Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Aline Russel
Member of Public Witness Team

There is something very compelling about the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II when he speaks.  I first became aware of him when the news reported the “Moral Mondays” he was leading in North Carolina, and then I heard him live at Ecumenical Advocacy Days in D.C.

He is Pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and a Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary.  He is the President and Senior Lecturer of the Repairers of the Breach.  Most importantly to me, though, is that he is the Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign:  A National Call For Moral Revival.

Together with the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Dr. Barber organized the largest coordinated wave of nonviolent civil action in 21st Century America.  The Poor People’s Campaign has emerged as one of the nation’s leading social movements.

Recently, I have joined several of the PPC’s online meetings and have watched the movement continue to grow.

Dr. Barber comes to this with a long history of leadership.  At 15 he was president of the Youth Council of the NAACP.  As a student at North Carolina Central University, he became student body president at age 19.  He graduated cum laude with a degree in political science and then earned an M.Div. from Duke University.  He earned his doctorate from Drew University with a concentration in public policy and pastoral care.

Dr. Barber calls the Poor People’s Campaign a “Teaching Movement.”  I listened to one of his lectures online recently and was struck by the clarity of his analysis of history.  He says that the movements that have enjoyed the greatest success over the past several hundred years have been ones that involve what he calls “moral fusion organizing.”

Moral fusion organizing is, first of all, based on the highest religious and constitutional principles, like the following:

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10)

The values of Jesus in Matthew 25 make these values even more clear.

In the US Constitution, the 14th Amendment says

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

“Fusion” in “moral fusion organizing” means that diversity is a fundamental value and a practical necessity. Dr. Barber emphasizes that leadership and action on behalf of these values should be from the bottom up to ensure that the most vulnerable needs and concerns will be addressed. No single issue drives the Poor People’s Campaign. Rather, Dr. Barber and Dr. Theoharis see issues as related and interacting.  Major issues include voting rights, equal protection for each person under the law, public education, health care that is available to all, and the right to earn a living wage for full-time work.

Dr. Barber is an inspiration in many ways.  He lives in constant pain from ankylosing spondylitis, a painful arthritic condition affecting the spine yet carries on this crucial and effective prophetic ministry that is now active across the country.  For more information, go to It is nonpartisan and donations are tax-deductible.

Rev. Dr. Aline Russel
Member of Public Witness Team

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