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Rev Michael Crumpler witnesses with others during Poor People’s Campaign event May 14 in Washington, DC
Arrested for Justice!
Arrested for Justice!

This reflection comes from Rev. Michael J. Crumpler, UUA's LGBTQ and Intercultural Programs Manager in Multicultural Growth and Witness. On Monday, May 14, Michael joined hundreds of people of faith and conscience for the kick off of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in Washington, D.C. Satellite events were held in more than 30 states. Michael was arrested along with more than 150 others, including UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. This was Michael's first time participating in direct action.

They explained what to do and what not to do. Everything seemed so “organized.” It all made sense. I thought I understood how it was supposed to go. But my heart still pounded and my throat had a lump. They warned us about prior convictions. My mind kept wondering if I had any convictions...or even had been arrested. I couldn’t remember whether or not I had. My deep-seated distrust in the criminal justice system as a black, gay, HIV-positive man was beginning to show. All the reassurances in the world could not soothe the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Prior to today my record was squeaky clean, besides the traffic tickets that keep being hailed as the example of “no big deal.” But reminded me of all the times I thought I might die from a traffic stop. And all the times I thought I might be criminalized because of my sexuality. And all the times my HIV status has been used to dehumanized my black body. Yet, I chose to be arrested.

I chose to be arrested alongside the Missouri state delegate. He is a white, straight, food service worker earning $9 per hour. He is forced to chose between child support payments and healthcare. Because 50% of his pay goes to child support, he is forced to live without healthcare. Our lives could not have been further apart, but we chose to be arrested together today.

It wasn’t that bad. We chanted. We sang. We were warned. We surrendered. What I had feared all my life and sworn to avoid, was not that bad. And maybe that’s the problem. Just maybe the fear of being arrested keeps us from doing the work of justice. Perhaps the system is set up to keep the people just complacent enough to do nothing.

As I set there on the grassy Capital lawn, behind police tape and steel barricades with like-minded strangers for justice, I thought about those who have not organized, those who did not know what to do. As I looked down at my plastic handcuffs, relieved that they were not real, even though they were....it was difficult not to act out. The meekness of the police was provocative. Their soft spokenness, their generosity of spirit juxtaposed to the violence of state sanctioned poverty made it difficult to comply. The violence suffered by the least of these, created a deep-seated rage, prompting me to cry out.

What do we want? Justice!
When do we want it? Now!
If we don’t get it? Shut it down!
If we don’t get it? Shut it down!
If we - don’t - get - it?
Shut it down!

 

About the Author

  • Rev. Michael J. Crumpler began as LGBTQ and Intercultural Programs Manager at the UUA in early 2017. Shortly thereafter, he was ordained to Reverend in the United Church of Christ. Michael lives in Harlem and is very active in social justice ministry at the historic Judson...

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