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UCC folks involved with Poor People’s Campaign

UCC pastor Bianca Davis-Lovelace of Renton is one of the state’s three lead coordinators for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Revival” that organized protests in Olympia on six Mondays from May 14 through June 18.

Wendy Blight, moderator, meets with Bianca Davis-Lovelace.

The Poor People’s Campaign picks up Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign 50 years ago and continues its challenges of the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.

Each week, people came from across the state to rally inside and outside the Capitol in Olympia to raise the moral call to move from poverty to enough resources for everyone, from racism to equality and respect; from militarism to a peace-based economy; from ecological devastation to earth stewardship; from isolation to solidarity in human rights, and from a narrow morality to a broad “moral fusion.”

There were speakers and people doing sit-ins in the rotunda or on streets blocking traffic.  Many of those engaging in non-violent protest were arrested, about 15 to 19 on average each time, said Bianca, but 25 on the last day.

In November 2017, clergy and activists met with national co-organizer, William Barber II, a Disciples of Christ pastor, to form the state coordinating committee.  Bianca volunteered for that and then be a chair.

“I stepped up because I noticed in activist circles in Seattle and the state there are few people of color or poor people.  It’s important that people who are marginalized be leaders in this campaign,” she said.  “Dr. King wanted to bring groups together—African Americans and poor white people.  Now its people of color.”

Bianca’s younger brother died from lack of quality health care and poor treatment because he was a person of color.  She told his story one week.

Bianca gave an overview of the six weeks.

The first week focused on women and children in poverty.

The second focused  on systemic racism.

“We gathered clergy for a Black Lives Matter communion service, honoring blacks slain by police by putting a photo up on the steps of the Temple of Justice part of the Capitol building.  We also focused on the mass incarceration of black and brown people,” she said.

The third week, on Memorial Day, disabled vets and vets of color challenged militarism.  One in a wheel chair spoke against past and present wars.

“Each week, there was training for those wanting to engage in direct action, a rally with speakers, followed by a march or direct action,” Bianca said, noting that people were arrested all but the first week.

She said 80 to 215 attended each rally.

The fourth week focused on ecological devastation and health care.  A scientist spoke on climate change.  The action was a “die-in” on the lawn of a lobbyist, then going to the street to block an intersection.

The fifth week focused on homelessness with speakers saying everyone has a right to a fair income so they can afford housing.  People from the homeless program in Grays Harbor told their stories as low-wage earners in fast-food. 

For the action, people set up 12 tents and occupied the lawn of the legislature and then moved the tents into an intersection.  On each tent was a fact about homelessness, line “140 million people live in poverty.”

The sixth week brought the issues together—racism, poverty, militarism, ecological devastation and homelessness.  Bianca said Kelle Brown, pastor at Plymouth UCC in Seattle spoke on the effects of racism.  Native Americans shared their struggles.  There were performers and poets.

The action was to march to Olympia’s City Hall and occupy it after hours, with people of different races and economic levels singing and chanting.

“We came together to address the issues plaguing the country,” she said.  “The experience of 40 days of mass action was a powerful experience for many.  It was an experience of how the Body of Christ should look and act.”

Marginalized people, people of different spirituality and together in unity, celebrating for a cause, she said.

“Most congregations are homogeneous,” she said.  “It was beautiful to see diverse people together.”

Washington sent three to Washington, D.C., to participate in a national rally on Saturday, June 23.  Seattle and Spokane planned solidarity rallies and marches.  In Seattle, the rally begins at 1 p.m. at Plymouth UCC.

“The six weeks have launched a multi-year movement,” Bianca said.  “States will have autonomy on how to address issues.”

For example, there will be solidarity opposing building a youth jail in Seattle, she said.

In June, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the U.S. Episcopal Church joined several from the state campaign who gathered in Aberdeen for a tour, vigil and march protesting a city ordinance making it illegal for homeless people to sit or sleep on streets.

Bianca, who grew up in Chicago and earned a master of divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary, is the daughter of the Southern Conference’s conference minister.  Her mother is also a UCC minister.  She came to Seattle after graduating from seminary in 2013 to serve a UCC church, and then began as executive director of the Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches (REACH).

Both with the campaign and the ecumenical association, she said she “fight for those who are marginalized and oppressed.”

REACH has a night shelter with 55 beds and a day shelter for homeless families. It also has a feeding program.

While advocating for the poor through the Poor People’s Campaign, through REACH she meets with people in need.

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Pacific Northwest United Church News © Summer 2018


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