VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 2017 CLERGY AND LAY LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
INWARD JOURNEY: RETURN, REMEMBER AND RENEW
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 2017 CLERGY AND LAY LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
INWARD JOURNEY: RETURN, REMEMBER AND RENEW
Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith,
In what is called “the birthplace and the deathbed of the Confederacy,” a historic marker remembering the brutal lynching of Anthony Crawford was unveiled in Abbeville, South Carolina, 100 years after his death.
The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) was a participant and partner in the event, along with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), conducting a service of consecration as a part of its “Sacred Memory Project” which has recently been launched. Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary of SDPC, reminded all that they were standing on “holy ground.” At that service, soil from the lynching site was dropped into a jar with Crawford’s name on it by family members. The Rev. Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside United Church of Christ and a member of the Board of Trustees of SDPC, delivered a message that reminded the group that black people have not disappeared, in spite of the attempt to bury their history.
The jar containing soil from the site will be placed with the growing number of such jars being created and collected by EJI as a part of its Lynching Marker Project as it travels to lynching sites throughout the South to remember the nameless many who were lynched and left to anonymity. The jars will ultimately be placed in EJI’s National Lynching Museum, which is under construction.
It was ironic that the week-end’s activities began in Jefferson Davis Park, in the shadow of the Burk-Stark Mansion, where Jefferson Davis is said to have fled after the Confederates were defeated in Richmond, Virginia at the end of the Civil War. It was at that time that Jefferson and his cabinet decided to dissolve the Confederacy. It was also in Abbeville that South Carolina, on a location in the city now known as Secession Hill, led the exodus of Southern states from the Union in protest against the Union interfering in what the South believed was its right to hold onto slavery.
This weekend, Freedom Schools were held on that land, in that park, with participants being taught the history of lynching, its connection to present-day mass incarceration, and the history of African Americans in the South as white supremacy allowed them to be massacred and forgotten without ceremony. After the day of teaching, the activities moved to the Abbeville Town Square, near the site of the actual Crawford lynching, where the service of consecration of the land took place.
The next day, the historic marker was unveiled by Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of EJI, as the gathered crowd cheered the moment. There were tears. There was silence. There was celebration. Crawford was immortalized, as were other black men lynched during the same spate of time. At his prodding, the group chanted out loud, “We are here!”
The push to get the marker was largely the work of Doria Johnson, PhD candidate in history at the University of Wisconsin, and scholar-in-residence of SDPC. Crawford was her great-great grandfather. While the details of his death were often too painful for the family to even want to talk about, Johnson felt compelled to make his story known. Her great-great grandfather was a wealthy black man whose murder was followed by the Crawford family being ordered out of Abbeville. Not only did the Crawford family flee, but so did half of the black population of the city. The exodus of black families following lynchings was a common occurrence in the South, and was a major cause of the Great Migration.
Following the unveiling of the historic marker, the gathered group which included Crawford family members who now live in states as far away as California, Illinois and Pennsylvania, moved to Cypress Chapel AME Church, where Crawford was a member. Family members gave testimony of what it meant to be a Crawford, and how their heritage and history had been greatly deepened by participating in the week-end’s activities. Some said they had never heard the story of Crawford’s lynching. They were clearly moved, and vowed that they would tell the story to their children. The legacy, they said, would continue.
Young Abbeville high school students who wrote essays as part of EJI’s Racial Justice Essay Contest were awarded scholarships at the church service.
When one visits Abbeville or, in fact, any of the cities in the South where blacks were used for economic gain and brutalized by loose, white mobs, there have been, up to now, no hints of their presence or their work. The work by SDPC and EJI will change that reality, bringing America and Americans to a place of reckoning that they have been reluctant and resistant to talk about.
The project of “sacred memory” will go forward, said Dr. Carruthers. “We will no longer allow our history to remain hidden.”
Early this morning, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. sent a ministry resource document, We Will Never Give Up to help faith leaders personally to deal with their own feelings about the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of white police officers, and to also equip them to bring a word of hope to the people who will be sitting in their pews on Sunday.
Now, we come again, to say we embrace and pray for any and all people whose lives have been disrupted by hatred and violence, including the families of officers who were killed in Dallas on Thursday evening. These officers serve in one of the most racially diverse departments in the nation. The God we serve demands that we do that, and in praying for others, we invariably strengthen our own tender souls. It seems that the words of Psalm 11:5, which we quote in our resource document, have surely come to meet us face to face: “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence.”
We have been overwhelmed and affirmed by the appreciation being expressed for our resources during this trying time. We are getting additional requests to share other resources. Surely, only God can guide through such a mangled, manipulated and messy machination of the truth as African Americans know it to be.
