This week we have our first “Kudzu” feature.
“Kudzu” features are based on the image of the kudzu plant. If you ever get a chance to drive up and down the country roads all over the south you will see tree upon tree covered with the leafy greenness of this plant. Not only are trees covered with it but its winding vines have been known to be on fences, on walls, on roadsigns, and on streetlamps.
This plant has become such a fixture of the southern landscape many tend to think it is a plant original to the southeast of the United States. In actual fact this plant’s origins go back to Asia. It came to the United States through trade, but after being transplanted on southern soil became such a prominent and beautiful addition to our fields and hills that we adopted it as our own. The “Kudzu” features highlight someone who likewise has been transplanted into the south but have become a fixture in the landscape of southern life. Though not born here they have come to call the south their home, and by the way they bring new progressive ideas and perspectives into the south, they are adding to the beauty of our community like the kudzu plant beautifies our landscape.
One such person is Chuck Fager.
Born in Kansas, Chuck became involved with the south during the time of the Civil Rights movement. A true Kudzu, Chuck has become a transplant to the south who is working to make it a more beautiful place by his presence. As Chuck shares about in his book Eating Dr. King’s Dinner, Chuck began his career as a peace and civil rights advocate joining in the work for racial equality with Dr. Martin Luther King. This work led him to eventually attend Harvard University and become a leader in the Quaker peace movement.
Eventually this work led Chuck back to the south, where he served for ten years as the director of the Quaker House, a ministry in Fayetteville, NC focused on curbing the violence that has at times been very prevalent in that military town. While serving there, Chuck helped the Quaker House continue its peace witness, crying out against the excesses of the military-industrial complex. Chuck also led the Quaker House to continue the work of fighting for civil rights, spear-heading work toward racial reconciliation and acting as a host for the work of women’s rights organizations in town. Under Chuck’s leadership the Quaker House addressed issues of domestic violence, continued to run a hotline for soldiers whose consciences lead them to question involvement in war, and also to speak out during the time the military Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy held sway against the many abuses that policy created.
It is in the midst of the debate about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that the congregation where I serve, Diversity in Faith: A Christian Church For All People, was formed as a new church plant of the Progressive Christian Alliance, and in that debate that I got to know Chuck Fager. Our church was focused on speaking up against the discrimination gay soldiers, many of whom were a part of our congregation, were experiencing. Chuck was a big help in that fight. And since then while he was in the Quaker House he was a constant partner in the work of speaking up against discrimination against people based on race, sexual orientation, disability, and gender.
Here is a video from that period, in which members of my church and of the Quaker House joined in speaking up against discrimination against GLBT people:
Since entering retirement from the Quaker House, Chuck has not stopped. He continues to be a voice for equal rights, for peace, and for God’s love who is changing the conversation in the south.
Below I include an article Chuck has written about a recent action Chuck has been involved in. Thank you, Chuck, for continuing to fight the good fight! You are changing the south for the better.
And I’m not just whistling Dixie here!
Your progressive redneck preacher,
My Moral Monday — July 22 2013
by Chuck Fager
Which Monday Is Best For Getting Arrested in Carolina? How About THIS Monday??
Why? A New Round of Racist Voter Suppression, for Starters. . .
The “Moral Monday” protests in North Carolina’s capital have focused on various issues on succeeding Mondays: cuts in unemployment compensation & Medicaid; assaults on women’s reproductive rights; damage to schools — the list of depredations by the extremist legislature is so long that the protests could go on for months without repeating a topic. And on each Monday, those with special concern have entered the legislative building and submitted to arrest. The civil disobedience so far has been a model of discipline and decorum. The national media is starting to notice what’s been going on here for three months running.
Today (July 22) the focus is to be the legislature’s blatantly racist efforts at vote suppression. It’s a multi-faceted assault, which I won’t try to describe in detail here; google to learn more. Suffice it to say that after attending several of these protests, today is my day to put on the plastic handcuffs.
Why? Nobody is trying to stop me from voting: I have all the IDs they want, and I’m white to boot. But struggling to end racist vote suppression is where I came in: 48 years ago, marching with Dr. King in 1965, I was arrested three times in the Selma, Alabama voting rights campaign which produced the Voting Rights Act and changed America.
For 48 years, I thought that story had a happy ending. But a month ago the Supreme Court cut the guts out of the Act, opening the door to the current NC legislative assault, and many more like in other states.
Thus, if for nothing more than a kind of stubborn loyalty — to the memories of Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, Viola Liuzzo, and Jonathan Daniels and others who paid the big price for the cause–plus of course Dr. King, and the nameless hundreds more who endured jail, beatings, and other quieter forms of violence there — today will be my day. Or maybe it’s just a reluctance to let go of one of the few public acts of my adult life that I can still look back on and say: that–that accomplished something worthwhile.
The arrests are symbolic, of course; on our side, carefully choreographed and extensively prayed over; on the other, the cops have been on good behavior, so I’m unlikely to come home with bruises or broken bones. Nor do I expect our symbolic blowing of Joshua horns to bring the walls of this Jericho tumbling down: to speak plainly, the NC legislature has blithely ignored all the protests so far, and stuck to its agenda of dismantling almost all the institutions, laws, and safeguards that made this state at least in part a more humane place than, say, Mississippi.
(That’s my proposed slogan for the campaign of 2014 here: “Reclaim Carolina: Because One Mississippi Is enough.”)
All the same, I’m going to do it, so wish me luck. And if you’re here in NC, maybe next week it can be your turn. And if you’re not here, maybe it’s time to start something in your state . . . .