I am a child of the 60’s. The decade was all about peace, love and rock n’ roll. We marched and protested for causes we believed would change the world. We confronted violence with daisies and believed we were making a difference. I think we did, but it was certainly not enough. Then came the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s with marriage, babies, diapers, homeschooling, getting them in college – and I stopped paying attention. Shame on me! Today, I hear the news and I see how little we’ve done to relieve oppression, injustice and violence and I am sickened by our collective lack of compassion and empathy. Lord, have mercy.
At General Convention, I marched with the Bishops United Against Gun Violence mourning the lives of those tragically murdered because we have lost control of ourselves. It felt good to be part of that movement and to feel the comradery of like-minded people. Great. But, again, not enough if all we do is march because we have seen that gun violence, discrimination and injustice have not ceased because we went for a walk on a hot, Sunday morning in Salt Lake City.
The Rev. Michelle Meech has been sending out notices about the upcoming meetings for the formation of the new Relations and Diversity Task Force. Two meeting happened this week but there are more to come –
Saturday, Sept. 12, 10 a.m.-noon
Christ Church, Dearborn
120 N. Military St.
Wednesday, Sept. 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
All Saints, East Lansing
800 Abbott Rd.
Thursday, Sept. 24, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
St. Clement’s, Inkster
4300 Harrison St.
This is our chance to put hands and feet to our words and get involved. For more information and the RSVP for a meeting, contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this week our Presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and President of the House of Deputies, Rev Gay Clark Jennings, issued a letter calling for all Episcopalians to stand in solidarity with AME and ELCA churches this Sunday, Sept. 6, as a day of Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
On June 17, nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were murdered by a white racist during their weekly bible study. Just a few days later at General Convention in Salt Lake City, we committed ourselves to stand in solidarity with the AME Church as they respond with acts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and justice (Resolution A302).
Now our sisters and brothers in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church have asked us to make that solidarity visible by participating in “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” on Sunday, September 6. We ask all Episcopal congregations to join this ecumenical effort with prayer and action.
“Racism will not end with the passage of legislation alone; it will also require a change of heart and thinking,” writes AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson. “This is an effort which the faith community must lead, and be the conscience of the nation. We will call upon every church, temple, mosque and faith communion to make their worship service on this Sunday a time to confess and repent for the sin and evil of racism, this includes ignoring, tolerating and accepting racism, and to make a commitment to end racism by the example of our lives and actions.”
The Episcopal Church, along with many ecumenical partners, will stand in solidarity with the AME Church this week in Washington D.C. at the “Liberty and Justice for All” event, which includes worship at Wesley AME Zion Church and various advocacy events.
Racial reconciliation through prayer, teaching, engagement and action is a top priority of the Episcopal Church in the upcoming triennium. Participating in “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” on September 6 is just one way that we Episcopalians can undertake this essential work. Our history as a church includes atrocities for which we must repent, saints who show us the way toward the realm of God, and structures that bear witness to unjust centuries of the evils of white privilege, systemic racism, and oppression that are not yet consigned to history. We are grateful for the companionship of the AME Church and other partners as we wrestle with our need to repent and be reconciled to one another and to the communities we serve.
“The Church understands and affirms that the call to pray and act for racial reconciliation is integral to our witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to our living into the demands of our Baptismal Covenant,” reads Resolution C019 of the 78th General Convention. May God bless us and forgive us as we pray and act with our partners this week and in the years to come. In the words of the prophet Isaiah appointed for Sunday, may we see the day when “waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.”
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church
You can find some resources for your liturgy here at the ELCA website – http://www.elca.org/resources/worship Just click on the “liturgy” tap.
When I’m driving, I listen to NPR (WUOM). Just yesterday I heard an editorial piece by Chenjerai Kumanyika, artist, activist and scholar who holds an assistant professorship in Clemson University’s department of communication studies, which made me pull over to listen more closely. I hunted for the piece to share with you
It was just after sunset on a muggy Friday evening earlier this month, and my wife and I were standing outside a Hardee’s in Seneca, S.C. We were at a vigil for Zachary Hammond, a white teenager killed by a police officer during an attempted drug arrest in the restaurant’s parking lot, three miles from where we live and teach at Clemson University. Over the past two years, I’ve been to protests over police killings in Ferguson, New York, Charleston and Philadelphia. Now the problem had come home.
It was a modest memorial: about 50 people — including family members and journalists — a little wooden podium, a few white candles. Zachary’s aunt Kimberly recalled the time she taught him the colors of the traffic light and he thought green meant go and red meant “go faster.” Sad smiles brightened the dimming parking lot.
As the vigil wound down, I offered my condolences to Zachary’s uncle. We stood over the spot where Zachary was shot, and he turned to me and asked a question that I knew was coming.
“Don’t you think that if Zachary had been black, that there would be more media attention?” he said.
What I’ve found … is that it’s not clear that the broader community in Seneca, S.C., is willing to “take to the streets.”
It had been two weeks since Zachary was killed, and according to the family and news reports, neither the mayor nor anyone from the Seneca Police Department had contacted them or responded to any of their requests.
