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Working for Racial Justice

Native American speaker calls for truth and reconciliation commission

WCRC should 'seek ways to make restitution to tribal people'

by Jerry Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service   [6-30-10]

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A renowned Native American leader appealed to the newly created World Communion of Reformed Churches to establish a truth and reconciliation-like commission to "seek ways to make restitution to tribal people" for the churches' complicity in "co-opting the Bible as a tool of colonialism and imperialism" in North America over the last 400 years.

Richard Twiss, a Lakota/Sioux originally from South Dakota and now living near Portland, Ore., said such a commission — comprising indigenous people from North America and the global South — is necessary to overcome "cowboy theology," which he said has perpetuated "a distinct evangelical bias against Native and indigenous culture and ways."

The "demonizing" of Native religious expressions means that "most (Native American) people reject Christianity because they consider it a white man’s religion," Twiss said, "and it breaks my heart because Jesus is the hope of the world in all its brokenness."

Twiss, who became Christian in 1974 while in the depths of drug and alcohol addiction, said “following Jesus started out very simple ... but then becoming a Christian became very complicated” as institutionalized churches insisted that Native American cultural and religious expressions were unacceptable. "I had to change my clothes, cut my hair, play different musical instruments — just a drum wasn’t good enough anymore. We were never allowed and never learned to contextualize the gospel in our culture," he said.

The story of Native American suppression "is the worst occurrence of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the history of the world," Twiss said. War and disease reduced the Native population in North America from some 50 million in 1400 to barely 230,000 in 1895. "But perhaps what makes the story most tragic is that so much of this was the result of the misappropriation of the biblical narrative that was co-opted as a tool of colonial imperialism."

But Twiss sees signs of hope in the emerging missiological model called "missio Dei" ("mission of God"), which, he said, "points to the radical communal nature of God" rather than focusing on the institutional nature of the church.

"God's very nature is missionary. It is not primarily about the propagation or transmission of intellectual convictions, doctrines, moral commands, but rather about the inclusion of all creation in God’s overflowing, superabundant life of communion," he said.

In "missio Dei," Twiss said, “indigenous people find a place of identity, belonging, value, peace, justice and affirmation — Shalom. Can we re-imagine a new or changed future where people are living out their faith in Jesus in light ... together as fellow learners and co-equal participants in the life, work and mission of Jesus?"

PCA confronts its racist past

From the Southern Poverty Law Center comes an interesting look at the conservative Presbyterian Church in America.   [6-14-10]

The Presbyterian Church in America is struggling to confront the old demon of racism, which was at the center of a case in the Friendship Presbyterian Church (PCA) near Asheville, N.C. In 2007 an elder in the congregation, Neill Payne, sent an e-mail to 19 people including some members of the church and the pastor, in which he cited a British article declaring that blacks were incapable of governing themselves in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and that their intelligence is clearly inferior to that of whites. The pastor, the Rev. Craig Bulkeley, urged that such racist beliefs could not be accepted, and ultimately Payne resigned from the church rather than face charges of the sin of racism.

The conflict has continued, with Payne’s supporters calling for the resignation of the pastor, and ultimately cases have been taken to the presbytery and to PCA’s 24-member Standing Judicial Commission, its highest court.

While Payne and his defenders have some support, the majority of voices and actions seem to show that the PCA is conscientiously rejecting the racial attitudes that have formed a part of the culture of many churches in the South.

The article concludes:

For its part, Friendship is starting to see more faces at its worship services now that [Payne and his relatives] aren't attending. And that's especially gratifying for the PCA leaders who have been battling racism in their pews. "It's not enough to simply not commit sins of commission," [said the Rev. Jeff Hutchinson, who served as moderator of the presbytery during the time of the congregation’s sharp struggles]. "We have to also do the right thing."

The full article >>

A litany for The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – addressing the issue of gun violence     [1-9-10]

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has just posted a litany written for an interfaith service celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and addressing gun violence. Feel free to adapt or use the litany. If it is used, please include the attribution: Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), .

