Who Has The Right to Be Violent?

Who gets to decide when violence is acceptable, moral, and even Christian? Who gets to decide that a brick in Baltimore is more violent than—just this week—a police officer’s gun in Louisiana, or, for that matter, a drone in Pakistan?

Who gets to decide when violence is acceptable, moral, and even Christian? Who gets to decide that a brick in Baltimore is more violent than—just this week—a police officer’s gun in Louisiana, or, for that matter, a drone in Pakistan?

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Jamye Wooten among activists who met with Senior White House Officials

#BlackLivesMatter activists meet White House officials


Activists met Wednesday with Valerie Jarrett and others in Washington.


WASHINGTON — Black Lives Matter activists, including select members of Campaign Zero, met with top White House officials on Wednesday, a senior administration official confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

Activists met with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, as well as Roy Austin, the deputy assistant to the president for urban affairs, and a collection of White House officials. The meeting focused on law enforcement and community policing with an emphasis on how to increase public safety locally.

A White House official said the administration emphasized the implementation of its recommendations from the 21st Century Task Force on Policing as a priority for reducing violence.

In addition to Jarrett and Austin, participants included Phil Agnew of the Dream Defenders; DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, and Johnetta Elzie of Campaign Zero; and Jamye Wooten, an organizer for Baltimore United for Change.

Campaign Zero activists also met with Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president earlier Wednesday.

“I look forward to a continuing dialogue with Campaign Zero and other voices from communities of color to address deeply entrenched racial and economic problems in our country,” Sanders said.


How The Black Lives Matter Movement Changed The Church

And the work that remains.


The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the pain and injustice of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012 and gathered momentum in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice and far too many others. The movement issued a call to action for people everywhere to recognize the reality of institutionalized racism.

Christian leaders around the country saw the movement as a critical opportunity to engage their church in conversations about race and privilege. The Huffington Post reached out to some of these leaders for their thoughts about how Black Lives Matter has changed the church — and the work that still needs to be done.


Rev. Jennifer Bailey

Founder of the Faith Matters Network, fellow at the Nathan Cummings Foundation and ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Nashville, Tennessee.

The Black Lives Matter movement awoke our national consciousness to the persistent system of white supremacy and structural racism that penetrates each of our institutions. By placing violence against black bodies at the center of the movement, BLM has demanded dignity and respect for those who are often disregarded as disposal. This summer, my denomination was hit particularly hard from the attack on Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, to the death of Sandra Bland, a young AME woman found dead in a jail cell in Texas. My prayer is that the specific pain and grief experienced in my church community this summer can be catalyzed toward concrete action and advocacy on issues ranging from police brutality to intergenerational poverty.

Credit: Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/TNS via Getty Images


I think American Christianity has been slow to get on board with the message of BLM out of fear and uncertainty. The gospel message of Jesus was, at its core, about embodying God’s love through affirming the inherent dignity of all peoples in general, and of marginalized peoples in particular. I believe BLM is issuing a challenge to the Church to enter into a deep sense of collective lament for the loss of life, repentance for our complicity in systems of white supremacy and courage to be led by those who may not fit our “traditional” models of leadership. I hope that there will be those in the Christian community who are bold enough to take on this challenge wholeheartedly.

A demonstrator holds a Sandra Bland sign during a vigil near the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

A demonstrator holds a Sandra Bland sign during a vigil near the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. | Credit: Christina K. Lee/Associated Press

Pastor Renita Marie Lamkin

Itinerant elder and pastor in the AME Church, St Charles, Missouri

Black and poor residents of Ferguson have been systematically and intentionally targeted, oppressed, vilified and ignored. The government, affluent white business owners and the greater region are no longer able to claim to be ignorant to the crisis of humanity so many have suffered for so long. The police, though having been exposed by residents and the Department of Justice, continue to practice over-aggression when arresting black citizens. At protests, white activists have been spoken to politely, as black activists were pulled off the sidewalks.

There is a deeper sense of awareness in the church to the levels of injustice being suffered by black and brown people in the greater St. Louis region. Churches have engaged difficult and uncomfortable conversations about race, complicities in white privilege and participation in white supremacy. The Church has broadened its embrace of the “other” and has begun celebrating the work of those who are in the struggle for justice. Clergy have been more visible and audible in their critique of the racist systems from which much oppression flows.

But more action is needed. Too often, meetings and community conversations are held in order to delay progress and to give the illusion of progress, all while the community remains broken. So, action to change the system is needed — not Band-Aid actions.

In this Aug. 25, 2014 file photo, Michael Brown Sr. yells out as the casket is lowered during the funeral service for his son Michael Brown in Normandy, Missouri.

