The Progressive: Interfaith Activists Push for Reproductive Justice

The Progressive: Interfaith Activists Push for Reproductive Justice

Interfaith Activists Push for Reproductive Justice, May 2019

Rightwing religious groups have been mobilizing followers behind a new wave of abortion restriction bills crashing over state capitols in the North and South, crafted to ultimately overturn the 1973 Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

But the battle isn’t simply between religious anti-abortion advocates and a secular vanguard fighting to preserve abortion rights. Less visible, but no less vocal, are religiously grounded defenders of strong and expansive reproductive rights, as well as the rights of individual women—not the state—to make choices regarding the control of their own bodies…

The Progressive: ‘It’s a Movement’

The Progressive: ‘It’s a Movement’

‘It’s a Movement’: The Poor People’s Campaign heads into the future with a robust agenda, April 2019

Protesters join hands as part of the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington. Their work continues through a new generation of activists across the country, including in Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Poor People’s Campaign.

Wisconsin is one of more than thirty states where the Poor People’s Campaign has launched a chapter and seems to be on fertile ground. The state’s recent history of retrenched rightwing political muscle has made it a laboratory for policies that enrich corporate power and private wealth, escalating economic inequality and racial segregation. But those same forces have given rise to progressive popular resistance throughout the state, including last fall’s ouster of Republican Governor Scott Walker by Democrat Tony Evers.

Now the Wisconsin Poor People’s campaign is making a renewed effort to increase its visibility. And like the national campaign, it is focused on the long game, aiming for changes that will take years to achieve…

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‘The Center of Gravity is in the Local Work’: Liz Theoharis on the Poor People’s Campaign, May 2019

Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis rallies with fellow members of the Poor People’s Campaign in 2018. Photo by Steve Pavey.

An ordained Presbyterian minister and veteran social justice organizer, the Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign with the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II. Founded half a century ago by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the campaign was revived in late 2017 by Barber and Theoharis to empower the nation’s poor and marginalized people, and help build coalitions to address their challenges.

In May and June of 2018, the campaign undertook “Forty Days of Moral Action” around the country to draw attention to poverty, militarism, injustice, worker rights, and other social injustices. In June of this year, the campaign will focus on Washington, D.C., gathering for a People’s Moral Action Congress…

 

Isthmus: A Republican Without a Party

Isthmus: A Republican Without a Party

A Republican Without a Party: Longtime Political Aide Breaks with Trump’s GOP, November 2018

For one longtime committed Republican, the midterm election results proved to be “modestly encouraging” — because of how well the Democrats did.

Joseph Britt of Sun Prairie spent a couple of decades working for Republicans, including for U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten and Justice David Prosser, when Prosser was the state Assembly Republican leader in the early 1990s. But Britt, who has worked in the private sector since the mid-1990s, has grown increasingly disenchanted with the Republican Party and its leaders over the past two decades.

Joseph Britt: “The party of Trump is the party of the Charlottesville white-right mob.”

Britt has been sharing his political change of heart with friends and on social media for a while, but with a 25-part tweetstorm on Oct. 8 he made a complete break with the GOP, declaring “I’m out.”

“What is there left of Lincoln in today’s Republican Party? Of Theodore Roosevelt? Nothing,” Britt wrote in the penultimate tweet from that thread. “The party of Trump is the party of the Charlottesville white-right mob, the party of concentrated wealth, and perhaps most of all the party that rejects responsibility.”

His digital cri de coeur generated more than 11,000 retweets and more than three times as many likes. It multiplied the number of followers he has a startling sevenfold, he says, now reaching 5,600 at last count.

One of Britt’s souvenirs from “time raising money on the phone for the Republican National Committee.”

… For the 60-year-old Britt, the GOP is all but unrecognizable from the one that caught his attention while he was growing up on Long Island in a modest middle-class community. He says he was a political junkie in a largely non-political family by the time he was a teenager. A few years after college he went to work on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide, eventually joining Kasten’s office to specialize in agricultural policy. Traveling around Wisconsin for meetings with Kasten’s farm advisors, he grew to love the Dairy State and eagerly returned to work for Prosser and settle down here a few years later. …

 

The Progressive: What Randy Bryce Built

The Progressive: What Randy Bryce Built

What Randy Bryce Built, October 2018

Randy Bryce on Madison’s Capitol Square this spring. Photo by Ken Fager.

Countless politicians—even Trump himself—have run for office professing to champion the hopes, dreams, and perspectives of ordinary working people. The 2018 midterm election cycle has given birth to an army of insurgent progressive stars, from New York to Michigan to Idaho, with their own distinctive backgrounds and biographies.

Even in that crowded field, the solidly built, mustachioed construction worker Randy Bryce—popularly known by his Twitter handle, @IronStache—has managed to become one of the most-watched midterm election candidates, running for the Congressional district represented for the last twenty years by Republican Paul Ryan, now Speaker of the House of Representatives…

The Progressive: Faith Versus Trump, Reverend Responds to ‘Call of the Moment’

The Progressive: Faith Versus Trump, Reverend Responds to ‘Call of the Moment’

Faith Versus Trump, January 2019

Photo of Michael Rothbaum from his Facebook page.

Rightwing Christians have found much to like in the Trump Administration’s advancement of their priorities, including opposing Planned Parenthood, restricting abortion, marginalizing gay rights and women’s rights, and favoring private school vouchers. And they were heartened by his appointment of conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

But for other faith groups, Trump’s priorities have stirred alarm, and protest. Michael Rothbaum, a rabbi at a suburban Boston synagogue, guesses that his congregation of 280 families mostly vote Democratic. But few of them were what he calls “rally-goers” prior to Trump’s election. Then, he adds quietly, “absolutely, something shifted.”


William J. Barber II Responds to the ‘Call of the Moment’, January 2018

Photo courtesy of Repairers of the Breach.

The Reverend William Barber II has emerged as a leading voice in the struggle for rights for African Americans, the poor, and other marginalized people in the United States, especially in the South. In his former role as president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, Barber led the “Moral Mondays” movement that enlisted a broad coalition of people engaged in human rights struggles.

Barber now heads Repairers of the Breach, a multifaith, nonpartisan nonprofit group also based in North Carolina, and cochairs along with the Reverend Liz Theoharis a new Poor People’s Campaign—a “re-engagement” of the movement of the same name that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. took up in 1967.

In late December, Barber spoke by phone with The Progressive about his involvements and how faith-based activists and organizations are responding to President Donald Trump.

The Progressive: Overcoming Hate

The Progressive: Overcoming Hate

Overcoming Hate: A Former Skinhead Works for Racial JusticeDecember 2017

Photo Courtesy Milwaukee Jewish Day School.

Arno Michaelis was once not just a white, racist skinhead, but a white, racist skinhead leader—a gang leader, he will tell you. He has left the beliefs that drove him—the bigotry, the hatred, the violence—far behind.

Yet he has not turned his back on that world or the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who inhabit it. Instead, Michaelis is devoting his life to repairing the damage he feels responsible for and embracing the human diversity he once hated and feared. He hopes to encourage those flirting with that life to turn away before it draws them in, and help those locked into that worldview to find their way out…

The Progressive: On the Hard Path to Prison Reform

The Progressive: On the Hard Path to Prison Reform

On the Hard Path to Prison Reform: An Interview with Heather Ann Thompson, November 2017

 

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson, professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies at University of Michigan.

Published in 2016, University of Michigan historian Heather Ann Thompson’s Pulitzer-prize-winning history of the 1971 Attica Prison Uprising, Blood In the Water, was released in paperback this fall. Thompson was in Milwaukee recently to speak at a series of events spotlighting mass incarceration. She spoke with The Progressive contributor Erik Gunn about the lessons of Attica and the prospects for decarceration in the era of President Donald Trump…