I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. by Michael Eric Dyson

Guest post by Tom Underwood

mlkWhilst much has been written about the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. this is a book that goes beyond autobiography to assess the legacy of King in America today.

From the outset of the book Dyson makes clear his belief that King is “the greatest American who ever lived.”  He then goes on to share three central mistakes people make in relation to King’s legacy; ideas, identity and image.  Rather than a chronological guide to King’s life the book is then divided into these three core areas.

The chapters in the ‘ideas’ part of the book seek to reestablish the radical nature of King, particularly by exploring his changing beliefs in the last years of his life.

“King has been fashioned to calm rather than trouble the waters of social conscience in the post-civil rights era.  But he was no Safe Negro.”

It is fascinating to read about the changing perspectives that caused him to speak out against the horrors of the Vietnam war and organise action against poverty.  In his last years King had, “… a commitment to showing the lethal links between racism, militarism and poverty.”  Martin Luther King is now honored with a national holiday in America so it is easy to forget that in the few years leading up to his death his views on Vietnam, black nationalism and poverty were making him increasingly less popular with whites and also meeting with opposition from within the African American civil rights movement.

The second part of the book deals with identity and chapters in this section directly address King’s plagiarism, the insatiable sexual appetite that led to multiple affairs and his patriarchal chauvinism.  The writer Dyson met with criticism from some within the African American community for criticising King yet he counters that it is essential to connect with the humanity of King otherwise he becomes an unhelpful hero, someone who is so worshipped and adored that he becomes impossible to live up to and then alienating to young African American’s in America today.

Finally, the book deals with how King’s image’s is used today.  I personally found this section of the book less interesting than the others as it moves away from King to cover his family’s wrestle for control over his image after his death.

If you’re looking for an autobiography on the life of King this is not going to be for you.  However, if you know the history of King and want to read more in-depth this is an accessible academic study of his legacy.

As Christian activists it provides much helpful advice through the prism of King’s life.  Most of all it challenges us today as it reminds us of the sacrifice involved in following God by pursuing justice.  For thirteen years King lived in the spotlight of the civil rights movement with the constant fear of death, for King, “His most enduring trophies were the calluses he gathered from marching for justice in merciless heat and the sore knees he gained from bending to pray for enemies he defiantly loved.”

Profile picTom Underwood teaches young people with autism and writes plays about peace. He is currently writing about peace activism and arms trade activists.  He worships at Raynes Park Community Church and tweets @tomcunderwood

While Women Still Weep Conference

Guest post by Captain Sandra Pawar

sandra 8In 1912, General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, entered the Royal Albert Hall in London to give his last, most notable address to a packed crowd of 7,000 Salvationists. The most famous part of this speech is:

“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight
While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight
While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight
While there is a drunkard left, 
While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, 
While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, 
I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end!”

I have always loved this part of his speech and found it incredibly powerful. I loved the heart and passion behind it. I believe it was not only relevant for what was needed in the early century but I believe it is still relevant today and a call to mission for us.

There are still women weeping and there are still young girls lost upon the streets and there is still a need for people to fight for and with them.

There are women and young girls being trafficked around this world and in this country on a daily basis, there are women and young girls being exploited, there are women and young girls who have no safe place to live, there are women and young girls who are being abused by husbands and boyfriends. There are babies being murdered just because they are girls. There are women and young girls who are fleeing war torn countries only to be put on boats that sink or sent to refugee camps that are in incredibly bad condition offering barely any hope.

It is for these young girls and for these women that we must learn to fight.

As followers of Jesus Christ we have strategic responsibility to become aware of the conditions for many young girls and women not only around the world but in our local communities and we need to raise the alarm to others and we must do something with what we know.

I feel like my life has been full of different experiences that have led me to having this full on passion to do something for women and because of all these different experiences whether it be working with young homeless girls on the streets of Sydney who were being prostituted by other homeless young people or whether it be the older women I met in the women’s shelter who were being abused by their lovers and husbands or the women I met in the strip clubs in Atlanta or the rescued young girl with AIDS in India who did  henna on my feet for my  wedding as a way to escape the red light district. Each one of these women that I have met has stirred a deep passion in me to fight for them and with them.

