. We believe in a moral agenda that stands against systemic racism, classism, poverty, xenophobia, and any attempt to promote hate towards any members of the human family.”
Also working on the action locally are the Interfaith Council of Alameda County and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Oakland.
Organizers are holding a meeting on Wednesday Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. to organize the Sacramento protest. The meeting will be held at Westside Missionary Baptist Church at 732 Willow St. in West Oakland.
For more information, call (510) 239-6969.