Fact-Finding Mission: Day 2

 
Today was the second day of the Philadelphia IMC’s fact finding mission on poverty, race, and injustice in the U.S. South. We began our day at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the home church of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Church and its surrounding grounds and visitor’s center are not only spiritual markers, but also have enormous historical and political significance for members of our delegation. It was in these spaces that King’s analysis developed and transformed, and where he perfected the praxis of incorporating spiritual growth with worldly acts to transform society. At the end of his life King began to envision a powerful new movement of poor people from all backgrounds that could be unleashed to end poverty in this country. This thinking and analysis is an important component of the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary, and this entire delegation.

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA

We were forbidden from video or audio taping of any kind during the service. Some members of the media team as well as the majority of tour participants from the Union Theological Seminary and the Columbia School of Social Work took part in the service. Afterward the Revered of the church, Raphael Warnock, held a special meeting with members of our delegation where we got to talk more intimately about his role in the church and the community and his thoughts on poverty and how people of faith and conscience should attack it. Talking about the differences between the era of the civil rights movement and what our country faces today, the Reverend remarked that today we are seeing an unprecendented ‘undermining of the social infrastructure that poor people depend on and people are left to fend for themselves.’ Of the Katrina victims he had this to say: “The people you saw left behind were drowned long before Katrina – they were drowning in floods of poverty”.

Afterward some members of the group attended the visitor’s center abutting the church, which presents a history of Dr. King’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement through photographs, archival film footage, and commentary provided by the National Parks Service (which runs the center). Dr. King’s tomb and birthplace are across the street.

Members of the media team then continued to work together to follow up on interviews and stories that we will continue to bring you relating to the intersections between Katrina, poverty, and neoliberalism in the South.

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