In the first six months of 2020, while the world was reeling from an introduction to COVID 19, headlines recorded that the ongoing “pandemic” of violence perpetrated against African Americans continued. Say the names: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks.
This correspondence has three purposes.
• First to proclaim solidarity in our village. We stand together, with young activists and long-term warriors, with outraged mothers and fathers, with the concerned laborers, managers, and entrepreneurs of our village, and demand change. We rebuke the spirit that denies the humanity and dignity of African Americans; we reject the overly aggressive attitudes and behaviors that allow what should be simple traffic stops of African Americans to be life-threatening encounters. We reject the notion that disparities in economic resources, health care, education, and suppression of voting should be allowed to continue.
The murder of George Floyd has brought focus, but whatever the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the community, will need to build our ability to continue to fight oppression and disparate treatment.
• Our second point, justice, the end of police killings of Black men and women and other persons of color, equal access to resources, and relief from disparities in health, education, jobs, housing, etc. require our raised voices, and protest is a vital tool. We have a rich history of accomplishments that occurred through nonviolent protest during the modern civil rights era. We affirm, encourage, and will continue to join in nonviolent protests to call attention to critical issues. We are encouraged by the energy and conviction of our people, and we are gratified by allies that walk with us.
• The third observation is that our efforts to achieve good outcomes are being perverted by those who are not allies to our cause. The presence of white supremacists that set fires and anarchists that caused difficulties during the nights of protest following the George Floyd murder are well documented. These undermining actions continue to occur here in Minnesota and throughout the country.
We must move strategically to ensure that our voice will not be silenced or distorted and our energies will not be frustrated. The successes of the modern civil rights movement came through strategic planning and coalition-building among the leading racial justice organizations and the practice of discipline. We need to apply those lessons to the current situation.
We must act to prevent the disruption of services and access to goods that occurs when grocery stores, banks, and gas stations in our community are closed after a night or two of looting and community residents have to travel great distances to meet basic needs. Looting at a Wal-Mart in Brooklyn Center was followed by the next night boarding of Wal-Marts as far away as Cottage Grove.
We suggest that there are tactics that we should employ to gain the victory we need. The first adjustment should be to take away the cloak of darkness that allows those infiltrating our protests to wreak havoc. Schedule protests as required but end before dark and return the next day.
After the murder of George Floyd, mass protests took place throughout the nation and in many parts of the world as the legitimacy of concerns for justice and appropriate behavior by the police gained volume. Time after time well attended nonviolent protests deteriorated while outsiders, opportunists, white supremacists, or anarchists inserted themselves, distorted the discussion, and diluted the righteous indignation that is necessary for change. Wisdom would dictate that we move to defang the ability of the enemies of justice to detour our efforts.
We suggest that organizers and leaders of protests strip the ability of our adversaries to use the cover of darkness to throw their rocks and hide their hands. We should gather in great numbers whenever a cause rises that requires the attention that nonviolent protest can bring. But as protest leaders and organizations, we should set strict times for the involvement of legitimate allies and deny interlopers the benefit of blending in to do their mischief.
We have much to do, and we must challenge the complacency of any that choose to be blind to growing atrocities or deaf to the call for meaningful change. Let us continue to reason together and work together with those with a heart for the peace that comes from justice. And, let us operate with wisdom so that our good efforts are not distorted those that mean us no good.
Submitted by His Works United Policy Board
Alfred Babington-Johnson CEO Stairstep Foundation
Convener His Works United
Bishop Richard D. Howell Diocesan Bishop
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
Rev. Billy Russell
President Minnesota State Baptist Convention
Rev. Dr. James Thomas
President, St. Paul Black Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
Rev. Stacey Smith,
Presiding Elder, St. Paul/Mpls District of the AME Church
Bishop Fred W. Washington
Minnesota Jurisdictional Prelate of the Church of God in Christ
Rev. Runney Patterson
President-Elect Minnesota State Baptist Convention