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How to be an ambassador for justice on behalf of American Descendants of Slavery

 This Lent, in one of the most essential guides to come from the Black Church, Cheri Mills's Lent of Liberation asks pointed questions. As I share from a few of my entries out of this week, know that I am also mindful, thanks to Andy Worthington, that March 11th marks the 7000th day of Guantanamo open. Because Black History Month passed with little comment of its importance for readers of this blog, this is an effort at correction.

How can you be an ambassador for justice - through either restorative justice or redistributed justice - on behalf of American Descendants of Slavery?

1) I reached out Tuesday, really just to express appreciation of Keidrick Roy’s volunteering for the Somerville community, keynote address of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration hosted here (minute 27:00-40:00).

2) Also wrote to contact Dr. Cornell West in gratitude for his work and witness. My belief is that practicing relationship even on a fanmail level is kindness for justice.

3) I learned that heroes like Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative working to free men like Anthony Ray Hinton--EJI won his release after he spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit--while it is the misconduct by police or prosecutors (or both) involved in homicide exonerations (79% of them in 2018).

The three steps above may not seem like much, and it's true that they each cost me nothing less than a few minutes! Keidrick wrote back to say he's at an early stage in his employment search. I wish him the best and pray if he need go, that the road be downhill to further his success and the wind be at his back.

4) Also requested from my library Tell them we are rising written, produced and directed by Stanley Nelson, Firelight Films. It tells the story of Howard University and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
I invite your comments and prayers on how to be an ambassador for justice on behalf of American Descendants of Slavery.

Where do you see White supremacy operating in your community or social circles?

Cultivated indifference in the way that it pre-empts the formation of conscience--this is a contributing legacy of our RC church, and to the extent that blindness prevails we have recent acknowledgment for the outcry, be it Pope Francis elevating to Cardinal Wilton Gregory, or theologians, Bryan N. Massingale’s Racial Justice and the Catholic Church most prominently, deservedly so, and Jeannine Hill Fletcher’s the sin of white supremacy: Christianity, Racism and Religious Diversity in America (Orbis 2018). When Massingale writes, publishing in 2010, about the Kerner Commission’s report in March of 1968 “an honest, dire expose” as to “why the rioting occurred and what could be done:
“This is our basic conclusion: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white--separate and unequal. ...White society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

Massingale writes it impact on the bishops’ deliberations on the matter of race, a statement from the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC) in April of 1968, citing Joseph A. Francis

“We had been told in so many ways by so many persons that we were second rate, that we were less than equal and would never amount to anything in society and in the church….We were determined to set out on a course ...not only [to] prove our detractors and oppressors wrong and benefit all of our people, including our oppressors, but would impress the Catholic Church, in which we believed and which we loved, to take us seriously and begin to place [us] in our rightful positions of leadership and ministry.” (Massingale 56-57)

Ten years after Massingale establishes this aspect of White Supremacy, we have a first Black U.S. Cardinal.

There are some American Descendants of Slavery who are seeking racial justice yet are self-proclaimed atheists. Are you willing to broaden your ethical alignment to unite in the work for racial justice with those who may not share your faith?

     In the interest of a prayer reflection, which is where I would like this to end, there’s the reality checking about meaning--when talking about work--I think about mobilizing for social change. The prayer, at this point, is acts of coloring--Mandalas--while attending a given meeting, and if we want to talk about efficacy, then my continued showing up is the fruit of my prayer. 

    A case-study for me as a white-ghetto Catholic interested in faith-based participants of social movements: Alliance building is of critical importance for Mass Peace Action, of which I feel in the minority. Now working for racial justice, from within Peace Action has meant participating in the planning and critique of the annual gathering this past December, where many prominent racial justice, labor justice, environmental justice, as well as core peace sub-movements converged. Out from this is the emergence of a Progressive Table forum--seeking to create the kind of convergences necessary to realize change across multi-prong issues. A draft document under review tomorrow is on my mind. When I read the structure it feels weighted with the intention  to check dominant groups: to raise important progressive issues that otherwise would not be raised in their absence (see: organizations of color that may not trust us or want to join)

At first, I see this line as a self-aware statement of the overwhelming whiteness Mass Peace Action. Holding the intention of a structure where a Progressive Table will lift up stories such as Mills calls us to, then expressing willingness to take the lead from organizations of color--On further thought, I do take from history a lesson of the moral hazard involved in that white dominance of an alignment has to be checked against for good reason. The white Christians keen for nuclear disarmament through the 1950s eventually heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. denounce nuclear weapons in 1959. In the sixties he was reserving opinions about Vietnam, as if he didn’t have the pulse, knowing the timing was extremely divisive--yet the Beyond Vietnam speech at Riverside--I think its troubling to make of Black Lives the pedestal from which all intersectionality must converge.


    I hope I read the linked document as sincere in its avowal not to interfere with each organizations decision making and choice of engagement--because such trust has been lost by white peacemakers throwing Black leadership into the impossible angelic, morally righteous, politically pure...I need to get back to reading Gail Sheehy’s Panthermania to finish that thought, about the rising appeal of black separatism, but who can name the Catholic Left of 1966-1970..with the Baltimore 4 and Catonsville 9, the draft board raids...the use of white privilege in accepting long sentences was a tactic to polarize and it worked to get Catholics working with atheists. The intersectionality of Cesar Chavez did have broader appeal; and the Farmworkers Union is closest genealogically to the SCIEU which, a fitting note to end on, will have a seat on the 15 member Citizens Committee to Report on the Moral Budget if the bill gets enacted. Let it be so AMDG.

    Cesar Chavez is iconic for me. It’s almost a boost just to imagine myself with a mass of people walking across California’s sacramento valley toward the capital, as Guadalupan@s sing and carry aloft Nuestra Senora Guadalupe--just because it is dull, utterly unexciting, and numbingly tedious listening, organizing to build an intersectional platform with which to draw in  racial justice frontline organizations. Then again, maybe the grace of being a stay-at-home dad is that the payoff of adult interaction is enough.


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