“We know some of the people from City Council, and for them not to even acknowledge us or even send a card, it’s been hurtful,” Angie Hammond, Zach’s mom, told the local paper. Some week-old flower bouquets and a cross on a grassy patch outside the Hardee’s were the only signs that something had happened here. Al Sharpton hadn’t shown up on the family’s doorstep, no one was marching, no one was handing out T-shirts with Zachary’s face on them. They’d hired a lawyer and tried to reach out to media, but at that point, Hammond’s death wasn’t a national conversation.
Standing there with the Hammond family that night, I understood what they were seeing — or rather, what they were hoping to see. Their beloved boy was gone, and they wanted answers. They wanted the world to mourn him the way other young people killed by police have been mourned, publicly, over the past year and a half. No one would want to feel like they were standing alone at such a time, like their son didn’t count.
This question has planted itself at the heart of Zachary’s case: “Where’s the outrage?” A lawyer hired by the Hammond family has squarely blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for the lack of public outcry.
“If Zachary were black, the outpouring of protest and the disappointment from the public would be amazing,” he’s said. Right-wing media outlets have seized on this thesis, with headlines like “Family Attorney: No Outrage When Shooting Victim Is White” and “Unarmed White Guy Gets Killed by Cops, No One Cares.”
Ever since Michael Brown’s death, my wife and I have traveled every few weeks to sites where police have killed citizens under questionable circumstances. We’ve participated in and documented the protests. In some of these cases, I connected with local activists and met the victim’s family well before the story captured a national spotlight.
Before coming to Zachary’s vigil, I asked Deray Mckesson, an influential Ferguson protester with a huge following on social media, if he had any advice for those trying to generate more interest in his case. Mckesson, who had tweeted early on about the Hammond case, put it simply: “We have found taking to the streets to be a successful strategy.”
What I’ve found, through several conversations with Zach’s family, his supporters, and many residents in Seneca in the weeks since he died, is that while the Hammond family has put in real effort to generate attention for their son’s case, and a local black activist named Jack Logan has tried to keep attention on Zachary’s death by organizing a rally (that I spoke at) and a few vigils, it is not clear that the broader community in Seneca is willing to “take to the streets.”
I found out about Zachary’s death the morning after he died, when I got a text from a different local black activist with a link to a local news story. When my wife and I got to the vigil at Hardee’s, I had hoped to see a healthy crowd of Seneca residents. I never expected my conservative white neighbors in Seneca to protest for Sandra Bland or Freddie Gray, but surely they would come out to support an alumnus of Seneca High School. There are numerous churches in Seneca and in Oconee County. I expected to see the members and the leaders of those churches out in force, comforting the family. I expected to see numerous posters with Zachary’s name and #alllivesmatter.
We were surprised. Where was everyone? A conservative blogger from North Carolina seemed to speak for many in Seneca, which is largely white, with a blog post he wrote about the case and its aftermath 12 days after the shooting.
“The evidence remains very murky on both sides,” he wrote, “so those of us with patience and common-sense have refrained from expressing outrage. We prefer that the natural process of justice be allowed to occur without any inference.”
That’s an important distinction. When a black person is killed by the cops under dubious circumstances, African-Americans tend not to expect the justice system to work with us, or for us, or for media outlets to give air time to these causes without being forced to. In Ferguson, neither Al Sharpton nor CNN showed up until the presence of massive protests initiated by black youth made Brown’s death impossible to ignore. As Lincoln Anthony Blades wrote at The Grio, “Michael Brown’s death only received media coverage because fed-up Ferguson residents would not simply retreat into their homes after watching his public execution. The idea that black lives receive immediate, special, precious and fair treatment after we’re murdered is simply false.”
After the vigil in the Hardee’s parking lot last month, my wife and I approached Zach’s mom and dad to offer our condolences. Tearfully, Angie Hammond thanked us for our support, her pain palpable. I told her a bit about my work on anti-police brutality organizing elsewhere. “Why can’t it be All Lives Matter?” she asked me, sadly. I didn’t know what to say. At any other time, any other place, I would lay out my belief that by focusing on the most vulnerable among us, all lives become safer, that while the failed war on drugs disproportionately affects brown and black lives, conservative white families in a place like Seneca could help protect lives like Zachary’s by joining the fight against militarized policing that this “war” has spawned. That, as Judith Butler recently put it in the New York Times, “It is true that all lives matter, but it is equally true that not all lives are understood to matter. … If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, ‘all lives matter,’ then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of ‘all lives.’ “
But as I stood there in the parking lot where Angela Hammond’s 19-year old son had been gunned down, how could I get into any of those things? I couldn’t. I took a deep breath, held her hand between mine, and said something I hope more people in Seneca will start saying out loud. “You’re right,” I said. “Zachary’s life mattered.”
If we believe that each life is precious, we must take seriously the call to speak out for the marginalized who have no voice to speak to power. I’ve said it before and I guess I’ll say it again, together we can make a difference but it has to start with each one of us paying attention and recognizing that our work isn’t done.
Let us pray…
Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council