Oakland church

Archive for Racism

Offer Love’s Response to White Supremacy’s Hatred

I am sickened by the latest incidence of violence, this time  in Charlottesville, Virginia. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died on their way to help. I pray for the family of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed by a 20-year-old white supremacist, a terrorist whose name I will not speak, who turned his car into a weapon against non-violent protesters. Heather was killed, and 19 other people were struck down by malice, hatred and racism.

They were struck down by what has stricken our nation since its founding: the horrible lie that is white supremacy. This lie was formed in the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, who had a suspicion that the Africans who had been enslaved by the freedom-seeking colonists were inferior to their white owners. This horrible lie was fanned into pseudo-science about racial hierarchy. This lie spits in the face of the truth: there is only one race, and that race is called human.

We who know the truth must be set free from apathy and boldly challenge the falsehood of white supremacy every time and everywhere we see it. We who are people of faith must not pretend that what happened in Charlottesville was violence and hatred on “many sides.” We must say the truth out loud.

This is the truth: White supremacists organized themselves and descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a symbol of hatred and racism. They will keep organizing and use every tool in their power to make America racist, again and again.

And we who believe in freedom, we who believe in the power of revolutionary love must keep organizing as well, and use every tool in our power to fight this hatred, to renounce this bigotry, and to call our leaders into account. This is NOT the America for us. This rising ugly tide of white supremacy, if unchecked, will become a tsunami that will drown the liberties espoused by our constitution, and will end more and more innocent lives.

Hatred kills.

We must recognize that all of these movements (black lives matter, women’s march, immigration reform, LGBTQ Pride, affordable housing, education, and healthcare, prison reform, climate justice, etc) are all part of the human rights movement. We must join together to stand on the side of love. Here are some things we can all do now in response to white supremacy:

  1. Tweet the president or retweet a prayer that @POTUS joins us to name and fight #WhiteSupremacy and the #terrorism that accompanies it.
  2. Read “UCC Pastoral Letter condemns racist violence in Charlottesville, demands equality for all”
  3. Read these articles and learn more about what’s happening here in the Bay area, Aug 26-27 weekend:
    1. Message from Mayor of Berkeley – The Aug 27 Rally does not have a permit
    2. Nancy Pelosi asks if White House had a hand in approving the permit for Aug 26    
    3. Don’t give the haters any bragging rights 
  4. Sign this petition from Faith in Public Life that calls on the @POTUS to behave like a president. It calls “on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility.” And it asks “President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose.”
  5. Join us for an interfaith worship service on Sat Aug 26th, in which our very own music director, Benjamin Mertz, will be performing; stay tuned for more as plans unfold. 
  6. Join us for a conversation immediately following worship this Sunday about our own personal discernment in response. 

And never forget that when we take these actions, we are praying with our hands and our feet. We are mourning, and we are organizing against white supremacy with revolutionary love,  until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

I leave you with the prophetic words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: 

Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that. 
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
A time to end the Silence. 

History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Righteous Indignation to Resist Injustice

Among the most eloquent chroniclers of racial discord in the United States was James Baldwin. I was first introduced to his writings while attending seminary and studying with Professor James Cone.

Though Baldwin died in 1987 his observations from 50 yrs ago still ring powerfully, and depressingly, true as evidenced by the trailer to the new documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.

 It is a timely memoir, meditation, and study  of the lives of three slain civil-rights leaders—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., based on the writings of James Baldwin.

 The documentary provides an exploration of many issues including race in America, what this country stands for, and the topic of righteous indignation to resist injustice and to bring forth greater equality.  

I’d like to share with you a preview of the film (follow the link and scroll down the page for the trailer). Be forewarned.. This piece includes quotes from James Baldwin in which he uses a racial slur.

“If any white man in the world says, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ (Patrick Henrys words) the entire white world applauds,” Baldwin tells talk show host Dick Cavett, in a scene from the documentary. “When a black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.”

The film has received rave reviews from the NY Times, A. O. Scott, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Join us this Sunday as we explore constructive uses of anger that have not only fueled liberation movements throughout time, but have also improved the quality of our most intimate relationships. 

Blessings, Pastor Laurie

This MLK Day We Honor the Radical Dr. King

mlk-marchonwashington-bannerThis weekend we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,  his prophetic words and actions for our lives today, and the difference between what is and the vision of how things could be. 

