by Rev. Ernest Flores, December 5, 2014
Second Baptist Church of Germantown
Long ago, the prophet Amos declared the word of the Lord against nations that “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and push the afflicted out of the way…those who oppress the poor, who crush the needy.” (Amos 2:7)
We are seeing it in the streets, hearing it in the pews of our churches, our mosques and synagogues: people have had enough of the affliction in our nation.
The tragedy of racial injustice in America lies deep at the roots of our history, long before the tragedies of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Whether it’s about who poor people are, how poor people get treated, which schools are underfunded or who is most likely to be fatally targeted by police, race matters in every area of our life together.
But through the courage of humans, particularly tireless young activists in Ferguson, MO, and most certainly the grace of God, we are waking as a people from our slumber. Marches are thundering in the streets. Cries for liberation and the redemption of our nation are shooting up to heavens in ways we haven’t seen for generations.
Bishop Royster said it at our last Leadership Assembly: we are in a kairos moment.
As we see the birth pangs of a social movement play out before our very eyes, we are faced with decisions about how we fit into it– each of us as individuals and together as an organization.
Over the past week and ongoing, African American clergy from POWER have been meeting with local youth and student leaders in Philadelphia. We have been discerning how to co-lead as our communities respond to centuries of oppression now refracted through the list of the dead at the hands of police– a litany of names whom we grieve with tears, shouts of anger, and sometimes pure speechlessness. This is a relationship growing and unfolding moment by moment, and we will inform you as clear action steps to express our organization’s solidarity arise in the coming weeks.
This is our time, friends. Like the prophet of old, we will not celebrate the greatness of this nation to the neglect of the evils of this nation. We will not be pacified by the successes of the few at the expense of the many.
We’ve had enough of poor people being oppressed by wages on which no one can support a family while those at the top make off like bandits. We’ve had enough of our schools failing to educate our children, pushing them out of the way of academic success and into the teeth of the prison industrial complex. We’ve had enough of Black men and women’s rights and even lives being trampled into the dust of the earth by racial profiling – and know that this is not just a problem of the police but of whole systems that undervalue their lives.
As you hold your 1:1’s in your congregations and team meetings this month, take moments to breathe deeply and prepare yourself for the road ahead. These are times that call each of us to step into our power. Ask of yourself and your congregation, who and what am I called to be right now, in my family, my faith community, and my neighborhood? Open your ears and your hearts to those around you. Hold each other in your confusion, your pain, and your hopes.
Above all else, organizing is about our relationships. It is about saying to each other, “I see you.” It is to say, “I am because we are.” We are building the relationships required to bring forth justice in Philadelphia like a mighty stream. May our breathlessness be transformed into our power. May we find the strength to not stop fighting, praying and organizing until justice is won.