Posts By This Author
Making Common Cause with the New Freedom Fighters
Our nation stands at a crossroads moment as the simmering crisis around policing and our justice system reaches a boiling point. Recent cases of police violence in Ferguson, Cleveland, and now Staten Island have stirred an awakening around what is increasingly understood as a pervasive and pernicious problem in America in which black lives are too often treated differently when it comes to police accountability and criminal justice.
Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a retreat with other faith leaders convened by Sojourners to learn about and make common cause with the ongoing efforts to seek justice in the tragic death of Michael Brown Jr. We spent a day talking to local faith leaders and young activists. We visited the memorial site in Ferguson where Brown was tragically killed and the streets where 120-plus days of protest have ensued. While it was heart-wrenching to stand and pray at the site where Brown was killed, I left the two days filled with a resilient sense of hope based on our conversations and interactions with a cross section of young people, most in their early to mid-20s, who embody modern-day freedom fighters. I hope we as a nation can listen to their voices and come to know their stories as we seek answers around what our response should be.
Young activists at the center of the protest movement in Ferguson are refusing to accept cosmetic change or symbolic commitments; instead they are fighting to transform their community and our nation so that neither punishment nor privilege will be systemically or viciously tied to the color of our skin. In the process, these young activists are picking up the broken pieces of the civil rights struggle. Their courage, willingness to sacrifice, and bold vision gave me a great deal of hope for what America can be.
Why I Will Be Marching on Washington and Why You Should Too
I will march on Saturday because I refuse to allow my two sons to be treated as statistics or a stereotypes rather than as children of God. I will march because overly aggressive policing tactics that overly rely upon racial profiling make a mockery of Dr. King’s dream that every child will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
I will march because the recent repeal of section four of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court jeopardizes the voting rights of millions of Americans across the country, particularly in southern states where new barriers to this sacred right are already being erected.
I will march because based on national statistics, my two black boys face a one in three chance of spending some time of their lives behind bars, a disturbing and destructive reality that has been made possible in part by mandatory drug sentencing laws that must be reevaluated and changed.
Balancing our Budget through Humility, Shared Sacrifice, and Hope
This week a large number of Americans are celebrating Holy Week, leading up to Easter Sunday. Churches will be packed with both the regulars as well as the once- or twice-a-year worshippers for the "Super Bowl of Sundays" to celebrate Christ’s victory over death and sin and his glorious resurrection.
In the midst of an exasperating and polarized political debate around the U.S. budget, our national and political leaders can learn valuable lessons from Holy Week. Whatever your faith background may be, we could all benefit from a greater commitment to the humility, shared sacrifice, and hope that Holy Week embodies. An extra dose of humility, sacrifice, and, ultimately, hope represent the balm that could bridge many of our ideological differences and resolve the current political impasse around the budget that has paralyzed our political system and divided the nation.
Achieving an AIDS-free Generation by Healing the International Village
I wonder what would happen if the daily barrage of negative, misleading political campaign ads were replaced just for a day by a one-minute clip from the opening ceremony of the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., last week.
This replacement ad would feature a beautiful, regal woman from Nigeria sharing a heartfelt and poignant ‘thank you’ to the American people for literally saving her life by providing access to antiretroviral drugs — medicine that creates a modern-day “Lazarus effect” in people whose immune systems have been ravaged by AIDS — and also ensures that her daughter was born HIV-free. I wish every member of Congress could have heard these words, a ‘thank you’ that echoes what many nations in sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing as they work to turn the tide of this deadly disease.
This one mother and child from Nigeria are only a snapshot of the millions of lives that have been transformed by American generosity and leadership through life-saving investments in the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria — which have increased the number of Africans on treatment from a shameful 50,000 in 2002 to more than 4 million today.
One in the Body
Lessons of solidarity and hope from the movement against AIDS.
Supporting the Poor Stimulates the Economy
World AIDS Day: Mourning, Celebration, and Rededication
Obama and the Beloved Community: Are We There Yet?
Just as You Did for the Middle Class, You Also Did For Me
Dalit Converts to Christianity Face Persecution and Violence (Unveiling India's Apartheid, Part 3)
As you were singing carols, placing the last presents under the tree, and worshiping at a Christmas Eve service this past year, Indian Christians halfway across the world were being victimized by the largest attack on the Christian community in India's democratic history. The complex and combustible layers of caste-based oppression and religious persecution came to a head on Dec. 24, 2007, through a spate of violence in the Kandhamal District of Orissa state. During the course of [...]
Seeds of Liberation (Unveiling India's Apartheid, Part 2)
As our motorcade approached the Dalit village of Nayagarh, we could see the bright and brilliant image of 500 Dalit women gathered to welcome us, their saris forming a kaleidoscope of color. Cheers and whistles erupted from the crowd of women as we approached. I felt like a presidential candidate as I passed through the crowd, shaking as many hands as I could reach, wanting to make human contact with women whose dignity is so often demeaned and whose worth too often dismissed. These women [...]
Unveiling India's Apartheid (Part 1)
In the shadow of India's economic miracle lies a people often deemed untouchable, largely impoverished, and seemingly invisible. Bubbling beneath the shimmering image of a new India is a cauldron of inequality, caste-based subordination, and religious tension that could boil over into even greater civil strife and violence. At the center of these forces lies the Dalit struggle. While Dalit rights are often denied and hopes are crushed, growing political, economic, and spiritual empowerment [...]
Recapturing MLK's Radical Vision
I have become increasingly convinced that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has become the victim of identity theft. Too often we domesticate King, sanitizing his radical message and selectively choosing his words. Our nation embraces the King of Montgomery and Selma but suffers amnesia about the King of Memphis who called for a living wage, or the King of Riverside who spoke out boldly against the war in Vietnam. Dr. King would be deeply disturbed by the crass materialism and naked narcissism of [...]
Why America Needs the Uncensored Prophetic Voice of the Black Church
The media frenzy over the remarks of Barack Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, raise critical challenge to the prophetic role and voice of the black church. These "incendiary" remarks have set off a firestorm in the media, exposing the deep divide that exists on Sundays - America's most segregated hour of the week. This controversy serves as a stark reminder that the problem of the color line that still divides the U.S. and its churches. This often misguided debate obscures the [...]
A New Baptist Unity for Social Justice
At last week's New Baptist Unity Conference in Atlanta, an estimated 20,000 Baptists spanning the moderate to progressive spectrum gathered for three days of worship, fellowship, and training. Even though Southern Baptists were conspicuously missing, the conference united members of denominations from the American Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, National Baptist Convention USA, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, among others, to collectively represent over [...]
A Cry for Kenya
My heart cries out for the people of Kenya. The unfolding crisis conjures up haunting and horrific images of Rwanda. While the situation has not reached the scale of genocide, the flawed and arguably fraudulent elections held last month have already led to far too much bloodshed and represent a major step backwards in Kenya's democracy. The aftermath from the election has inflamed simmering ethnic tensions, pitting Luos and others who support opposition leader Raila Odinga against Kikuyus [...]
World AIDS Day: A Challenge to 'Speak Life'
On Dec. 1, the world commemorates World AIDS Day, a day in which we pause and remember the 25 million lives lost to the deadly epidemic. The day also challenges us to redouble our efforts to show greater solidarity with the estimated 33 million people worldwide living with HIV. The day's slogan is "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise". This is a direct appeal to governments, policy makers, and regional [...]