The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement by William J. Barber II
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Third Reconstruction is an inspiring book. It tells the tale of Pastor Barber and his lifelong commitment to Jesus and to fusion politics. Fusion politics being a movement that takes multiple concerns seriously—he tells of gathering together 14 groups and writing up their grievances and what stood in the way of each group gaining justice—and finding that while the grievances were different, the obstacles holding back justice were the same. And so they covenanted together to stick up for one another, for Women’s Rights groups to show up for the sake of those seeking voting rights, for black clergy to show up in support of gay folk… you get the idea—the fires of injustice can only be smothered by a quilt of many peoples. Barber points back to older examples of fusion politics, the multi-racial poor people’s groundswell during Reconstruction, the alliances King made with labor unions during the Civil Rights Era, and most recently the Moral Mondays held by this 14 point coalition of which Barber is a part. He weaves prophetic faith into a community organizing tradition—being willing to lose more than a secular organizer would, because he holds onto faith that God has already won.
This coalition won the expansion of voting rights in North Carolina that likely allowed President Obama to win in that state. After this, they faced a severe back-lash from moneyed interests. In fact, the very education of children in North Carolina is endangered, and Barber’s group has to push back.
The culmination of this story, at least for me, was Barber being invited to a Moral Monday in backwoods North Carolina in what he described as “Klan-country.” He was met with a sea of rural white-folk, Eisenhower Republicans, who were up for Moral Monday, but wanted to make sure they were not being co-opted by the Democratic Party.
And this might actually be rather instructive—as you likely know Barber preached at the Democratic National Convention. I wonder if this betrayed one of his ideals, never run candidates, only shape the narrative so those in power have to do the right thing?
The book ends with 14 steps for living out fusion politics. They are well worth heeding.
1. Relationships have to be built on the ground.
2. Don’t run from moral language.
3. Be willing to suffer.
4. Make sure those most impacted by the policies you talk about have a voice.
5. Any moral movement in the USA needs to wrestle with the question of racial equality.
6. The coalition must be broad and diverse.
7. Like really broad, bring in those who sometimes seem to be your enemies.
8. Be clear about your agenda.
9. Make sure the numbers add up.
10. Use social media to coordinate things.
11. Engage in voter registration and education.
12. Have a good legal team on your side.
13. Have a good set of artists on your side.
14. It’s a movement not a moment.
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