‘Hell You Talmbout?’ Protest Music Meets the Church in the Streets

This article originally ran on Sojourners blog.

Last week’s public release of “HellYouTalmbout,” a newly revised song by six-time Grammy nominated performer Janelle Monáe and her team of artists, Wondaland, caught on like spirit-fire in the soul of the Black Lives Matter movement and has swiftly propelled Monáe — a young, gifted, and socially conscious artist — to the forefront of the voices and faces in the public square.

“HellYouTalmbout” is both anthem and war chant to Afro-Caribbean drum beats that elicit the sounds of throbbing hearts as each name of murdered black men and women is called with the driving command to “Say his/her name.” It is not a love ode, but a protest anthem for freedom. After her Eephus tour August 12 in Phildelphia, and leading a protest march there against police brutality, Monáe posted on Instagram:

“This song is a vessel. It carries the unbearable anguish of millions. We recorded it to channel the pain, fear, and trauma caused by the ongoing slaughter of our brothers and sisters. We recorded it to challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue. Silence is our enemy. Sound is our weapon. They say a question lives forever until it gets the answer it deserves… Won’t you say their names?”

My first listen to “HellYouTalmbout” raised emotions of tearful sadness, anger, and determination. It has the profound draw of an anthem, a battle cry — the rhythmic, pulsing music of protest with strong male and female voices shouting a death chant of remembrance. “Hell YouTalmbout” is a tool of defiant signification, a refusal to forget those cut down by systemic violence of militarized policing and racial profiling long embedded in the social fabric of urban, inner city life as a “ground-zero” battleground of survival.

At the August 17 Black Out festival in Millennium Park, Chicago, Monáe said, “We don’t come here as artists, as celebrities. We come here as people. I come here as a black woman. We come as a black man, black human beings.”

She was joined at the festival by Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland — a victim of an arrest for an alleged traffic violation that resulted in her brutal death while in police custody, whose name is among the roll call of the martyred in the anthem.

Protest anthems are not new, from field slave chants like Wade in the Water, with Underground Railroad calls of freedom, to the message of resistance in a church favorite, I’m On the Battlefield for my Lord.

But unlike those infused with the sacristy of church hymnody sung during the civil rights era led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in the sanctuaries of Southern congregations, there is street cred in “Hell YouTalmbout” and other millennial anthems of the Black Lives Matter movement.

These artists have undeniably adopted protest tools that speak to the gritty life of being poor with limited opportunities for survival in the streets, of life-threatening avenues of risky commerce, and of too-frequent monitoring, if not manipulation, by police as modern-day overseers meting out extrajudicial death sentences.

Anthems as hymns crafted for the public square raise challenging lyrics that are no less spiritual, yet are intended for civic conversion of societal systems and strictures rather than individual conversion of internalized salvation.

And just as young celebrities increasingly have come forward to add voice to the injustice of egregious brutality by police, Monáe also invokes a Christian profession of God as just judge against human injustices of racism, violence, and supremacist ideologies.

A furor arose after Monáe’s live performance August 14, when NBC’s Today Show edited and cut her expressed sentiments on the anthem.

She began, “Yes Lord! God bless America! God bless all the lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know we stand tall today. We will not be silenced—”

The rest of her message was interrupted inexplicably. In the re-broadcast, the omission of the entire performance sparked the wrath of social media networks, because this censorship — the act of preventing disquieted voices — was tinder to the fire of the anthem’s message: Protest the disregard for black bodies unseen and voices unheard.

Monáe’s lyrics in her original 2013 song of a similar title state:

Red, white, and blue. Here come the sirens only to dance with the little girls on the corner. There’s a war in the streets. Nobody speaks and now a boy laying on the ground

Now what the hell – Hell you talking ‘bout?…

“We’re laughing together right – right when the shooting comes

Baby what the hell you talking ‘bout?”

A conundrum arises for traditional churches that resist the comingling of sacred and secular — what songs of Zion can reach the populous of disenchanted generations that fill the streets, and what actions can be taken without threat to ecclesial respectability?

Perhaps some will continue to turn deaf ears to the rallying cry for public theology as incarnational gospel of church without walls. Others will prefer to close doors on dwindling numbers rather than turn from a Hallmark-a-cized Christ to a radicalized Jesus.

But those questions are not posed in the prophetic public theology among theologians and church leaders who increasingly embrace the prophetic call-to-action. These leaders are joining the crowds to enact a radical gospel that demands love, dignity, peace, and equity. The numbers of faith leaders in the public square continue to grow, and by their actions, demonstrate that Christ and street cred are both public sanctuary where black lives must be held as sacred.

In the public square, the power of Jesus’ outcry to “take up your cross and follow me” is fueling public theology. Today’s rallying cries are not heavily centered on proselytization but on positive social change. Likewise, the chants — “Black Lives Matter“, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot“, “We want freedom, freedom“, and “Say His/Her Name” — joins unified voices of multi-racial and multi-generational protesters whose beliefs propel them to solidarity in allied disruption.

At the core of these anthems is the premise that God created one human family — that God’s movement as liberator holds an ethical foundation for the equal right to be free. Here in the streets is where both church and community will continue to demand: Hell you talmbout?

Rev. Dr. Valerie Miles-Tribble, DMin, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Ministerial Leadership & Practical Theology for the American Baptist Seminary of the West.

ABSW Faculty Retreat

And so it happened yesterday that the faculty stumbled upon a Trustee (and alum). Selfies happen.

ABSW Faculty and Staff accosted Board President, Dr. Jim Hopkins on their return from lunch. We do like a good selfie.
ABSW Faculty and Staff accosted Board President, Dr. Jim Hopkins on their return from lunch. We do like a good selfie.

