When “IT” Makes the News

By Gimbiya Kettering

I’ll admit, the news story about Jamar Clark has not been on my radar. I have been caught up in the pre-pre holiday business, local meetings, life with a toddler who now takes off her socks as I look for her gloves and her gloves while I am fastening her shoes. The news beyond my front door seems far away. In the midst of my own life, I can lull myself into thinking that the wider world has calmed down, become more reasonable, more sane, more sustainable. That something like peace has descended.

Of course, the reality is much more complicated and the lives of brothers and sisters around the country continue to be disrupted by oppression, poverty, racism, and violence. And in the case of Jamar Clark –ended. The protestors in Minneapolis were paying attention and came out to raise the national awareness about what happened – of the disturbing patterns that continue to happen around the country. They are protesting to raise the awareness of people like me – caught up in our own lives but who would also want to know, who want to be the type of person who pays attention and cares.

Protests are a way of raising awareness, as news reports carry the information into the homes of those of us who aren’t making it through our front doors and into the communities where protests are happening. Yet, the news that someone (it is not clear yet who) has fired on the protestors is frightening. It flies in the face of our American traditions of gathering together as part of raising national awareness that encompass movements from the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and the March on Selma in 1965 –and the public witness of our church such as the On Earth Peace tradition of having a “Peace Walk” at Annual Conference and International Day of Prayer for Peace celebrated by many congregations.

That someone – regardless of who – opened fire on the group is very disturbing. Thankfully, no one has died. However, the act of violence is horrific. And it calls us to ask what is our response as a people of a faith? As a church? As a people of peace?

Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism

“Racism will not end with the passage of legislation alone; it will also require a change of heart and thinking. This is an effort which the faith community must lead, and be the conscience of the nation. We will call upon every church, temple, mosque and faith communion to make their worship service on this Sunday a time to confess and repent for the sin and evil of racism, this includes ignoring, tolerating and accepting racism and to make a commitment to end racism by the example of our lives and actions.”
-Invitation from the African Methodist Episcopal Church

More information and resources: http://www.ame-church.com/liberty-and-justice-for-all/

The shooting in Charleston, more than 500 miles away has left me in a state of shock. Coming out of it, I have turned to prayer. Pray. Pray. Pray. I keep returning to prayer because I don’t know what to do about the pervasive, racialized violence in our nation. I wish I had the vision of a community leader, but instead I am closing my eyes and clasping my hands. Pray. Pray. Pray. Fortunately, being part of a body of Christ means that I don’t always have to be the leader. Sometimes I can be another part of the body (say the elbow or littlest toe) while other people are leadership. Right now, I am grateful to the leadership of the AME Church.

As they celebrate their bicentennial anniversary, the African Methodist Episcopal Church is also still grieving the attack on the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Founded because of racism and injustice, the AME is committed to leading the nation to move the nation to face, confront, and act on the issue of race. As part of their celebrations and grief, they are asking that every church, temple, synagogue, mosque, and place of worship focus on race, while asking every pastor, rabbi, imam, and other leaders to preach on race, reminded that out of one blood, God created all of us to dwell together in unity.

I am hoping that some of our congregations will join in prayer and confession. Also, I encourage you to reach out to the AME congregation in your community with a letter of support and, if possible, join them in any planned public witness on this important issue.

As Director of Intercultural Ministries, Gimbiya Kettering seeks to continue and expand the conversation and ministry work for those working in intercultural and cross-cultural settings. To join the conversation leave a comment or email her directly at gkettering@brethern.org.

 

On the Road to Damascus: When the scales fall from our eyes

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated our country. It not only flooded cities, destroyed buildings, and displaced people off the Gulf region– it somehow displaced all of us. I remember being struck by a photo of an older, Black woman, suddenly homeless, wrapped in an American flag. It seemed impossible to believe that this could happen to “us” – Americans in America. The storm unfolded layers of complications and injustices that revealed people of color were disproportionately impacted by the storm – in part because their lives were tenuous before the storm began. That systematic racism and poverty had swept them away like so much debris in the force of the storm and the country’s response to it.

a small sign of hope - a mud-stained and tattered American flag stands in a pile of debris left by Hurricane Katrina in Chalmette, Louisiana

a small sign of hope – a mud-stained and tattered American flag stands in a pile of debris left by Hurricane Katrina in Chalmette, Louisiana

Ten years ago, it felt like the scales had fallen from our eyes and in the bright, new light we repented. From the robust conversation about power, privilege, and prejudice, it seemed we were on the verge of understanding something fundamentally “wrong” with ourselves and how we treat one another. That with this understanding we would be able to bring about the kind of change that would genuinely support our national vision where all people are created equal, with right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness – where no one would be abandoned on their rooftop in times of storm or calm.

Like now, in 2005 the conversation about race in our nation seemed urgent and important. Then it went silent. Not all at once, but gradually fading away. There was other news. The post-storm “normal” was not worth reporting and we became swept up in our daily lives. We forgot the urgency around race. We left the conversation mid-sentence. The underlying realities, inequalities and injustices remained and we forgot that the next storm would mean people returning to the roof.

Now, current events related to race, are sweeping the nation like a storm and breaking the levees of the status quo. After the shootings in Charleston and the publicity about mass incarceration and the public awareness about police brutality, we are again on the road to Damascus. We are seeing with new eyes and a repentant heart that racism is a sin that destroys us all. We are vowing to make a change.

And I can only pray this is true. That, this time, we will stay the course. I pray that we will finish what we have begun, truly addressing the issues and social forces that divide us from one another. I pray that we will heed the call to care for the widow, the orphan – those most vulnerable in our society. My hope is that our hearts will remember the urgency to see the work to completion.

My fear is that we will look away, work unfinished, again.

As Director of Intercultural Ministries, Gimbiya Kettering seeks to continue and expand the conversation and ministry work for those working in intercultural and cross-cultural settings. To join the conversation leave a comment or email her directly at gkettering@brethern.org.