From Aaron Scott, Missioner for Anti-Poverty Organizing
Last week wrapped up a groundbreaking 40 days of action for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. The Diocese of Olympia had a strong, consistent presence throughout this season of moral direct action. With Bishop Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis co-chairing the campaign at the national level, Washington State joined roughly forty other states (and the District of Columbia) in forming state coordinating committees to pull off the ambitious goal of weekly civil disobedience over the course of six weeks. Each week had a moral focus zeroing in on specific aspects of the campaign’s core issues: poverty, systemic racism, the war economy, ecological devastation, and our nation’s distorted moral narrative. For detailed analysis and strategy, check out poorpeoplescampaign.org. Below are some highlights specific to our diocese.
- Chaplains on the Harbor, Westport
- Christ Church, Seattle
- Christ Church, Tacoma
- St. Andrew, Seattle
- Redeemer, Kenmore
- St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
- St. John, Olympia
- St. Mark, Montesano
- St. Andrew, Port Angeles
- St. Benedict, Lacey
- St. Mary, Lakewood
- Good Shepherd, Federal Way
- The Sanctuary: UW Lutheran and Episcopal Campus Ministry
Congregations with Civil Disobedience Arrests:
- Chaplains on the Harbor, Westport (1 arrest)
- Christ Church, Seattle (10 arrests)
- Christ Church, Tacoma (1 arrest)
- The Sanctuary: UW Lutheran and Episcopal Campus Ministry (1 arrest)
Chaplains on the Harbor had a prominent role in Week 5 of the campaign (“Everybody’s Got the Right to Live”: Education, Living Wages, Jobs, Income, Housing). On Tuesday June 12th Chris Olive and Nita Cross (apprentice farmers at our supportive employment project, Harbor Roots Farm) took part in a hearing with senators and representatives in Washington DC, alongside other directly-impacted leaders in the PPC. Chris spoke powerfully on his own experiences of homelessness and opioid addiction, highlighting the staggering lack of investment in both affordable housing and healthcare in Grays Harbor County. You can watch the whole hearing here. That same day, Aaron Scott (organizer at Chaplains on the Harbor) spoke on a panel with Dr. Cornel West and Jitu Brown. Then on Saturday June 16th, Chaplains on the Harbor and Harbor Roots Farm hosted a “Solidarity Saturday” in collaboration with the Washington State PPC. We were honored by a visit from The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel and none other than The Most Rev. Michael Curry! The Presiding Bishop tried some of our freshly harvested greens on the farm, then joined us for an organizing tour and vigil in downtown Aberdeen. He preached for us on the spot, exhorting us to keep pushing forward as “a mustard seed movement.” After the vigil, eight people pitched tents and slept overnight in front of Aberdeen’s city hall, in defiance of the city’s new ordinance criminalizing sitting and lying down on public sidewalks and in defense of homeless people’s right to exist in the city. Among them were Episcopalians Rev. Sarah Monroe (founder and priest-in-charge at COH) and Sean Hudspeth (catechist at Christ Episcopal Church Seattle).
Alan Wheaton (Christ Episcopal Church, Sunday choir and compline choir) leads the diocese in the number of times he was arrested over these 40 days. Alan was arrested four times in Olympia and once in Washington DC, where he was invited to join the national campaign team in Week 6 as a volunteer theomusicologist. Sean Hudspeth, arrested three times, was the only Episcopalian to spend any time in jail for his participation in the Seattle solidarity rally on June 23rd. Sean was detained with six other moral resisters, put in a jumpsuit and held overnight at the King County Jail, where he spent his time praying with other inmates and teaching about the campaign. The Rev. Shelly Fayette (rector, Christ Episcopal Church) was arrested twice and released immediately by the Olympia Police Department– once for shutting down Capitol Way, once for occupying Olympia City Hall.
Mashyla Buckmaster and Emily Nilsson (both of Chaplains on the Harbor) also joined the national campaign team in Washington DC for the final mass rally on June 23rd. Mashyla, who has now spoken alongside Bishop Barber several times, testified on the impact this campaign has had on her understanding of systemic poverty, as a poor person: “I would still believe it was all my fault if it weren’t for the people in this movement who helped teach me to see the system for what it truly is, and what it does to poor people. These problems are so much bigger than our individual choices. They are about policies– about the rich getting richer off our suffering… And on top of all that, the feeling of being on the right side of history is chilling. My soul is smiling.” You can catch a short interview with Mashyla here.
Remember: these 40 days of action are just the launch! So if you’re feeling like you’ve missed out on something important, get ready to join us for phase two. Per Rev. Theoharis and Bishop Barber:
“The next phase of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will focus on deep dive power building and voter mobilization within and among poor and impacted communities. During the launching phase, we have gone broad. We have woken up the nation by engaging in historic weekly moral fusion direct action. We have become a known presence in our communities. We have begun to shift the moral narrative. Now it is time to go deep.
“As and with poor and impacted people, we will continue to become a new and unsettling force that cannot be ignored and we will use every tool at our disposal, including the ballot box. Our deep organizing and voter mobilization will continue to follow the fundamental principles of the campaign to build fusion coalitions, to organize around issues, not party, to shift the moral narrative, and to build towards structural and systemic change.”
Forward together, not one step back!