Tuesday, December 11, 2018

first 18 minutes

If you watch the first 18 minutes of last night's Waterloo, IA, City Council Meeting, you will be able to hear the proclamation I shared yesterday and you will see a 6 minute video of our Vision Trip to the South last month. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

human rights day december 10

I had the pleasure of joining others at the Waterloo City Council Meeting tonight to stand with Mayor Hart as he read this Human Rights Proclamation over our community:

City of Waterloo, Iowa

On December 10, 1948, nations from six continents came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This extraordinary document affirmed that every individual is born equal with inalienable rights, and it is the responsibility of governments to uphold these rights.  In more than 430 translations, the Declaration recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of all people and supports their right to chart their own destinies.  On the anniversary of this human rights milestone, we join with all those who are willing to strive for a brighter future, and together, we continue our work to build the world our children deserve; and
We want our children to lead healthy lives and pursue an education without fear, and when citizens are empowered to pursue their full measure of happiness without restraint, they help ensure that economies grow, stability and prosperity spread, and communities flourish.  Protecting human rights everywhere extends the promise of democracy and bolsters the values that serve as a basis for peace in our world; and
It is our obligation as free people to stand with courageous individuals who raise their voices to demand universal rights.  Under extremely difficult circumstances – and often at grave personal risk – brave human rights defenders and civil society activists throughout the Cedar Valley are working to actualize the rights and freedoms that are the birthright of all humankind.  We will continue to support all those who champion these fundamental principles, and we will never stop speaking out for the human rights of all individuals, at home and abroad.  It is part of who we are as a people and what we stand for as a Cedar Valley United; and
We honor those by continually working to protect the personal dignity of all Waterloo citizens regardless of race, gender, religion or non-religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, national origin or ability and to ensure social, political and economic freedoms and opportunities for all;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Mayor Quentin Hart, do hereby proclaim Monday, December 10, 2018, the official recognition of International Human Rights Day Celebration in Waterloo, and the official kick-off of a city-wide “2019 Human Rights Corridor of Activity.” This “Corridor of Activity” features round table discussions, theatrical productions, community book-reads, the inimitable  Waterloo Freedom Bus Tour, and celebrates 51 years since the assassination of the beloved Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose servant leadership led to the creation of civil and human rights organizations throughout the nation, including Waterloo Commission on Human Rights.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the official seal of the City of Waterloo to be affixed this 10th day of December 2018.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

those who have gone before

It was on this date 63 years ago.  December 1,1955.  Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus.  Read her story here.

I was in Memphis at the Civil Rights Museum a few weeks ago with my neighbor, Willie Mae Wright, a Civil Rights hero in her own right.  Willie Mae told me that she always sits at the front of the bus. 

In her own words, "Ever since Rosa Parks, I always sit in the front of the bus.  I just can't bring myself to go to the back.  And when I vote, I never use an absentee ballot.  I always go to polling place to vote after so many have given so much for the right to vote."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

moral memory, identity, participation, imagination

Pastor Abraham Funchess gave our group a folder of materials to read through as we traveled to Memphis on our recent Civil Rights Vision Tour.  One of the articles was a chapter from a book written by Kelly Douglas Brown called Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.

In this chapter (chapter 6), Brown writes...


"Moral memory is nothing less than telling the truth about the past and one's relationship to it."
"To have a moral memory is to recognize the past we carry within us, the past we want to carry within us, and the past we need to make right."
"A moral memory recalls the story of America's chosen identity, the way it is shaped by the Anglo-Saxon myth, and thus recognizes how that continues to play itself out in our current reality."


"A moral identity recognizes, as Paul Tillich says, 'that every human soul has infinite value.'"
"A moral identity is one that is relieved of pretensions to superiority. It lets go of any myths that suggest one people is more valuable than another or that one people is chosen by God while another is not."
"A moral identity affirms the shared humanity of all human beings."
"Essentially, it is with a moral identity that one lives into the image of God who is freedom."


