September 8 – September 9, 2017
Greece Baptist Church, Rochester, NY. Learn More »
June 10, 2015
This page is dedicated to the Black Lives Matter Movement and the pieces we have received from those in the BPFNA community in response to the events happening around the U.S.
If you, like us, are seeking ways to keep your heart open in the midst of the weight of the moment, we invite you to read and share these pieces, the best of the material we've seen written in these days. This page is divided up into sections - by responses received after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Charleston, Baltimore, Ferguson, and the killing of Trayvon Martin, as well as responses focused on the overall issues addressed by this movement (however, the underlying issues do resonate through all sections as well).
As always, if you have written something you'd like to share (on this or other issues of justice) we'd love to have a copy. You can email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May these words -- and our actions -- in some small way witness to God's peace rooted in justice.
Eyes find me
My eyes carve a path away
A pot bellied man.
The skinny girl.
The lurid and grimy boy with no hat.
Their eyes find me
They always find me
But I do not look back.
I pray my silver blinders protect me,
Letters for Black Lives is a set of crowdsourced, multilingual, and culturally-aware resources aimed at creating a space for open and honest conversations about racial justice, police violence, and anti-Blackness in our families and communities.
It began as a group of Asian Americans and Canadians writing an intergenerational letter to voice concerns and support for the Black community. It has since grown to include other immigrant groups and communities of color. The goal is to listen, support, and amplify the message of Black Lives Matter within our communities.
Those from all communities are encouraged to adapt and build off of these resources.
from the Center for Popular Democracy and PolicyLink
To support the efforts of community organizations and elected officials, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and PolicyLink have created Building Momentum from the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing. The Toolkit is a direct response to organizers, elected officials, and community members from across the country seeking support and resources for campaigns aimed at transforming the policies and practices of local law enforcement.
The Toolkit reflects the aspirations of many and is the product of conversations with base building organizations and local elected officials.
The Toolkit elevates fifteen policy reforms. Not all of the reforms included are ideal for all communities. Some, such as body cameras, are controversial. The aim of the Toolkit is not to suggest that these are the fifteen best or most important reforms. Instead, the Toolkit provides resources, information and sometimes precautions about reforms that have been enacted, as well as more visionary proposals.
The policy reforms are organized into five categories: Ending Mass Criminalization, Safe and Just Police Interactions, Community Control, Independent Oversight, and Improving Police Department Practices.
from Greg Jarrell
After the past couple of weeks, I just don’t know what to say. I know that I am supposed to have some words. I should be helping other white folks learn to recognize and name the ways that the habits of whiteness have been inculcated in us without our recognition. Or I could engage on social media in ways that seek to bring light and healing. There are sermons and articles to be written, rallies to be planned, meetings to be strategized.
from Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce
Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound.
Let us not rush to offer a band-aid, when the gaping wound requires surgery and complete reconstruction.
Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment.
Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations and restoration, or how we can repair the breach and how we can restore the loss.
Let us not rush past the loss of this mother's child, this father's child... someone's beloved son.
Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance.
Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice. Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is life in community together.
Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those hearts are being torn asunder.
from Rev. Dr. Cody Sanders, BPFNA board member and pastor at Old Cambridge Baptist Church, Cambridge, MA (originally published on Baptist News Global)
In the last couple of months, the Black Lives Matter sign that hangs from a post on the front lawn of our church has been vandalized several times. Sometimes the metal sign has been severely bent. Other times, someone has written extremely racist and violent messages on its surface. From my experience working with the staff and congregation to address this vandalism, I’ve learned several lessons:
from compiled by Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society
A reading list of excellent reading material about the decolonization struggle in Canada.
from Keith Menhinick and the Alliance of Baptists blog
The average life expectancy of a black trans woman is 35; one in three black men will serve time in prison; a black person is murdered every 28 hours by law enforcement; 74 percent of black disabled people are unemployed; 60 percent of black girls are sexually assaulted before the age of 18; and movements that seek to end the state-sanctioned violence such as #BlackLivesMatter are immediately labeled “murder groups” by some in positions of power and privilege.*
While at times beautiful, in the context of race relations in America, I worry that the prayer of St. Francis has become a complicit white man’s prayer, a prayer of insidious gradualism.Perhaps following Christ means flipping St. Francis’ prayer. I must stop sowing a false peace in a society that excuses the ruinous denial of human rights and the rampant destruction of black bodies.
