Sunday, July 14, 2013

And Still We Love . . .

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-45, 48

After listening and praying about the verdict of George Zimmerman’s trial, I thought about the beginning of this struggle to attain "justice" for Trayvon Martin. Students of the Atlanta University Center marched to the state capitol in downtown Atlanta last February to protest the Stand Your Ground law in Georgia. I thought about what our community should do to move past our tremendous hurt and disappointment now that our judicial system has rendered its decision. I was taken back to this familiar passage of scripture from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. After much prayer and conversation, I understand that the most transformative, liberating, and difficult thing we should do as a community is love. George Zimmerman should not be a target of our hate but a recipient of our love. In killing Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman operated out of fear. The same fear that prompts racial profiling is what motivated George Zimmerman to pump a bullet into Trayvon’s chest last February. Hatred cannot reduce fear; it only causes it to grow and spread like the cancer it truly is. Only love will liberate and transform. 

In reference to the 48th verse, one of my Morehouse brothers, Kyle Stevenson, suggests, “Jesus is saying to me in order to be like God, in order to be both fully human and divine, you cannot have enemies. Jesus calls us not only to be cordial to those who oppose us or mistreat us but to welcome, affirm and to humanize them.”

Jesus’ philosophy of love was certainly unique for it disregarded the need for the reciprocity of love. there was something Jesus was conscious of, and that was the inherent value of human life. We cannot love expectantly, for our expectations will fail us. But love must be rooted in the humanity which we share. Transcend beyond our identity and actions and love for what we essentially are: People. We are people formed from the same origins though we were cultivated in different environments. We are inextricably connected to one another because of the spirit we have which is of God. God is the common spirit which operates and resides in all people.

Therefore, we cannot allow for artificial boundaries of identity or action to form in our minds for boundaries suggests division. Division renders bitterness and soon bitterness becomes hate, the antithesis of love. Hate does nothing for the oppressed. To hate another person and work for the destruction of their being is to validate the end of civilized nature and disregard any possibility of peace – peace within ourselves, peace with one another and peace with God. In our hatred, we may also lose value in ourselves. After we work to belittle our supposed “enemies,” what fulfillments have we gained? In his work Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman suggests that “Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the spirit, and death to communion with his father in Heaven. He affirmed life; and hatred was the great denial.”

The love of an oppressed people is peculiar. Love generally is one of the great mysteries of God. In these mysteries, we confront struggles which may prompt hopelessness. However, in the words of Fredrick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” 

In our love, we become workers rectifying the unjust systems of our world whether we recognize it or not. This work is necessary of all people, regardless of status or struggle, to establish the beloved community.
Please do not misunderstand me; I am angry. I am angered by the fact that my life and the lives of my unborn sons and daughters are not valued because of our black skin and African heritage. I am certainly angered that our criminal justice system would surmise through a “not guilty” verdict on all accounts that Trayvon is the one to blame for his untimely death. However, as a minister of the gospel, I am compelled to do what George Zimmerman was not willing to do the night Trayvon was murdered. That is to love so deeply and boundlessly that we would see each other differently and value the divinity in our humanity. Only then will we prevent another family from bearing the tremendous burden of burying their child.
Love in the midst of oppression is a peculiar yet transformative phenomenon. 

Ubuntu (I am because we are),

Min. Devon J. Crawford
Trinity UCC Pastoral Intern

Friday, July 12, 2013

Breaking Barriers to the Ballot

“. . . the right to vote is too precious, too fundamental to be so burdened or conditioned." - From Harper, et al. v. Virginia Board of Elections, et al., decision of Mar. 14, 1966 (Evelyn Thomas Butts and her suit to end Virginia’s Poll Tax)  
 “. . . a law which burdens a citizen from access to the franchise is a wall that must come down.” -Judge Wisdom in United States v. Louisiana 

The Casted Votes Felt Around The World. . . 
Do you remember that Tuesday night in November 2008, when the majority of the people in our country voted for Barack Hussein Obama, the first person of color elected as President of the United States of America? The world felt smaller, more connected, and united. The record voter turnouts revealed that many Americans, who had not previously voted, exercised their right to vote. Many people and countries around the world celebrated with us. Our accomplishment of electing an African American as the President of the United States was empowering and demonstrative of a well-functioning representative democracy; when citizens vote, they are able to affect great change! The power of our individual votes had been collectively felt around the world. 

Our Country’s Founding Principle: A Representative Democracy 
Our country’s recent celebration of 237 years of independence is a noteworthy reminder of how much of our country’s origin and evolution is grounded upon our fundamental civil right to vote for our elected representatives. Each eligible citizen participates equally by casting one vote. In the early American political system, the right to vote was reserved for white males over the age of 21 who owned land. In 1920, after the passage of the 19th Amendment, it was extended to women nationwide. In 1868, the right to vote was technically extended to African Americans with the passage of the 14th Amendment (and subsequent constitutional amendments) that was effectively enforced only with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, in 1971, Congress lowered the legal voting age to 18. Of course, in all but two states, this can be totally irrelevant if you are an ex-felon, even if you have completed your sentence. 

Your Ability to Exercise Your Fundamental Right to Vote Is Under Attack. . . 
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has opened the door for states to enact restrictive voter laws that effectively discourage or prevent participation, which disproportionately impacts people of color and the poor. These potential laws include strict photo identification laws, English language-only ballots, and elimination of early voting [i]. 

We Need Your Help To Ensure Everyone Can Freely Exercise The Right to Vote 
The Trinity UCC Justice Watch team is in the early stages of developing an actionable strategy to begin the fight for everyone’s right to vote. Even while these plans are being formalized, you can begin to fight right now! 
  • Sign this petition,, to get a constitutional amendment passed that guarantees voting rights for every American 
  • Write letters of support to your congressman and state representatives to demand legislation that assures full democratic participation; find them here 
  • Stay vigilant and politically informed of efforts to enact voter registration laws and voter suppression throughout the U.S. Be sure to follow Trinity UCC on Twitter and “friend” us on Facebook and share our updates with your friends! 
  • Be ready to join the B3! Project (Breaking Barriers to the Ballot!). More info to come later 
Protecting voting rights is absolutely essential to a just society. Your support is critical to protecting voting rights. 

Attorney Angela Richardson-Bryant

Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team

[i] Following the passage of Indiana's photo ID law, a dozen elderly nuns were turned away from the polls because they did not possess the required photo ID. I understand that several of them held expired photo IDs that were not sufficient under Indiana's restrictive law.  . .Beyond formal voting restrictions, in recent elections we have witnessed overt threats by armed vigilantes attempting to intimidate Hispanic voters at the polls in Arizona. We witnessed cross burnings intended to intimidate African-American voters on the eve of an election in Louisiana. We also saw organized efforts in Maryland to deceive minority and low-income voters with false information about polling locations and phony endorsements.
September 8, 2011 Testimony of Senator Dick Durbin before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights can be accessed by clicking here.