Logan Weaver - Upsplash.com
There’s no way around it. It’s been a terrible, awful week. I long for the time when the biggest thing causing me sorrow is not being able to sing in church. But now I’m in mourning. Our country’s long and ugly history of racism was on display last week when a white police officer murdered George Floyd for all the world to see. Floyd’s televised murder was meant to send a message of intimidation to people of color. It had the opposite effect.
Langston Hughes' 1951 poem, “Dream Deferred” sums it up:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
We are slow learners. I’m old enough to remember standing on the roof of my house in 1965, watching the eerie glow from the Watts Riots/Rebellion. My predominately Hispanic high school had gangs, drive-by shootings, and less than 10% of us went on to get four-year degrees. I watched as riot police marched down Columbia Road in my D.C. neighborhood shooting tear gas during the 1991 Mount Pleasant Riots. Dreams keep being deferred. Trayvon, Castile, Gray, Bland, Arbery, Rice, Taylor, the list feels endless. We’re surprised when folks explode?
People of faith get a bad rap – some of it deserved. But we’ve also been at the forefront of societal change. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Day, Rev. Jim Wallis, Dorothy Height, Rev. William Barber. These people, along with countless others – including some of you – have stood up for justice.
The world is watching and it’s up to us as a people of faith to do something now in this moment. But what? Talking to protestors in Atlanta, rap artist Killer Mike called for people to “plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize.”
Do what you have to do: protest, pray, write your elected officials, vote. Perhaps most important - get educated. During this time of being quarantined away from church, figure out a way for small groups to meet to study about systemic racism and our country’s racist history. This is the time.
Here are a few resources that have emerged from the past week:
Sojourners: For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies (six things to do)
Killer Mike (rap artist)
Nicole Walters (entrepreneur)
Trevor Noah, The Daily talk show host, “The dismantling of the social contract.”
Dr. Lee Pelton (President of Emerson College and former President of Willamette University), America is on Fire
Michael Paul Williams, America is battling two lethal adversaries, COVID-19 and racism. One is deadlier.
Marc Mason, CFO, Citibank, I Can’t Breathe
Vu Le, Non-Profit AF, Have nonprofit and philanthropy become the “white moderate” that Dr. King warned us about?
Want more? There are countless excellent books to read and films to watch. Seek out and give to organizations that support racial justice.
I know this post doesn’t specifically have anything to do with raising money – but it has everything to do with being church. Being people of faith. People who believe that we can and must do better. People that walk like Jesus, people that are as mad as Jesus was in the temple when he turned over the tables, and people who can be the peacemakers Jesus calls us to be.
Here’s one more thing - an amazing story of justice finally served because good people did something. Archie Williams spent more than 36 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. The Innocence Project took on his case and finally, last year, he was exonerated. Last week – ironically last week – he was a contestant on America’s Got Talent. He sang Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” As Simon Cowell later said, “I will never ever listen to that song in the same way.” See if you don’t agree.
People of faith, it's time. Let’s do what we can to stop dreams from being deferred.