For this week’s installment of Hope for the Journey, I would like to share my remarks at ONE Wake’s Founding Assembly on Tuesday, October 13, 2020. They are edited slightly, for brevity’s sake.
My thanks to all who were present: over 2,000 North Carolinians, not to mention guests from around the country who wanted to celebrate this remarkable moment with us! (I am especially grateful for St. Paul’s ONE Wake Core Team. They organized—and surpassed—our pledged 150-person turnout.)
Good evening, ONE Wake, and thank you to every elected official, candidate for public office, and community leader who joined us this evening.
My name is Javier Almendárez-Bautista. I’m a priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cary. It’s my great joy and honor to be with you tonight, as we approach the close of our Founding Assembly.
Tonight, I am reminded of a moment in the Hebrew Scriptures: a word that came to the Prophet Moses as he wandered the Wilderness with the people of Israel. He had assumed the unenviable task of leading them out of captivity and into freedom. And while they were still a long way from their final destination, Moses grew weary: tired of trying to address the endless needs and concerns of the people. Bone-tired of the burden of leadership.
And it was in that moment—the moment Moses almost despaired—that the Lord commanded him: “Gather for me 70 trusted elders from among the people. And I will pour out my Spirit on them—and they shall bear the burden of the people with you.”
And they shall bear the burden of the people with you…
Friends, what we have accomplished tonight—what we have accomplished over the past four years of organizing across over 42 churches, mosques, synagogues, and non-profits from every corner of this County—[what we have accomplished] is no small feat.
But this did not take place because of one person’s gifts, talents, or vision. It was not accomplished by a lone organizer, or done at the behest of a single charismatic leader. No, this Assembly was the work, not just of seventy, but of hundreds and thousands of you—meeting together over weeks, months, and years; listening deeply, building trust and building power, and discerning the common good.
It was your commitment to share the burden that made tonight possible.
ONE Wake: you have built an organization powerful enough to act before the next protest and after the next vigil.
You have built relationships that break through the walls that so often divide us.
You have refused to bow to partisan politics or private interest in solidarity with every person who calls this County home.
Our commitment to share the burden gives us our power, my friends. Our commitment to be in this fight together generates our great strength.
Tonight, I am glad to report that candidates for the Board of County Commissioners have committed to fighting the good fight for affordable housing with us.
Tonight, I am glad to report that Mayor Baldwin and Mr. Kane of Kane Realty have both agreed to work with us to ensure that Southeast Raleigh residents have a seat at the table when it comes to development happening in their own backyard.
Tonight, I am glad to report that our Attorney General has renewed his promise to fight for the rights of tenants in our County and in our State.
These candidates and leaders have agreed to work with us to make these dreams a reality. So, now, ONE Wake, it is our turn to keep up our end of the bargain.
Just a couple months ago, on July 23, ONE Wake kicked off a nonpartisan voter registration campaign. We built a team of 250 leaders to contact potential voters in our own institutions to make sure that everyone who can vote can do so safely and securely.
So far, our team has contacted 11,227 potential voters. Our goal is to reach 20,000 potential voters before Election Day. To do that, we don’t just need our top three callers, or even our 250 leaders, to make more calls—we need all 2,000 of you to share the burden. We need all 2,000 of you to step up to the plate, take action, and organize our turnout.
Friends, as you already know, we, as ONE Wake, will never endorse political candidates, but you have heard the candidates’ response to our agenda for a better Wake County tonight. And now—two days before early voting begins, 20 days before Election Day—it is time for us to demonstrate our power and exercise our right to vote.
It is time for you to vote—not as if you’ve always been able to—but as if people prayed, fought, and marched for your right to the ballot box.
It is time for you to vote because you love your Christian neighbor, your Jewish neighbor, and your Muslim neighbor.
It is time for you to vote because you seek the welfare of this County and this state and this nation, and of everyone—and I mean, everyone—who calls this place home.
We are well on our way to making our voice heard on November 3rd, my friends. But whatever happens that day, rest assured: we didn’t build ONE Wake because we wanted to show up to one meeting and call it good. We built ONE Wake because we wanted to hold people in power accountable consistently, persistently, and effectively for the long haul.
We are not here to elect candidates so that they can do whatever they please come Inauguration Day.
We are here to make democracy work in North Carolina—and we are here to stay.
Friends: let us fight the good fight, and let us move forward as ONE Wake County.
The work is not over.
In fact, it has just begun.
— Fr. Javier
If you would like to pledge your support for ONE Wake’s Get Out the Vote effort, text VOTE to 919-328-2966.
To watch a recording of ONE Wake’s virtual Founding Assembly, go to ONE Wake’s Facebook page.Tags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey