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March, 2007

Back to the Future

‘One step back, two steps forward’
An interview with Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, director of T.O.P.S., The Ordinary People Society.


Editor's note: Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, Alabama is the founder of The Ordinary People Society (T.O.P.S.). A veteran of 12 years in Alabama prisons, he is state chair of the NAACP Prison Project, state chair of Alabama RESTORE the Vote, dedicated to restoring the rights of ex-prisoners, and is the vice-chair of the Alabama Rural Coalition for the Homeless. He led a February 25 "pre-Bloody Sunday Reenactment March" in Selma, Alabama, in which the participants marched backwards across the Edmund Pettus bridge to show how we need to connect with the past, but also how we need to address the issues of today in a new way in order to move forward. The People's Tribune interviewed him shortly before the march.

Lynne Griever, formerly homeless, is singing at Poor People’s Day in Atlanta in February.

People's Tribune: Why are you marching backwards across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama?

Rev. Glasgow: March 4 is the 42nd anniversary of the bloody confrontation on that bridge, which led to the great victories of that era. We will be marching backwards across the bridge the week before, on Sunday, February 25, as a symbol of us remembering the past in order to embrace our future and move forward. You see, the problem is that every year, after crossing the bridge, there is no mission or agenda put forward on what needs to be done. There are no possible solutions expressed for the great issues of the day. We still have overpopulated prisons, a poor economic base, and Black-on-Black crime. So we believe that we need to look back, but only to remind us that although that battle was won, the war is still not over. We are taking a step back, but only in order to move two steps forward.

People's Tribune: Where did you get the idea for The Ordinary People Society?

Rev. Glasgow: While I was serving 12 years in prison, part of that time was spent in solitary confinement, where the only thing they allowed me to have was a bible. So, while reading it, I learned that Jesus was all about going to the common people. That was my vision. We don't like to use the term "common" today, so my inspiration was to talk about the ordinary people instead. The ordinary people today are the people on the bottom, the prisoners and ex-felons, the homeless, those who still suffer from the denial of their rights and basic humanity.
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow.

People's Tribune: Two projects you are working on now are the RESTORE Project and the Prodigal Son Project. What can you tell us about those?

Rev. Glasgow: Well, both are projects which reflect the overall mission of T.O.P.S. We have been working to restore voting rights for ex-felons who are having their basic rights denied. You know, this country spends over $365 billion a year on the prison-industrial complex, on the war on drugs, and almost nothing for the poor, for public housing, for health care. Another thing, in Alabama, as a result of the profiling of the Black poor, 62 percent of the prison population is African-American, while the overall population is only 26 percent. So we are fighting for restoring our rights, but like the prodigal son who has been excluded, we fight to come home to economic equality.

People's Tribune: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Rev. Glasgow: Just what I said to the people when I was the keynote speaker at Poor People's Day in Atlanta, on February 15: "It is time to make some noise. It is time to fight. Stop accepting living in poverty. Don't accept going to jail, don't accept slavery. We have to fight to restore our communities, our families. It is time to move forward."

This article originated in the People's Tribune
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