During one of the hot afternoons last week, I watched the 93-minute documentary I’m Not Your Negro, inspired by James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, a collection of notes and letters written by Baldwin in the mid-1970’s. The memoir recounts the lives of his close friends and civil rights leaders Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers.
It is a powerful film. Time well spent.
After watching it, I remembered the early days of my elementary school career. Before I was ten years old, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and four young girls were killed by gunfire or bombs. Children and wives, parents and siblings were left behind knowing the violence of the civil rights movement. I remember seeing news clips of firehoses turned on people and guard dogs used to contain crowds.
Looking back, I can see the collective violence spent on subduing black people who wanted to eat and drink in places without conditions. Medgar Evers shot down in the driveway of his home while his children watched. Malcolm X killed in front of an audience of 400 people. The prophetic voice of Martin Luther King Jr. silenced as he led the civil rights movement through non-violence. Four teenage girls killed and 14 more injured when the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham exploded.
Throughout my life there have been many more periods of unrest as people tried to move the dial away from oppression and racism. Too much pain and anguish has been spent, and still racism persists. Last night I was a part of the Town Hall meeting that launched the Racial Justice Network of the NC Synod. I listened to the reflections of black colleagues and the Vice President of our synod reflecting on the last few weeks as well as a lifetime white supremacy. I find myself agreeing with them, “now is the time to look at how our values reflect our Christian faith….now it is time to reflect together. This discussion is not an elective, but a required course if we intend to change the patterns of systematic racism”.
I want to invite you to be a part of the conversations begun through the Racial Justice Network of the NC Synod. This is a network of “Jesus followers learning to be anti-racist. This is not just a moment but a movement. This is a gathering on a digital platform to learn, lean in to discomfort, confront and confess the ways we are complicit in racism, and name action steps small and large.”
If you would like to be a part of the conversation, an anonymous gift has been made available for two participants in our congregation to sign up. The cost is $25 per person to cover the expenses of guest leaders and speakers. Let me know if you are interested. (E-mail: email@example.com)
This week reflect with me on the recording of the Town Hall meeting. When it becomes available, I will post it on the church Facebook page.