It was a blustery day in our nation’s capitol, but that didn’t deter the thousands who joined together in a silent prayer walk to give witness of their commitment to continue the work of racial justice begun by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s been 50 years since the assassination of Dr. King, and yet, we still have a long way to go to end racism in America. In 2017, more people died at the hands of the police than the number of black people who were lynched in the worst year of Jim Crow. Most of the unarmed victims were people of color. Following this year of grief and trauma, people of faith have a specific responsibility to eliminate racism, but also unique gifts that enable us to do so. The faith community, present in every town and community, are both part of the problem and the solution.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and its partners, including New Baptist Covenant, gathered in Washington, D.C., for the historic event that launched its Truth and Racial Justice Initiative, an effort committed to doing its part to eradicate the entrenched racism that grips the United States and paralyzes our ability to see every human being as equal.
Boasting speakers and performers that included Yolanda Adams, Danny Glover and Louis Gossett Jr., the rally also included clergy across the spectrum offering encouragement to participants in their efforts to fight racial injustice. Those included: Louie Blue Coat from the Dakota Association United Church of Christ who was a participant at Standing Rock gathering for prayer, solidarity and repentance; Rev. Dr. Jennifer Harvey, a writer, speaker and professor at Drake University; Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, isenior pastor at Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas; Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who is the first female elected as bishop in the denomination’s history; Bishop W. Darin Moore, presiding Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church and currently the Chair of the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches, USA; Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, who serves as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. and also leads the Religious Action Center; Bishop Marvin Sapp, a Gospel music singer-songwriter and founder and senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, located in Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr.
Other speakers included DeRay Mckesson, an American civil rights activist and former school administrator; Dr. Mary I. O’Connor, an orthopaedic surgeon who has been a strong voice in the Caucasian male-dominated orthopaedic profession to improve the diversity of providers and equality of care for women and people of color; and Jim Wallis, a New York Times bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life.
The Truth and Racial Justice Initiative will focus around:
- Truth Learning, Truth Telling and Relationships in Faith Communities
- Criminal Justice — Mass Incarceration
- Economic Justice
- Media News
- Civil and Human Rights
- Environmental Justice
- Voting Rights
— By Lindsay Bergstrom, Director of Operations and Communications for New Baptist Covenant