I want to thank all who attended the All-Church Read service this past Sunday entitled, “Where is the Love?.” I especially want to recognize those of you who brought your children. I feel like, every once in a while (even peripherally), it’s healthy for our children to experience a whole service. Our children are wise and compassionate about topics which may feel uncomfortable to talk about.
Thank you to Evan Wilson, Mara Pentlarge, Jessie Trowbridge, Anya Sweetser, and Aaron Payson for bringing their voices to the service, and to our RE Committee Team who planned the service and participated. Our RE team members are Vickie Cox-Lanyon, Claire Breyton, Jenny DelGizzi, Ana Gregory, Beckley Schowalter, and Kate Sweetser.
The service ran a little long, and for that I apologize. I left a reading out at the end, to save some time, but I’d like to share it with you now. I’ll also provide some resources for those who have asked, “What can we do?”
From our friends at Teaching Tolerance:THE NEW JIM CROW by Michelle Alexander CHAPTER 3
The Color of Justice
Imagine you are Erma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of the people arrested were African American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put in foster care.
Defund Fear suggests: It’s unfair, unequal, and destructive. Our current system, in fact, may not even make us safer, because it perpetuates harm to the individual, the family system, and the entire support systems that our country supposedly have put into place as safety nets for people who are in need. The current system of policing is at odds with humanity. It does not create safety for a community, but more chaos.
What can we, us as individuals, feeling frustrated that we are just one person, do to help make changes? I want to say that any system, so multifaceted as our justice and public safety system, seems too much to attend to all at once and we need to identify where our strengths and passions lie in order to take a piece of it and try to do our small, but important, part. We can make change. Here are some resources that you can look at to determine how you may get involved
SCHOOLS, FAMILIES, CHURCHES, and COMMUNITY Work.
If these initiatives seem too large for you, think about the gifts that you already bring into this world and community. Can you apply them to families, children, individuals who need compassion and support? Can you open the topics about justice reform to a person who may be unfamiliar? We are recognizing that punishment isn’t the answer and it is disproportionately heaped onto the backs of people in black and brown communities and people dealing with mental health crises. Love and compassion, support, education, and reconciliation all spark change. Can we honor the individuals in our affected neighborhoods, school systems, shelters, children’s programming by listening and lifting them up? Can we model this behavior for others?
Thanks for being open to the discussion and for your participation. It may start small. With love and persistence, it will grow.