Learning to Advocate With Hungry People: A Prophetic Call to Unity
By Lyvonne Briggs
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God." – Isaiah 40:3
Four years ago, I boarded a 13-hour flight to China to help broadcast the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. With the 2012 London Summer Olympics just weeks away, I can’t help but remember the Beijing Olympics’ theme, "One World, One Dream." In light of today's attacks on federal programs that help to feed millions of Americans every year, that theme could be seen less like an egalitarian cliché, and more like a prophetic call to end hunger and poverty.
One world. One dream.
Becoming one is no easy task. Racial, political, and socioeconomic lines tend to barricade us into classified cliques. But as I witnessed this past May during a visit to Rwanda, it is possible to engage a call to unity, even in the aftermath of a genocidal nightmare.
One may also wonder, in an ever increasingly globalized and pluralist society, how so many people can speak with one voice. I believe the prophet Isaiah has eloquently lifted up the one voice that we should be listening for, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness," which is God's voice calling us to "make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
This desert exists in low-income inner-city homes susceptible to losing SNAP benefits. This desert manifests as culinary genocide in communities of color with chicken shacks and liquor stores, but nary a fresh produce market in sight. This voice calls us to action.
That same voice called nearly 70 passionate Hunger Justice Leaders to walk out our faith. We came from 26 states and 16 denominations to employ shared learning about the root causes of hunger and poverty, their systemic perpetuation, and what our roles ought to be in defeating these great evils.
As the world turns its gaze toward this summer's Olympics, let us remember the nations represented by strength. Let us be mindful of the empty bellies in countries symbolized by rapid runners. Let us be prayerful for the mouths that long to be fed but are steadfastly cheering victoriously for swift swimmers.
And let us remember the voices we have as pastors and lay members, educators and students, activists and advocates. The Hunger Justice Leaders training helped me realize that my preacher-poet voice does have agency and power. And that when I speak, it's not just my own shout, but rather, the roar of the 1 billion who go to sleep hungry every night.
Ashe and Amen.
Minister Lyvonne "Proverbs" Briggs is a 2012 Hunger Justice Leader and graduate of Yale Divinity School.