May 31st, 2020

// Social justice leader Rev. Barber: Screams, tears and protests are a mourning for our democracy

Social justice leader Rev. Barber: Screams, tears and protests are a mourning for our democracy

America must listen to the protests in the streets if it is ever to heal the wounds caused by both police and policy brutality, social justice leader Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II said as he delivered a pastoral letter on Pentecost Sunday.

“ … I want us to look at those crowds deeply in the street. Listen to them, hear them, see the diversity,” Barber said from Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he is the minister. “And remember that in our history, slavery was abolished, women did gain the right to vote, labor did win a 40-hour workweek and a minimum wage. The civil rights movement in the face of lynching … did expand the right to vote for African Americans.”

Rev. Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, spoke less than a week after video was released showing an African American man, George Floyd, drawing his last breaths as a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck. His death has led to protests across the nation as people have taken to the streets to express their outrage not only at Floyd’s death but also at this country’s history of racism and injustice.

Rev. Barber wrote and delivered the letter in a sermon because so many people had asked him to share a moral perspective on this moment. 

People must refuse to be comforted too quickly about the deaths of black people at the hands of white police officers and white citizens and from COVID-19,  he said.

“We cannot try to hurry up and put the screams and the tears and the hurt back in the bottle, to just get back to some normal that was abnormal in the first place,” Rev. Barber said. “Hear the screams, feel the tears. The very people who have been rejected over and over again are the ones who have shown us the possibility of a more perfect nation. They are telling us these wounds are too much, this death is too much.”

It was two years ago that the Poor People’s Campaign said it would hold a historic  Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on June 20th because even before the pandemic, 700 people died a day from poverty and 140 million people lived in poverty or were low-income. The march and assembly now will be held online because of the pandemic. 

“When we set the date for this event two years ago, we had no way of knowing that 100,000 Americans would breathe their last breath due to COVID … we didn’t know that George Floyd’s dying words would have force the nation to consider how the knee of white supremacy would continue to bear down … but we knew already that there was too much death,” Barber said. “Too much pain, too many moans. And we were listening to the moans, from California to Carolina, from Maine to Mississippi. And we know where to look for hope. The hope is right in the valley of the rejected. If we listen, America. If we listen.

“Now is the time not to stop mourning, but to mourn and refuse to be comforted, to unite our collective moral power and demand transformative change. Right now.”


Contact: Martha Waggoner | | 919-295-0802


The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is building a generationally transformative digital gathering called the  Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, on June 20, 2020. At that assembly, we will demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda


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