Put People First!
By Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks, President of IIRON and Executive Director of A Just Harvest
I have often preached about the power of words—of the need and ability to speak life, hope and possibility into our communities, our world, the universe. God spoke life out of chaos. Scripture tells us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21 NRS).
This was affirmed for me during my time at the 2012 National People’s Action Conference in Washington, DC.
The theme of the Conference was “Put People First!” The workshops, plenary sessions and direct actions were each strategically designed to clearly restate the message that it is time for this country to “Put People First!” – not the 1%, not big banks and not corporations.
We heard stories of struggle and pain by folks hit the hardest by the economic crisis. Tears were shed and shouts of “that ain’t right!” resounded throughout the crowd.
We heard stories of powerful work being done in communities all across the nation, refusing to be silent and invisible to those accountable to the common good. Chants reflecting the resiliency of the human spirit were shouted—“se ve, se siente, el pueblo está presente”—stirring up a common conviction to be heard and taken seriously by decision makers.
Throughout the NPA Conference participants were reminded that those that have destroyed our economy and are looking to fix it on the backs of average people have drummed it into the minds of listeners that “we are in a spending crisis, government is too big, we need to make more and more cuts to the social safety net”. They know how to get their message out—and it has been consistent.
One of the speakers said that we need a movement of “truth tellers.” We must be just as deliberate, strategic and consistent with our message! We have a revenue crisis—not a spending crisis. And we know where to get the money. “The truth is on the march and nothing will stop it” (Emile Zola). This is how we fight back while those protecting the interests of the wealthy continue to say “cut back.”
As a Christian, I am called to proclaim the “Good News”—that is, God desires that we have life, and have it more abundantly. The “we” is all of us—not some of us! I, too, am called to be the Word made flesh. In this moment, I say “yes” again to this call!
Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist—Audre Lorde once said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
As President of IIRON and a member of National People’s Action, I claim my power and my voice and covenant to speak truth to power—unapologetically, unashamedly and unafraid. I do so knowing that I add my voice to thousands of others in a unified, reverberating message calling for an economy that “Puts People First!”
IIRON’s Covenant for Economic Justice lays out principles that would begin to guide an economy that puts people first. Please read it, and if you agree, sign on. Let us know if your organization or congregation would like to endorse the Covenant.
Finally, I invite you to join IIRON on June 10 as we publicly unveil the Covenant and call on elected officials to support it.