The following statement was born from conversation in community about race and violence during the 118th Lott Carey Annual Session that convened 10-14 August 2015 in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. We offer this statement as a resource for contemplation, conversation, and a call to engagement.
Lott Carey is a global Christian missional community organized in 1897 to help churches extend the Christian witness throughout the world. Through prayer partnership, financial support, and technical assistance, we come alongside indigenous communities engaged in ministries of evangelism, compassion, empowerment, and advocacy. Together, we are touching lives with transforming love.
from Timothy DuWhite, program associate at Believe Out Loud
This past Tuesday I was given the honor and challenge to speak on the behalf of cis-black men for #TransLiberationTuesday.
This day was created as a space where communities all across the nation could collectively mourn and speak out against the extreme violence black trans-women and gender non-conforming femmes face on a daily basis. This day was also created in wake of the 18 (exact number is still up for question) trans women who were killed in 2015, most of whom were women of color.
I must admit, shortly after accepting Aaryn M. Lang’s (one of the organizers of the NYC demonstration) invitation to speak, I started to second guess if I even should. Lang requested that I speak specifically to my fellow cis-black men in the audience.
Her rationale was that it is our responsibility to speak to each other about allyship to trans-women as they are faced with genocide. Forcing the ownness of this sort of education onto the shoulders of trans-women (the individuals directly in danger) is an act of violence within itself.
by Leah Gunning Francis
The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, reignited a long-smoldering movement for justice, with many St. Louis-area clergy stepping up to support the emerging young leaders of today’s Civil Rights Movement. Seminary professor Leah Gunning Francis was among the activists, and her interviews with more than two dozen faith leaders and with the new movement’s organizers take us behind the scenes of the continuing protests. Ferguson and Faith demonstrates that being called to lead a faithful life can take us to places we never expected to go, with people who never expected us to join hands with them.
from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)
A list of resources compiled by CBF.
a sermon by Wendell Griffen, pastor at New Mellennium Church in Little Rock, AR
In the United States people are hooked on lies about the supposed end of racism despite constant evidence of white supremacy and how it violates the gospel of God’s love, truth, repentance, and restoration. Days ago a man massacred nine black people who were studying Scripture and praying at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The alleged perpetrator of that event wrote a manifesto that explicitly expressed his desire to terrorize black people based on a doctrine of white supremacy espoused by a group that calls itself the Council of Conservative Citizens.
The Council of Conservative Citizens was formed in 1985. Before that time it operated under a different name, the White Citizens Council. The White Citizens Council was a network of white supremacist groups that developed after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawed racial segregation in public education. Dylann Shock Roof, the man who allegedly massacred nine black worshippers at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church on June 17, 2015, was radicalized by the successor organization to this white supremacist organization.
from YES! Magazine (an interview with Rev. Sekou)
For three months, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou (St. Louis native, is a writer, filmmaker, organizer, and pastor) was on the ground in Ferguson, participating in daily protests and leading trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience. That work continues to this day: Sekou was arrested for the third time on Monday, July 13, while protesting the recent police shooting of Brandon Claxton in St. Louis. Rev. Sekou’s frank discussions about black America’s fight for racial justice have gained him notoriety across the country.
“Martin Luther King ain’t coming back. Get over it,” said Rev. Sekou during a recent lecture at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon. “It won’t look like the civil rights movement. It’s angry. It’s profane. If you’re more concerned about young people using profanity than about the profane conditions they live in, there’s something wrong with you.”
When we heard that Rev. Sekou would be visiting the Seattle area in early July, we asked him to visit the YES! office and share his experiences with the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson and Baltimore.
from Rev. Dr. William Barber
When the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse Friday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley spoke solemnly of the nine Black churchgoers who were shot to death less than a month ago at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “We have all been struck by what was a tragedy we didn’t think we would ever encounter,” Haley said of the horrifying massacre. Before signing the bill with nine pens that will go to the families of the victims, she called those who were murdered during Bible Study at the historic church, “Nine amazing people that forever changed South Carolina’s history.” The Governor referenced the “grace” shown by the nine families, when they forgave the white gunman. She said their grace helped usher the state toward this long overdue decision.
