Gone Missing, Part 4
The Courage to Stand Against Race-Based Violence
by Rev. David Rommereim
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded this Montgomery City bus to go home from work. On this bus, on that day, Rosa Parks initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality.
She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver (following the standard practice of segregation) insisted that all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so that the man could sit there. Mrs. Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP, quietly refused to give up her seat. Her action was spontaneous and not premeditated, although her previous civil rights involvement and strong sense of justice were obvious influences. "When I made that decision," she said later, "I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me."
It was a powerful day of reaction and strategic action to racialized behavior in the United States of America. It was initiated by a powerful soulful leader who took a stand against the North American version of Apartheid. We called it, "Jim Crow." Jim Crow laws were set up in America to keep the white species and the African American species separate. It was designed by the power of the white species over against the African American. It is one of the viruses that causes great harm through our land of promise.
This African-American civil rights activist was honored by the United States Congress and named "the first lady of civil rights," as well as, "the mother of the freedom." What makes Ms. Parks so pivotal was not that she had just, 'had 'nough.' Or that she 'was just tired' after a long day as a seamstress and didn't want to give up her seat to a white man, in a full Birmingham bus. Rather, her refusing to move was part of a calculated civil disobedience strategy that was prepared for, and acted on, as a faith-based, non-violent, disciplined civil action. She was supported by a long trajectory of leaders trained in this faithful form of democracy.
The power of that moment in history (December 1, 1955) inspires and is inspired by its non-violent social critique of "evil political policy." These days all throughout our land people are standing for justice. We live in a violent land. We have learned that every 28 hours a black or brown man or women is killed by the police. That violence must stop for the sake of future generations. I grieve for our kids who grow up in violence, with raw racism, and an environment where there is such a limited ability to listen.
After my own three decades of pastoral care in Lutheran congregations in the center city, I long for that same courage of Ms. Parks. I long to dispel the "bad policies" that exasperate our civil shalom. As a Christian, I know that the Lord of the Church has zero tolerance for racial profiling.
Over a month ago persons from the Arab American Association of New York met in our Soul Cafe to announce the national campaign, "Take Back Hate." Over the next few days we will be asking our communities to put up a mirror and ask whether we can organize systematically, collectively, and faithfully, so that each of the adults in the room can help the child in the room learn what is good and what is bad ... what is helpful and what is hateful.
We begin now as if our lives, our children, and their children depend on our faith active in love.
All lives matter!
I announce two upcoming meetings - two steps in the marathon we will be running to overcome this systemic evil of our land:
"Prayer, Praise, and Peaceful Protest: A Prophetic Response to Violence"
Friday, December 12th, 3:30pm,
Steps of New York City Hall
Organized by the over 70 congregations of Faith in New York and collective allies of justice. We are taking a prophetic stand as faith leaders for healing and justice in our communities. Join us as we gather in solidarity and charge President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to fulfill our action plan for ending police violence and bridging the relationship between law enforcement and community. Black Lives Matter. Brown Lives Matter. Our Lives Matter!
The rally will conclude with a Jericho Walk and teach-in by 'Black Lives Matter' at a congregation in the City Hall area (TBD) starting at 7pm.
"REAL TALK: Where is the Solidarity? From Ferguson to New York"
Thursday, December 18th, 6:30pm - 9pm
Good Shepherd Church, Soul Cafe
Join the Campaign to 'Take on Hate' in New York City for a timely conversation and teach-in on solidarity in light of the recent national spotlight on police reform and racism.
We will hear from advocates and experts and engage in exercises that explore our own internal biases and how we can get past them to demonstrate genuine solidarity to oppressed communities. We are ready to engage in a courageous conversation. Are you?
We will be joined by leaders from Justice League NYC and Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
Rev. David H. Rommereim