For the full text of the litany >>

Thanks to the Rev. Len Bjorkman of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
for calling this to our attention.

When African-American history is just known as history

A message to the PC(USA) from the vice-moderator
by Elder Robert E. Wilson, PC(USA) General Assembly vice-moderator

Distributed by Presbyterian News Service

HUNTSVILLE, AL — February 20, 2008 —

Do we need Black History Month? Yes.

But we need to get back to the original intent of the celebration.

Black History Month began as a yearlong study and discussion of African-American history, with the month of February as the kickoff. Many say Black History Month is necessary until textbooks more completely and accurately portray the contributions Blacks have made.

We need to make sure books and curricula are upgraded so that schools and churches can teach Black History the whole year, rather than one month. Black students, as well as Asians, Native American, Hispanic/Latino and White students need to know more about African American culture than just the history associated with slave owners.

The main thing they need to know is about the people who were willing to make that ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

Did you know, for example, that in 1801 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church appointed John Chavis (ca. 1763-1838) as the first Presbyterian missionary to African-American slaves? A free Black, Chavis preached to slaves and mixed audiences. He served as a missionary, teacher, and minister in Virginia from 1801-1807 and in North Carolina from 1807-1832.

We yearn for the time when African-American History is just known as history.

The PC(USA) professes that racism in all its forms is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ? It also acknowledges that racism is a reality in both church and society. The church is committed to spiritually confronting the ideology of racism and racial oppression and working to overcome racism with prayer, discernment and worship-based action. Last month, on Race Relations Sunday; we affirmed that Jesus calls us to love in a world of challenges. God makes us live together. We are not made for separation; we are made for each other. We are not made for individuality; we are made for community. We are not made for division; we are made for love.

Unfortunately, every day we confess our complicity in creating and maintaining love of race throughout life, including within the church. At the same time, though, we celebrate God’s vision of life together. We commit to confronting the love of race, and we renew our intention to live according to God’s vision. And, ultimately, it is God’s vision that will come to fruition.

It is time to join in God’s vision. Are you ready? Is your church ready?

The Rev. John Bush suggested that we post this message, and when we responded, he added these helpful musings of his own:

Black history one month a year is about as effective as Race Relations Sunday one week a year. This is especially true when the primary force behind Black History Month is left to come from Black people/historians/spokespersons/media figures. The fact is, "Black" history is also "white" history, though that reality is very difficult for us to accept – which is why we keep its study confined to one dark and dreary winter month rather than letting it permeate our basic understandings of the nature of the history of all of us: our culture, and our national and global experience. When it is less than that – which it is, now – it is, in itself, inherently racist, but racist because white people are unwilling to embrace it as our own. As long as we can keep it segregated in February and not integrated into a wholistic perspective on history per se, we (the power brokers) can marginalize it while pretending to be "doing something."

Which is not to say we should ignore February as "Black History Month." As the Vice Moderator says, we need it, but we need it for what it was intended to be. As Robert Wilson indicates, we must use this month to begin a wholistic study of the history of our nation, culture, society and world. That does not break out neatly into racially-defined "specialties," though the specialists have much to contribute to the process.

In other words, all of us and each of us contribute(s) to the evolving reality we call "history," and must eventually come to understand that we are inherently part of the whole.

The Rev. John Bush is Honorably Retired, and lives in Decatur , AL.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks to our condition

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

-- speech at Riverside Church, New York, 1967

Reclaiming King: Beyond "I Have a Dream"

People usually focus on the historic "I Have a Dream" speech, but it's the work King was doing at the end of his life that deserves more attention.

Adam Howard, an editor with AlterNet, the son of a “a Black Baptist preacher in the King tradition.”

He writes: 

During the final two years of his life, King took on the far more complex de facto racism of northern cities like Chicago, addressed labor inequality, and took a very bold and highly criticized stance against the Vietnam War.

