How to Bring Racial Justice into our Congregations and Faith Communities
Resources for Faith Communities Under Attack for Supporting the Movement for Black Lives
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"Please move away from the sidelines and unite together -- regardless of your faith or religious practice -- to seek an end to hatred and violence . . . What happened to our family is part of a larger attack on Black and Brown bodies . . . We call on all people, public officials, faith leaders and Americans from all walks of life to help address the festering sores of racism as it spurs an unforgiving culture of violence."
- Rev. Waltrina Middleton, longtime organizer, whose cousin Rev. Depayne Middleton, was killed in the massacre at Emanuel AME Church.
Is your faith community discerning what the next brave step is to show up for racial justice? Is your congregation considering hanging a #BlackLivesMatter banner? Has your banner or yard sign at your church been defaced, and you’re wondering how to respond or needing support? In this historic moment, now is the time for collective action. We offer this toolkit as support and inspiration for you efforts.
ORDER BANNERS, BUTTONS, YARD SIGNS, and more ways to show your support.
Some local Black Lives Matter chapters or SURJ chapters have their own signs or other materials. Contact them first to see if you can support them by purchasing directly from them.
Order BlackLivesMatter yard signs from SURJ here. All proceeds go to Black Lives Matter.
Denominational- Specific signs, banners, buttons, etc.
United Church of Christ:
2 MINUTE ACTION:
IN JUST ONE CLICK YOU CAN SPREAD THE WORD
Why do you wear a button/have a yard sign/have a banner, etc.? Share your reasons via social media (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.) as well as your faith community’s social media.
Use the hashtag #ISupportBlackLivesMatter
15 MINUTE ACTION:
CONTACT YOUR DENOMINATIONAL JUSTICE AND NEWS OFFICES
Ask them to help spread the word about your action.
30 MINUTE ACTION:
WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OR A BLOGPOST
Reach out to five neighbors or call five members of your faith community and talk to them about why you put up a lawn sign / care about Black Lives Matter and ask if they will join you.
1 HOUR + ACTION:
PUBLIC WITNESS ACTION
Create a public witness action (a worship service, preach-in, rituals of solidarity from your tradition, etc.) in solidarity with BlackLivesMatter and the importance of showing up for racial justice publically by hanging a banner, putting out a yard sign, etc.
(One example from Denver, CO)
1 HOUR + ACTION:
Coordinate banner-hanging and/or yard-sign campaigns with other faith communities where you live for an even broader impact.
1 HOUR + ACTION:
Join a Faith-Based campaign. A few listed below:
Created by Rev. Hannah Bonner
As people of faith and moral courage, we stand with Sandra Bland’s family to demand the Dept. of Justice open an investigation in the suspicious death of Sandra Bland, call for the immediate termination of Officer Brian Encina who unlawfully arrested her, and uphold the right of clergy and others to peacefully vigil free of intimidation, harassment and fear at the Waller County Jail where Sandra died.
Tell Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to Drop Charges Against #BlackLivesMatter by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel
We demand that Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson drop all criminal charges against the #MOA36 - 36 organizers and bystanders of a peaceful protest at the Mall of America in December 2014 supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets by the PICO network
Educational campaign on the death of Jordan Davis utilizing a film, sermon series, discussion guide, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How is this relevant to white people taking action for racial justice?
A: Black Lives Matter has asked white people to show up publicly to support the movement. White faith communities demonstrating their support publicly with banners, yard signs, and other other efforts, is a bold show of solidarity coming at a crucial historic moment.
Q: Is there a process our community must follow to hang a banner, etc.?
A: Each faith community’s decision-making process is unique. Because one of SURJ’s core values is Accountability to People of Color, we urge faith communities to be in conversation with their local Black Lives Matter chapter/leadership of color.
Q: Where can we get a banner, yard sign, or other item?
A: See the Action section above.
Q: What do we do if our banner, sign, etc. is vandalized?
A: If your banner, etc. is vandalized, this is a great opportunity to deepen your faith community’s commitment to anti-racism and to understand how racism works in our society. Some suggestions (adapted from a UUA resource):
- Alert your congregational leaders and denominational staff.
