A Wrap Up of NC Faith Forward Coalition Conference
Uniting For Our Future: A Wrap Up of NC Faith Forward Coalition Conference
Merry Overholser, Piedmont UU Church member
During times of turmoil, we are presented with the opportunity to plant seeds of change. This was one of the themes of keynote speaker, Bree Newsome’s opening address at the NC Faith Forward Coalition’s conference in Winston-Salem earlier this month. Bree Newsome is famous for her act of civil disobedience in 2015 when she removed the Confederate flag from the SC State House grounds.
NC Faith Forward works with LGBTQ-affirming faith communities and social justice movements to combat discrimination and work to make North Carolina a more inclusive and just state. This conference was in collaboration with The Freedom Center for Social Justice, Equality NC, National LGBTQ Task Force and several faith-based organizations.
This year’s theme, Uniting For Our Future featured two main focus areas:
Cross Movement Collaboration workshops included presentations such as Grassroots Lobbying, Trans Allyship, Changing Hearts through Storytelling, Media Training and Organizing for Transformation, which was the session I attended. Most of us have been touched by a story which has opened our eyes or possibly changed our minds through hearing another’s perspective. Organizing for Transformation reminded me of the importance of directly communicating with others. Through basic two-minute introductions to each other we learned of our similarities, and conversations blossomed. Those few moments made clear how just a bit of direct communication can spark relationships.
We were reminded that our legislators work for us even though they can seem unreachable;
this is reinforced if you’ve ever tried to get through to them in a phone call. Typically, we are left with the option of leaving a message with an aide, which is the closest human interaction we’ll get. They need to hear from us, directly, concerning how their decisions impact our daily lives. The conference provided templates to help formulate personalized written messages that cannot be easily dismissed.
Core Issue Mobilization workshops included presentations about Banning the Box, Constitutional Amendments on the Ballot in November, Public Education Policy, Sanctuary and Empowerment Through Voting. All these sessions were delivered as action steps we can take during a time of turmoil.
The recurring message throughout the day was the importance of unity but also much more than that. Ms. Newsome recounted moments in her life, from visiting the Old Slave Market as a teenager, attending Moral Mondays in Raleigh, witnessing the acquittal of the murderer of Trayvon Martin, the massacre of nine African-American worshippers at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in addition to the countless and ever increasing hate crimes against African-Americans and other marginalized groups. All these incidents, including her personal experiences led her to action, but this was not simply an emboldened action of a fed up black woman. This was a collaborative effort of many who literally stood with her and said: “If she goes down, you have to take me down first.” That was her message – we must not only be willing to stand by, as allies, but we must also be willing to act as accomplices in creating change.