Civil Rights

Sandi Villarreal 03-05-2013
Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners for the Faith and Politics Institute

Delegation sings 'We Shall Overcome' hand-in-hand at the Civil Rights Memorial in Birmingham, Ala. Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

This year marks a long list of anniversaries in our nation's long march for civil rights: We now mark 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation; and 50 years since the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," the March on Washington, the bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls, and the murder of Medgar Evers in his driveway.

In remembrance of the sacred journey, The Faith and Politics Institute's Civil Rights Pilgrimage drew more than 250 people, including 30 members of Congress, for a three-day tour of civil rights landmarks and first-hand testimonies from the movement's leaders. Throughout the pilgrimage — moving from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma — the delegation learned, grew, and continued the conversation together: white and black, Republican and Democrat, man and woman, senior and child. We all returned to Washington, D.C., and to our homes across the country, with a renewed sense of responsibility for the common good.

A number of events made the term 'reconciliation' mean more than the definition I had somehow created for myself over the past 30 years. Reconciliation is calling the person who beat and humiliated you 'brother.' Reconciliation is sharing a platform, sharing a deeply intertwined story — and sharing an authentic embrace — with the offspring of your parents' enemies. 

[Photo Gallery at the jump.]

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

A bronze statue of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks was unveiled Thursday at the U.S. Capitol. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON — A bronze statue of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, a day for members of her African Methodist Episcopal Church to celebrate one of their own.

President Barack Obama, capping an hourlong ceremony in Statuary Hall, recalled the desegregation of public buses in Montgomery, Ala., after a yearlong boycott that was sparked by Parks’ simple act of defiance: refusing to move to the back of the bus.

“And with that victory, the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho, began to slowly come tumbling down,” he said before hundreds gathered just outside the Capitol Rotunda.

As Parks was hailed for her civil rights achievements, members and leaders of her African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated Parks taking her place among the monuments to American icons from every state and walk of life.

Parks was a stewardess, who helped with Communion and baptisms in her local AME congregation in Detroit, and also a deaconess, the highest position for a laywoman in the denomination. She died in 2005 at age 92.

Interlocking hands, Praisaeng / Shutterstock.com

Interlocking hands, Praisaeng / Shutterstock.com

"The old avocations by which colored men obtained a livelihood are rapidly, unceasingly and inevitably passing into other hands; every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place."

-Frederick Douglass
“Learn Trades or Starve” (1853)

The Obama Administration and a bipartisan group in the Senate are making serious turns to tackle immigration reform. In addition to declaring that as citizens “our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others,” the president’s State of the Union address spoke of securing borders and decreasing the wait timeframe for the American residential legalizing process. Some 12 million women, men, and children across these United States await with bated breath to see what political deals will be made to construct either a pathway to citizenship or pave a road to deportation hell.

What is intriguing about the immigration conversation is that pundits tend to frame the argument in an "Us-versus-Them" fashion. Using rhetorical scare tactics, proponents for and against are not shy about disrobing a “more of them means less for us” stratagem. While much of this ploy has centered on how the massive number of “non-citizens” will subtract resources from persons of European descent, there is now a political stream that avers even sending “border breakers” to the back of the citizenship line will still reduce jobs among African-American low-wage earners. Words from Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and the quote from Frederick Douglass, among many others, are now resurfacing as a clarion call for African-Americans to think long and hard about getting on the “brown” bandwagon. Yet, none of the language from the aforementioned historical figures specially addresses Latino immigration.

Wendy Tarr 01-14-2013
Photo: Community image,  Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Community image, Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock.com

"I expect and am willing to be persecuted, imprisoned, and bound for advocating African rights. And I should deserve to be a slave myself if I shrunk from that duty or danger." -William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionist (1805 - 1879)

With Black History Month coming up in February, many of us will remember the civil rights struggles that have brought us to where we are today. I recently read a fascinating book about that movement focused on the role of women in those efforts called Freedom’s Daughters. It highlights past generations of women activists, both black and white. They led in the struggles for abolition, desegregation, civil rights, and women’s suffrage. These movements carry with them the roots of our contemporary work for justice.

As I considered the lessons from that book I found myself resonating with many challenges, failures, and victories these women experienced, much of which was based on the race and gender dynamics of the day.

As an educated white woman who began my foray into community organizing though a summer internship in my early 20s — like many of the young women in Freedom Summer coming down from the North — I had not yet delved into the complicated nature of race relations in the United States. I started my summer feeling competent, a person who could learn and adapt to changes as I had on many previous international mission experiences. I carried with me an overly simplified belief in the romantic “beloved community.” The beloved community would come about as we worked together, prayed, and marched. 