The assassinations at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, followed by the public forgiveness from the grieving families, were similarly cited by several South Carolina lawmakers as their reason for voting to remove the flag. What they are really saying is that Black Deaths Matter, not our lives. Black people in the US are only deemed worthy of action in their death, not in their life. In a year that has seen thousands in the streets, young and old, black white and brown, saying to the nation, “Black Lives Matter”, the painful and dangerous message coming from South Carolina this week is: Only Black Deaths Matter.
from Rev. Dr. Susan Smith and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
L: God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, God of Rahab and Ruth and Vashti, you who have stood with us from the beginning of time;
P: Lord, hear our prayer.
L: The arc of the universe may very well lean toward justice, but the arc is long and the struggle is never-ending;
P: Lord, hear our prayer.
L: Can you hear us, God? Can you hear your children crying? Can you hear your children with bowed knees and raised hands of praise and hope in Your sanctuaries, cry and protest the once again terror that befalls them in Your House?
P: From the murders of the Birmingham Four to those of the Emanuel Nine, we remember, we resist, we call upon Your Holy Name. With the church burnings of the old, those of the 1980s, and those of this time, we remember, we resist, we call upon Your Holy Name.
From Rhys Xavier Caraway, a social justice advocate in the LGBT & African American communities. Originally published by Reconciling Ministries Network.
Often times we think that we have to walk into the sanctuary, sit two rows back from the altar and just wait for our “aha” moment to realize what our purpose is, but that isn’t always the case. On March 5, 2015, I loaded two overly packed suitcases into one of three vans and headed thirteen hours down the road to Selma, AL for what I didn’t realize would be a defining moment in my life. We were headed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday—one of the most important moments in civil rights history—but little did I know, God had something greater in store for me.
from Stan Dotson
There is a long list of re-entry shocks to deal with in coming back home after nearly a year in Cuba. Close to the top of the list is our country’s continuing struggles around race. Not having access to Internet or U.S. television, we basically missed the news cycles dealing with Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, and Baltimore. We heard about the incidents, from friends’ emails and from the Granma, Cuba’s daily newspaper which never misses an opportunity to broadcast bad news from their neighbor to the north. But that’s not the same as being in the middle of it, hearing and seeing the images 24/7 as our country is prone to do.
from the CBF blog
The current flag contains a powerful symbolic reminder of a war, waged by our own ancestors to maintain a system of chattel slavery. It evokes a history of Jim Crow subjugation of black people. It has been flown as a sign of defiance of integration, and we believe that such defiance is sinful.
In our own baptisms we promised to turn from sin and renounce evil, so as pastors we also call upon all believing Christians in Mississippi to make their voices heard and to stand up to evil. We all know that we inherit a legacy of looking away while evil has been perpetuated in our midst. Now is the time to turn away from this symbol, to open our eyes and mouths, and to speak up for what is right and true.
from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina
A five-week racial reconciliation curriculum produced by the CBFNC Racial Reconciliation ministry team. Consider where this curriculum could be presented in your church.
from the Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation
Tools for congregations and social justice activists.
This one hour session offers tools to help faith communities and leaders engage in conversation about the current mass demonstrations in response to police violence, reflect on community responses such us the #BlackLivesMattter movement, and contextualize property destruction and police violence in marginalized communities.
from the National Council of Churches’ Governing Board
The root of justice and peace is a moral belief in the intrinsic worth of all human life. The advancement of technology and use of social media have brought to light evidence of a disturbing truth – the lives of African Americans, particularly those in impoverished communities, are not valued as much as those of the wealthy and affluent. The misdirected “War on Drugs” and “get tough on crime” policies of the past decades have given birth to militarized police forces that do not best serve the people and communities they are mandated to keep safe.
