Recently, while preparing a presentation to share with participants in a summer work camp focused on housing repair in inner city Memphis, Tennessee, my friend and partner, Charles Senteio (check out the link to his blog at right) sent me a copy of Robert Worsham's moving poem, "I Am A Man."
You may recall that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used this poem during his last public action among striking sanitation workers in Memphis. Dr. King's fateful trip to Memphis in April 1968 ended his life, but not his dream.
As I read over the poem again, I can feel the power and the spirit of a movement for justice in our shrinking world's troubled economy.
Don't look at me with disdain, For I am not a weakling, I am a man. I stood when to stand Brought severe reprimand, I spoke, when to speak Brought denunciation from the weak, And brutal attacks from those in power, But to me this was my greatest hour, With chin thrust out and head up proud, I stood up straight and I said out loud, I am a man! And I shall always defy The oppression of mankind until the day I die.
The photo above was taken during the sanitation workers' strike.
Dr. King stood with his brothers to affirm them in their claim of this more than obvious human reality. Dr. King's involvement also made clear his commitment to work for economic justice in addition to racial equality. For Dr. King both were central to his faith.
When it comes to employment and the day-to-day and year-to-year issues facing laboring people, it seems that the church today has little or nothing to say.
If anything, there appears to be a growing movement among AmericanChristianss in support of public policies which actually widen the economic gap between rich and poor in the nation. Executive pay continues to rise while laboring people slide farther and farther behind. Federal tax policy disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of low-income working people.
Shame on us as people of faith and on our leaders and spokespersons.
Working people deserve fair wages. Working families should be rewarded for their labor.
Included in the rewards that hard working people have a right to expect should be adequate, affordable housing; good health care options; high-quality educational opportunities for themselves and their children and, most of all, respect and voice.
Most of the people we engage here at Central Dallas Ministries work and work hard.Their work just doesn't pay off like it should.
My faith tells me that fairness and justice in matters of labor, production and profit are value issues plain and simple.
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Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
Today and throughout 2013, we need your support to continue our life-changing work in inner-city Dallas. Every day hundreds of our wonderful neighbors arrive at our doors seeking our assistance, offering their help and prepared to pursue a better life. Frankly, the folks we "serve" make essential contributions to the scope, nature and soul of the work we attempt. At CitySquare we honor and recognize the amazing value and richness of our low-income neighbors. During 2012, almost 55,000 different people received the benefit of our wide-ranging services designed to assist in the process of building better lives. We need your help TODAY as we continue to respond to the needs of our community. Even more, we need you to become our PARTNER in the work of compassion and community renewal--work that continues day after day at CitySquare.