In this Aug. 25, 2014 file photo, Michael Brown Sr. yells out as the casket is lowered during the funeral service for his son Michael Brown in Normandy, Missouri. | Credit: Richard Perry/New York Times via Associated Press Share on Pinterest


Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant

Senior pastor at Empowerment Temple, Baltimore

I think the religious community is now more intentionally integrated with the larger community. It took Freddie Gray’s death to realize how large and deep that wedge was. We are building one brick at a time to build up a generation that, generally speaking, wasn’t a part of anybody’s church. They believe in God, but they feel the church has been disconnected from what’s taking place in the community.

Much of what Jesus did didn’t happen in the temple. I think Gray’s death has caused the church to move outside the safety of stained-glass windows and really do ministry on the street.

In our own church, we opened up a Freddie Gray Youth Empowerment Center. We’re feeding 500 kids a day and offering them programs in mathematics, computer skills, fine arts and athletics. Without the Freddie Gray uprising, I’m confident it wouldn’t have happened.

Credit: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images


July had the highest monthly murder rate in Baltimore since 1972. We have a whole lot to do. The national debate is about aggressive policing, but we can’t do that while neglecting young people who are killing their neighbors.

I think Black Lives Matter has changed the black church. It’s given it license to embrace our ethnicity out loud. I think there’s a resurgence of the black power movement from the 1970s that hasn’t been as strong over the last 20 years. This generation has sparked a flame that was going to go out.

Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Jamye Wooten

Co-founder of Baltimore United For Change and publisher of KineticsLive, a faith-based news website covering social justice movements

We have seen a strong collaborative effort amongst grassroots and faith-based organizations. From summer camps and freedom schools to urban farming and the opening of recreation centers, many have stepped up to make a change in [the] lives of our youth and community. But the systemic and structural violence still remains — high unemployment, failing schools, vacant and abandoned homes and high rates of poverty still exist.

While I know many individuals of faith that are involved in this movement, the mass mobilization of youth across the nation has challenged many in the church to move beyond their comfort zone, behind the four walls of the church, and to come into the community. My prayer is that the church won’t solely concentrate on charity or social service ministry, something many of our churches are good at, but that they would advocate for just and righteous policies — living wages, affordable housing, quality education and the like.

Baltimore needs to make a commitment to invest in uptown the same way that they have invested in downtown. Black churches must make a commitment beyond charity and social services ministry and begin collaborating and pooling our collective resources for the upliftment and development of our communities.

Judy Scott grieves at the site where her son, Walter Scott, was shot and killed by North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Judy Scott grieves at the site where her son, Walter Scott, was shot and killed by North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, in North Charleston, South Carolina. | Credit: Mic Smith/Associated Press


Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III

Pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina, and vice president of religious affairs and external relations at the National Action Network

After the Emanuel Nine, we saw the flag come down. There was an outpouring of goodwill and beautiful words. We now have a body cameras bill for the whole state. But law doesn’t always change police behavior, as we saw in the case of Sandra Bland. We don’t need rhetoric, we need action.

In Charleston County, we still have a deeply segregated school system. Rev. Clementa Pinckney fought hard for the children of Charleston County. It’s easy to make wonderful statements about Rev. Pinckney, but to ignore his mission to bring change to the school district — that’s cheap grace. We need grace that has a cost.

To say that the Black Lives Matter movement has changed the church would make it appear as if, at one point, the church didn’t think black lives mattered. That’s not true. I reject the notion that there’s a generational divide. There were issues of passion and youthful expression at first, some impatience for what they perceived to be a slow process. We aren’t enemies, we’re on the same side. You shouldn’t be speaking about preachers in the church as though they’re your enemies, that’s insulting and disrespectful.

What Black Lives Matter did was push the envelope. They gave life to our leadership. Where we didn’t agree, we’re now able to have a conversation. We work with young people as they continue to do the work we can no longer do.


Jonathan Walton

Project director of InterVarsity’s New York City Urban Project, a faith-based leadership program that trains students to engage and act against injustice

The Black Lives Matter Movement has the potential to turn a moment into a movement, but must expand in depth and breadth to accomplish the task of justice and reconciliation.

First, we must know who we are as people made in the image of God made to work, flourish, rule and create to ensure the working, flourishing, ruling and creating of all of creation. Our identities must be fixed solely in that reality. 

Second, we must root our work for reconciliation in shalom and recognize the image of God in every person on the face of the planet. Because as we see ourselves rightly as ambassadors, given the ministry of reconciliation, then we can rightly see others.