The high-profile deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hand of police in Ferguson, Staten Island, North Charleston, and most recently Baltimore are not isolated incidents. The incidents of police brutality resulting in major injuries and death are taking place so often we can barely keep up with the reports. This is a national problem that calls for a federal, state and local response.
From Alison Amyx - Senior Editor of Believe Out Loud and a member of the BPFNA board.
As we prepared for our “big launch” of our new #BOLAction tool on Facebook today, we discussed what would happen if another piece of anti-LGBT legislation came to the forefront of our movement right before the Supreme Court’s hearings on marriage equality. What would we prioritize? What would we say and do? Regrettably, we didn’t discuss the more likely convergence—what happens if another black person is killed by the police?
From Dr. Sharon Watkins, the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada.
Unfair racial stereotypes have taken root in the hearts of people. They cause us to react to people differently—in stores, on the streets, in encounters between police and citizens. They even affect the way we describe violence and destruction of property. Young white men smashing windows, overturning cars, and battling police after a big athletic event are “revelers,” “out of control fans.” But a group of mostly African American youth who do similar things out of sorrow and rage that a young black man has died in police custody are dangerous “thugs.” The difference in the two descriptions is telling. Happy “revelers” whose youthful celebration “got a little out of hand” can be corrected and forgiven. “Dangerous thugs” present a much more ominous threat.
From Rev. Jennifer Bailey, a minister in the AME Church, a Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, and Founder of the Faith Matters Network.
When my fellow Christians and I go to the tomb, I suspect that we will find, like the women, that Jesus is no longer there. Jesus is in the world. Jesus is weeping alongside mothers who will never again know the warmth of their child's embrace because their lives were cut tragically short. Jesus is marching in the streets lovingly calling systems of power to accountability. May we be brave enough to join him.
From Rev. Mary Wilson, pastor at Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, TX.
I saw a graphic on Facebook indicating that twice as many white people had been killed by law enforcement than black people. The person posting it said, "why aren't white people rioting?" implying a superiority of response simply because white people are more civilized.
As a mathematician, I saw those numbers and was appalled at their disproportionality. Why is that?
From John Ballenger, friend of the BPFNA and pastor of Woodbrook Baptist Church in Baltimore, MD.
The real story is not the obvious story.
The real story is back story and context.
It's the story some have tried, through the years,
to tell that's been ignored.
The real story is below the surface
in the cross currents and rip-tides.
The real story—the deep story
is an ugly one...
from the Hon. Wendell Griffen, the Division 5 judge of the Sixth Circuit, for Pulaski County in Arkansas.
In the latest exercise of cultural incompetence and pandering to the storm-trooper mentality involving police interactions with communities of color nationwide, city directors in Little Rock, Arkansas voted last night by a 7-1 margin to purchase riot gear for most of the 551 members of the Little Rock police force.
The vote to purchase the riot gear occurred despite pleas from members of the Little Rock black community who urged that directors study the issue further to determine whether riot gear is even needed in Little Rock. As Mrs. Annie Abrams, a long-time resident of Little Rock told the directors, “We didn’t even have a riot in 1957 and didn’t have a riot when we had HBO [referring to the 1957 Central High School desegregation crisis and the mid-1990s Home Box Office documentaries about gang violence in Little Rock].”
The Little Rock Police Department has what can charitably be called an “image problem” with communities of color.
From Michelle Thompson & Henry Lee
A music video dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement and the countless lives lost. Filmed at Judson Memorial Church in New York City (a BPFNA Partner Congregation).
"We are artists. Artists who aim to be true to such calling and engage deeply; to be moved and shaped by our times. ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a song that was birthed out of the need to respond to the dehumanization of black and brown folks; to mourn the loss of beautiful black women, men, and children, to cry and rage through song and lyric. We hope that you are equally moved—moved to reflect, moved to cry, moved to find and speak truth, moved to organize, moved to LOVE.
We dedicate this song to the memory of the countless lives lost. You are not forgotten!"
Click here to watch the video.
from Steve Marston, member of Judson Memorial Church in New York City (a BPFNA Partner Congregation).
I've been accused of being a "conspiracy theorist" because I think the system is doing exactly what it was designed to do.
