Reflections

A collection of my musings, notes, and assignments.

Theology + Policing Cohort

Reflection 1: The Power of Worship

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!

Psalms 42:11

What a powerful way to begin such an incredible journey! I am so pleased to announce that I will be joining a powerful cohort of faith leaders, theologians, and community-based activists as part of Sojourners’ and Howard University’s Theology, Racialized Policing, and Justice Reform Summer Program. The first session focused on the power of worship in liberation movements.

The act of praise itself can be freeing. When a voice is lifted in worship, it sings in harmony with all Creation. In moments where the World has worked to marginalize us, separate us, dehumanize us, and jail us, praise is an incredible reminder that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

Bishop Darren Ferguson graciously shared his own testimony. He was saved on Rikers Island and preached his first sermon in Sing Sing Correctional Facility. It was the fellowship of the church that welcomed him home after his release. Before we legalize, legislate, reform, like Bishop Ferguson’s community, we are called to love, protect, and care for those that will be suffering for the rest of their lives for one mistake. It is our job as Christians to bring this suffering to an end. “As Christians,” Bishop Ferguson says, “we cannot serve a man who was a victim of capital punishment unless we do something about all forms of punishment, to make them humane, to make them right, and to solve all problems in this country.”

Like the Bishop, the Christ was imprisoned. The Christ was separated from his family and dehumanized, and ultimately He was executed by the state. Matthew 25:40 says “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.’” To deny an incarcerated person’s humanity denies the humanity of the man on earth who died for our sins. To praise Him puts us in community with everyone — most importantly the outcasts among us, as the Christ himself was an outcast.

Worship and praise are not always feel-good actions. Yes, we worship our Creator by singing, dancing, and being in fellowship, but we also honor Him by fighting for his children here on earth. God’s marvelous light is not just upon us as we sing hymns, it shines on us as we protest, as we organize, as we provide space for the anger and hurt that comes before the healing. That work is hard. That work is heavy. But as we are called to praise God with every breath, that is also the work we are called to do.

A Daily Word:

Hebrews 13:3 tells us to "remember those in bonds, as if we we're bound with them." When legally innocent people are detained pre-trial, separated from their families, and asked to buy their freedom, it's on all of us to step up.

Climate Justice Is Racial Justice

We were told to conserve our power this week in TX to avoid another catastrophic blackout. Thanks to that and Sunday’s Last Week Tonight episode about summer heat in prisons, it’s time to talk about climate change’s threat to the lives of poor, Black, and brown Americans.

Climate change is real and the increasing occurrence of extreme temperatures can be life threatening in a prison or jail with no climate control. For our neighbors on the inside, extreme temps are especially dangerous. Internal temperatures in correctional facilities in Arizona and Texas can be in high the 90s, and residents have no access to relief. During February’s blackout, incarcerated people were freezing in cells with no power, heat, or water, while Texas experienced the lowest temperatures in 100 years. Bottled water was scarce and toilets were filled to the brim.

According to Last Week Tonight, most people in prisons and jails already have disabilities. They are already at high risk of injury & illness, and now - thanks to extreme temperatures - death. The expectation that human beings should freeze or roast as punishment is inhumane and cruel. Across Texas, it was estimated 200 people died in the blackout, and that number is likely an undercount. Most of those people were Black and brown, houseless people, and children who inhaled smoke while adults burned furniture and fencing to stay warm. All while rich state leaders were vacationing overseas. Per our elected officials, the energy crisis is “too expensive to fix.” In a state whose leader wants to spend billions of dollars on a border wall, it’s “too expensive” to provide electricity to constituents and life saving climate control to people in custody of the state.

This week, the people of Texas were asked to decide between hot showers and hot laundry to “prevent another crisis” like the one we saw in February. That is disgusting. Individual actions don’t stack up against the failure of the state. We cannot and should not pick up your slack. Texas outsourced a public utility to a corporation that chose profit over human life. If a summer blackout causes a heat exhaustion injury or death to incarcerated, low-income, or elderly people, that blood is on the state’s hands.

As temperatures continue to get more extreme in both directions, states must consider the impact that climate change has on all of us and that climate injustice has on the least among us. States must choose to put their constituents first — before big business and before profit.

Climate change is taking our lives. As temperatures get more extreme, more incarcerated people will die. In low income neighborhoods that are the first-afflicted and last-assisted, more POC will die. This isn't a crisis - it's a death sentence.

Remembering the tragedy in Tulsa

100 years ago today, a white mob - with the US National Guard - bombed and burned the wealthiest Black community in America, Black Wall Street, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is one of the biggest losses of Black life & deadliest acts of terror in American history.

State violence against us isn’t new - Black people continue to be terrorized by the same forces that terrorized our fathers and our grandfathers. The same forces that shaped this country.

When we protest, we protest the pain and terror and death felt by generations. 100 years later, we still wonder what it will take to get you to love us. To recognize our pain, our lamentations, and the weight that we carry every single day. Is it a pandemic? Is it violence caught on film? Is it a building that was burned after you burned us? What will it take? Buildings will burn down, windows will get broken, but we will never be able to replace the lives and communities lost.