Many of us find ourselves standing in a place of tension. Some may have experienced this tension in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. The Rev. Dr. William Barber II implicitly evoked this tension in speaking recently of the prophetic grief and lament provoked by recent acts of violence and the decision not to bring charges against the police officers who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice. In response to this present reality, Barber cites Isaiah’s call to be “the repairers of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”

Commentators like Van Jones have recognized that environmental racism also relates to the Black Lives Matter movement. Some acts of violence are not of the kind that can be videotaped and shared on social media, but they nevertheless have a devastating impact on communities of color. The severe, and at times, deadly reality of environmental racism can be seen in relation to toxic dumpscoal plants and terminalsoil plants and refineriesfracked wells, and lead poisoning. There is much that necessitates a prophetic response.


To inspire the courage needed to speak out and to demonstrate how one can pull others closer to a vision of what could be, Dr. King’s oral and written works continue to be an invaluable resource. The UCC has developed a webpage to assist in exploring overlooked and under-appreciated sermons, speeches, and writings by Dr. King. Too often, the more radical messages of King become muted or silenced on his own holiday. Like the great prophets, however, King must be heard. His words are still vital and relevant today. They still possess the power to challenge and uplift. 

Join us this Sunday as we remember him.

Black History and the UCC

black history monthFebruary we lift up Black History Month; we share stories from our own personal and collective histories and lift up the ongoing story of culture, courage, brilliance, faith, and heroism.

We will celebrate this rich legacy through worship, education and events. I encourage you to join us and share your ideas with us!

Our denomination, the United Church of Christ, has a long history of commitment to the ongoing story of liberation and equality in the black civil rights movement; from the Amistad, to ordaining the first black minister in the US, to the presidency. The UCC is forever entwined in the history of a people who stood with courage and pushed forward with faith. I encourage you to read more about our UCC history, in the links below.

http://cpcucc.org/blog/2087/black-history-and-the-united-church-of-christ
http://www.ucc.org/black-history/

I leave you with the inspiring words of Howard Thurman, an influential African American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader, who writes:

“Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace.” 

 “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” 

MLK:Realize The Dream

US civil rights leader Martin Luther King,Jr. (C)This Monday means so many different things to so many people.

To some, it’s a day off from work, and a time to save big on those great MLK sales deals!

For others, it’s a time to remember the great legacy of Dr King.

For others still, it’s a time to lament that he is gone, at a time when we need to keep his dream alive.

Let us, you and I, take time to not only to remember him, but to do what we can together to work for the true equality of all people on this planet.

I leave you with some interesting quotes, not from, but about, Martin Luther King Jr.

“For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my ‘race,’ unless I was permitted to put ‘human.’ The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put ‘white,’ which is not even a color let alone a ‘race,’ and I sternly declined to put ‘Caucasian,’ which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King’s campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you ‘black’.” 
― Christopher Hitchens

“The self-congratulatory popular account insists that Dr. King called on the nation to fully accept its own creed, and the walls came a-tumbling down. This conventional narrative is soothing, moving, and politically acceptable, and has only the disadvantage of bearing no resemblance to what actually happened.” 
― Timothy B. TysonBlood Done Sign My Name: A True Story

“Everyone knows, even the smallest kid knows about Martin Luther King Jr., can say his most famous moment was that ‘I have a dream speech. No one can go further than one sentence. All we know is that this had a dream. We do not know what the dream was’.” 
― Henry Louis Taylor

A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back — but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.

― Marian Wright Edelman, as quoted in The Art of Winning Commitment : 10 Ways Leaders Can Engage Minds, Hearts, And Spirits (2004) by Dick Richards

– Enjoy this “The Dream of Martin Luther King” video.

Jesus a Radical, Hanging Out with the “Least of These”

Jesus was a very radical dude. In his time,  much like our times in this country, people were very divided one from another. Back then if you were a child or a woman, if you had no money, if you had a disease or a physical disability, or if you came from the wrong country or city or even the wrong family you had no rights and no respect.

Jesus refused to play along with division and discrimination. One of the truly subversive things he not only taught – but did constantly – was to eat, drink, and visit with the outcasts of society.  He hung out with beggars, lepers, prostitutes, children, and even tax collectors. As Thanksgiving approaches we are reminded that we are not only what we eat, we are also with whom we eat. In Jesus’ kingdom & at his table everyone, especially all those considered “the least of these”, is welcome.