"This is a participation marked by a commitment to freedom, love, and life.  Such participation is a matter of faith."
"God's call to faith is an invitation to become a partner with God in 'the mending of creation.'"
"The Greek word for faith, as used in the Gospels, is pistis.  This word does not suggest a way of thinking about who God is or reflecting upon God's relationship to us.  Rather, it points to a way of acting in light of our relationship to God."
"The only way to change the realities of the world is through moral participation in history."


"A moral imagination is grounded in the absolute belief that the world can be better."
"A moral imagination envisions Isaiah's 'new heaven and new earth,' where 'the wolf and the lamb shall feed together,' and trusts that it will be made real."
"With a moral imagination, one is able to live as if the new heaven and new earth are already here.  This means that one's life is not constrained by what is."
"Moral imagination allows black bodies to live as free black bodies, despite the forces that would deny that fact."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

braving the wilderness

This past year, a friend gave me Brene Brown's book Braving the Wilderness.  I needed it.  I loved it.  I then ordered another one of her books, Rising Strong.  I needed it.  I loved it.  I have recently ordered both on CD so that I can listen and listen to them on my daily drives to and from places.

Brown identifies and articulates so much about ourselves as individuals and as a collective, and even better, she offers some skills and steps to overcome some of the trouble spots we have as humans. 

In Braving the Wilderness, Brown talks about the fear and the disconnection that we are experiencing in our lives and helps us address the fear and conflict to move toward one another in courage and love.  It's a much needed read for us in the midst of such divisive times. 

"Addressing this crisis will require a tremendous amount of courage.  For the moment, most of us are either making the choice to protect ourselves from conflict, discomfort, and vulnerability by staying quiet, or picking sides and in the process slowly and paradoxically adopting the behavior of the people we're fighting.  Either way, the choices we're making to protect our beliefs and ourselves are leaving us disconnected, afraid, and lonely.  Very few people are working on connection outside the lines drawn by 'their side'.  Finding love and true belonging in our shared humanity is going to take a tremendous resolution."

Brown then goes on to teach us how to "brave some serious wilderness" through four practices. I need her writing to inform and teach me.  I need and am grateful for friends to practice braving in the wilderness so that we might ultimately "become the wilderness". 

You can check out the table of contents and reviews of this book here


These allies inspire and make me want to be brave in the continued work to be done for human and civil rights.  

Friday, November 23, 2018


It's hard for folks like me to see systems at work.  I grew up being taught that racism is overcome by treating each neighbor, one by one by one, with respect, dignity, and kindness no matter what ethnicity or skin color tone.  I understood racism solely as individual prejudice, and I could not see power structures and scaffolding that have been constructed by racial values assigned to people through time.  I could not see bias that has lived in me and directed my thoughts and approaches to life.

While it is true that individual and interpersonal relationships are needed to overcome distance and negative stereotypes, there will be another kind of seeing needed to move toward justice. 

I spent a great number of hours on a small church bus as I recently traveled from Iowa to Memphis to Montgomery to Selma and back to Iowa on a Civil Rights Vision Tour.  I chose to read the book Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World by Jer Swigart and Jon Huckins along the journey.

Swigart and Huckins talk about "seeing" as the first way we move toward mending divides.

"Of Jesus' thirty-one miracles documented in the Gospels, nearly one in four involves the healing of sight."

"What if, like so many of those healed by Jesus, we owned our blindness and made it a practice to cry out, 'I want to see like you see' ? What if we acknowledged that the systems we were raised in taught us to see and not see certain groups of people?  What if we confessed our preference for particular media channels and worked to understand how a steady diet of them had formed cataracts in our eyes and blurred our sight?  What if we analyzed our upbringing to discover where our mentors' biases scratched the corneas of our souls, causing damage to our ability to see particular people with generosity and empathy?  If we want to see like God sees, we need to do the hard work of understanding what caused our blindness and then cry out for the healing touch of Jesus.

When we pray that prayer, an essential journey from noticing to seeing begins.  On that journey we find ourselves aware of things we've never seen before.  We become people who choose to see things that make us uncomfortable.  What we see begins to change us and produce compassion in us.  That compassion, the precursor to responsibility, propels us forward to become a part of just solutions that lead to restoration."  p.81 Mending the Divides Swigart and Huckins, 2017, InterVarsity Press