The full essay >>

White Liberals Have White Privilege Too!

Alex Jung, an editorial intern at AlterNet, and an Asian-American, explores a reality many of us would like to ignore. He begins:

It often seems that the only way liberals can talk about race is to encircle the "racists" and point at them -- either for a laugh or a morality tale. The former is one of the many tricks that faux news personality Stephen Colbert employs in his caricature of a conservative. His racist schtick makes fun of racists, and there's a comfortable distance between the satire and the show's mostly liberal viewers. The critique goes down easy because it represents something the viewer isn't.

On the other hand, the website, featuring a liberal white couple, Johnny and Sally, enters murkier territory. Well-intentioned Johnny and Sally hang out with their black friends, who, as the namesake indicates, love them. Part of the site's subversion -- and subsequent confusion -- comes from the fact that its humor is not so separate from liberal Americana. We could meet a Johnny and Sally at a cocktail party, and maybe already have. One black "friend's" testimonial -- "Johnny is generous enough to remark upon how 'articulate' I am! That makes me feel good!" -- carries a zesty punch in light of Joe Biden's recent remarks on Barack Obama.

At these satires' roots is a distinction between challenging a Don Imus-type racism and the investment in something called white privilege. In the 1980s, a white feminist, Peggy McIntosh, came up with the metaphor of an "invisible knapsack" to analyze white privilege. It's unconscious, elusive, pervasive, and white liberals have as much of it as white conservatives do. McIntosh listed some ways she has white privilege. Her list ranges from the broad: "I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time," to the supposedly trivial: "I can choose ... bandages in 'flesh' color and have them more or less match my skin."

The full essay >>

Please send a note,
to be shared here!

Nooses – just pranks, or old-fashioned terrorism?

Since white students at Jena High placed nooses in a tree last year to show their hostility toward their African-American classmates, the old symbol of racial hatred seems to be turning up all over.

Leonard Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald, wrote a week ago listing just a few of the recent incidents:

A noose is left for a black workman at a construction site in the Chicago area. In Queens, a woman brandishes a noose to threaten her black neighbors. A noose is left on the door of a black professor at Columbia University. And that's just last week. Go back a little further and you have similar incidents at the University of Maryland in College Park, at a police department on Long Island, on a Coast Guard cutter, in a bus maintenance garage in Pittsburgh.

Pitts tells "a history of rope," including the story of Mary Turner, who in 1918 was burned alive in Valdosta, Ga. A man slashed open her swollen stomach. "The baby she had carried nearly to term tumbled out and managed two cries before the man crushed its head beneath his heel. A rope was used to tie Turner upside down in a tree."

Things may have changed, he says – but they may be changing back again.

It feels as if in recent years we the people have backward traveled from even the pretense of believing our loftiest ideals. It has become fashionable to decry excessive ''political correctness,'' deride ''diversity,'' sneer at the ''protected classes.'' ... Just a prank, the man says.

Mary Turner would argue otherwise. I find it useful to remember her, useful to be reminded of things we would rather forget. To remember her is to understand that there is no prank here.

Pitts' column >>

I was reminded of this by a letter writer in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who responded to Pitts’ column by saying that the two nooses hanging in his front yard are just Halloween decorations, along with the skeletons and ghosts and tombstones. What’s the big deal, he says. After all, his stepdaughter is black, and "she hasn't given any of this a second thought."

I’ll side with Pitts on this one.

Doug King

Racial Ethnic Ministries Program Area seeks Young Adult Intern for Racial Justice and Advocacy   [4-27-07]

Announcement from Office of Racial Justice and Advocacy

The Office of Racial Justice and Advocacy is now recruiting for its next intern. This program is offered through the National Volunteers Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  The position, detailed in a separate document, is open to persons between the ages of 20 and 35. The intern program is a one-year term, beginning mid-August or September. A stipend is provided, but housing is the responsibility of the intern. Please distribute this information to your networks.

