Over the past month GOFAD has posted several blogs featuring various perspectives on institutional racism in the USA that have triggered protests worldwide. In these portrayals there is a tendency to miss important voices of support for the Black Lives Movement emanating from church leaders. The Bishop and clergy at the Washington National Cathedral in DC for example have been in the forefront of championing the cause in sermons from the pulpit as well as in a series of symposiums "Honest to God" on Wednesday evenings engaging audiences from around the World.
This week we bring to your attention a sample of the vibrancy of the Church's message and the passion and purposefulness that it brings to this discussion. I commend this 18 minute video of a sermon by The Very Rev Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral. It is a condemnation of the racist system that has persisted for over 400 years in the USA and more particular, an appeal to White Americans to make the change.
GOFAD is grateful The University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters, Jamaica, for the following statement issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, President of Universities Caribbean, and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission. June 11, 2020
Two thousand years ago, a young Galilean in his proselytizing prime was arrested and pinned to a wooden cross by armed imperial police. In full public view, he was tortured until the last breath departed his body. The powerless, passive witnesses to the killing heard him call upon his Father to receive his departing soul.
Two weeks ago, a young, towering but gentle soul from Minneapolis was arrested and pinned to the pavement by a posse of morally impervious police. In full public view he was tortured until the last breath departed his body. Activist witnesses to the killing heard him call out to his deceased Mother. He might have wanted her to come to his aid; instead he journeyed to her side.
In the inhumanity of both events all Heaven broke loose.
With the brutal murder of a ‘Ghetto Angel’ a bright light flooded America that for centuries wore eye masks, but now removed, its citizens are forced to see. The nation was handed its third chance of a last dance to the sweet soul music of justice and fairness. This is the final curtain for a racialized nation that has danced around the sound of black rhythm and blues for four centuries, while in every town shedding the tears of a clown.
Four generations ago, James Baldwin, ‘Ghetto Prophet’, returned to the theology glossary from Galilee, and in anticipation of a flood of Floyds, framed the discourse in terms of “the fire next time”. Near nine Minneapolis minutes now represent the metaphor that is the nation’s clock, and every tick tock counts.
The first American dance with democracy did not end well for the black community that had fought the battle against Britain for freedom and was betrayed by the generals. The first blood to be spilt in the battle at Boston poured from the black body of Crispus Attucks on March 5, 1770. He was the first national hero of American liberty. But in victory, George Washington, first president of the Republic, vanquished the martyrdom of Crispus, and sent the blacks back to bondage, there to begin, again, their own battle for liberty within the nation that dangled the dream before wide open eyes.
The betrayal by the generals—now politicians and constitution framers—bought and booked their place forevermore at Mount Rushmore. Since then, cast in stony silence, they have looked down upon the monumental misery of blacks as if to say, “stay down and get back”. But the crime against humanity reflected in the hubris on the faces on Rushmore has tarnished the varnish. The white supremacy they upheld and enshrined in the culture of America is now crumbling around them in the desert they deserve.
The racist poison they poured into the well nurtured the nation. It is now torn and tortured by the notion that the freedom promised in the 19th century transcends the fear of COVID-19 in the 21st century. No water springs from the eyes of the Rushmore men. And spin, the White House men believe, will enable them to win, despite the protest of the people against the heresy and hypocrisy that produced a White House dedicated to freedom but built on the backs of enslaved blacks.
But the blacks, despite the chains and knees upon their necks, were never the prisoners of their past. The future they imagined is funky, not faked, filled with the promise of prosperity. We fought, fled, and forged movements from every deadly moment, pushing forward like a tidal wave for the free day, keeping hope alive while forgiving the sinners and enslavers, demanding deliverance without vengeance.
Then came the second American dance. The nation divided to the vein split rivers of blood, black and white, to prove that white freedom and black slavery cannot coexist as the basis of anything but death and destruction. And back to battle went the nation. The Civil war took with it millions of women, men and children before chattel bondage was removed from the books of plantations, factories and the Legislature.
But they were betrayed once again by the dream of a multi-colored democracy; America refused to let its blacks go and instead created Jim Crow, a creature designed to incarcerate the emancipated under apartheid laws that said blacks are at liberty to run loose but not free to forge the life snuffed from George. The second betrayal spread its evil acrimony across the United States now characterized as chokehold communities for persons branded by color.
The blacks fled the South, headed north and pushed west to Minneapolis where they stopped a while to breathe the fresh air denied them in the valley of the Mississippi. It was here, in Minnesota, in the middle of America, that the man George was crucified on concrete, so cold and calculated!
But the ‘Ghetto Angel’ unleashed the wrath of the wise world upon the wicked and their worshippers, and is now from above calling the nation to account. The man in the bunker is now like the boy on the moon, looking down from under, ‘biden time’, and hoping that the marches of millions, from Minneapolis to every other metropolis, can be halted by soldiers with his preference for dictatorship over democracy.
This is America’s third and last dance! There shall be no fourth. This is the beginning of the new ‘hope opera’. One way or another, it’s the end for ‘Uncle Ben’. For the concrete, it too shall crumble, and dust to dust, the dawn of a new dance to the peoples’ song; the melody of Martin, the exorcism of The X, and the drum base for the waist of Mosiah Garvey.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, 8th Vice-Chancellor of The UWI is a distinguished academic, international thought leader, United Nations committee official, and global public activist in the field of social justice and minority empowerment. He is also the President of Universities Caribbean, and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission.
As we witnessed the worldwide avalanche of demonstrations in the aftermath of the murder of Mr. George Floyd by a member of the Minneapolis police force in the USA, I had intended to write a Blog this week on "Stimulating a Worldwide Response to the Pain of being Black in America." However, I recalled correspondence sent to me by my Granddaughter, Chelsea and her Dad/my son, Abi. Their testimonials are the main features of this Blog. They assist more than any analysis I could have proffered in helping us to understand the lingering pain of experiencing injustices and the need for taking action now. The statement from Patrick Gordon, nephew and young advocate for the welfare of underserved youth advocates for harnessing the power to create change, banishing silence which comes from a place of fear and taking action that comes from a place of Love. In addition, the video clip sent to me by my colleague and friend, Prof. Compton Bourne, is an essential part of this blog. It shows his granddaughter, Darcy, leading a demonstration in London, England, that drew nationwide and worldwide attention and support. Darcy's and Chelsea's bold activism added to Patrick Gordon advocacy for change, give meaning to 'youth- taking action' and the hope for a future of Justice for All.
Letter from Chelsea Greene to the Principal and Staff of her All Girls Catholic High School in New Jersey and to Colleagues, Friends and Family
Hi Everyone, June 4, 2020
I just wanted to share the words that I sent to my high school due to their lack of response and the silencing of Black students. Many of our comments were removed from posts and they have yet to acknowledge anything that has been said on social media from their Alumni. Alumni of my high school and current students have finally decided to speak out against the school as their lack of support is now public. Alum from 2001, 1998, 2016, and more have shared their stories. Statements have been sent in by Black Alum, including one who currently is the only Black person on their alumni board.
We are still waiting on a response to any and all comments made. According to a friend whose mother is currently the president of the board, Sister Fran (the principal) said she has no plans on addressing us.
My name is Chelsea Greene and I am an alum from the Class of 2016. I'm reaching out to again share the statements made by myself and many other Black alums. Many of us faced discrimination from faculty, staff, and students at The Mount. I can say for myself; I am still processing the horrible things my friends and I experienced during our time. High School is a very important time in a young woman's life and what I learned in that time is that my skin color and what people thought of it always went over who I was as a person. Things were allowed to happen to Black students that would never happen to White students. Yesterday, my friend, Jeana Henderson, and I were extremely disappointed, but not surprised by the school's silence on what was happening in our country. Your alumni were looking for you, your current Black students were looking for you.
I can say for myself, that yesterday was the most therapeutic way of processing just a part of what I experienced. While I was there and spoke out about these issues, I was ignored by faculty, and bullied by classmates (called a liar, a horrible role model, and more). I wanted the sisterhood that was on every poster and an ad but never got it until now. I found sisterhood in the Black Alums sharing their stories of discrimination. I found sisterhood in current Black students messaging me and sharing their stories.
We are looking for you. We are looking to see you turn a new leaf. Leaving these comments unaddressed will continue to prove that Black students are not supported at this school. Your core values are "pride diversity and inclusion", but we have never seen them. Start the change. We begged for a change in 2016 and women before us probably did the same. I can only speak for myself, but I know some teachers want to do the work. Allow them. They are crucial to making the change. I know from my experience I can say that Ms. Zosche was a teacher that can help with this change. She was a crucial part of my high school experience. I know that she wanted to do the work. need everyone (board, administration, faculty, staff, any person involved, and connected to the school) to read every word. Read every word. Read the experience. Read the truth. Read the words of students.
Comments made and stories shared are included on my Facebook page
Your students. Your sisterhood.
