It has come to the attention of the world- again- that Alabama matters. GBM exists to “Serve People. Build Community. Pursue Justice”. The values we share, the work we do, and our care for the least of these our neighbors – the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, and all those who are left behind – are on the scaffold.
Over the years, GBM has been called “do gooders”! Imagine that, “doing good” being used as a negative epithet. But the attacks on “doing good” were just the beginning – leading to the current dismissive phrase targeting social consciousness – “political correctness”.
None of these attempts at diminishing doing good while celebrating doing ill, negating caring for the other while lifting up narrow-minded and shortsighted selfishness are new. They have always been with us, they have always been amplified at the point of the powerful seeking to strengthen their dominion over the powerless, the haves over the have nots, the included over the excluded.
We have a broadsided, multi-media, multifaceted assault on the social contract in the U.S. that seeks to reverse social and economic security gains dating back past the Civil Rights Movement, all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. On protecting the nation’s valuable lands, resources and spiritual places, they would even annul the gains made by Theodore Roosevelt (not to mention the Executive Orders of President Obama) in the initiation of the National Park System by opening up national lands to extractive economic exploitation.
Immigrants and refugees (especially those of color, from South of the border and of the Muslim faith) are getting the full brute force and all people of color, working women (employed and unemployed) are in the cross-hairs of the still unfolding undoing of America’s promise.
Against that backdrop, GBM still adheres to the vision AME Bishop Adams set forth in September, 1997, when he spoke these words: “The search for the faithful city begins with a clear vision of a faithful city, and the first content in that vision has to be that it is inclusive. It must be multiracial, multicultural, interfaith, and interdenominational. It must speak to the individual, the organizational, and the institutional life of the community. It must talk about wholeness for its people: Mind, body, spirit must all be addressed. It must embrace those who are in the struggle for equity in our society, as I call the race, class, gender, and age struggles the equity struggles of our time. And many of us wish they would go away, but they are not.
Every generation is going to renew the effort to achieve equity until it is accomplished. And this vision must be inclusive enough to have a sense of balance between bread and roses, the necessities and the ambiance, the technology and the spirituality, and love must be its motive and justice its means.”
Recognizing these challenges, we ended 2016 and began 2017 launching a coalition that brought diverse constituencies together to move beyond righteous resistance to transformative fighting back beginning with reconnecting those who are governed to their own self-governance. StandAsOne brought the city together in the Mayoral Forum at 16th Street Baptist Church where 600 people gathered to hear the voices of the most affected –from immigrants to ex-offenders rebuilding their lives to victims of toxic industrial pollution – speak their truths to those seeking power.
This year, GBM launched the Alabama leg of the Poor People’s Campaign, our ambitious End of Year campaign exceeded our goal with increased support from the board and even non-board members. Our GOTV Campaign was at the largest scale in our history and TGIF (the summer feeding program) coordinated churches feeding kids during the summer expanded.
But all is not bright. While some mainline protestant churches grow fearful and shy away from funding community organizing other churches boldly host tainted political candidates at their houses of worship.
It is for this reason and more, that GBM is a leader in the movement to not cede the voice of faith in the public square to the religious extremists who profane God and God’s creation in their idolatrous zeal for power and dominion, selfishness and exclusion.
A letter heard ‘round the world, is the GBM initiated Clergy letter, reclaiming the voice of faith in the public square in earnest pursuit of the public good – all of the public. We can read it here.
GBM is an organization of hope. Hope matters. But it is the capacity to convene and converge hope that matters even more. And that is why our vision remains big, bold and positive. And building that capacity means we must always guard our priorities so that we continue to build and expand our base – our volunteers and our membership; build and deepen our relationships not just with our donors, but most importantly our clients, whose lives matter and whose stories are the cries in the wilderness. And we owe those we serve nothing less than building a powerful platform to speak to power.