I’ve been up since 3AM thinking about today’s walk. Today makes 8 days since I left the Center for Civil & Human Rights and started walking to the Lorraine Motel.
Yesterday, I crossed the state line.
Although a huge accomplishment, it has come with both blessing and challenges as I walk through small towns.
For instance, yesterday I was walking with my friends and had three experiences that made my flesh crawl and eyes water.
The first experience was when a young guy threatened to hit my friend and I.
Harvey and I were walking on the side of the road with a good shoulder between us and the actual road. We thought we were safe because we were not in the road.
We were feeling good, and then I saw a car coming at us. Yes. A car intentionally coming at us.
The driver was not texting and driving, and he was not distracted. I know this because he looked me dead in my eyes as he pointed the moving vehicle towards us.
As he got closer, at the last minute he swerved the car and flipped us the finger and sped off.
What would make this guy do that? Racism? Hate? I don’t know but it made me feel unwanted as I walked through a city where people were looking at us strange and dealing with tons of poverty.
As soon as we got past that incident, we encountered another incident.
I’ll never forget 10 minutes later two guys in a red pick up truck (with a confederate flag on the bumper) pulled up beside Harvey and I and stared us down and pulled off fast and yelled out the window, “Be safe out here.”
After the second incident, I then noticed I wasn’t wanted in the city.
But, I continued to walk. Why? Because although I was being treated wrong I still saw their poverty. I saw that many of people that were being mean towards us also were in poverty.
I had a moment where I wanted to play it safe and say it isn’t worth it, but then I thought…
“I’m walking for people that may be poor but hate the color of my skin.”
It was at that moment that God gave me the courage to continue walking towards the AL state line.
Jesus’ words yet again challenged me to love in spite of the hatred.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”
—Matthew 5:44 NKJV
Although I wanted to get angry, love wouldn’t allow me to do it.
I thought about King’s non-violent approach to solving issues. Although King’s words were radical at moments he also expressed genuine love to all.
In fact, he understood that love is the strongest force when he said in his book Strength to Love, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
After having all those glorious thoughts I was given yet another experience to test my heart to see if I meant it.
Almost three miles from the state border, another pick up truck pulled up beside us, and rolled down the window and stared us down.
We thought they were going to ask us if we needed a ride, but they didn’t.
They backed their truck up (screeching the tires) and sat there looking at us roaring their engine. Ali (a spot car driver) was close and we hopped into the car until they left.
Afterwards, we got out and continued to walk.
Each encounter felt like hate, racism, and anger.
Thinking about the depths of what I felt made me refrain from sharing on social media until I gathered my thoughts.
This morning, as I write this some people will not like it but others will understand what experiences like those do to an African American in this country.
I don’t like racism. It’s sin and shouldn’t exist. But, it does exist and we have to work to eradicate it altogether. We must do it together and not blame each other!
Although I’d love to get angry and stop the march because of those experiences my passion won’t allow me to do that.
Not only am I marching for the poor, I’m also marching for the poverty stricken that may not like the color of my skin.
Why? Because that’s what God has called me to do—love regardless.
Today is DAY 4 of #MAP18 and my body is feeling the wear and tear already. Not to mention, I just looked outside and it’s raining. I remember these types of days during the last walk, and they are draining.
If I’m honest, I’d like to pack up my bags and go home where it’s comfortable and safe.
Why? Because the roads ahead of me are long, and filled with the unknown. But, I’m the type of person that never commits to anything that I’m not willing to complete and finish.
Sometimes people think because I do these type of campaigns that fear isn’t present, but that’s actually not true. Fear is always there, but my faith is greater!
I believe a little bit of fear is always present with all of us, and that same fear paralyzes some people from moving forward. It’s only four days into this journey and the fear is telling me to
stop and go back home!
But, each time I see a different face of someone who is poor, voiceless, or vulnerable God’s courage tells me to continue.
We must press and move past the fear in order to fulfill our purpose(s). How fear is holding you back and telling you to go home?
