Time To Get Up!

On January 21st, the first anniversary of the Women’s March, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II joined Women’s March organizers in Las Vegas, Nevada, for their Power to the Polls event. Below is a transcript of his remarks.

Hello, Women’s March!

I come to you today in the spirit of the God who is a mother to the motherless.

I come to you today thankful for Tamika and Linda and Carmen and Bob and all of you who are here.

I come today as co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revial and President of Repairers of the Breach.

I come to you today in the spirit of Harriet Tubman who said, “I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.”

I come to you today in the spirit of Mother Jones, who said, “Pray for the dead, but fight like hell for the living.”

I come to you in the spirit of Ella Baker, who said, “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed… It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

I come to you today in the spirit of Coretta King, who taught us that abuse against women is violence. But “starving a child is also violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working person is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring healthcare is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence. And an apathetic attitude that refuse to challenge injustice is also violence.”

I come to you today in the spirit of my mother, Eleanor Barber, who was one of the first black women to integrate public schools in Washington County and still gets up every morning at 83 years old and goes to work. I asked her, “Why are you still going to work?” And she answered, “They didn’t want me when I came here; now I’ll leave when I get ready!”

I come to you today as a man who has known abuse.

I come to you today in the spirit of Roz Pelles, the manager of the Poor People’s Campaign and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

I come to you in the spirit of all the women from Africa to Asia to America to Mexico — wherever they are.

And I come to you in the spirit of Tyler, who I met on the plane late last night from Chicago and is here in the crowd somewhere.

And I come here to declare that if Sojourner — “Ain’t I a Woman?” — Truth and

Fredrick Douglass and Lucretia Mott, a Quaker, and William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist, could form a coalition to fight for women’s suffrage and change America in the 1800’s, so can we.

I’ve come here to declare that if Diane Nash and Rosa Parks and Joan Baez and Viola Liuzzo and Martin Luther King and Rabbi Heschel could form a coalition to change America in the in the 1960’s, so can we.

We must know that, down through history, those who have promoted sexism and violence against women have more often than not also stood on the side of racism and homophobia and religious tyranny and fascism and greed and systemic poverty. Truth is, to be anti-woman is to be against democracy. It is to be anti-justice. It is to be against our deepest moral and religious values.

In nation where women are 35 percent more likely than men to be poor — where women account for 60 percent of low wage workers and, together with children, account for 70 percent of the nations poor, refusing to address poverty while giving welfare tax cuts to the greedy at the expense of the poor and working poor is anti-woman, anti-family, anti-American, and immoral.

Denying healthcare is anti-woman, anti-family, anti-American, and immoral. And I’m not just talking about the Affordable Care Act. I’m talking about universal healthcare for every human being as a human right.

Participating in voter suppression that allows extremists to cheat in order to get into office is anti-woman, anti-family, anti-American, and immoral.

Attacking labor rights is anti-woman, anti-family, anti-American, and immoral.

Refusing living wages is anti-woman, anti-family, anti-American, and immoral.

Refusing the rights of immigrants in a country made up of immigrants — and a group of people talking about “meritorious immigration” and deciding that they want to put rules in place that their own grandmamma who was an immigrant couldn’t pass — is anti-woman, anti-family, anti-American, and immoral.

So we must stand together. And I’ve come, my sisters, to say that the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival stands with the Women’s March and your goal to transform America, to have massive voter mobilization of one million new registered voters, and to take the power to the polls.

On Mother’s Day, we will launch the Poor People’s Campaign with 40 days of nonviolent civil disobedience, direct action, power building, and voter mobilization with the poor and moral leaders in 25 state capitols and in Ryan and McConnell’s offices. Our first action will be standing against policies that exacerbate child poverty and cut money for public education.

Truth is, my sisters, it’s movement time in America. Any time the nation, with a race-driven Electoral College, turns the presidency over to a narcissistic, egotistical, racist that looses by 3 million votes, it’s movement time. It’s movement time.

Any time the very politicians in the Congress that have claimed Trump is not stable set aside their assessment to push his agenda, it’s movement time.

We can’t wait four years. We have to move extremists now — out of the Congress and out of statehouses. Do you know that if we registered 30% of the black voters in the Southern states and connected those with white people that are progressives and Latinos, Alabama doesn’t have to be an anomaly? We can win in Florida and Georgia and Texas and North Carolina and Mississippi. We need a mid-year election turnout like never before. It’s movement time.

So finally, since it’s Sunday, I come here today as a preacher in the prophetic tradition and in the spirit of a woman in the Bible named Deborah. Deborah was a woman in the Bible in the Book of Judges. The nation in her day was under assault by a loud mouth, egotistical, abusive, narcissistic, lying leader named Trump — I mean, Sisera.

But Deborah wasn’t scared. Some of the men didn’t want to take on Sisera. They were willing to accept what was going on, but Deborah said, “It’s time to fight.”

So she had one message for those who wanted to save the soul of the nation. It was, “Get up!”

And I say to you today, we’ve been crying and whining long enough — talking about what happen in 2016. It’s time to get up and make something happen. It’s time to get up and register everybody you know to vote. It’s time to get up and take the power to the polls. Instead of deporting immigrants, we need to deport some of these politicians out of their office.

It’s time to get up. If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now. And anybody that doesn’t vote, my grandmamma had a word for you: it’s called “trifling.”

It’s time to get up and know that love can win, and justice can win, and righteousness can win when we organize black and white and brown and red and yellow; old and young; Jewish and Muslim and Christian and those who do not have a faith, but they believe in a moral agenda. It’s time to get up — gay and straight. No more fighting each other. Let’s fight racism. Let’s fight sexism. Let’s fight the extremists.

It’s time to get up and demand justice for all. It’s time to get up because we are the people who know that we can take a word like “shithole” and turn it into fertilizer and grow a new movement.

It’s time to get up and vote people out of office who do wrong. It’s time to get up and speak truth to power.

And if I could channel my inner hip hop:

We ain’t meant to survive, ’cause it’s a set-up

And even though you’re fed up

Huh, you got to keep your head up

Oh child, it’s gonna get easier

Oh child, it’s gonna get better

Oh, oh child, things are gonna get brighter

Because we are going to get up, get up, get up!