- Take care before notifying your local police. Be aware that increased police presence can have a harsh impact on communities of color. Be in conversation with your local leaders of color before deciding to call the police.
- Communicate to the whole congregation.
- Identify a spokesperson and contact your local media.
- Order a new banner and plan a rededication ceremony that will include all of the congregation, youth, children, and friends. Invite community partners, other faith leaders, local elected officials, and the media.
- Hold a worship service about Black Lives Matter.
- Host a congregational in-gathering to process feelings about the vandalism and the racism it reflects, with mindfulness of the differing impacts on People of Color and white people.
- Share your story with social media and your denominational news outlets.
- Continue your faithful work in support of and within the Black Lives Matter movement.
Check out these helpful articles, videos, and other resources regarding the importance of faith communities/leaders showing up for racial justice and Black Lives Matter:
A call to action for the church(es) after #AMEshooting by Sandhya Jha
“White people are ashamed to acknowledge explicitly what White privilege looks like. Here’s an easy one: Talk about the fact that you do not have to live in fear of racially motivated hate crimes by random strangers participating in anti-White organizations or fear that you or your children could be assaulted by those who have sworn to serve and protect you, all for the crime of going swimming, whether you live in Texas or Ohio or anywhere between or beyond. White supremacy protects you. You need to break the silence that keeps white supremacy in place.”
The Church’s Role in Keeping White Supremacy Alive by Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
“Lessons taught by mama and daddy, and "Rev" whomever, tend to stick with us. That we are still wrestling with white supremacy is testimony and testament to that fact. White people want -- need -- to say and believe that racism is gone, but it is not. White supremacy is a part of the red, white and blue called America.”
Why #AllLivesMatter is not a Christian Response to #BlackLivesMatter by Austin Channing
How can we continue with business as usual in our theological schools in the midst of so many egregious injustices?
A Theology of Liberation to Inspire White Anti-Racist Organizing. Interview with Rev. Ashley Horan
I also regularly show up myself, in a clerical collar, at all the local BLM events and identify myself by my title and organization whenever speaking to the media or folks who ask about where I serve. Showing up in "uniform," and speaking in my role as ED of a faith-based non-profit, are intentional choices for me - not to draw focus away from anyone else, but to prompt people to think about "unexpected" people acting publicly as allies for racial justice.
The Sacredness of Working to End White Supremacy. Interview with Rev. Anne Dunlap
We need as many nimble tools as possible for collective liberation. Besides the organizing work and just plain showing up for actions and such, some other tools for white folk who claim to be Christian include: 1) recovering and immersing ourselves in the liberative and revolutionary sources, biblical and theological, of Christian tradition, and sharing and embodying those. This includes perpetually reminding ourselves that the Bible is not the victory handbook of the Empire, but the outcry and deeply human wrestlings of the oppressed.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Speaks on White Racial Justice Organizing in Black Lives Matter Times. Interview with JVP organizers.
So we are both facing enormous solemnity and urgency and obligation to do the work we need to do to make real change, and we can also celebrate the hope that comes from feeling, really feeling, how much this movement is growing and how much more growth we are still poised to bring. So it's all true and all part of how we think about effectiveness: the urgency and the hope; the mourning and the determinatio;, the spark of transformation; and the building of community...Our work is not to convince people of our knowledge, but to give people room to respond to the fire of their own truth.
LGBTQ Faith Leaders:
By Sarah von Gelder, interview with Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
Now the leadership that is emerging are the folks who have been in the street, who have been tear-gassed. The leadership is black, poor, queer, women. It presents in a different way. It's a revolutionary aesthetic. It's black women, queer women, single mothers, poor black boys with records, kids with tattoos on their faces who sag their pants. These folks embody intersectionality.
Why LGBTQ Clergy Are Standing Up For Black Lives Matter by Antonia Blumberg
LGBTQ rights and other social justice issues have been central to Black Lives Matter from the start, as Alicia Garza, one of its founders, emphasized on the group's website: Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.
Black LGBT Faith Leaders on Why Black Lives Matter by Stevie St. John
With violence — particularly police violence — against African-Americans in the spotlight, many religious groups took part in a demonstration of solidarity. A coalition of LGBT-inclusive religious bodies joined in and encouraged others to do so.
