Category Archives: Privilege

When Will the Killing of Black Men Stop?

When Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston was attacked, I found myself driving there in a car with a multi-racial squad of female pastors and thousands of prayers from people all over the country for Mother Emmanuel. Our #propheticgrief became a digital place for people to share their grief, their prayers and their prophetic frustrations. When we got to the church, we began to pray together and the people who gathered there joined in the prayers. This is how we met Muhiyidin Moye. Suddenly he was there, a beautiful, tall, black brother in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. He had us chanting and doing the peoples mic (call and response). The cameras and the people pushed in. He was a force and people joined in with his voice. Waves of grief and anger rippled through the crowd and came out in song. Jordan Davis’s mom showed up. “Amazing Grace” literally brought us to our knees.

When the prayers and the protests finally came to a rest, Muhiyidin invited us to come to a teach-in  called Liberation School. We followed him to a community center and spent the next couple of hours being taught movement building history and analysis for black lives and liberation of all.

That night I hung out with Muhiyidin at the Calhoun statue and confederate monument in central Charleston. We talked about how Charleston capitalized on confederate culture tourism and still upholds that racist culture as valid. He asked me to tell everyone to boycott Charleston, that city government and stakeholders will only change is they are starved for tourist dollars. He told me about what it was like to organize as a black man in Charleston, how hard it was, how he had been threatened countless times. He showed me how Charleston is a kind of Mecca for cultural confederacy and how embedded overt interpersonal bias and structural racism still is in the city.

We stayed in touch and his crew came up to support the organizing in Asheville when Jerry LeJai Williams was killed by police in Asheville. Muhiyidin was such a powerful force for justice. I have lived long enough to see effective activists targeted and even killed. If you didn’t know this happens in social justice movement, “COINTELPRO,” the FBI’s counter intelligence program, is well documented. You can read all about how this program places agents in undercover positions in movements. These “provateurs” observe and report and then eventually work to fan the flames of existing tensions in movements, to encourage movements to blow up in conflict internally and to undermine their effectiveness.

I think Muhiyidin was killed for being an activist. He was shot in the leg while riding his bicycle in New Orleans in a neighborhood near the Quarter. They followed the trail of blood from where he collapsed to a few blocks away where they found a partial shell casing. No one has been charged for the murder. No leads have been reported. Muhiyidin bled to death on the street because he dared to speak truth to power.

I can’t help but think about MLK’s sacrifice and assassination that happened 50 years ago the week. As I write we are in route with our boys to Memphis for #MLK50. I can’t help but reflect on how black men are still dying for having dignity, for advocating for their own humanity and the liberation of their communities. When will it stop? When will the killing of black men stop?

“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons. . .We who believe in freedom will not rest.” -Ella Baker

Invitation to Prophetic Imagination: Community Safety for All

Today Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Faith is launching a campaign inviting people of faith to analyze their relationship to policing. As we have seen made more visible through the work of Black Lives Matter, policing structures have a radically different relationship to people of color than to white people and white communities. We have seen that black and brown bodies people face much greater risk of being targeted by police violence and injustice in arrests, detainment, in court proceedings, and in sentencing.

Communities of faith can be complicit in upholding white supremacy in policing but they can also be leaders in creating alternatives to policing, in order to help keep our communities safer.

In this campaign, we are asking questions like:

How do faith/spiritual communities legitimize and reinforce the “need” for policing?

How are faith/spiritual  institutions tied to institutions of policing?

How can faith communities act to disrupt the prison, detention, and deportation pipelines?

What might alternatives to policing look like?

What might community safety look like without relying on policing, and how might faith/spiritual communities participate in that work?

While SURJ Faith is oriented to multi-faith work, the early phase of this campaign will be focused on helping Christian communities identity the connections between Christian supremacy and white supremacy. As we move into the Lenten season this winter, we will use this season to analyze and reflect on our personal and collective relationship to white supremacy. How is white supremacy internalized in our being? How is white supremacy expressed in our liturgies, our rituals, and interpretation of scripture. What would it look like to “give up white supremacy for Lent,” as individuals? As congregations and communities?

I am particularly drawn to this campaign as a contemplative Christian and anti-racist because I know I need to continue to do the work of pulling the poison of white supremacy out of my being. I have also seen how my religion has been used to justify white supremacy historically, and this history troubles me deeply. I believe white supremacy is alive and well in our denominations and that they manifest in ways that further marginalize people of color and put them at great risk. I hope you will join me in urging your faith community to join this campaign. Contact me to learn how you can engage in this work and I will loop you in!

Race, Class & Power @ TransFORM

Steve Knight and I taught together for the first time at TransFORM last year in Fort Worth. The workshop was called Challenging White Supremacy. We’re doing it again this year with a few tweaks. We want to make anti-oppression training for white folks in the emergent church really accessible.

We want this to happen so that we can be ready to encounter other movements for change and be ready to work with them in a movement of movements for personal and social transformation.

In order to do this white people need to understand privilege. This workshop will be a safe place to ask questions, express doubts, and be as vulnerable or guarded as you need in facing personal privilege and systemic oppression. If you haven’t gotten down with your social location, this is the one for you.

There are at least two other workshops dealing with race, class and power, at TransFORM.

Marie Onwubuariri is leading a conversation about racial/ethnic self (RES) Awareness as spiritual discipline for missional leadership.   This talk is most suited to people already engaged in an awareness of their social location and focuses on how we engage that awareness for spiritual and social transformation.

 

 

Elsie DennisKathryn Eckert and Elsie Dennis are going to present an Episopalian view of the doctrine of discovery. The presenters will share their experiences of the Episcopal Church’s process of responding to genocide, white privilege, and cultural/historical ignorance through historical education, spiritual formation, worship, and community development.

 

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