We are now suggesting that you also consider the following additional resources in light of the Dallas tragedy: the profound reflections by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Ms. Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown. Additionally, a hauntingly prophetic word, Freedom Movement Speech by Dr. King, delivered in Chicago, July 10, 1966, and a post-Dallas message from an elder who supported our Ministry Resource Guide, which we have updated for your continued circulation and posting.
Please continue to send us your thoughts and ideas. We are trying to be a messenger in the Watch Tower as we journey with the pain, confusion, frustration, anger and angst felt by us all.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
Communications Consultant, SDPC
The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Family
The Civil Society Task Force of the United Nations selected nine persons to present their point of view and recommendations for the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problems. Dr. Iva Carruthers was selected to represent the faith community; she was the only U.S. citizen who presented. The statement follows.
CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM EVENT – APRIL 18, 2016
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION (UNGASS)
REMARKS REV. DR. IVA E. CARRUTHERS
General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
I thank you for the opportunity to share a faith lens on the issues related to global drug problems and the search for policies to address the many problematics associated with them.
I serve as general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference an NGO of the UN. I am here representing the global interfaith community; additionally, I am here as a U.S. citizen of African descent. The SDPC is a partner in the interfaith movement to declare and support the call for harm reduction strategies as the centerpiece of strengthening the global response to the world drug problem.
More often than not, the lens of the faith community is missing from the discourse. Our point of view is important because spiritual, religious and faith factors are always at play with humankind and significantly inform individuals’ use of drugs and policy makers’ responses to drug use. For too long, member states have generally been on a path that is directed by and grounded in policies which are punitive, dehumanizing and result in over criminalization. The interfaith movement brings and elevates the imperative of affirming the moral center and moral authority which emanates from the sacred views inherent in all of humanity.
All over the world, global drug policies and punitive responses to addiction have resulted in the devastation of individuals, families and entire communities who continue to suffer the collateral damage from systems and practices that continue to marginalize and disempower them.
To be sure, U.S. policies disproportionately impact global policy. The 1970’s declaration of a War on Drugs in the US has resulted in intergenerational human devastation and trauma. It has cost over a trillion dollars and has resulted in a system of mass incarceration where now the US who represents 5% of the world’s population holds 25% of the world’s incarcerated in its jails and prisons. And, the current trend towards privatization of prisons only exacerbates the commodification of the incarcerated.
The disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs upon communities of color and poor people has mobilized a profound commitment of the interfaith movement to dismantle, reform and transform the system. To that end, interfaith leaders from around the world are present at this UNGASS to declare our collective support and mandate for drug policy reform which prioritizes human dignity, equality and social justice. Our voices and points of view are reverberating throughout UNGASS. This cycle of injustice, moral injury, and human violation must be interrupted. For us, this is not an event. We know this is not easy work and we are committed to stay the course beyond UNGASS.
We attest to the fact that people from all faith, spiritual and religious traditions are negatively impacted by drug addiction, individually and corporately. We recognize that addiction is often caused and intricately related to generational systems of poverty, racism, sexism, oppression and community marginalization. What is needed are investments in health systems and opportunities for rehabilitation from addiction. What is needed are policies that interrupt the global drug trafficking which only furthers the untold human rights violations, massive corruption and violence being experienced by so many on a world wide scale.
In the U.S. context, the War on Drugs has become a War on People. It has been noted that its practices and consequences manifest the characteristics identified by the United Nations as genocide. It is horrific and the trends towards prison privatization is but a reinvention of the American slave system. It must be dismantled. Our faith partners, such as the Exodus Foundation, have created evidence based best reentry practices and begun a movement calling for commutation of 50,000 non violent drug offenders.
In conclusion, we urge representatives of member states to dig deep in their hearts, examine their national policies and embrace a new way forward that values an agenda to reduce supply and lower demand; that acknowledges the intersectionality of policies related to drug production and trade agreements; HIV prevention, law enforcement and sentencing policies; public health practices; and above all, human rights.
We call on member states to recognize and acknowledge the collateral consequences and harm that has been done to families and communities; and undertake a holistic course correction towards global drug policy reform focused on prevention, treatment, compassion and care.
We call on member states to prioritize and embrace specific policies which further harm reduction, including the decriminalization, destigmatization and dehumanization associated with current policies and move towards the creation of safe and health-based environments for those addicted.
To these ends, we call on member states to engage spiritual, interfaith and multifaith leadership and community based networks to participate in the planning, design and implementation of harm reduction strategies and models to reform and transform global drug policies.