Do you really think we don't know how to educate people? (In NYC, the four-year high school graduation rate was 64.2% in the 2013-14 school year, but only 38% of graduates were considered college ready.)
Do you think America has to have the greatest rate of incarceration on the planet? (The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of its prisoners.)
Do you wonder why 52 countries have lower firearm-related death rates? Or why the US is the only developed country without national universal health care? Or why 33 countries have lower infant mortality rates? Or why the us ranks 29th in income equality out of 34 OEDe countries? (The wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families; 22% of all children (39% of black children) in the US live in families that are considered officially poor.)
We have the means to make things right. But we don't.
from Rev. Mark Clinger, pastor of FBC Madison (a BPFNA Partner Congregation). This was originally published in a recent issue of The Visitor, FBC Madison's e-newsletter.
As I shared on Sunday, I am personally relieved that Madison’s response to the District Attorney’s decision in the shooting death of Tony Robinson was peaceful. Thankfully, we were spared the rioting and violence which were the experience of other communities across the nation. A great deal of effort went into keeping the peace by the NAACP, who stationed identifiable mediators throughout the community; leadership in the African American Council of Churches of Greater Madison; and Madison’s Young Black Talented and Gifted Coalition.
While we can all breathe a sigh of relief, we must not imagine that the “peaceful” response to the decision suggests Madison itself is “peaceful”. There can be no true peace in the absence of criminal, economic, educational, financial justice. When some people’s lives are not thriving as others and such difference is allowed to be normal, it is simply unjust.
a sermon from Rev. Jason Mack - May 17 at First Baptist Madison, WI.
On this graduate recognition Sunday, Rev. Jason Mack addresses graduating high school seniors as well as the Dane County District Attorney's announcement that a Madison police officer won't face criminal charges in the March 6 shooting death of 19-year-old Tony Robinson.
Click here to listen.
Click here to find out more about First Baptist Madison.
from Rev. Rick Mixon, pastor of FBC Palo Alto (a BPFNA Partner Congregation). The following was originally published in a recent issue of The Spire, the e-newsletter of FBC Palo Alto.
Right around the time of the rioting in Baltimore, I posted on Facebook a meme with a picture and quotation from, James Lawson, a well respected and beloved figure, active in the US Civil Rights movement of the 60s.
Lawson says, "Violence has no practical results – toward building a strengthened community or solving the problems of human prejudice, bias, and injustice. People accept the ideological or even religious myth that if you want to get things done, violence is the way. But violence is not even the faster way. It complicates issues, increases and escalates the pain, postpones the hard work of facing the problem and healing it. Violence can kill somebody and destroy buildings. But it cannot build a house or create a community that is more just and fair."
I found these words timely, instructive and inspiring.
From our friends at the Fellowship of Reconciliation
Please join us in prayer supporting the good work of our friends at FOR-USA. All the staff mentioned in this article have BPFNA connections -- Gretchen Honnold is a member of our young adult group and frequently attends Summer Conference, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou served on staff at BPFNA Partner FBC-Jamaica Plain in Boston, MA and will be one of our preachers this summer at Summer Conference, and Ethan Vesely-Flad attends BPFNA Partner Congregation Circle of Mercy in Asheville, NC.
from the Catalyst Project
We offer participatory trainings to support people to develop deeper understandings and practices of anti-racism in their organization, campus or community. Our trainings emphasize the institutional nature of racism in the U.S. and its function as a system of divide-and-control. Anti-racist political education and organizing is vital to vibrant social movements for global justice. Racism continues to fuel tremendous inequities within the US and on a global scale. Racism also manifests in progressive and radical social movements. Anti-racism is a powerful catalyst for building the movements we need to create a world in which all people are free from all forms of oppression. Our approach centralizes the importance of white people actively taking on the challenge to dismantle racism, while looking through a lens of the intersection of different systems of privilege and oppression. We explore the relationship between institutional and interpersonal racism, and offer tools for white social justice activists to take responsibility for building unity around the importance of anti-racist organizing and shifting the ways that internalized racism impacts progressive organizations and movements.
from Believe Out Loud
This week we stepped into a period of mourning, overwhelmed by a string of deaths that remind us again that we live in a world of injustice and sorrow.