God has a deep deep love for women, for girls and now that I am aware of all the various circumstances women and young girls find themselves in and the often horrific situations they face I cannot stand back and pretend it doesn’t happen. I must do something.

sandraSo the justice conference “While Women Still Weep” held at Southwark Corps recently was my effort to do something.  An effort to bring awareness to others, to create a day, a moment where God could speak and stir our hearts to action. We had speakers  from International Justice Mission talking about the international efforts being made to rescue and restore, we had speakers from local Salvation Army chapters like Faith House and the Territorial department for Anti Human trafficking to give us information on local situations and how we could join the fight. A representative from Citizens Uk was there to speak about the importance of listening to people’s stories and Stephanie Chagis Bijl talked about joining the justice fight through prayer.

sandra 3It was a day where hopefully people came away with some practical tools and ideas on how they could join the fight. Once you know, you can no longer stand back and do nothing.

Some of the steps that people have been encouraged to take after the conference are:

  1. Look into partnering with Citizens UK or any other organization that fights against injustice in their local communities
  2. Set aside time to pray daily for any issue that God has laid  on their heart in regards to the injustices facing women and children. One such prayer need was cyber trafficking especially in Thailand
  3. Volunteer to be either a driver or passenger for the Anti Human trafficking department’s transportation program
  4. Volunteer with Faith House on their prayer walks and ministry with exploited women
  5. Give financially to an organisation that is making a difference in the lives of women and children
  6. Bring awareness to others about these issues and encourage others to take action
  7. Think about purchases you make and how they may be affecting women and young children around the world. Buy ethically.
  8. Attend the next  ‘While Women Still Weep  Justice Conference ‘on March 18th 2017

While Women STILL weep….I will fight.

sandra 7Sandra Pawar is currently the Corps Officer at Southwark Corps. She is passionate about seeing broken lives made whole,  captives set free and chains of injustice broken. 

Ce n’était pas la fin, ce n’était que le début

(Ceci est une traduction de ce billet. En tant que francophone, vous êtes peut-être peu familier avec certains concepts qui n’ont pas été expliqués dans l’autre billet. N’hésitez pas à commenter pour demander des explications ou clarifications).

Il y a quelques semaines, London Citizens a organisé une “assemblée municipale” [Mayoral Assembly] à la Copper Box, enceinte sportive construite pour les JO en 2012. Le but était de rassembler 6000 citoyens pour construire des relations positives avec les deux principaux candidats à l’élection – donc le probable futur maire – et de leur faire prendre des engagements à travailler avec nous. Les deux candidats ont accepté pas mal de nos demandes. Mais cet évènement n’était pas la fin, ce n’était que le début.

Continue reading “Ce n’était pas la fin, ce n’était que le début”

This was not the end, but just the beginning

A few weeks ago, London Citizens organised the Mayoral Assembly at the Copper Box. The aim was to gather 6000 citizens to build good relationships with the candidates, thus the possible future mayor, and to ask them to take commitment to work with us. Both candidates answered positively to several of our requests. And this event was not the end, but just the beginning.

Now that Sadiq Khan has been elected as mayor, the main challenge  is to start working with him and to build good relationships, characterised by accountability. This is why London Citizens decided to welcome the new Mayor and his staff, with breakfast, on his first day to work at the London City Hall!

Continue reading “This was not the end, but just the beginning”

Banding towards justice: when the band does politics and why it matters

Guest post by Paul Williams

CitizensUK_MayoralAssembly_©ChrisJepson_168The William Booth College band was proud to represent the college and the wider Salvation Army at the London Mayoral Assembly organised by London Citizens.

CitizensUK_MayoralAssembly_©ChrisJepson_017The purpose of this assembly was to get the two frontrunners in the race for London Mayor to agree to ‘asks’ outlined in the London Citizens Manifesto. These ‘asks’, which are developed from the grassroots, focussed on the living wage, citizenship and integration, training and employment prospects for young people and housing.

Live music certainly adds to the excitement of any event. The band, along with a massed children’s choir and vocal groups from other faith and community groups, performed a variety of music in the lead up to the main event.

