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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

Allies and Advisers Gathering: Building History Together

Community organizers, faith leaders, union members and staff, and others met to plan B-MORE FAIR, a community-wide fair to celebrate our lives, our city and our way. The fair will be held on Saturday April 18 and will feature Baltimore's community organizations and people who are working to secure justice and human rights for all.
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On January 17, 2009 in a church basement in West Baltimore a group of community organizers, faith leaders, union members and people came together to make history. About 90 people from across color lines and language barriers met to plan how to expand our movement by working together in solidarity and unity. The day may not have felt all that historic to those of us who were there as we prayed together, met in small groups, ate soup and sandwiches together, listened to Robert Houston talk about the meaning of the poor people's movement, generated ideas for how to organize a community fair, and reached consensus on the name and theme for the B-MORE FAIR to be held on April 18, 2009. The day may have easily felt more mundane than momentous. But what we did on this day was build our future history, and on reflection that can be nothing less than truly momentous.

The only way that people make history is by carrying out the mundane tasks of community building and collective visioning to create power for purpose. Our purpose is to end poverty, stop oppression, expand dignity and ensure that the human rights of everyone, everywhere are respected. The cleaners at Camden Yards, cooks and dish washers at the Inner Harbor, ministers, union staff and rank and file members, independent media activists, long-time community leaders, labor historians, artists, allies from Washington and Philadelphia, taxi drivers, domestic workers and many others from all walks of life who met at the gathering came together to build our power. We came together to realize our vision that all people are born worthy of dignity and respect. We should never forget how important this kind of coming together is and how essential it is for the right change to happen in ways that sustain life, respect human dignity and extend and expand human rights to all persons.

While meetings like the Allies and Advisers Gathering may not draw headlines or end up in history books, and may seem mundane and ordinary, they are one of the most important tools that people have to build and exercise power for purpose. We should make no mistake of the importance of this gathering. Not only did we lay out a broad framework for a community fair to be held on April 18, but we also did a lot of things that should not go unnoticed. In the margins - between sessions and off the agenda - people connected, shared ideas, made plans, got to better know each other, formed relationships and expanded the power potential of the justice and human rights infrastructure of our city and region. This is how history is built.

The people who gathered on January 17, 2009 are just some of the leaders our city requires to end poverty, expand justice and make our community a place for people to live good lives together. By reflecting on Resurrection City and the history of Martin Luther King's work with the poor people's movement we see the direct connection to the foundation we're building today and the vision of those before us in the long and difficult struggle to make history right for all, including the poor and the powerless. Part of the task before us is to expand our leadership base, which is one of the reasons that we're planning and will hold the B-MORE FAIR.

January 17, 2009, thanks to those who participated in the gathering, marked a single step in a long journey. But no matter how small a step it was, it's a step that must be made for the next steps to follow. And thanks to those who came together this weekend, we are now more ready to make the next step and the next and the next. We do this because there is no other way to build community, no other way to expand power for purpose, no other way to create a movement to end poverty and secure justice and human rights for everyone.

We invite others to join us by taking next step with us. Between now and and the B-MORE FAIR there will be more meetings in church basements and union halls to plan and coordinate how to carry out our vision of human rights for all. Please join us. We committed to mobilize hundreds of people from throughout the region and that means that we have a lot of work to do between now and April. Now is the time for the hard work of reaching out, planning logistics, inviting others to join us, and carrying on more conversations about why it's important that we build history together in this way.

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