Julie Polter 01-08-2013

Landing on a Hundred by Cody ChesnuTT / After Kony: Staging Hope by First Run Feature / Kind of Kin by Rilla Askew / The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation by Stephen R. Haynes

Brandon Hook 01-02-2013
John and Lillian Lewis in 1988. Atlanta Journal Constitution file/Johnny Crawfor

John and Lillian Lewis in 1988. Atlanta Journal Constitution file/Johnny Crawford

 

Amidst the jubilation of the new year and a long awaited solution to the fiscal cliff crisis lies sad news: Lillian Miles Lewis, the wife of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, died Monday morning in Atlanta, his office announced. Spokeswoman Brenda Jones said John Lewis is returning to Atlanta but had no more details to release about the cause of death.

The Lewises had been married 44 years. They have one son, John Miles.

Trevor Barton 09-11-2012
Farming illustration, Konstantin Sutyagin / Shutterstock.com

Farming illustration, Konstantin Sutyagin / Shutterstock.com

Being a teacher is like being a farmer. You rise early in the morning. You irrigate and fertilize the field that is your classroom. You plant the seeds that are reading, writing, and arithmetic. You hope for good soil, warm sunshine, and gentle rain that are good homes, healthy foods, and adequate healthcare for your students. You work with your hands, feet and heart with your plants who are your students. 

Your harvest is your students. 

Your winter season of fallow fields is your summer break of empty classrooms.

QR Blog Editor 05-23-2012

The Huffington Post's Senior Religion Editor, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, interviews civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis. Lewis says:

The church should be out front leading the way, and be a headlight rather than a taillight. If you are going to live up to the teachings of the Great Teacher, and follow in the tradition of the great leaders of faith, you have to be out there, shining the light, preaching the Good News and living the Good News. You have to make it real.

Read the full interview here

Cathleen Falsani 04-11-2012

The Washington Post is reporting:

Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey plans to announce as early as Wednesday afternoon that she is charging neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, according to a law enforcement official close to the investigation.

It was not immediately clear what charge Zimmerman will face.

Martin, 17 and unarmed, was shot and killed Feb. 26 by Zimmerman, who said he was acting in self-defense. Police in Sanford, Fla., where the shooting took place, did not charge Zimmerman, citing the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Corey told reporters Tuesday night that she would hold a news conference about the case within 72 hours. A news release from her office said the event will be held in Sanford or Jacksonville, Fla.

Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Martin family, said this week that Corey’s office had asked where Trayvon’s parents would be each day this week. They arrived Wednesday in Washington for a civil rights conference organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, where they are scheduled to speak.

This story is developing ...

Duane Shank 04-04-2012

Forty-five years ago today, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his now-famous speech at Riverside Church in New York City, declaring his opposition to the war in Vietnam. One year later -- 44 years ago today -- he was murdered by an assassin.

It is fitting that these anniversaries occur this year during the week we commemorate the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Dr. King’s Riverside speech is frequently quoted, with his scathing political indictment of the war and the systems of exploitation and oppression that led to it. But how often do we remember that he began that speech by noting that while the Nobel Peace Prize was “a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before,” it was not the most important thing. He continued by saying that:

This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all … Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?

Dr. King was able to be the leader he was, take the risks he did, and ultimately make the final sacrifice, because he knew who called him and who he followed. He knew that the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus was a living presence in his life and gave him the hope to follow. 

For him, as well as us, believing in Jesus means being a follower and a disciple in bringing the kingdom he lived and taught. By raising Jesus, by vindicating his life and death, God vindicated his message – the kingdom he proclaimed has come and will come. And because God raised Jesus from death, his living presence continues among us and we are empowered to follow him and to live the kingdom. The resurrection is the event on which our faith and hope depends.   

That faith sustained Dr. King, and it can sustain us.

Gareth Higgins 03-16-2012
Pilgrims on Croagh Patrick mountain, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland. Getty Images.

Pilgrims ascending at sunrise Croagh Patrick mountain, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland. Getty Images.

Fifteen-hundred years ago, a Dublin-based shepherd made his mark on history by turning the Chicago River green, staggering inebriated through the city, and inventing the "Kiss Me I’m Irish" hat. Along the way, he wrote Bushmills whiskey drinking songs about the pain of being alive, mixed a cocktail whose name evokes an act of terror, and dyed his hair red.

He magically expelled snakes from the island of his birth, wrote a lyrical memoir of his terrible childhood, won the Rose of Tralee beauty contest, mixed lager and Guinness together (presumably out of an excess of self-loathing and bad taste), had a great oul’ Famine, stared meaningfully across the Atlantic, and dreamed of America.

But he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.

It’s St Patrick’s Day weekend, and despite the fact that millions of people will celebrate something like this vision of what it means to be Irish, pretty much none of the above is true.

Imam leads muslims in a sermon at Occupy Wall Street by Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

NEWARK, N.J. — The report was stamped top secret.