Disciples of Christ (DOC):
Only Black Deaths Matter by Rev. Dr William J. Barber, II
If the nation gets real sustained pastoral counseling, then, as Denise Quarles, the daughter of Emanuel victim Myra Thompson, said: “On the other side of that tragedy, we see a lot of positives coming out. Maybe people will change their hearts.” Maybe we can be redeemed. Maybe we can do the real work of addressing the catastrophe of institutional racism. Maybe. Let us believe in maybe. This nation needs prophetic pastoral counseling at a time like this. But as any good counselor knows, it will be up to us to do the work, and that is yet to be seen.
Lately there is much conversation and soul-searching in the Episcopal Church on the topic of race and our national legacy of slavery and segregation (in which our church shares).
It is a long overdue discussion.
Christ Episcopal Church in Seattle, WA shares their experience of hanging a Black Lives Matter Banner, and it being defaced:
We recognize that the fact of this desecration indicates the kinds of sentiment we're up against as we strive to uphold the dignity of every human life, especially, at this moment, Black lives. We recognize that the violation we experienced is only one small part of the violence that many in our world face every day, and our experience of it only serves to deepen our empathy and solidarity with them. A banner can be replaced; unique human life, created in the image of God, cannot.
The Power of “Prophetic” Grief by Marian Wright Edelman
Prophetic grief can spur action and change, and Rev. [Otis] Moss, Jr. urged that instead of focusing on the murderer we need to focus on the larger culture that fosters hatred and violence.
How the Black Lives Matter Movement Changed the Church by Antonia Blumberg and Carol Kuruvilla
Black Lives Matter has served as a prophetic voice to the church and to our society. They are calling people of faith to examine our values, and to decide if we want to continue to be chaplains to an empire that devalues the lives of so many, or whether we will join them as prophets of the resistance. They ask the church a critical question: "What side are you on?" The church can either declare we are on the side of the Exodus, the Resurrection, or we can walk away sad like the rich young ruler, for we have far too much invested in the American empire that is infused with white supremacy.
Learning and Unlearning White Supremacy by Andrew Krinks
For those of us in Christian communities, we must continue to learn that, because humans embody something of the divine—“God’s image”—and because the Hebrew Bible and New Testament tell us that we encounter God in others, any act or process of de-humanization should be understood as what the tradition calls “sin.” White supremacy in all its forms constitutes “sin” because it originated with and continues as a process of social fragmentation, dehumanization, and death.
Black Lives Matter: A Call to Conscience by Rev. John H. Vaughn
What is the role of faith communities in this movement? That is the question I had when I headed off to Cleveland last week for the movement’s first national convening. And it is the question I am still asking, a week later. No question, the gathering was spiritual. It was present in the songs, chants, laughter and interpersonal connections. But where were the faith communities? As the only clergy visibly present (I wore my collar), I began to realize that the Black Lives Matter movement is doing what many of our faith communities are still struggling towards.
I am a White Christian and Black Lives Matter by Rev. Peter Goodwin Heltzel
America's heart is broken because of the heinous racial murders and devastating church burnings in southern states. As a white southern Christian transplanted in New York City, I recognize the sociology of white supremacy leading to these devastating crimes and stand firmly against the actions of the perpetrators.
How #BlackLivesMatter Changed My Theology, Sojourners Contributors
We asked people of faith: how has the Black Lives Matter movement shaped your theology?
10 Rules for Engagement for White Jews Joining the #BlackLivesMatter Movement By Rabbi Susan Talve and Sarah Barasch-Hagans
Why We Must Work to Undo Racism as Jews? by Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Because a beloved leader and member of our congregation, a Jew of color, urged us to and then she died. We do this work in part to honor her memory...Because we are beyond sick at the number of young Black people killed by the police just this year...Therefore our learning spread and many of us lit public Chanukah candles candles that helped light up and support #BlackLivesMatter...We are Jews in a 22-year-old congregation that is progressive and inclusive and it took us 19 years to start working on racism.