This is an excellent opportunity for a young adult to spend a year learning about the connectional nature of the Church, issues of racial justice in the Church, and how to advocate for racial justice within and outside the Church. The internship provides inspiring exposure to the expression in and through the Church of God's justice and the power of the Spirit to use human vessels to effect change.

We are particularly interested in recruiting someone to work on the Facing Race in Theological Education project for the 2007-2008 internship position.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the position.

Information for this position could also be accessed through .

1. Click the "Search" icon
2. Under "Location" select KY
3. Choose "Full Time" for type of position
4. Choose "Young Adult Opportunities" under Position Categories.

The results should provide you with all the Young Adult Internships that may be of interest to your constituents.


Tiffany B. Gonzales
Young Adult Intern, Racial Justice & Advocacy
100 Witherspoon Street, Rm 3006A
Louisville, KY 40202-1396
1-888-728-7228, ext. 5014

Celebrating the life and witness of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.    [1-10-07]

It's Not the Dream, It's the Vision in the Context of Reality

On January 15, 2007, America will celebrate the birth, death, and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We will hear those powerful words, 'I Have a Dream.' What many of us don't realize is that Dr. King was no dreamer. He was a visionary, not some abstract thinker or philosopher. He was a prophet and a true revolutionary.

Thus begins an essay by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Producer/Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program "On With Leon" on XM Satellite Radio Channel 169, Producer/Host of the television program "Inside the Issues With Wilmer Leon" and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, DC.

The full essay >>

2 new Web sites offer splashes of diversity

Latest website offerings highlight multicultural and Asian-American ministries

Two new Internet Web sites reflecting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s commitment to racial-ethnic diversity are now up and running on the denomination's Web site.

One of the sites,, is dedicated to multicultural ministry; it was launched by the PC(USA)'s Office of Evangelism and Racial and Cultural Diversity (ERCD).

The other,, is dedicated to Asian-American ministry; it is sponsored by the PC(USA)'s Office of Congregational Leadership (Asian-American), part of the Theology and Worship program area of the Congregational Ministries Division (CMD).

The rest of the story >>

Passing of a Southern Civil Rights Pioneer-- Anne Braden  

Revered white anti-racist southern activist Anne Braden died at the age of 81 on Monday morning, March 6, at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, ending nearly 60 years of unyielding action against segregation, racism, and white supremacy. Braden catapulted into national headlines in mid-1954 when she and her husband Carl Braden were indicted for sedition for their leadership in desegregating a Louisville, Kentucky, suburb.    Read the story >>

A Legacy of Her Own: Coretta Scott King

Message from The Fellowship of Reconciliation

Of the many tributes to Coretta Scott King, who died on January 31, this message from the Fellowship of Reconciliation seems to express much of what we, too, would like to express.    Your WebWeaver

Read the full statement >>

Coretta Scott King, who died last night at the age of 78, is best known as the driving force behind the memorialization of her late husband, slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. She was the chief architect of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, and was instrumental in getting a federal holiday to honor him.

But Mrs. King was not just the guardian of her husband's legacy. She was a committed activist in her own right, a forceful, courageous, and visionary woman who was determined not just that her husband's achievements be remembered, but that his philosophy of nonviolence continue to be taught.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, of which Mrs. King was a member, honors the woman who always maintained, despite efforts to tone down the radical implications of Dr. King's message, that the root cause of misery in the world was the "triple evil" of racism, poverty, and violence. She once said of the Fellowship that its "courageous dedication to the liberation of humanity" from these three evils was what put FOR "in the forefront of the nonviolent struggle for peace with justice."

Mrs. King's strength and resolve were apparent early in her life. She was only the second black person in history to attend Antioch College in Ohio - the first being her sister. "That took courage and character," said Lili Baxter, who worked at the King Center and is a past chair of FOR's National Council. "But it also took a vision that people of different races could live and work together."