Inside was a confidential dossier compiled by the New York Police Department documenting "locations of concern" in Newark -- the city's 44 mosques, Muslim-owned restaurants and businesses and Islamic schools.

In 2007, the NYPD began an undercover spy operation within New Jersey's largest city to find and document where Muslims lived, worked and prayed.

Now, city officials and many of those targeted are voicing anger at the disclosures, which came in the wake of an Associated Press report showing that a secret NYPD surveillance program aimed at Muslims had extended well beyond New York City.

"I have deep concerns and I am very disturbed that this might have been surveillance that was based on no more than religious affiliation," Newark Mayor Cory Booker said.

the Web Editors 02-04-2012

More than 30 Muslim and legal advocacy groups are urging New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to investigate the New York City Police Department after the second scandal in as many weeks involving Muslim Americans.

On Thursday (Feb. 2), The Associated Press reported that it had obtained a secret 2006 NYPD report, "U.S.-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City," which recommended that officers "expand and focus intelligence" at Shiite mosques.

Julie Polter 02-01-2012

Widow, Queen, Lover, Warrior; Faith in the Struggle; The Message; ‘Do Not Cast Me Away.’

Lisa Sharon Harper 01-26-2012
Lisa Sharon Harper

Lisa Sharon Harper

During a roundtable chat with a group of emerging young evangelical leaders recently, someone posed the question: “Has America become a post racial society?”

Well, we haven’t had a race riot in a while — does that mean race isn’t relevant anymore?

A black president just gave the State of the Union Address. How about that? Does that mean America’s OK with the race thing?

Our nation is a more ethnically diverse nation than it’s ever been. Does that count for anything?

Scholars across disciplines agree that what we think of as “race” literally was invented here in the 17th century to delineate castes within a system of extreme privilege and subjugation.

So, rather than thinking about the dreaded word, “racism,” to answer the question, perhaps it would be more helpful to think about how our society has been “racialized” and then ask if such a racialization still exists or reverberates in today's American culture.

the Web Editors 01-17-2012

On Monday's Colbert Report, Sojourners friend and Civil Rights activist Scott Douglas, discussed the overturn of Alabama's immigration law with host (and possible presidentail candidate) Stephen Colbert, and calls for a single, fair and national immigration law for the entire country.

Douglas is executive director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries in Alabama.

Watch his conversation with Colbert inside the blog...

 

Lisa Sharon Harper 01-13-2012
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo by Lisa Sharon Harper for Sojourners.

Have you ever heard of healing prayer?

Richard Foster writes about it in his seminal book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. Healing prayer is different than prayers of supplication or intercession — the kind of prayer where we get to ask God for stuff. It’s different from contemplative prayer — the kind where we get to sit and soak in the presence of God.

Healing prayer goes deep into the soul of the prayer with one purpose — to heal hearts and souls broken by life. In healing prayer, the one on their knees invites Jesus to go deep — to reveal core lies she or he has believed about themselves, God, the world, their relationships; to identify the point when that lie took root in the soul; and then to renounce the lie and invite in the truth.

I was in the middle of my second year as a volunteer staff member with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in 1996, when I had my first experience of healing prayer. It was a hard year for various reasons, so a good friend offered to pray for me. She starting by asking Jesus to come a join our circle of prayer — to sit with us and talk with us in the spiritual realm.

Then she got down to it: “Reveal the lies, Jesus,” she prayed.

We met weekly for spiritual surgery. One by one over the course of a year, Jesus revealed lie after lie that I had believed about myself, God, and my relationships. And the good doctor (Mark 2:17) took out the scalpel and cut that cancer from my soul and replaced lies with truth. The affect was dramatic.

Today (Jan. 16), we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a man who called America to face the lies embedded in its soul.

the Web Editors 12-14-2011
Osama bin Laden in 1997. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/pJ0ufx

Osama bin Laden in 1997. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/pJ0ufx

Each year, members of the Religion Newswriters Association, the world’s premier association dedicated to helping journalists write about religion, vote on what they believe are the top religion stories of the year. 

This year, more than 300 religion journalists cast their ballots in an online survey conducted Dec. 10-13, choosing the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a covert operation in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs and CIA operatives ordered by President Barack Obama as the top story of 2011.

See the complete list of RNA's top religion stories of the year inside.

Duane Shank 11-29-2011

I am one of those who still prefer ink on paper to pixels on a screen.  But no matter how you get your news, the passing of a giant is worth noting. Tom Wicker, reporter and columnist for The New York Times for 30 years, died on Saturday. The Times described him as “one of postwar America’s most distinguished journalists.” 

Wicker was a meticulous reporter and a passionate advocate, so much so that he was sometimes criticized for overstepping the bounds of objectivity.  But when faced with the major events he wrote on, how could he not be?

Duane Shank 11-07-2011

A round-up of recent Op-Ed columns from the mainstream media.

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