We, of the National Council of Elders, dream of new worlds. We have helped bring to life the movements that have enriched our humanity over the past 70 years. Yet we know that we have a long way to go to create relations based on peace, love, and mutual responsibility. In 2012 we gathered in Greensboro, North Carolina and wrote a “living Declaration” pledging to “be faithful to our own history” and to undertake with younger generations to do “everything in our power” to bring a greater measure of justice, equality, and peace to our country and to our world.
We are offering this Greensboro Declaration II* as an encouragement to all people to join with us on the path toward that new world we still dream about. Together, we can overcome as we open our hearts to find ways toward loving communities.
In the span of our lifetimes, we have experienced some of our country’s most soul wounding times. We have been outraged by the ways in which violence distorted every arena of our lives — from the testing of the atomic bomb in New Mexico to the historic use of germ warfare, the legacies of lynching, mob violence, murder, and police terror. Indigenous people, whose sovereignty has been denied, continue to suffer deadly assaults on their personal and collective beings. Since WW II, illegal nuclear experimentation, hidden under the name of national security, continues to threaten their lives.
As young organizers, nurtured by our elders and the generations before us, we found ways to resist this culture of violence. We believed another world was possible. We formed movements and organizations, challenging racism, militarism, and materialism. We organized to end the wars in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos. We dismantled legal segregation, expanded voting rights, and supported communities of color as they demanded self-determination. We called for the creation of a public life that fully embraced women, people of color, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, transgender, and gender non-conforming people. We offered sanctuary to those whose lives were deemed illegal, as we challenged the military policies of this country toward our closest neighbors.
As elders, we are learning how to hold our earth more gently. We are energized and hopeful as we collaborate with younger generations to create new lifeways and relations across the globe. We stand with young activists who are infusing spiritual principles into daily political work, recognizing our people’s need for emotional, physical, and spiritual healing.
Our spirits are grounded in purposefulness, enlarged by connections to each other and to the earth. Part of our responsibility is to reclaim the spiritual rootedness that sustained our ancestors throughout time. This is essential as we are experiencing escalating threats to our lives and the earth on which we depend.
Over the last three years, the most destructive tenets and practices of Western culture have been intensified by the Trump administration. Trump and his supporters have emboldened American citizens towards lawlessness and the unleashing of their most virulent, dangerous attitudes and practices of white supremacy.
This administration is undermining our efforts to respond to the climate crisis, promoting the expulsion and banning of immigrants, and urging the brutalization and imprisonment of refugees and their children. Trump has feigned being the champion of the white, working poor while steadily advancing the interests of the capitalist elite through systematic deregulation of measures intended to curb exploitative corporate agendas.
The policies of this administration have fostered greater suffering in every sector of our population – from those confined in jails and prisons to those on reservations, those struggling with opioid addiction, those enduring the hardships of hunger, water shutoffs, evictions, reduced wages, and police violence.
The callous, undemocratic, and inhumane policies at work are fostering a widespread sense of demoralization, pushing many in our country toward the spiritual death that Dr. King foresaw. Anxiety and fear are mounting around us, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the President’s incompetent response.
However, by working intentionally to deepen our spiritual consciousness, we can regain our connectedness, affirm our bonds with each other, and the earth. Just as our ancestors faced dangerous and destructive times, we will find our way through this to a deeper humanity.
WHAT WE CAN DO TOGETHER:
The 2020 election offers us the opportunity to repudiate the repressive measures of the Trump administration. In this time of great danger, we affirm the sanctity of the hard-won right to vote for all and for all votes to count.
We have seen how quickly the structures of the state and finance capital are crumbling. Their instability is both a danger and an opportunity. Leadership is emerging from young people, women, indigenous communities, and those who have been deemed disposable. We are imagining new forms of community power, new ways to grow our food, to travel to share lives and hopes, to make decisions, to strive for equality, and to live more lightly on our earth.
We can investigate and support proposals for justice such as the Platform for Black Lives Matter and the Green New Deal. We can support the call for a wealth tax that would ensure greater economic opportunities among those who have suffered systematic segregation and racism. We can ally with our Native brothers and sisters who are resisting the plans of corporations to further exploit and plunder the natural environment for private profit. We can call for open borders and humane immigration policies. We can speak up against all such injustices and the further erosion of democracy in this country and around the world.
We can work to bring into existence that new world that we all envision. We still have time to hold one another, to share our fears and dreams. Bless the artists who continue to expand our beliefs in what is possible together.
*Vincent Harding, Hope, and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement.
**The first Greensboro Declaration was issued September 12, 2012, announcing the founding of the National Council of Elders, and expressing our analysis of and responses to the national social problems of that period.