Her deep and steadfast commitment to nonviolence, in the face of some efforts to downplay its importance, led her to resist the original name proposed for the1968 center established in honor of Mrs. King's husband: The King Center for Social Change. She insisted on the insertion of the word "nonviolent" in the official title.

She spearheaded a national petition campaign for a federal holiday to honor her late husband - achieved in 1983. Richard Deats, former editor of Fellowship magazine and Martin Luther King biographer, served with her on the commission that brought this about. "The hallmarks of her leadership were unfailing grace, good humor, and a firm resolve," he said. "She never wavered in her nonviolent vision."

Indeed, who will ever forget Mrs. King's consummate dignity and graciousness, even in the midst of conflict or controversy? "She was a composed, accomplished, and deliberative person," said Lili Baxter. "But in private, she could also be funny, irreverent, and a shrewd mimic."

Like her husband, Coretta Scott King was a visionary. The most fitting tribute we can make to her is to lift up that prophetic vision of the Beloved Community - a vision for which her husband died, and which she ensured would not be lost.

The graphic tribute above has been created by Witherspooner Derrick Kikuchi, of Reach and Teach - Social justice education products, in Daly City, CA.

Birmingham pastor urges us to sign Birmingham Pledge to end racism   [12-8-05]

As the 2006 General Assembly in Birmingham draws near, we are glad that John Bush, interim minister of the First Presbyterian Church, has called our attention to the Birmingham Pledge against racism.

His note:

I've signed the Birmingham Pledge and I'm sending it to you so that you can help end racism one person at a time too. The Birmingham Pledge is a personal commitment to recognize the worth and dignity of every individual. Tens of thousands of people from all over the United States have signed the Birmingham Pledge and I hope you will join me. If you have not already done so, you can sign the Pledge by clicking this link Thank you for making a difference!


from the Director of the Presbyterian Washington Office    [10-28-05]

As we mourn her, she would probably be the first to say that we still have more to do. Legal equality has not brought about actual social equality -in education, health care, housing and employment. We need only look around to see that inequality is still a fact of life in the United States. Katrina washed away the coverings of systemic poverty in one part of our nation, but it still exists in many places in the US and around the world.

The full statement >>

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

Was Bennett right?

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF), has shared the material below from the Justice Policy Institute regarding comments from William Bennett. These comments have received lots of attention because there are people who believe them to be fact and give more credence to them because they come from a former public official. Readers will have to judge for themselves or wait for time to tell if Mr Bennett really believes these things himself or whether he was simply giving voice to a misconception held by what many of us think is a misinformed minority in society. The information below gives statistics/information that you may use as you talk and think about this debate.


"You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," former Education Secretary and Drug Czar William Bennett

Comments agreeing with him:

• "What was false? Well, as a matter of fact, is it not a fact that the per-capita crime rate among blacks is higher than whites? What is false here?" – Brit Hume, reporter and commentator, Fox News Sunday, October 02, 2005.

• "Statistics have long been kept on crime, breaking it down in various ways, including by race and ethnicity. Some identifiable groups, considered as a group, commit crime at a rate that is higher than the national rate. Blacks are such a group. That is simply a fact." – Andrew C. McCarthy, former federal prosecutor, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, National Review On-line, September 30, 20051


While some have denounced the comments by former Education Secretary and Drug Czar William Bennett, they unfortunately believe his comments are based in fact. Those who believe that African American or Latino youth are more "criminal" than any other ethnic groups are simply wrong. The real facts tell us much more than stereotypes, or musings – both of which obscure the well-documented disparate treatment accorded African Americans compared to whites within the justice system. These comments on racially disparate crime also overlook the area of "corporate crime."

For over a decade, the Justice Department has been working to reduce the racial disparity seen in juvenile arrests and juvenile imprisonment, a fact that underscores the existence of racially disparate arrests and sentences. African American youth arrest rates for drug violations, assaults and weapon offenses are higher than arrest rates for white youth-even though both report similar rates of delinquency.