Response to Chelsea from her Dad Abi Greene June 4, 2020
This is powerful and well said. I am sorry that you experienced this trauma. I am so proud of the person you are today and what you have accomplished while facing these obstacles. You gave me the strength to open up on a company forum and talk about my experiences with law enforcement since I moved to this country. Below is my email to my team inspired by you:
Love you always
Testimonial from Abi to the Team of Technology/Engineering Systems Designers he leads at a Financial Company in New York
Hi Team June 4, 2020
I just wanted to reach out and apologize for not being fully committed this week as I have been unable to focus. The incident that happened to George Floyd caused old wounds to resurface which I thought were a thing of the past. As a young college student (New York) doing everything right, I was removed from a bus and placed in handcuffs for running to catch that same bus to get to class. The explanation was that running with a big backpack full of books seemed suspicious. From that point on, I cut up my textbooks and only carried the chapters needed for class, stopped wearing hats, and made sure that my winter coats never had a hood. Needless to say, there were more encounters. The irony of this all is that I am alive today because of a good police officer who did everything to stop his partner from shooting me because I matched the description of an African-American FIVE FEET ELEVEN INCH male with a gun.* What happened to George Floyd brought the memories of steering into the gun and the police officer’s fingers on the trigger while clenching his lips in anticipation of the recoil, his partner screaming at the top of his lungs stand down, don’t shoot. I never reported any of my incidents out of fear and thinking what’s the use. My silence brings a great deal of guilt as possibly I could have been a voice for George Floyd and so many who have perished for being a person of color.
Again I apologize and am trying desperately to refocus
* Abi is 5feet 6.1/2inches
Patrick Gordon Co-founder and Executive Director | YES Initiative
Dear YES Community,
I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts regarding the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. I do not want to recite a standard corporate statement which looks good on social media, I want to tell you how I feel.
My heart has been bleeding and crying for my people these past few weeks. The pain of seeing someone that could be me, my mother or my niece. I have experienced every emotion from grief and anger to optimism and courage. But even now, when I feel most disillusioned with the notion of progress towards racial and social equality, I find hope. How? Because I choose to have hope. My mom said it well: “As a Black people in America, hope is all we have. If you’re not going to hope and keep fighting for a better future, you might roll over and go six feet under.” While the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are at the forefront of the news cycle, the protests are not just for them. This is why the conversation will continue. A 400+ year old problem cannot be solved with a few kind statements, money committed to fighting systemic racism, or changes in legal policies. It will take all of those elements and more, but most important it requires individuals to commit to changing actions and perspectives. It requires engaging in hard conversations, it requires sacrifice. Why do I choose hope? I choose to keep moving forward for our scholars who I love as if they were my younger siblings. I choose to keep going for my 2 year old niece Alex, My 8 month old nephew Deven, and my 2 day old nephew Taylor. Hell yes I am scared. I cannot bear the thought of losing one of them to an act of racist violence — but I will not let fear rule my actions. Now, now is the time to stand tall. To have courage, conviction, to be willing to do what is required of leaders, and we are all leaders. I believe every single person is a leader because there is at least one person in the world who will take your opinion to heart and truly listen. I believe in times of crisis it is simple, we either choose fear or we choose love. Accept the power you have to create change, there are people who will listen to you that will not listen to me, conversations you can have I cannot hear, spaces you will be in I will never walk in, take responsibility and be willing to do not what is easy but what is right. Get into action in your own circle, your own community, you don’t have to look much farther than what and who is immediately in front of you. Silence comes from a place of fear, Action comes from a place of Love - choose Love.
Darcy Bourne Leading a demonstration in London and Inspiring the World
Darcy’s leadership and her slogan “Why is Ending Racism a Debate?” has now gone viral in the United Kingdom and other countries. It is being promoted by models, movie stars, pop artists and sports stars around the world. These include footballers, David Beckham and Nikita Parris; athlete, Dana Asher-Smith; and formula 1 Champion, Lewis Hamilton. “Why is Ending Racism a Debate ?”is a profound question, perhaps, the most pertinent. it is inspiringly bold. Small wonder it has been posted in almost all the British newspapers, carried in news releases around the World, posted in British Vogue with other photographs on its Instagram. The image has also been tweeted by Malcom Luther King III, son of the late civil rights activist. Eighteen year -old Darcy Bourne is a member of the English under 21 English Hockey team in which few young blacks participate and indeed only four black women have represented Great Britain at the senior level. Darcy makes the point that the photographs of her slogan captivating the world "shows that no matter how big your platform is you can make a difference" . She certainly is.
