Brave Neighbors


Wendy Vander Hart

5/20/2015

by the Rev. Wendy Vander Hart
Associate Conference Minister


To my white brothers and sisters in faith: you can work for racial justice in your predominately white neighborhood.
 
You might ask, “how can I work for racial justice where there are few people of color in most of our UCC churches and suburban landscapes?”  It is not a stupid question, just one that does not see deeply enough.
 
A few weeks ago we were blessed to receive a powerful word from Pastor Traci Blackmon who serves Christ the King UCC near Ferguson, MO. She has been on the forefront of standing with the people of the neighborhood since the death in the street of Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer.  Since then there have been peaceful protests every day, only a handful of times have there been violence, and that remains so to this day.
 
Pastor Traci’s story is our story to the extent that she stepped up, she said yes in her neighborhood.  As she described being present to the people who circled the city blocks asking for justice, naming that black lives matter and telling their truth, Pastor Traci noted it all began with saying “yes.”  Yes, to the young people.  Yes, to fellow leaders in organizing.  Yes, to families in pain.  
 
The neighborhood of Ferguson is no different from the neighborhood in Arlington where I live in the sense that the systems and structures that are part of daily life there are also part of daily life here.  The difference is our vantage point of those systems and structures. We are divided between those who are tamped down by systems and structures and those who benefit from systems and structures.
 
And this is where we can work for racial justice wherever we are because we are fighting systems and structures, not people.
 
The work starts with people – our personal selves, our spheres of influence, our neighbors - but that work, when done bravely, shines a light on systems and structures that unjustly diminish people’s lives. Pastor Traci’s work is in Ferguson, but what I do with my neighbors in Arlington makes an impact for the whole too. Some examples:

  • Building relationships with our local police departments and asking about their practices and experiences. 
  • Meeting with school officials and asking about curriculum and diversity of stories.
  • Looking at our worship services and faith formation opportunities and asking how deep and wide they are and yet could be.
Pastor Traci left us with this thought, “Don’t feel guilty unless you are not doing what you can – when you do, it all helps us get free.”  No matter where you are, you can be part of making God’s love and justice real.

Watch for video of Pastor Traci Blackmon coming soon.
Read about the Black Lives Matter signs at the MA Conference Center.


 



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