Imagine Memphis, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, changed into an ecumenical and transformative place of learning providing the impetus for a new beginning.
Visualize Christians coming from miles around to soak up wisdom coming not only from the seminaries and sanctuaries, but also from the streets. Envision those same people graduating from this inclusive people’s school, armed with new skills, new courage, and new dreams.
This is exactly the scenario described by Knoxville’s own Marquez Rhyne of the Carpetbag Theater upon his return from Memphis after taking part in the Word and World school.
Dubbed the “Faith, Labor, and Community Initiative: Resurrection in Memphis,” the five-day intensive provided participants with radical education and skills for work in service, solidarity, justice, peace, and social change. The school is part of a larger regional and national picture that will help to bring social and economic justice to our nation in a time when those values have been set aside.
Word and World receives guidance from a national board of directors who work closely with regional and local leaders as they strive to make each school as relevant as possible to the attendees from a particular area.
The Word and World people’s school was immediately followed by the Southern Faith, Labor, and Community Alliance conference themed “Moving Toward a Grassroots Southern Strategy.” The conferees came together to plan a strategy for cooperation among faith-based activists, union organizers, clergy, and labor activists to further the progressive principles of economic justice and workers’ rights.
Knoxville’s Marquez Rhyne attended the recent Word and World people’s school. He emphasized the way art is used intentionally for community building and social justice movement work.
“As we enter into dialogues about politics and faith, I want to keep art central to the conversation,” says Rhyne. “We used community singing and other art forms to actively involve the participants in the process. This is a way to take the focus off ‘self’ and build community.”
Talents displayed included the use of the spoken word, singing in the American folk tradition with lots of improvisation, and infusing art into the entire process of political organizing. The participants observed that the more common forms of organizing such as peaceful demonstration, gathering signatures for petitions, and other traditional means of dissent are made richer by the presence of art in any form.
“I truly enjoyed talking to people in the faith and social justice communities,” Rhyne affirms.
For further information on Word and World, visit them online at www.wordandworld.org or call them at their Greensboro, North Carolina headquarters at (336) 230-0330.