Why ACU AFA Is Important

We have been asked more than a few times, “What do you think you’re doing? What difference does this make? How will a Facebook group, volunteer teams, research, and storytelling make any actual change to the official policies of a university?”

Change comes through power, and there’s power when people get organized.

Two of the most important writings guiding our leadership are the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and the Rev. Dr. William Barber III’s The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear. Both are required reading for anyone dedicated to being the change they wish to see in their communities. These two great works lay out a roadmap for seeking justice in a community that goes something like this:

  1. Be right. This is why we have a Research Team, to ensure we aren’t arguing against strawmen and basing our case on false assumptions. Dr. Barber often says, both in writing and in person, “If you’re going to get loud, you better be right.” We are dedicated to truth, not ideology or a political stance. We are opposing these ACU policies not because they don’t match our politics or culture but because they are wrong. To make that claim, we must make sure we are right, and so we research.
  2. Lift up the voices of those impacted by injustice. In the Christian tradition, this is called testimony and witness. This is why we have a Storytelling Team, to give voice to those whom have had their voices denied for so long. Policies, such as the one proposed by ACU, arise when those in charge only hear one story (their story) and fail to hear the voices of others. We lift those voices up.
  3. Build a coalition. We do more together than we could ever do by ourselves. ACU Alumni and Friends for Action is not seeking to do this alone. We are building relationships and partnerships so that we may stand with others. We are not just building a group, for if we were, we would fail. We are building a movement. This movement is made up of ACU alumni, faculty and staff, current students, and concerned community members. This is bigger than just us, so much bigger. We are simply the gentle force behind a wave that will bring an outpouring of love, support, and justice. When others join our voice, we get loud.
  4. Negotiate in good faith. So many protest movements fail because they begin with protest. They begin by saying, “You are my enemy. I do not love you. I oppose you,” and all too often in these movements change simply means getting rid of or crushing your opponent so that power changes hands. The change is in power, not in the situation. We seek instead true transformation. We see those who created and support these discriminatory policies as future allies and friends, not as enemies needed to be eliminated. Therefore, we negotiate, not protest. We talk, not scream. We acknowledge and honor the natural dignity of ACU’s administrative leaders even if they are unconsciously not acknowledging and honoring ours. We’ll work on it, together, and we’ll come to a better way.

These things are doable. However, if all these efforts fail, if all our time, energy, and good will fail to bring about the justice we seek we will be prepared and ready for direct action. Protest, tension, and disruption are not beyond us.  We only turn to them as last resorts when the situation has turned hopeless and all dialogue and conversation has ceased. We will be willing and ready for direct action, but we pray we never have to see the day.

This strategy is the strategy of the Civil Rights Movement and the Poor People’s Campaign. It was created by Christian pastors, preachers, and ministers, and it is deeply in tune with the way of Jesus. We know this because we were taught as much by ACU.

Abilene Christian University taught us to be transformative leaders and world-changers who stand for faith and justice, so that’s who we’ll be.

We will work tirelessly and endlessly until ACU’s employee and student policies change in a way that does not discriminate or harm LGBTQ students and employees. We can do this because we are doing our homework, because we are entrenched in faith and Scripture, because we are not alone, and because we are people who do not settle for complacency to any injustice. We are those who stand up, get together, and make a difference.

We are ACU Alumni and Friends for Action.

 

UpdatesRyan Clements