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, The Progressive: Randy Bryce Stands Tall

Isthmus, The Progressive: Randy Bryce Stands Tall

Isthmus: Standing Tall, November 2018

Despite defeat, the “Iron Stache” inspired working class supporters

Randy Bryce told supporters in Racine: “Don’t hang your head. We fought one hell of a fight.” Photo by George Petrovich.

Randy Bryce’s 17-month quest to succeed U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan came to an end this week, but on Tuesday night, the Democrat and 54-year-old Racine County ironworker reassured supporters who packed his election night party that he — and they — weren’t going to go away.

“No, we’re not done yet — we’re just getting started,” Bryce told a cheering crowd at a bank-turned-party hall in the Uptown neighborhood of Racine after taking the stage to acknowledge his loss in the 1st District Congressional race. Republican Brian Steil, a corporate lawyer, former Ryan aide,and member of the UW Board of Regents, was crowned the winner a little more than an hour after the polls closed on Election Day with 55 percent of the vote.

In the end, despite a well-funded campaign and an enthusiastic base of supporters and volunteers, Bryce was unable to crack the solidly Republican district.

 


 

The Progressive: Randy Bryce, in Defeat, Looks at the “Whole Picture”, November 2018

Instead of gloom, Bryce and his supporters seemed to exude an air of gritty resolve

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

Democrat Randy Bryce didn’t win his race for Congress. But as he thanked his supporters on Election Night, after the race was called for Republican Brian Steil, the fifty-four-year-old ironworker took a longer view.

“I’ve said it many times,” Bryce told the crowd of staffers, volunteers, and admirers who filled the hall in Racine, Wisconsin. “It’s not just about just winning one seat—the First District Congressional seat in southeast Wisconsin. It was never about that.

“It was about the whole picture. It was about taking back control of Congress. It was about standing up for working people. It was about pointing out the fact that if you’re an African American in this district, you’re in a horrible place, and things need to change.”

Given the heady excitement that Bryce’s campaign for the seat now held by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan had sparked among Democrats, the loss might have been expected to cast a shadow over the evening. Yet instead of gloom, Bryce and his supporters seemed to exude an air of gritty resolve.

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…