This Sunday, we welcome your many food donations for these various causes:

  1.  Alameda County Community Food Bank (canned tuna & chicken, soups & stews, peanut butter, canned foods)
  2.  East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition, EOICC, collecting food for undocumented immigrants from Central America.(beans, rice, cooking oil )
  3.  Pies for Lake Merritt United Methodist (ACCFB food pantry’s) Thanksgiving dinner.

Please see the details included below.

We also welcome volunteers to help prepare and serve and share Thanksgiving dinner at Lake Merritt! Please see Paula Byrens for details.

After all of this eating we invite you to work it off on Saturday, Nov 29th, at our “Greening of the Sanctuary” from 8 am – 1 pm.

Oh yes, one more food item – mark your calendars for our Sun Dec 7th Christmas Party, 5 – 8 pm, which includes dinner and a fun program (see details berlow)! If you’d like to help with the food planning, please contact Suzie Harris and Marilyn Shaw.

Blessings, Laurie

Awakening of Faith to Change Public Policy Towards Boys and Men of Color

The act of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.  

The Rev Dr Martin Luther King wrote these prophetic words to sustain the people on the long civil rights journey.

How true they are!

In 1972 The Golden Gate Association of our denomination, the United Church of Christ, ordained Bill Johnson, the first openly gay man.

Here we are, over 40 years later, witnessing the arc of the universe bending a bit more, with the recent civil rights ruling on same sex marriage.

But we cannot rest on our historic legacy.. there is much more bending to be done..

prison_032911-thumb-640xauto-2730Perhaps you’ve read the recent article in last Sunday’s New York Times about our broken prison system, here in California?

 If not, I’ve attached the article here:   California Voters to Decide on Sending Fewer Criminals to Prison – NYTimes.com.

As we reflect upon the tragic killing of Michael Brown and the pain, anger, and action that have marked recent weeks in Ferguson Missouri and around the country, we are called to think, pray, and act together to end the dehumanization and mass incarceration of boys and men of color in this country.

On Wednesday October 8, I am joining with a delegation of clergy leaders from around the state and across faith traditions in Los Angeles to explore how we can ignite an awakening of faith to proclaim a message of hope, healing, and restoration in California.

Our hope is to change both the public debate and the public policy that criminalizes boys and men of color, separates families, and robs young people and communities of opportunities by investing in prison systems over education, healthcare, and treatment.

Thank you for your prayers,

 Blessings, Pastor Laurie

“From Ferguson to Oakland”  Why We Can’t Wait

This Sunday as part of our Oakland Pride worship service we will  hold a prayer vigil  for the people of Ferguson, Missouri, and prayers for our country. 

We will pray for the healing of all those affected by this continuing tragedy, and healing in our race relations from Ferguson to Oakland. 

In the immortal words of the Rev Dr MLK Jr, who wrote, while imprisoned in a jail in Birmingham Alabama, “Why We Can’t Wait”:

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist: “ I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or for the extension of justice?

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Trayvon Martin Case calls for Sacred Conversations on Race

Not quite two weeks past, the jury verdict of acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case continues to reverberate around the country.  In the aftermath of the verdict that for some of us seems horribly unjust, we look for answers, a way to deal constructively with our anger, frustration and fear going forward.  Prayer works for some, coming together to be in solidarity with those living at risk in our country because they’re young black males helps for others, taking political action to confront the country’s gun laws and repealing the “stand your ground” laws in states where they exist makes sense to others.

In addition, it seems to me, we need, our country needs to continue having conversations on race and racism.  For members and friends of faith communities, they need to be sacred conversations.  As we confront the reality of racism that continues to exist in this nation, we need to ground our conversations in our faith in a God who above all else bids us to love one another.

Some four years ago, on the 40th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s last sermon, representatives of the United Church of Christ and the National Council of Churches, called for a sacred conversation that is “urgently needed in our churches, in our homes and work places, and in the halls of power.”  A study guide – Sacred Conversation on Race is the resource to help us move forward.

In a pastoral letter included in the study guide, the UCC Collegium of Officers remind us that “our conversations will be sacred if we trust in the Spirit of the living God to do a new thing in our midst and create beloved communities where, as Dr. King envisioned, descendants of former slaves and descendants of former slave owners sit down together with Native peoples and immigrant peoples and their descendants to share our lives, our fears, and our dreams.”

I invite you to download the Sacred Conversations on Race resource guide (http://www.ucc.org/sacred-conversation/pdfs/SCbook-whole.pdf) and read through it thoughtfully and prayerfully.  It will take time, but it will be worth it.