As we worked to grieve the unjust killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of the police, we awoke this morning to the news that five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas, with seven more wounded.
By dawn, our media had already shaped the narrative; fearsome and racially-charged commentary began to tear apart our national dialogue on racial justice, violence, and police accountability.
Racial violence is deeply rooted in the history of the United States.
Blog posts from Hon. Wendell Griffen
Eric Matthew Frein murdered one Pennsylvania state trooper and severely injured a second in September 2014. He was the subject of a massive manhunt and was placed on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List. He was apprehended, captured alive, and is now awaiting trial. Eric Matthew Frein is white.
James Holmes killed 12 people in his murderous shooting attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. He was apprehended, captured alive, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. James Holmes is white.
Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Delrawn Small were killed by police officers. They were killed publicly. They were killed while being where they had the right to be and doing what they had the right to do. Their deaths occurred the week of the U.S. Independence Day holiday, the “Fourth of July.”
The public outcry about their deaths was quick and wide spread. Protest marches and demonstrations occurred. Politicians, police agency leaders, and social justice advocates issued statements calling on people to be calm and peacefully await the outcome of official investigations surrounding these latest deaths of black people at the hands of police.
Then on the night of July 8, a black gunman targeted police officers during a peaceful protest march about police violence against black people in Dallas, Texas. The gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, used a semi-automatic rifle to kill five white officers and wound several others before he was killed by police.
A blog post from Patrick Hiller on forusa.org
The war that has come home is that of unchallenged U.S. militarism. While easily identifiable in wars abroad, the sometimes subtler forms of militarism played out in six ways over the last days.
First, there are too many weapons in the hands of too many people. These weapons killed Philando Castile in a very minor traffic stop (broken tail-light, not even a complaint about his driving), they killed Alton Sterling for selling CDs outside of a convenience store (neither of these men had a gun in their hands), and they killed officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens at the hands of a sniper identified as Micah Johnson. Johnson was killed by robot armed with explosives. The entire US is “gun country” and every effort to create meaningful change is undermined by the NRA and their anti-factual propaganda and the virtually sanctified Second Amendment.
from American Baptist Home Missions Society
With deep concern for increasing racial violence in the United States, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) has published a statement from Barnabas Partners demanding legislative action to end police brutality.
Barnabas Partners—a group of American Baptist clergy convened by ABHMS Executive Director Emeritus Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, III and Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr. several years ago—encourages pastors, shares knowledge, advocates for justice and prays for the organization.
The statement advocates three steps toward healing the injustice and violence that pervades American society today: First, America needs to reckon with its historic race issues; second, America needs to confront the spread of racism in the ranks of its police forces; and, third, there is an urgent need for the White House and Justice Department to name the evils of racial bias and police brutality as unacceptable and unlawful.
from ABHMS Barnabas Partners
We face a national crisis in the United States of America concerning increasing violence and the growing threat to innocent Black lives from America’s police. Daily in America, Black citizens are slain by police officers who are publicly sworn to protect the citizenry. This national crisis is well documented from Baton Rouge, La., to Falcon Heights, Minn.; from Waller County, Tex., to Ferguson, Mo.; from Chicago, Ill., to Savannah, Ga.; from Cleveland, Ohio, to Staten Island, N.Y.; from the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam. However, time and again, when police brutalize and murder Black people, they escape criminal prosecution.
Urgently needed is a remedy that protects Black people from persistent police brutality and murder. Also needed are sweeping policy changes advocated by the White House and by the United States Justice Department requiring prosecution of police officers that keep with the standard protocols for investigating and prosecuting civilians when homicides are committed. Ultimately, we need respect for the dignity of all human life with a firm resolve as a nation to live together in peace as a beloved community.
from the NC NAACP and Forward Together Moral Movement
We call on people of conscience and of all faiths to pray for justice and love and against the demonizing forces of racism. We extend our prayers to Emanuel AME Church, to the families of those who were shot and killed.
