By Michael Ramos
Four years ago, the Church Council convened 100 religious leaders to strategize for such a time as this. We invited people of faith to “bind the strong man” by lamenting, repenting, discerning, and acting together. Through our collective prayers, vigils, workshops, dialogues, 1-1 meetings, organizing, advocacy, mutual education, and networking over the last four years, the Church Council has joined with so many outstanding organizations to seek to overcome unjust practices and policies that have the effect of dehumanization, and to promote action to alleviate suffering, remove fear, and plant the seeds of new relationships that manifest authentic solidarity. As we have learned, liberation was and is needed at every level: personal, communal, ecclesial, societal. At the same time, the Church Council realized that it needed to change to dismantle its own forms of complicity with systems of oppression and supremacy. This work is ongoing.
At this moment, I wish to remember George Floyd and Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other precious human beings who can no longer breathe. The protests in their memory and the demands for change are directed to enable Black lives to breathe in peace with justice, while never forgetting the harm that has been done and the grieving that is taking place. The good news in the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is we hope there will now be more breathing space to do the work that we are set out to do, faithfully, humbly, adaptively, and courageously. We need to take the time to breathe in and breathe out. We can move at God’s pace, 3 miles per hour, in a spirit of Sabbath-living to embrace the abundance of life. And the blessing of one another. Such perspective is needed for the love-in-justice work we are called to over the long haul.
The reality of the growing number of COVID-19 cases, economic hardship, rhetoric and acts of hate and violence, and attacks on Black and Native American lives – all reflective of systemic racism – remains, requiring our compassionate attention. Creation is groaning as well, as climate change and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, threaten our existence and the planet. This reality is daunting and often overwhelming. Yet, hope is alive – our horizon as the poet Maya Angelou suggested in “On the Pulse of Morning” – and is expressed through us, in passionate, embodied acts, one step, one day, and one relationship at a time. Something new is emerging, not of our making, yet enhanced by our co-conspiring and collaboration. We can make a difference together by living into the change we want to see.
In 1994, led by Governor Pete Wilson, Proposition 187 passed in the State of California, purporting to deny education, social services, and health care to people perceived to be undocumented. When found unconstitutional, the governor pushed through 200 anti-immigrant proposals. The result was the organizing of communities, particularly the Latinx community in Southern California, to put forward candidates for elective office who would change the dynamic of hate to one of inclusion and possibility. In 2020, we see the brilliant organizing of the honorable Stacey Abrams in Georgia and the Poor People’s Campaign nationally, and an accompanying cloud of witnesses leading to the voting with our feet and the ballot box to uphold the words of the great John Lewis:
The right to demonstrate was, to me, something that must never, never, be compromised. The right to challenge authority, to raise questions, to point up issues, draw attention to needs, demand change, is at the basis of a truly responsive, representative democracy.
So, here we are, people calling for freedom through organizing, through protest, through the exercise of the right to vote, despite the obstacles presented, knowing that in the end we are not truly free until we all are free. May it be so.
Bottom photo: Black Lives Matter protesters in London, UK, June 6, 2020. (Reuters)