Since 1992, when the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was amended, the federal government has acknowledged that youth of different races and ethnicities are treated differently by the justice system. As such the federal government has promoted policies to ease those disparities. The Republican Congress reauthorized the JJDPA in 2003.


In a seminal meta-analysis conducted by researchers Carl Pope and Richard Feyerherm for the Justice Department, two-thirds of the studies of state and local juvenile justice systems they analyzed found that there was a "race effect" at some stage of the juvenile justice process that affected outcomes for minorities for the worse. Their research suggested that "the effects of race may be felt at various decision points, they may be direct or indirect, and they may accumulate as youth continue through the system."


Some of the greatest disparities in the juvenile justice system's response to youth of color involve the number of youth arrested, and prosecuted for drug offenses. While African American youth comprise 17% of the youth population4, African American youth represent 27% of all drug violation arrests, and comprise 48% of the youth detained for a drug offense.

"Contrary to popular assumption, at all three grade levels African American youth have substantially lower rates of use of most licit and illicit drugs than do Whites." – Monitoring the Future Survey, 2004.

Table 1:
African Americans Make Up Nearly Half the Youth Detained for Drug Offenses,
But Use Drugs at the Same Rate as Whites

Source: Crime in the United States, 2001. (2002) Washington, DC: U.S. Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigations. Puzzanchera, C., Finnegan, T. and Kang, W. (2005). "Easy Access to Juvenile Populations" Online. Available:; Sickmund, Melissa, Sladky, T.J., and Kang, Wei. (2004) "Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement Databook." Online. Available:

African American Youth Are Treated Differently By the Juvenile Justice System

Drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current illicit drug use was 11.1 % among whites, and 9.3% among African Americans. In a previous year, the same survey found that white youth aged 12 to17 are more than a third more likely to have sold drugs than African American youth. The Monitoring the Future Survey of high school seniors shows that white students annually use cocaine at 4.6 times the rate of African Americans students, use crack cocaine at 1.5 times the rate of African Americans students, and use heroin at the same rate of African Americans students, and that white youth report annual use of marijuana at a rate 46% higher than African American youth. However African American youth are arrested for drug offenses at about twice the rate (African American 314 per 100,000, white 175 per 100,000) times that of whites,8 and African American youth represent nearly half (48%) of all the youth incarcerated for a drug offense in the juvenile justice system.

Weapons. According to the Center on Disease Control's annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in 2001 whites and African Americans reported similar rates of carrying a weapon (whites 17.9%, African Americans 15.2%), and similar rates of carrying a gun (whites 5.5%, and African Americans, 6.5%). African American youth represent 32% of all weapons arrests, and were arrested for weapons offenses at a rate twice that of whites (69 per 100,000, versus 30 per 100,000).

Assault. According to the Center on Disease Control's annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, African Americans report being in a physical fight at a similar rate (36.5%, versus 32.5% for whites), but were arrested for aggravated assault at a rate nearly three times that of whites (137 per 100,000, versus 48 per 100,000).

"The existence of much larger racial and ethnic differences in arrest rates than in self-reported violence is a matter of great concern. On the one hand, there is no reason to expect similar distributions, because these measures were designed to assess different aspects of violence. But if both measures are valid and reliable, the discrepancy suggests that the probability of being arrested for a violent offense varies with race/ethnicity."-Youth Violent: A Report of the Surgeon General, January, 2001.

For More Information, contact the Justice Policy Institute,

For the Institute’s posting of this paper, complete with detailed citations, click here.

For more information, contact:
Elenora Giddings Ivory,
PC(U.S.A) Washington Office
110 Maryland Avenue, NE #104,
Washington, DC 20002.
202-543-1126, fax 202-543-7755


Some resources for Black History Month     [2-8-05]

Negro History Week was established in the 1920s by Carter G. Woodson. February was chosen as the month in which both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were born. Extended to a month-long celebration in 1976, Black History Month is an opportunity to emphasize the history and achievements of African Americans. 

