Category Archives: Hate Crimes

The Exonerated Five, the Emanuel Nine, and why we can’t lose count

Ava Marie DuVernay’s documentary “When They See Us” tells the story of four African American boys and one Latino American boy falsely accused and mislabeled “The Central Park 5” after a female European American jogger, Trisha Meili, is viciously attacked and raped in April of 1989.  With contrived confessions but no DNA evidence to link the boys to the crime, they were found guilty and sentenced to between 7 and almost 14 years in prison.  They would later be exonerated when the actual rapist came forward, Matias Reyes (Central Park 1), confessed to the crime, providing details that only the perpetrator would know and had the DNA to match.  Still, those young boys were put into a criminal justice system that forever changed not only their lives but the lives of their family members.  They received no apology and no explanation.  They are owed both and not surprisingly, those who should apologize include Donald Trump, who took out a full page ad in a number of newspapers asking that the death penalty be reinstated and that these children: Raymond Santana, 14, Kevin Richardson, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and Kharey Wise, 16, be executed.

We don’t have time to act surprised.  Lives are at stake and hands that cover our faces in dismay are needed in voting booths, raised in solidarity and clearly visible for all to see, linked together on country roads and city streets that march to the drum major for justice’s beat, folded in intercessory prayer to God.  Because it’s going to take a miracle for change to come.

We’ve got to learn a new tongue because there is a need to rename and reclaim our stories.  We must be our own narrators.  Because we have heard this story of injustice before.  The Exonerated Five, as they are rightly called in an Oprah interview, were not guilty of the awful crime committed that day and deserve a new narrative, which begins with a new name.

We have to start telling their story and in turn, our story differently.  They were and are innocent.  But, they were not the first innocent men proven guilty in an American court of law and they will not be the last.  Kalief Browder, 16, was held at Riker’s Island for three years without a trial.  After his release, he would commit suicide.

There are so many unnamed before him and many more to come after him.  Emmett Till was fourteen years old when he was executed by a mob after being accused of “whistling at a white woman.”  In 1931, the Scottsboro Boys, as they would come to be known, were accused of raping two “white women” on a freight train.  Their ages ranged from 13 to 20 years old.  For fear of lynch mobs, They had to be guarded by the state militia.  Same old story.

Tomorrow, I will visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) museum, where the founder, Bryan Stevenson, set out to tell the African American story from slavery to mass incarceration as well as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.  The first of its kind, the memorial says the names of thousands of women, men and children who were lynched in the 19th and 20th centuries.  On the website, they keep a calendar of the injustices suffered by African American people.  Today’s post reads “On this day, June 18, 2015,

White Man Arrested for Racial Attack Killing Nine in Charleston Church

Tomorrow night, I will see the movie “Emanuel,” playing in select theaters for two days only and say their names again: Clementa C. Pinckney, 41, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, 54, Susie Jackson, 87, Ethel Lee Lance, 70, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, Tywanza Sanders, 26, Daniel L. Simmons, 74, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 and Myra Thompson, 59.

Like DuVernay and the producers of the movie “Emanuel,” Stephen Curry, Viola Davis, Mariska Hargitay and Mike Wildt, we must not lose track of the truth.  We’ve got to tell their stories, no matter how numerous.  Because maybe we’ll get tired of days marked by injustice and become sickened by the number of lives lost tragically and say, “Enough.”  Because it’s easier to forget and tempting to lose count.

Tongue


“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

    and those who love it will eat its fruits.” | Proverb 18.21

Calling all cats!

Get our tongues!

Only you can play with them.

Open your mouths and say, “Ahhh.”

Because if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Loose lips are dangerous.

Teeth hold steady

We cannot help hate, which always stands ready.

We must hold our tongues

 accountable

Every letter and every syllable

No tongues lashing

These are life and death words

Horror stories, the product of our characters

Tongue- swords, piercing flesh, dealing death

One word away from taking her last breath

This is no time to be talking out of both sides of your mouth.

You say what you mean.

You mean what you say.

Swear to me that you will use your tongue for love.

People are dying over our words, falling to never rise again.

Because of pride’s insurrection that burns our throats and makes our veins bulge.

Don’t let your lip slip.

Bite your tongue

Until it bleeds

 

Instead cry and say what you really mean.

Turn on your tongue.

Tell on your tongue.

Confess the sins of your tongue.

I must warn you.

It is unruly and not to be tamed.  Ask James.[1]

Still it is better than adding to this list of names:

Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon (husband of Bernice), Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving Younger, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones.