We ask for prayers of faith for all people to not only challenge overt expressions and actions of racism, but to challenge, as this church has done throughout its history, policies that have a disparate impact on African Americans and other minorities like the denial of Medicaid expansion, voter suppression, cutting funding of public education, denying living wages and labor rights. All of these are issues that Emanuel AME's late minister, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, cared about.
from Jennifer Bailey
Originally published in the Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.
Above my bed hangs my certificate of ordination in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. It is much more than a piece of paper, but the physical representation of my call and life journey pursuing justice for God's creation in the name of Jesus Christ. The day I was ordained was the most meaningful day of my life...
This morning, I awoke under the watchful eye of that certificate into a living nightmare. Reports about the shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, dominated my social media feed as texts from friends and colleagues poured in. Some expressed sorrow. Others shock. Yet, the most visceral feeling in my gut was rage. Nine bullets pierced the side of nine black bodies and in the process, shattered lives and any remaining illusion that there are spaces where black lives are protected in the United States. They were mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers crucified at the foot of the cross for embodying the virtue of hospitality. If, as a Christian, rage is absent from your analysis of what happened in Charleston, I am not sure we worship the same God."
from BPFNA board member Ben Sanders
Frankly, it doesn't take much courage to be righteously indignant about the killings in Charleston. These killings were, after all, carried out by the type of racist we've been given permission to despise--the overt kind. In the United States, we're allowed and even encouraged to be express unapologetic righteous indignation when an overt white supremacist opens deadly fire at a black church during prayer. What's more difficult and what takes more courage, is drawing connections between the actions of Dylan Storm Roof and the daily conduct of "Law Enforcement" all across this country. The connections between the shootings at Emanuel AME Church and those carried out by police reveal a history of anti-black racism in this land that predates 1776.
From Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II - Pastor, Architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement, Father of Five Children, and North Carolina NAACP President.
After dismissal, high school students went to the new shopping center, built after The Wire made their community—Freddie Gray’s community—famous. He is dead. No one is talking. Trust is dead. The police came with their face shields in place. The students and the police lined up, ready to do battle, like the two armies in the Hindu sacred book Bhagavad Gita. It seemed too late for talk. Too late to seek truth, then trust. All that was left were two fearful armies, fated to act out the script of distrust.
From Malu Fairley, a BPFNA friend and a member of Wedgewood Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC.
Holy One my heart is breaking I am enraged and afraid for my people of Baltimore
For my son
For all our black bodies struggling to live.
Be with us now.
Protect my people as we take to the streets as we are fighting for racial and economic justice.
Let not this movement be in vain.
From Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, a professor of religion at Goucher College in Baltimore County and author of Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.
In America, the principle construction of the black body is as chattel. The black body was introduced into this country as property, and thus, as a body not meant to be free.
Essentially, the free space was not intended for black people. The free space was deemed a white space. Thus, a free black body was a dangerous, suspicious, threatening and criminal body inasmuch as it is trespassing into a space in which it does not belong.
From Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a St Louis native and former Pastor for Formation and Justice at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA, a BPFNA Partner Congregation. Rev. Sekou has been deeply involved in the on-going protest movement in Ferguson.
It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard." Those were the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in March 1968, weeks before he was assassinated. Today parts of Ferguson are still burning after a night of protests following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown. At least a dozen shops in the Ferguson area have been broken into and burned. A number of businesses burned for hours before firefighters arrived. We speak to Rev. Osagyefo Sekou of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Jelani Cobb, director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut and a contributor to the New Yorker. "For over 100 days [the protesters in Ferguson] have been primarily nonviolent in their approach to this," Sekou says. "They gave the system a chance, and the system broke their heart.