Web sites you may want to visit:

bullet InfoPlease
bullet The Gale Group
bullet Education World

Thanks to Edgehill United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN
From Gene TeSelle, February 6, 2005

Do you have other resources (on-line or otherwise) to suggest?
Please send a note and we'll share it here.

An Open Letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In an "open letter" to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., nearly 40 years after his death, a large number of progressive clergy recall his vision and his challenge to patterns of racism and injustice. Yet today they are compelled to point to the continuation of white racism, and the sad fact that "many black people now have difficulty seeing their connections to other black people. We have embraced societal distinctions that separate us by age, education, gender, sexuality and class."


FREEDOM RIDES 2004 - JUNE 9th thru JUNE 25th 2004!


[This information was sent by the National Council of Churches, Washington Office, and forwarded by the Presbyterian Washington Office.  [Posted here 5-19-04]]

The Chaney Goodman Schwerner Justice Coalition
1964 - 2004
40th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Chaney Goodman Schwerner Justice Coalition, a project of the James Early Chaney Foundation, is currently accepting registration for Freedom Summer 2004 Ride for Justice. This historic North-South caravan will journey from New York City throughout the South, stopping along the way at cities of special significance to the Civil Rights movement, including:

a.. Philadelphia, PA. - Cheyney University - Last Stop of the Underground Railroad
b.. Washington, DC - Howard University and the Holocaust Museum
c.. Hampton, Va, and Raleigh NC
d.. Atlanta, GA - Spellman & Morehouse Colleges, and the Martin Luther King Center
e.. Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma AL
f..  Meridian, Philadelphia, Jackson, and Money, MS
g.. Baton Rouge, LA, and
h.. Memphis TN - The site where Dr. M.L. King was murdered.
i..  And other points of importance.

We have a limited number of seats, so please register today! The registration fee of $1,500 includes transportation from New York City, room, and board.

If you are not able to make the ride, perhaps you can help sponsor a Freedom Rider!

VISIT THE FREEDOM SUMMER 2004 website for details and to register.

For additional information visit the James Earl Chaney Foundation website at or call 212-475-3232.

Thanks for your support! PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHER FRIENDS you feel may be interested!

- Ben Chaney

For earlier items on working for racial justice -- from 2001 and 2002 -- please go to the Racial Concerns archive page.
50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education: a reminder for action, provided by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Here's a helpful list of items that define the problems providing equal educational opportunity for every child in America -- along with steps toward solutions.   [5-14-04]

Ring bells to commemorate 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education   [5-11-04]

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

The following message is being passed through the civil rights and African American community. This may be something you would like to consider for your church and community, if you have a bell.

Dear colleagues,

Please join with me and with churches and institutions throughout the United States who will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown versus the Board of Education on May 17, 2004. Churches, educational institutions, and other facilities with bells are being asked to ring their bells on May 17, 2004, at exactly 12:52 p.m., the date and time that the Brown v. Board of Education decision was rendered. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregation in public schools solely on the basis of race denies children of color the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

This historic decision has changed our society and has had lasting impact. We invite you to ring your bells at 12:52 p.m. on May 17th to join in this public observance of the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

The bell ringing commemoration is being coordinated by the Dallas Bar Association, and the request for our participation was made at the Presbyterian Church Multicultural Conference held in Irving, Texas, April 22-25. For more information, please see  or


Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory
Director, Washington Office
Presbyterian Church (USA)

110 Maryland Avenue, NE, Suite 104
Washington, DC 20002

PBS looks at Reconstruction as "the second Civil War"

A PBS documentary begins tonight, Monday, Jan. 12, 2004

Bruce Gillette has provided helpful background information from the PBS website, along with numerous links to PC(USA) resources. You're encouraged to view this, and to encourage others as well.    [1-12-04]

A call to the March on Washington
40th Anniversary -- August 21-24, 2003


This week the SCLC, the NAACP, the Urban League and many of faith groups including the National Council of Churches will convene a march to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington.