_____________________________

[1] See James 3.6-8, NRSV: “And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

I am at a loss

Wind.jpeg
By Katie Fisher, 2016

I met an area rabbi for the first time this morning.  He shared his sacred space with me, his holy book with me.  We planned this meeting last week before the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg.  What a difference a week makes.

If God works in mysterious ways, then humans work in maddening ones.  I didn’t want to be brought together over this.  We share a smile but it is tinged with a familiar pain.  We share a hug but we are holding on for dear life, precious life, fleeting life.  Bagels with cream cheese and coffee are now mixed with incomprehensible sadness.  Lighthearted conversation impossible now.

What were we going to talk about?  What is there to say now?  I am at a loss.

Tonight, I will share in lament and mourning with my Jewish brothers and sisters.  I call upon you to share their grief as well because it is our grief as human beings.  Share their loss because it is our loss.  Cry out for us.  Bow your heads with us, for all of us now.

Happy Christopher Columbus Day?

Image result for christopher columbus murdered indians

I have the day off because Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.  But, we know this is not what really happened.  Because you can’t discover a place that is already inhabited by people, no matter how much you try to discount their presence, diminish their story and dismiss their culture.  Try telling them to go back where they came from.

Columbus and those who would follow after thought that if persons did not share their image and ideas, then they did not belong.  And they didn’t just ask them to leave, they killed them.  Because if you are different from us, you should not exist.  There is no place for you here.  They did not consider sharing the land or even moving on.  “No, we are here and you need to move out.”

They used the Bible to provide a kind of divine sanction but that’s not how it works and this is not the will of God.  God did not create people to be remade in our image and likeness.  Persons are not better because they behave like us.  Their lives are not improved because they speak English and wear American clothes.  And despite the myth of American exceptionalism, God does not like one part of the world more than another.  God has no favorite people and consequently, did not create the world to be populated and ruled by one culture or people group.  This is another gospel.

Nothing of Holy Scripture justifies or excuses this kind of behavior.  It is sin and needs to be repented of as this is a long way from the “Roman Road” (cf. Romans 3.23; 6.23; 10.9-10).  No, we are “saved by grace through faith”– not ethnic cleansing (Ephesians 2.8-9).  We are chosen people because we confess Christ as Savior and Lord, not because we fall into one cultural category or another.  But, celebrating Columbus reaffirms that America is somehow favored, special, unique while ignoring the deaths of indigenous people and their continued social marginalization.  But, you cannot have this holiday while separating it from its history.

The rape, murder and near genocide of persons indigenous to what is now the United States of America is well- documented.  So, let’s not pretend that this was a party, a social gathering and peaceable exchange.  For this reason, persons have argued that he should not be celebrated for these heinous acts.  Still, there are those who say, “We cannot rewrite history.”  Point taken. Because we would be if we celebrate him.

America is wealthy because its founders enslaved other human beings for hundreds of years and forced these indigenous persons and persons from Africa to develop the land, harvest the crops, cook for and feed them, clean and dress them, build and maintain their properties, feed their animals, birth and raise their children.  Christopher Columbus started it all.  He and members of his party murdered countless persons whose names we will never know and whose cultures we will never experience or see expressed.  Because he deemed himself better and entitled.

Many Americans want to celebrate the birth of this country without acknowledging the deaths that resulted.   That is rewriting history.  Celebrating a man who stole the land, infected with disease, exploited and nearly erased all of the only natives of America is troubling.  What is there to be proud of?  What of this can we boast in?  What are we really celebrating?

But if you must, release the balloons.  Cue the confetti.  Bring out the cake.  “Happy…

In Memory of the Emanuel Nine: Looking for the words

Image result for names of the emanuel 9I looked at their faces this morning and sighed.  “God, help us.”  One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Lives.

They say a cat has nine lives.  But, how many lives does hate have?  Why won’t it die?  How does it continue to live after this?  How can we let it live on in us after this?

Two years ago, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Rev. DePayne Middleton- Doctor and Rev. Daniel Simmons went to church and were murdered by twenty- one year old Dylann Roof.   As both a pastor and a parishioner, this hurts in places I can’t get to and it messes with my faith.

The only death that I think about while in church is that of Christ’s but there’s no crime tape.  No body bag.  No bullets.  No blood.

The Holy Scriptures talk about God as a place of safety and refuge.  And for hate to show up in a place where African Americans have gone to shield themselves from the assaults of society, find solace and support, express themselves apart from the restrictions of the social construct of race and to be seen and fully accepted is tragically unfair.  For this sacred space, a “church home” to be targeted by hate is incomprehensible.

I don’t know what to say or where to find the words to express this grief.  It goes down deep.  I shuffle my feet and begin to put my head between my knees.  I think that I am going to be sick.

“God help us.”