Bishop William Barber receives MacArthur "Genius" award


Shining a light in the darkness of social injustice:

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Thursday named 25 people, including academics, activists, artists, scholars and scientists, who will receive $625,000 over five years to use as they please.

Rev. William Barber, former president of the North Carolina NAACP, was among the 2018 winners, honored for his work to build coalitions to fight racial and economic injustice. Barber, the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, oversaw the Forward Together Movement, which held weekly "Moral Monday" marches and sit-ins while the General Assembly was in session for several years to protest laws passed by the Republican-controlled legislature on issues from voting rights to Medicaid.

I'm not usually one of those people who demand protocol be followed, and Barber himself would probably rebuke me for pushing the issue, but: He should no longer be referred to simply as "Reverend" Barber. In addition to his PhD which should be acknowledged, he has also been elevated to Bishop. And it's not just an honorary title or North Carolina-specific, it's the real deal:

We at the Kairos Center want to congratulate Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II as he joins the College of Affirming Bishops and Faith Leaders, consecrated by Bishop Yvette Flunder in New Orleans, LA on July 22, 2018. His call to serve Repairers of the Breach is a holy one and his devotion to raising up religious voices in the prophetic tradition is much needed in these difficult days. Rev. Dr. Barber’s moral analysis, articulation and action is a model for all.

Rev. Dr. Barber has answered the call to help lead brigades of ambulance drivers to heal the deep wounds of racism, militarism, and poverty. He has taken up the call to finish the unfinished business of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and build a Poor People’s Campaign for today. He is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who, two thousand years ago, led a Poor People’s Campaign and sparked the Christian movement that has transformed all of human history. We see no better candidate for Bishop than he in this time and in this place. We are all in need of his moral and spiritual guidance, care, and charge. The Kairos Center affirms his apostolic call.

Now that I've got that off my chest, congratulations Bishop Barber. And thank you for being our guide out of the darkness here in North Carolina.



Political participation & fighting social injustice

We always talk about organizing communities of interest to create change in our lives and address the problems we face as a community. But the unspoken, awful, and heartening truth is that more often than not, we can’t fix things in time to save ourselves.

If you’re fighting for college affordability, you’ll at best win it long after you’ve graduated and the reform won’t apply to you. If you’re working for a world where queer people get to live lives not carrying the mental, emotional, and sometimes physical scars of discrimination, it won’t be you who gets to live that life. If you’re advocating for healthcare reform, the time scales of the change likely won’t be in time to heal you.

The hard truth is that no matter the cause, you’re probably too late to help yourself or your friends. That’s also what makes me cherish community organizing and those who participate in civic life. I think they do so knowing the unspoken truth, that we can’t save ourselves, and they do the work anyways.