Darcy Bourne, Chelsea Greene and Patrick Gordon
Regional Headquarters, Jamaica, June 1, 2020. The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, President of Universities Caribbean, and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission.
Martin Luther King Jr, when he felt he could not breathe came to Jamaica. When the threats to his life were constant and closing in around his neck, he took this measure to maintain his life. His visits to Jamaica’s north coast filled his lungs with the ‘freer’ air of our space. He returned to the mainland more battle ready for the struggle to achieve the God-given right to the dignity of black life.
Island and mainland have always been a common survival space. Borders cannot contain consciousness nor isolate the intellect. Martin was retracing the footsteps of Marcus, his mentor, the incomparable Mosiah Garvey who also travelled from this north coast—his ancestral home—to Harlem, there to dedicate his life to the struggle for the dignity of black life.
Garvey’s Jamaican voice was heard in every American community where the dignity of black life was denied. He would have flown to the side of George Floyd, and embraced his forlorn family while preparing to prosecute those who demeaned his dignity and denied his ‘livity’.
Marley, the Buffalo Soldier from this said north coast, was idolised by every African American who was empowered by ‘old Marcus Garvey’ to get up and stand up and defend their right to life with dignity.
Malcolm, socialised as an X West Indian, took up the struggle of the islands on the mainland, connecting the legacies of Marcus and Martin to the West Indian commitment to rightness, fairness, and dignity in plantation America.
Where there were plantation overseers there are now police officers. Through them, black life remains prime for deletion as if on the plantation.
This Minneapolis fight was Marcus Garvey’s fight; it was Martin’s fight; it was Malcolm’s fight; it was Marley’s fight. It’s a Caribbean fight and it’s a global fight.
West Indians have been in it all along. Professor Orlando Patterson, Harvard don, but bred and adorned at the Mona Campus of The UWI, told his MSNBC interviewer that what we have seen is a special breed of evil from the depth of hell. We must exorcise it, he said, and return it from whence it came.
Patterson spoke as a Caribbean scholar in America, the finest sociologist they have, on loan from us to them. His classic work, The Sociology of Slavery, shows us how history can haunt communities; how privileges from the past become the pain of the present.
From that horrible history when Europeans stole 15 million of our ancestors from Africa and scattered them across plantation America—the Caribbean getting the lion’s share—shattering family bonds, the future was cast in the concrete again, in which the face of George was crushed.
From that moment, when the British government in 1636, took the first step to legally classify all blacks in their colonies as non-human, chattel, property, and real estate and proceeded with their European partners to build and manage with it a global business model for 400 years, the greatest ‘financial juggernaut’ of world history, humanity was poisoned with the toxic pandemic of race hatred.
And from that date in 1783, when Chief Justice Mansfield of England, in the Zong Trial, boldly proclaimed that the blacks in the case before him are no different from so many horses, sheep, and goats, the poison had permeated every community in the western world.
It is this culture of centuries upon which the American nation is built that continues to choke the air from black lungs. The Americans won their national independence from Britain, and proceeded to retain slavery as the development model of the nation; the same model in which the western world defined and treated black people as animals. It is the legacy of this model, embedded in a national security institution that took the life of “Big Floyd”.
It is this licence to treat animal life as dispensable that led the pack of hunters to pin a citizen to the concrete, using the knee like a blunt knife to the throat for nine minutes, while posing and posturing like a fisherman in triumph over his catch of the day for all to see!
It is this cultural triumphalism of killing black prey that has caught afire the heart of a hitherto race hardened world made to participate virtually in an actual live extinction of life; typified by a dying man calling out for his deceased mother who at the moment answered her son because she knew it was time to call him home.
The UWI, too, has heard the call of George. We wish to invoke the memory of Marcus and Martin to bring to the islands young African Americans, here to breathe before returning to the mainland fight for dignity. We owe it to Martin, to Marcus, to Malcolm, and to Marley; and to all the ruptured minds of Minneapolis.
This is our cause. Every university that stands for freedom, justice, and the celebration of human dignity must stand up like a gorilla for justice for George. Minneapolis is just another place where our eyes have detected evil, beyond hate, that has erupted from the depth of hell.
Not only the souls of black folks have been scared forever by this latest event in the genocidal war against young black men; the soul of the world is awakened.
This week, every person on the planet who carries a spirit of love for humanity has become a protesting priest. We need our prophets now more than ever. The ‘old pirate has robbed I’ once again. And yet we shall rise!
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.