Justice, Religion

Things I said today (#BlackLivesMatter)

This afternoon CLUE-LA together with a wide coalition of other community groups organized a protest and die-in at Los Angeles police headquarters, opposite the former site of Occupy LA. I was one of the local clergy who was asked to offer some thoughts about where we might go from here.

Eric Garner
Michael Brown
Tamir Rice
Ezell Ford
Dante Parker
We are here today to say that Black Lives Matter. We are here to say that Brown Lives Matter. We are here to say that the attitudes and the policies which contributed to the deaths of these unarmed black folks must stop today.
We are here to demand that when a cop shoots a civilian, the shooting will not be investigated by the people that work with those officers. We are here to demand that all officer involved shootings of unarmed civilians will be investigated—from crime scene forensics to grand jury indictment—by an independent prosecutor. If the police force is not seen as being accountable it will not be seen as legitimate. The accountability must come first. Only then will the legitimacy come.
At the same time, if we focus on the murder of young black and brown men and women, as if this problem exists in a vacuum, not impacted by other things happening in our communities, in our cities right now, we are doing ourselves, and the families of these victims a disservice. We are not telling the whole story.
Yesterday, I was out on skid row with a great organization called The Giving Spirit, not far from here, distributing survival kits—duffel bags with some food, and hats, and gloves, and umbrellas, and lip balm, and sun screen, and blankets, and other items for the winter. There are hundreds of people sleeping out on the streets of downtown LA, living on the streets in this city where other folks have more money than they know what to do with. If we are not also talking about the fact that LA has the second largest homeless population in the country, we are not telling the whole story. If we are not talking about economic inequality we are not telling the whole story. If we are not talking about the lack of economic opportunities in South LA and East LA we are not telling the whole story. If we are not talking about the disparities in schools between different parts of LA we are not telling the whole story.
Black Lives Matter and Brown Lives Matter and therefore people should earn a decent wage, and have the ability to organize, and have the power to create a life of beauty.
In the Jewish tradition, mourners say a prayer called the Kaddish. It is a challenging prayer as it is a praise of God. At the moment of deepest tragedy, what is offered is the demand to praise God. This is not an easy task. However, I would suggest that the purpose of the Kaddish is to give the mourner the ability to remind God, that God must be larger than this death. The mourners demand that God be larger and greater than this tragedy. In that demand the mourners reclaim their power and strength in the world.

I want to offer the Kaddish prayer here today for Eric Garner, for Michael Brown, for Tamir Rice, for Ezell Ford, for Dante Parker, Rumain Brisbon, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, John Crawford III, Tyree Woodson, Victor White III, Yvette Smith, McKenzie Cochran, Jordan Baker, Andy Lopez, Miriam Carey, Jonathan Ferrell, Carlos Alcis, Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr., Deion Fludd, Kimani Gray, Johnnie Kamahi Warren, Malissa Williams, Timothy Russell, Reynaldo Cuevas, Chavis Carter, Shantel Davis, , Sharmel Edwards, Tamon Robinson, Ervin Jefferson, for all the black and brown victims of police violence, as an invitation and a reminder to all of us that in our mourning and our anger there is strength. The strength and the power to demand that this stops here and this stops now. That the lives that were shattered cannot be rebuilt, but the communities that are shattered as a result can be and must be. That we can create a more just society, with police accountability and economic opportunity.

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