It was a devastating weekend for black people in America.
On Friday, a white police officer pulled his gun at a pool party and assaulted a 15-year old black girl who cried for her mom in McKinney, Texas. On Saturday, a young black man committed suicide in his parents’ home in the Bronx after being held without trial at Rikers Island for three years (nearly two in solitary confinement), accused of stealing a backpack — a charge that prosecutors ultimately dropped. On Sunday evening, hotel security officers profiled four young black organizers from Baltimore in the lobby of the Congress Plaza Hotel at the conclusion of The Justice Conference.
I don’t know what came over me. Was it what Noel Castellanos (CEO of CCDA) had said? What Jim Wallis (President of Sojourners) had said? Perhaps. I couldn’t keep the tears from coming. Walking up Broadway Street in Los Angeles in the middle of a Saturday afternoon as a crowd of people blew horns, held signs, and chanted, “Immigration reform now,” I wept. It was because of Ivone. I was even wearing my Faith is Greater Than Fear shirt but lurking along the sidewalk, not intending to get involved. But it's too late for that. I love Ivone like a sister, I’m already knee deep in it.
Jim, Noel, and Jenny Yang (World Relief) had just been speaking on a panel at the Justice Conference about immigration reform. Jim said that we had to pass comprehensive immigration reform now, before the summer recess. And I knew in my heart that he was right. Because if we don’t, then Ivone will continue to lie in limbo along with 11 million other aspiring Americans, perhaps being deported in a couple of years. We will both continue to live in uncertainty and fear.
This past weekend I attended the memorial for a very dear friend and amazing individual, Richard Twiss. Richard, who was a descendent of the Sioux and Lakota tribes of South Dakota, was a scholar, writer, speaker and thought leader. Richard was also a follower of Jesus.
Richard was both one of the most personable and charismatic individuals I’ve ever met. He had a way about him. I’ve never known someone so authentic and full of love as to make everyone he spent time with feel unique, special and valuable. Richard was also one of the sharpest prophetic voices I’ve ever heard. He was unyielding with logic and his respect for truth. He was hard as nails when it came to excuses from others who would try to compromise truth. Truth, for Richard, was unwavering.
If I was able to ask Richard today how best to honor him, I know that — after talking about his concern for his wife, kids, and grandkids — he would expect me to use my voice to speak truth.
“They took the door off so the hyenas would get her.”
Sitting in the darkened room with thousands of others, I listened intently as the woman on stage continued. The speaker was no other than Sheryl WuDunn, the Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of Half the Sky, and the setting was this year’s Justice Conference.
Having previously read Half the Sky, I was reminded again of the countless numbers of women who looked beyond their circumstances to overcome challenges, and change their families and communities for the better. I remembered the underlying causes of global gender inequality, and WuDunn’s urgent call in her book to empower girls and women. The solution to ending poverty lies in educating females and bringing them into the formal workforce. In that, women’s empowerment isn’t simply a good issue to promote, but part of creating a just world.
While everyone was blowing up the Twittersphere decrying the injustices of the Oscars, as movies like Argo walked away with Best Picture honors, I was sitting in a Philadelphia hotel lobby trying to chew on everything I’d heard and seen at this year’s Justice Conference.
The two-day event brought together more than 5,000 people to promote dialogue around justice-related issues, like poverty and human trafficking; featured internationally acclaimed speakers such as Gary Haugen, Shane Claiborne, and Eugene Cho; and exhibited hundreds of humanitarian organizations.
While there is certainly more thinking and processing to be done, here are four things that stood out.