A particularly poignant and reflective moment was a multimedia presentation about issues surrounding housing in London, including the story of Church of England priest and housing reformer Basil Jellicoe. The band accompanied this presentation with the hymn tune ‘Repton’ which added to the solemnity of the CitizensUK_MayoralAssembly_©ChrisJepson_004moment. A twitter comment stated that you could recognise the sound of a Salvation Army band a mile off!

It was a privilege for the band to take part in this distinctly Salvationist way. But, more to the point, we had the opportunity to show that we want to be involved with our elected representatives (and hold them to account) and that, ultimately, we are committed to justice and want everyone to experience life in all its fullness.

U2’s Bono once said that ‘Music can change the world because it can change people’. We certainly hope that we, as a band, played our part in bringing about change in London.

Pictures from the Citizens UK #MayoralAssembly last night

Citizens 3Last night saw around 6,000 people gather at the Copper Box arena in Olympic Park in Stratford for the Citizens UK London Mayoral Assembly. Front runners in the mayoral race Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan were present and made encouraging commitments on housing, refugees and the Living Wage. The night also saw a fantastic presence of London Salvationists, with nearly 200 present from William Booth College and 10 London corps: Ilford, Stepney, Raynes Park, Southwark, Nunhead, Camberwell, Bromley, Wimbledon, Woodford and Mitcham. The College band played during the assembly and Captain John Clifton negotiated with Zac Goldsmith on his reaction to Citizens’ asks on Community Land Trusts. More information and reaction will be posted in the coming days, but we thought it would be good to simply share a small selection of the pictures from the assembly to remember a wonderful night: Continue reading “Pictures from the Citizens UK #MayoralAssembly last night”

Toddling Towards Justice: how your toddler group can change the world

“It’s not fair” she wailed, lips pouting and chin quivering, “I want to play houses”.
With four toddlers already squeezed into the playhouse and two more trying to crawl in through the door, my daughter was not happy with the state of things.
The problem is there just aren’t enough houses for everyone.

And that’s not just in the make believe world of pretend play. One of the biggest challenges facing our borough is the lack of genuinely affordable housing. As we’ve listened to the stories of our toddler families, it’s become clear that it’s a problem that particularly affects families in the borough. Many of the families connected with our Baby Bank are living in temporary accommodation, being moved from one B&B to another, or in cramped hostels, sharing cooking and play spaces with countless other families. Almost all the parents at our Messy Families parenting group named housing as one of the biggest stresses of their family life. For many the only hope of finding more suitable housing is to move outside the borough, away from their jobs and support networks.

IMG_1189So for some time we’ve been trying to find a way to involve our toddlers and their families in our campaign for more affordable housing in the borough. But this hasn’t been easy. Our assemblies with local councillors have usually taken place in the evenings and for many parents the prospect of an over-tired toddler the next day has just been too daunting! So in the lead up to our housing assembly we realised that we needed to get creative to make the children’s needs heard.
And getting creative is just what we did! The goal of the assembly was to ask the Leader of the Council to commit to working with Redbridge Citizens to build 250 genuinely affordable homes as part of a Community Land Trust. So we decided to show him what that would look like by asking the children to paint 250 houses to display around the room. Our toddlers love to paint and it made sense to use their skills to give the Councillor a vision of the change we could make together.
IMG_1191
We also invited parents to join our “pound4power” action, buying a share of the Community Land Trust for £1 as a sign of the real commitment of real people for the proposal. It wasn’t a big ask so parents were happy to sign up, with many buying shares for their children as well. Like the houses, “pound4power” is a reminder to the council that we have power to effect change in our community – people power.
CLT signup
So what have we learned about how our toddler group can change the world?
  1. Listen to what matters to families at the group – ask what puts pressure on their family life and what would make it better.
  2. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
  3. Make the action small enough for little people to get involved, but big enough to get the message across!
Of course, these are just our first steps in justice seeking at toddler group. But as every parent knows, a child’s first steps are just the beginning of a whole new adventure!
Do you have any other experiences of getting children involved in justice-seeking?  Please share them in the comments below!