January 13, 2018
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In the aftermath of yesterday's non-indictment in Ferguson, here are some actions you can take and some reflections you may find helpful. If you have something to share with the BPFNA network, PLEASE send it to us so we can share it.
Many actions are planned TODAY:
Click here to learn more about the actions planned across the US and Canada. Actions are currently planned in 100+ cities across the continent.
Our friends on the ground in Ferguson suggest theses as a good sources of information:
Also, keep watching BPFNA social media where we'll be sharing more reflections and calls to action from our members and partners.
Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) have a bail fund to assist protesters. Click here to donate. According to organizers, the police are aiming to deplete the current bail fund by making the bail of any arrested protester $1,000, the legal limit.
Help keep our brothers and sisters safe: Call Gov. Nixon today and tell him that the world is watching his actions. His response to peaceful protests will be a reflection of his leadership and concern for people. Tell him that we expect him to exercise respect and restraint, protecting the safety of our clergy and youth activists as we exercise our first amendment rights.
Click here to download a powerful litany from our friends at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference.
From Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a St Louis native and 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.
"Riot Is the Language of the Unheard"
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. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/11/25/riot_as_the_language_of_the
"The Gospel Is Not a Neutral Term"
First and foremost, the gospel is not a neutral term. If it is being deployed as a catch phrase for the white evangelical discourse that places a premium on conversion over being against justice seeking, then I reject 'the gospel.' It is motivation to resist oppression. If 'the gospel' is in line with the reading of the Bible that Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, Will Campbell, and Martin Luther King had then 'the gospel' is central to our call in Ferguson.
From Lucas Johnson, BPFNA member, former board member, currently on staff of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation:
Ferguson and Justice
"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.
People are taking to the streets in Ferguson because they/we are tired of your fear controlling our lives and deeming them worthless. It seems important to acknowledge that to protest, and yes even to destroy property seems like a far more human response to the merciless loss of life seen at the hands of our would be protectors than to do nothing but call for “peace.” Anger is human, and were it my son shot ten times, I would want cities to burn and it is only by God’s grace that I could find the strength to choose otherwise. That grace has clearly been afforded to the parents of Michael Brown and it is worth honoring. The responsibility afforded to us is not to engage in meaningless debates about the merits of violent versus nonviolent struggle. The responsibility and the opportunity afforded to us is to put ourselves on the side of the struggle for change (and by that I mean something much more profound than reform). It is only then, within the context of struggle for a change that my or anyone's commitment to nonviolence becomes at all relevant. Like the young brother from Ferguson said, 'I want to see a better forever.'
From BPFNA member Dan Buttry: Lord, have mercy as we try to deal with Ferguson. It's a lot like the O.J. situation. The specifics of the case have little to do with what is really happening. There is a far larger picture, a far broader and deeper pain. Some of my white friends will talk about some of the details of the case that make Michael Brown not so innocent though he was unarmed. That may be true, but if you don't see that this happens, often in far more stark terms, again and again, and again with little accountability or recourse, then you don't get where the frustration is coming from. I get reports all the time from around the country and the killing of unarmed blacks becomes numbingly repetitive. There are police forces that deal with this much better than we've seen. We need police, but we need police in a context that is community-rooted, sensitive to our diversity, and woven into a society that seeks to grow in justice. When racism is out of the closet in so many areas, Ferguson is the flashpoint for so much other frustration. Listen for that deeper reality and engage with it.
BPFNA member Michael-Ray Mathews shares this statement from the PICO National Network for which he works: http://www.piconetwork.org/news-media/releases/faith-community-calls-ferguson-grand-jury-decision-a-moral-failure