Today, on this bloody anniversary, ask yourself — what side of history are you on? When the smoke clears, where will you stand? There are no more excuses.

When Jesus saw the pain that Lazarus’ death caused his family & community, He knew He had all the power to stop the suffering, and yet, He wept. Their pain broke Him. Every day we are weeping for the Black lives lost, and Jesus weeps for us. Do you? Judgement day is today.

I am a Christian woman. I am also pro-choice.

Today, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that would ban abortions as early as six weeks. Six weeks pregnant means your period is just two weeks late. I have an irregular cycle — people like me might not even know they’re pregnant before it’s too late to choose. This isn’t the world I want for myself, my sisters, or my future daughters. As a Christian, I believe that we deserve a choice.

There is a lot of literature documenting that early cultures didn’t determine a pregnancy was even viable until the baby kicked. “Life begins at conception” is a revisionist, modern Christian concept. Mary didn’t tell Joseph she was pregnant for 4 months.

Elizabeth hid her pregnancy for 5 months. When she heard Mary’s voice, her baby jumped with joy. It was then, when the baby moved, that she was filled with the Holy Spirit. In most of human history, that’s when unborn babies were considered “living.”

Before you claim blasphemy, if your problem is someone “killing a baby,” before modern medicine, most pregnancies didn’t lead to healthy babies. Women did not expect that a fetus was “living” before it was moving. Christian scholars have said as much throughout history. The concept of “life beginning at conception” began when the rates of successful, live births began to rise due to scientific advances in medicine. Historical analysis is essential.

To me, Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:14 are two of the most beautiful and powerful verses. Though I believe those words, most of the world is not Christian. It’s not our job to hold other people to subjective religious standards that are younger than the modern camera.

As a Christian who wants to be more like the Christ, not Ronald Reagan, I don’t care about holding other people to a subjective religious moral standard. I care about love, justice, liberty, and protection for my brothers, sisters, and siblings who are already here on Earth.

Rest In Peace Adam Toledo

My faith is a foundational part of me, and as I’ve grown this year, it’s grown too. I don’t think I believe in “Satan” anymore. The Devil isn’t a bearded red man living in the basement. The Devil is the institution allowing a police force to execute a child.

The Christ came so that we might have life, but the Enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Boys don’t get to be young, and men don’t get to grow old. That time is stolen. Children are killed by police on camera. Families are destroyed. That’s the Devil, right here on earth.

A Daily Word:

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. An important reminder to let directly impacted people lead the movements that liberate them — regardless of job title, clout, advanced degrees, etc.

Dear President Biden, do not end mail in prisons.

In 2019, a federal prison contractor began a pilot program to eliminate physical mail in federal prisons. The Biden administration has chosen to continue the pilot. During COVID, physical mail is one of the only ways families can keep in contact and is by far the most affordable. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, phone calls from jails went up during the pandemic, despite falling jail populations. Costs of these calls fall on incarcerated people & their families and mail is one way to keep those costs down.

Politicians are not your idols or your friends. They work for us and we, the people, deserve accountability. While the mail elimination started under President Trump, choosing to continue with the program makes President Biden complicit in the potential end of affordable communication for thousands.

This shift to digital-only is an attempt to siphon wealth from incarcerated people & their families. Postage prices are regulated by the US Postal Service. Without mail, prisons can charge per minute to view content that would be free on the outside on state-owned iPads and computers.

The President’s move to end the use of federal private prisons is a red herring. The entire system is for profit. The entire system steals from incarcerated people and their families. If the administration is serious about ending cash grabs, ending this program and preserving physical mail is one way to do it.

What is “justice” for Breonna Taylor?

I know Breonna’s mother wanted charges for the man who killed her daughter, and that woman deserves everything she wants. But I struggle with the idea that criminal charges would have been “justice.” Justice would be Breonna alive today. Justice would be fewer armed cops so that no family suffers like this again.

It’s okay to be shocked and outraged today. But know that there was never a way that the current system was going to heal the harm it caused. A few broken windows and the career of a boot-licking politician will always be worth more than a black life. There is no reforming this.

Feminists who were ready to burn everything to the ground when RBG passed - the criminal legal system is an affront to women everywhere, including Breonna Taylor. Put that energy to use & donate to the Louisville Bail Fund. This is feminist action.

Pray for those affected by Hurricane Laura

Do not look away from Hurricane Laura. Majority black and largely rural gulf coast communities have already been battered by COVID and a lack of health resources. Coastal erosion leaves little protection from the strongest storm in 100 years. America’s failings are compounded here.

My family is safe for now, but many others are not. Some don’t have the resources to escape or anywhere to go. Some will be battling the virus while the storm hits. Some will be stuck in prisons and jails. Please pray over them.

Don’t believe in a better world.

Build it.

Learn to do right; seek justice, correct oppression. Bring justice to the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause.

- Isaiah 1:17

© 2021 Project 117

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