Lastly, I believe that we must get as excited about policy shaping as we do about protesting. Personal, relational and systemic sinfulness needs personal, relational and systemic redemption; and that work is little, slow and fueled by prayer, long meetings and relationship building — not just marches, Twitter feeds and shouting matches on- and offline.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Troy Jackson

Director of the AMOS Project, a faith-based effort that organizes congregations to work for racial and economic justice in Cincinnati

What has changed after the shooting of Tamir Rice? My first reaction is that Tamir Rice is just one of the names of those who have lost lives senselessly to law enforcement in Ohio in the past twelve months. There was John Crawford III, Tanisha Anderson, Samuel Dubose. Ohio in 2015 has become Mississippi in 1955. Blacks are killed by police, and it is rare indeed to even get an indictment, let alone a conviction.

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.

We must heed the call to prayer, and we must heed the call to presence. As John 1:14 in the Message says, Jesus “became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” We must be present in our communities, supporting justice leaders, marching, strategizing, praying and bringing the powerful justice narrative of Scripture to bear in a broken world.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-the-blacklivesmatter-movement-changed-the-church

Jamye Wooten to Reflect on #BaltimoreUprising at the 2015 Duke Summer Institute for Reconciliation

Jamye Wooten has been invited by Rev. Dr. Curtiss DeYoung, executive director of the Community Renewal Society and Duke Professor, Edgardo Colon-Emeric to reflect on the current outcry in Baltimore for racial and economic justice, and the ongoing #blacklivesmatter movements.

lament collage

The Summer Institute for Reconciliation is fostered by a particular methodology that brings together learning and formation at the institute in a way that is at once theological, contextual, and practical. The curriculum revolves around four critical questions. These questions open us up to each other and to new possibilities as we respond in hopes of hearing the Holy Spirit’s words for the movement. In these four questions, we hope to turn toward life in the midst of death, toward the new ordering of the things in the Kingdom of God in the midst of the old order that is dying away in Christ.

The four questions are:

  1. Reconciliation toward what? This is the question relating to the goal, the end toward which God’s movement leads. We invite you through your individual, collective, and ongoing reflection on this question to form a Scriptural imagination of new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)—always pointing to the life of God in Jesus Christ, the source, goal, and purpose of Creation.
  2. What is going on? This is the question of context, which seeks to get to a clearer and deeper understanding of the specific challenges facing our communities. This question, maybe most importantly, invites you to pray, “How Long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13).
  3. What does hope look like? This is the question that engages hopeful models, stories, experiments, initiatives, visions, and practical skills that shape and sustain a better future. We invite you, through this question, to be hopeful people—to form a vision, imagination, and capacity for Christian hope (Luke 24:1–12).
  4. Why me, and why bother? This is the question that explores issues of personal vocation, calling, and formation. The question highlights practices, rhythms, and life-styles, convictions that sustain leadership even in the face of challenges and obstacles and invites you to form a deep and lively practical spirituality, which can sustain one’s leadership over the long haul.

The Summer Institute for Reconciliation is intended for:

  • Christians who are committed to the ongoing training and equipping of others, calling forth the gifts of the community to inspire, form, and support people to become ambassadors of God’s movement of hope; that foster a life together that is a witness to now being “the acceptable time,” now being the “day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
  • Grass-roots ministers and Christians living and working among people who suffer or are marginalized
  • Pastors with a desire for their congregations to become communities that live out alternatives to the destructive conflicts and social divisions that fragment our world
  • College, university, and seminary faculty and administrators training young Christians to live in the way of the Kingdom
  • Denominational and organizational leaders seeking to guide their organizations into new practices and structures that enable the flourishing of communities living out God’s vision of peace and justice
  • Every follower of Jesus Christ seeking to become an ambassador of God’s healing and wholeness

Why Baltimore’s protest movement is different than Ferguson’s

The Baltimore riots have led to something previously unseen in the post-Ferguson civil rights movement: the almost immediate formation of an organized coalition of activists, with black churches at its foundation.

A new grassroots group called Baltimore United for Change has been formed as a result of the current strife in Baltimore. The coalition includes student groups, established nonprofits like Casa De Maryland and several local churches, which are serving as safe harbors during times of unrest. Jamye Wooten, one of the group’s lead organizers, also spent time working with faith communities in Ferguson Action.

“We see churches across the country coming together,” says Wooten. “The black church has an essential role to play in the empowerment of our communities.”

Many of the organizations from Baltimore’s new coalition have been working together on local issues for years, but when tensions rose last Sunday, new groups joined their network. Within days they had a new website and a framework for organized cooperation. This week they held community dialogues and launched a crowd funding campaign for the legal fees of arrested protesters, which has raised over $44,000 so far.

“We needed to centralize information, organize our efforts and foster long-term commitment,” says Wooten. The Baltimore coalition quickly built an online network for an interfaith, multi-racial movement to change the criminal justice system.

The group’s first goal is to change the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which gives police a 10-day window before they are compelled to speak when being investigated for misconduct.  “We are working to build capacity that goes beyond reaction,” says Wooten, “not jump from flash point to flash point, but to cooperate together for sustainable change.”

Baltimore United for Change