From Lucas Johnson, BPFNA member, former board member, currently on staff of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The question of whether or not officer Wilson’s response to Michael Brown was legal is not really the point. In the brutality of American history, the answer to such legal questions has almost always been the same answer that this Grand Jury provided. As news outlets all over the country comb over the evidence supporting that singular decision they will be grossly missing the point. They appear to be incapable of reporting with any clarity why people took to the streets and buildings were set on fire in response to this killing. They and much of the country will not recognize the significance of the fact that Officer Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown is ultimately, shamefully justified because the officer was afraid. In the same logic, the killing of Trayvon Martin was justified because George Zimmerman was afraid, the lynching of my great grandfather was legally justified because someone was afraid and so it goes a thousand times over. It is the persistence of racism imbedded deeply in American life and fused with fear that turns young men into murders and continues to result in the deaths of black men and women and children. It does not matter that Martin, or Brown, or the thousands of people in the streets may also be afraid of armed men and women in uniforms with tanks, tear gas, and the most advanced policing weaponry that a world power can provide at their command. Their fear in a society built against the acknowledgment of their humanity, does not matter. Michael Brown knew, what Travyon Martin knew, what countless others know, that whatever gains won in the battles against racism of previous decades do not matter on some streets in select neighborhoods.
by Rev. Kadia A. Edwards
Reverend Kadia A. Edwards is a member of the BPFNA and a member of the BPFNA Board of Directors, elected to represent the Youth and Young Adults.
What is this that I am feeling? I cannot seem to describe this sinking feeling, my tears that are threatening to flow.
Elie Wiesel said, “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, we must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
As I sit with this quote, I am aware of the times in my own life when I have been forced to take sides at the risks of being penalized but realizing that my silence most often speaks louder than my words. After hearing the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown Jr., now is not the time to sit on the side lines and be silent, our words matter. The truth is I expected a no indictment so why am I so disappointed?
Could it be that this feels so much like déjà vu? I have been here before: watching people’s reactions on TV and reading disappointment in comments as America once again sends the message that black and brown bodies do not matter. I struggled with my hope for an indictment because I have come to learn that justice is a foreign concept to many in America, especially for my black brothers.
by Chris Boyer
Chris Boyer is the pastor at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Lynnwood, WA.
Last Sunday, I had difficulty delivering my sermon because of my sinus problems and congestion. This Sunday, I may have difficulty for other reasons – every time I think about the subject at hand, I get so overwhelmed I just want to cry…
The difficulty I’m experiencing this morning actually started last Saturday, of course, when the verdict in the George Zimmerman case was delivered. Despite my lingering illness, it had been a really good day. As I think many of you know, the annual Evergreen Association Black Caucus Barbecue is an event that means a great deal to me. I am a Son of the South, the descendent of slave owners and a member of a family in some parts of which blatant racism is still tolerated.
The way that the leadership of the Black Caucus has adopted me as one of their own moves me in a way I can scarcely describe. When I add to that the true fellowship that happens among members of all our Evergreen caucuses at that event, it makes for one of my favorite days of the year, the long hours of preparation it requires of me notwithstanding.
So to hear the racially charged news of Mr. Zimmerman’s acquittal on Saturday night was an especially hard blow.
by Eileen Campbell-Reed
Eileen Campbell-Reed is co-director of the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and newly appointed mentoring, coaching and internship coordinator for Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s create program for women in Nashville, Tenn.
On Saturday night I went downtown. I felt safe and happy walking through an urban center and meeting up with friends for dinner. When I arrived home from the evening out, I popped onto facebook and saw the news. The verdict was a shock to me. How could George Zimmerman be acquitted? Of everything. Seriously? This seemed impossible to my mind.
I confess, I did not know the legal parameters very well. But I started reading the posts on the news channels and blogs that friends were sharing. I had a sinking feeling of disappointment at the justice system. And then disgust welled up over the way that system favors and institutionalizes white privilege and racism.
by Lance Laird
Lance Laird an assistant professor of Family Medicine and Division of Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University.
Our family was camping in Yellowstone on the way to Peace Camp in Spokane last week. As Ashlee slathered sunscreen on her pale pink arms, she offered some to our 12 year old son, Naim. He quipped back, “Mom, I don’t need sunscreen. I already have some.” Holding up a milk-chocolate colored arm, he said, “It’s the pigment of my imagination.” The playful pun on the “figment of imagination” made us laugh, but after last Saturday’s acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, it gives me pause. Many brilliant analysts have traced the layers of injustice and the appalling use of law and its interpretation to justify the murder of a young black man. In this short reflection, though, we take it a bit more personally.