Maybe to overcome it, you may have to do what I’m doing and listen to courage and faith more.
Last night, I was reminded that I’m not only walking for people who are poor, but also for those who may need to have their perspectives changed.
I was inboxed over Facebook by a man that I never met, but he said my posts changed his perspective.
“Hey Terence. First of thank you for caring for the people of the world unconditionally. Second thank you for moving me. I seen a post of yours about 30 minutes ago and have been scroll threw your page. I’m young and have a young family and you have inspired me, and reminded me that I have so much to be thankful for. I have been feeling a little lost and it realized threw your videos and post and movement that it’s because I have been focused on myself and my family. When someone out there would love to just have a warm meal or even a kind word. Again thank you. I will share your story in hopes that your movement may change the world or at the very least someone else’s moment.”
His posts echos two messages that will push me today.
Firstly, it echos that no matter where we are in life, we should remain grateful. Gratitude is the fuel that keeps us focused on what matters most and centers us inwardly. This same gratitude pushes us to stand in awe of God.
Second and last, it echos that life is too short to only be focused on yourself and play it safe. We are are given opportunities to serve those around us and we must be bold in serving others.
As I close this blog, I’m thinking about Jesus’ words found in Luke 4,
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
Luke 4:18-19, NKJV
Here’s the full recap video from DAY 1 at the Center for Civil and Human Rights as we launched our most historical campaign as an organization.
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Learn more at marchagainstpoverty.com
#lovebeyondwalls #MLK50th #MAP18
Sometimes we are unable to put into words how we feel doing this work at Love Beyond Walls —
I (Terence) met James a little over a month ago. He was homeless, jobless, hungry, and without a place to stay.
We welcomed him into our #lovebeyondwalls community and surrounded him with tons of people who saw his worth and value.
In a little over a month, he joined a church, got a place to stay temporarily, started volunteering with us, and yesterday we celebrated that he got a new job less than a mile away from our Center.
Not only does this affirm his dignity, but it reveals to us ALL the importance of the “one.” It’s not always about huge numbers!
Sometimes it’s about the impact you can make in someones life right in front of you.
We are giving our lives to see people’s lives transformed.
voiceless: a documentary on systemic poverty: is a poignant portrayal of the complexity and humanity of poverty in the United States of America. this documentary illuminates the hypocritical paradox of inequity and disparity in the “land of opportunity.” the primary vehicle for accomplishing this end is through the self-narrated stories of several individuals who are suffering through the imposition of homelessness.
in their own voices, viewers hear of how the problem of poverty is exacerbated by social location. sexism, racism, immigration status, criminal history and generational poverty produce nuanced intersections of suffering, immobility, and hopelessness. through their stories, people like Erica, a single mother of three, weave two common threads through the film. the first common thread is the idea that no one ever desires to be homeless, and the second is the fact that despite their greatest efforts, systems that were built to privilege the wealthy make it impossible for the poor to change their circumstances.
in the wake of the “tax cuts and jobs act,” these people and their stories are the clarion calls to conscious advocacy, self-surveillance of privilege and doing justice. enter Terence Lester, the starter of Love Beyond Walls. in this film, he gives an insider perspective on his March Against Poverty from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the poor. montages of his daily musings and meetings punctuate the film with images of the costs, challenges and joys of doing justice with and for the poor.
as a clergywoman, i am especially convicted by the critique of the church as an institution that does good only on Sundays, conflates justice with charity, and exchanges the poverty of Jesus for capitalistic prosperity. there is a flailing faith center in the fight against poverty, which is unfortunate because religious traditions, including but not limited to, Christianity, possess the means for leveling economic fields, galvanizing political resources and making lasting transformation. altogether, this documentary is a formidable, motivation, and it calls viewers into the fight. more importantly, it calls viewers into relationship, thereby humanizing the numbers and statistics of poverty through personal engagement with the poor and taking on their pain as our own, to feel and to eradicate.
rev. neichelle r. guidry, phd