For the Sin of Racism: A Racial Justice Vidui (Yom Kippur)
By Sarah Barasch-Hagans. This is a racial justice addition to the Vidui prayer on Yom Kippur. It should be inserted before the Classification of Transgressions. Sarah describes what inspired the vidui on this page.
I am Muslim and I am Black Lives Matter by Linda Sarsour
Black lives don't matter. But they do in Islam. Since the founding of Islam, Black lives mattered. My faith informs my role and commitment to standing up against injustice and to work towards creating a world where Black life is valued as equally as any life.
I used to believe I lived in a post-racial society, that I was “color blind.” And then…I used to believe that Pagans couldn’t be racist. Yet within the broader Pagan communities, we do unfortunately have problems with racism just like the dominant culture does.
But what do we do about it? Because #BlackLivesMatter.
Includes links to a wide range of public statements issued by Pagan organizations regarding Black Lives Matter.
#SpeakAntiRacism campaign of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (includes resource list)
Why Black Lives Matter (sermon)
Quaker/American Friends Service Committee:
Dominique Stevenson, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Friend of a Friend program in Baltimore, Maryland: #Black Lives Matter: Why we can’t wait
AFSC has a history of standing with marginalized groups and working on unpopular issues. We will use our resources to convene people to ascertain how they can best support this movement. We invite other groups with resources to do the same. Now is the time to renew the spirit of our activism. Now is the time to stand with those who have had to remind the world that #BlackLivesMatter.
“Undoing Racism” resources from American Friends Service Committee
“I am a white person who recently participated in #millionsmarchnyc as part of #BlackLivesMatter. As a queer, gender-queer person, I know about some forms of oppression, but I didn’t want my own unconscious racism, entitlement, and unexamined privilege to perpetuate the pathology and systems we were there to protest. So I came up with some guidelines for myself while participating in public demonstrations against racism and police violence. One thing I’m figuring out is that it is important for me as a white ally to engage in anti-racism work with other white people. Racism is a white person problem, not a black person problem. We as white people need to be talking to each other about it. So with that in mind, I feel led to share my personal guidelines and am open to any feedback.”
“Reflections After Ferguson October by Liz Oppenheimer
“One tool Quakers frequently turn to is the use of reflecting on queries -- thought-provoking questions that aspire to awaken the Inward Teacher/Inner Light in all of us; questions that can be used to draw a gathered community into shared reflection and deep consideration of how the Loving Divine Principle might be speaking to us in new or trying times...Does your checkbook or calendar provide evidence of your active commitment to racial justice? What inward preparations are you or your worship community making, in terms of civil disobedience, speaking Truth to power, etc.? What are some outward preparations you can pursue?”
Preferential Option for #BlackLivesMatter by Victoria Welle
God’s universal love extends to everyone, but God has a special concern for those most in need of justice and mercy, and that special concern does not diminish or take away from God’s universal love for all of us. If we are people of faith, we are called to also show that preferential love and concern, and sometimes that means taking a side.
Sikh-Americans Should Show Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter by Simran Kaur-Colbert
The Sikh Desi (South-Asian) American community must seek our Kirpans, call upon our spiritual wisdom and endeavor to address systemic racism, the inequalities it fuels and the violent toll it threatens to take on our congregations and sangats as it has this past month for African-American Christians, in the form of a violent and deadly hate crime/terrorist attack.
Standing on the Side of Love: The Power of the Black Lives Matter Banner (including suggestions if it is vandalized, news pieces, and other resources).
United Church of Christ:
UCC news pieces on UCC congregations that have hung BLM banners:
Rev. Dr. Alice Hunt, President of Chicago Theological Seminary: Calling Out Racism is Love Speech, Not Hate Speech
Those who are offended by the post are likely reading it incorrectly. We are not saying that all White people are racists. We are saying White Americans need to work harder to see racism. We are not saying that if you are White, you are a racist. We are saying White racism is a problem that needs to be highlighted. We are not saying that if you are Black, you cannot be a racist. We are merely making the point that persons of color know all too well the effects of racism.
SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills, and political analysis to act for change.
For more information please visit our website: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/
Thanks so much to everyone who contributed your time, energy, work and feedback to create this Action Kit. It would not have been possible without you!