The National Council of Churches has sent out a message from Martin Luther King, III president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a detailed list of events.

Black caucus convention examines justice, spirituality and African connection   [7-9-03]

Presbyterian News Service reports that the National Black Presbyterian Caucus drew some 700 participants to its 36th annual convention in Baltimore, from June 25 - 29.

Caucus president the Rev. Curtis Jones was praised for his leadership in "transforming the convention from a gathering in search of meaning into a driving and visionary force for the ministry of African-Americans." He has recently been named as the first full-time, paid executive director of the NBPC.

The convention focused on African-American church growth, the NBPC's historic traditions of devotion to racial and social justice, and re-affirming the group's mission connection to Africa and its commitment to helping ease the spread of AIDS there.

NAACP will participate in affirmative action rally on April 1 in front of Supreme Court

The nation's largest civil rights group will join students and community leaders in support of University Of Michigan's admissions plan   [3-26-03]

Administration policies still reflect racism in America

Triangle Foundation of Michigan points to continuing problems of racism (and more) in our society, reflected in recent actions by the President of the United States.

Equal Partners in Faith has sent us this letter from the Triangle Foundation in Michigan to media sources in that state. On this day of remembering the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems to shine a little light on some of the problems our nation faces (or is choosing not to face) today.

Dear editor,

Bush Bigotry: The Last Straw

George W. Bush has decided to oppose the University of Michigan affirmative action policy. He intends to influence the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Should we be surprised?

Bush claimed racism was bad for America, when Trent Lott cheered on segregation. Then he re-nominated Charles Pickering to a lifetime federal court. Pickering has a racist record. Nearly all the recent Bush nominations, which have already once been rejected by the Senate, have racist, sexist, and/or homophobic records. Not to mention racial profiling against immigrants, supporting public funding of charities that discriminate, dismantling free public education, opposing a woman's right to choose, and the insanely dangerous "abstinence only" education. The list goes on.

Now Bush has decided to oppose affirmative action calling it "divisive." What transparent spin. It is racism that is divisive, not affirmative action, which works to remedy hundreds of years of racism.

Triangle Foundation stands in solidarity with those in support of the University of Michigan affirmative action policy. Bush has waged a war on minorities, fairness and the environment, even before he entered the White House.

What are we as Americans supposed to do with a President working to dismantle our constitutional protections and destroy the very natural resources we rely on for health and sustenance.

We must stand up as an anti-racist movement to support minority access to an excellent education. The only way to eradicate poverty and racism is to provide people with the tools to advance in our society.


Sean Kosofsky
Director of Policy
Triangle Foundation

EQUAL PARTNERS in FAITH is a multi-racial national network of religious leaders and people of faith committed to equality and diversity. Our diverse faith traditions and shared religious values lead us to affirm and defend the equality of all people, regardless of religion, race, ability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. As people of faith, we actively oppose the manipulation of religion to promote inequality and exclusion.


Race in America:
a live town meeting on TV this Thursday

from the Presbyterian Washington Office  [1-7-03]

Thursday on PBS (9 pm. ET), Ted Koppel will anchor AMERICA IN BLACK AND WHITE: JASPER, TEXAS, a live town meeting on race in America from Jasper, Texas. The 90-minute town meeting will be broadcast live and in its entirety on PBS at 9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings). ABC News "Nightline" will broadcast one hour of the town meeting beginning at 11:35 p.m. ET on the ABC Television Network. The town hall meeting will be held with the citizens
of Jasper, many of whom were interviewed for the documentary.

For earlier items on working for racial justice -- from 2001 and 2002 -- please go to the Racial Concerns archive page.

Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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