The faculty and staff of the seminary met yesterday to discuss the new academic semester and plan for the arrival of the new students. We shared the work we did over the summer (theology conferences, teaching in Africa, book proposals, activism, and the arts) with one another. It was an enlivening opportunity to catch up.

We are also excited about what we are offering this semester. We are teaching online and in the physical classroom. We are focusing on the discipline of public theology in most of our classes.

What does it mean for you to be a public theologian? Well, come on by and find out.

Sermon On The Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death #Ferguson

Dir. of Admissions, Rev. Tripp Hudgins preached this sermon at All Souls Episcopal Parish, Berkeley, CA. You can listen to it here. It was also carried on Sojourners’ blog.


Lord, I believe. Help, Thou, my unbelief. Make these words more than words and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Matt Morris begins his song of lament:

How many hours, Lord?
How many hours
Will he lay out in the sun
Under the gaze, Lord,
Under the gaze
Of Darren Wilson’s gun?
Four hours…
Four hours…
Is four hours long enough
For Michael Brown
To lay out in the sun?

It has been a year.
A year since Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown.
A year since Ferguson erupted.
And they aren’t done yet.

Students from the Pacific School of Religion and American Baptist Seminary of the West are there now with students from Eden Seminary studying with activists and theologians asking the same question that many in this country are asking, “Do black and brown lives matter as much as others?”

Getting ready for our civil disobedience action today. Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. — with Jean Jeffress, Demitrius Burnett, Marvin K. White and Alex Haider-Winnett.
Getting ready for our civil disobedience action today. Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. — with  Prof. Sharon Fennema, Jean Jeffress (ABSW), Demitrius Burnett (PSR), Marvin K. White (PSR) and Alex Haider-Winnett (PSR).

They are standing in the streets chanting with the crowds gathered there, “Tell me what a family looks like; this is what a family looks like.”

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Tell me what a family looks like.
This is what a family looks like.

From Baltimore to Berkeley, people are asking the question. Do black lives matter? It has been a year and we cannot seem to find an answer to the question. “Of course they do” some people state. “Then why is it so hard for so many to be black or brown in this country?” is the question that follows.

“Maybe if they just pulled their pants up and turned the music down,” is a common enough retort. Then, as I hope you can see, we’re back where we started.

A young man walks into Mother Emmanuel AME Church and nine lives come to a tragic end. The “politics of respectability” cannot save black and brown lives either. You can be a respected member of the state government, a pastor, a grandmother, and none of that will matter. You can be President of the United States of America and it won’t matter. Your race will be a strike against you.

You fail to signal when changing lanes.
You turn your music up too loudly.
You dress like a young punk because you are a young punk…
You talk back.
You exercise your right to speak your mind and…
…nowhere. It gets you nowhere. It gets you killed. And you despair.

How many years, Lord
How many years
Has the freedom song been sung
Under the gaze, Lord
Under the gaze,
Of a white man with a gun?
Four hundred years…
Four hundred years…
Four hundred years is long enough
Under the gaze
Under the gaze
Of a white man with a gun.

But it doesn’t end there, either. No, the reach of this thing is larger. This violence, this greed, this fear knows no bounds of race, color, creed, gender…

Zachary Hammond, an unarmed white nineteen year old, was killed in a drug bust in a Hardee’s parking lot where his friend was found in possession of ten grams of marijuana. No one said a word except for the #BlackLivesMatter movement social media community. There was no outrage from the white community (whatever that is) about the death of one of our own. The #AllLivesMatter community said nothing. Nothing. Why is that?

The media, too, was silent. The only stories published in major news outlets were about how there were no stories published in major news outlets.

We do know what sells column inches and website clicks, don’t we?

What do we think is normal?
What have we become accustomed to?
What do we think is necessary to maintain an orderly society?
What do we think is just and fair?
What do we believe is Beautiful, Good, and True?
Does an orderly society necessitate the deaths of its young women and men?
This is our sad truth.

“O my daughter, O my son! Would that it were me…”
No, our voices are silent.
Or we’re fearfully sitting at home grateful that it is not us, it is not our son.

The power of empire is seductive. King David strove for it. His son, Absalom, longed for it. In a tale that rivals Game of Thrones in its chaotic violence, rape, incest, fratricide, and plain old murder, the kingdom is in an uproar. There is no one innocent and good in this tale. There is no helpless victim here.

Yet, Absalom hangs from a tree, executed by those whom King David charged with Absalom’s safety have taken it upon themselves to execute him. Guilty or not, insurrectionist or not, they took power into their own hands and executed Absalom. They lynched him.

After all the clamoring for power, lives are destroyed. Heartbroken, the king wails.

“O Absalom, my son, my son. Would I had died in stead of you!”
But he didn’t. And his rule continued.

I’ve been pondering the death of Absalom, David’s hubris, and the brokenness of systems this week. What if we looked to the death of each and every victim of violence as our son, our daughter, the person with whom we would readily change places if we could?

The body hanging lifeless from the tree is your child. Weep, for your soul has been crushed and your future is uncertain. You have broken covenant with God.

Weep. Wail. It is your daughter dead in the jail cell. It is your son’s body lying in the street. “How many hours, Lord, how many hours…”

To live in the covenant is always a choice. It is a choice we frequently avoid.

Our national story is not a new one. Our predicament is not unusual nor are the choices we are making.

People of the Christian faith especially should recognize what is afoot in all of this. Those of us who gather week after week and hear the story of a man executed by the power of the status quo should find none of this surprising.

Jesus wanted us to see past the false promises of the power of empire in all its social forms: political or religious. Instead, he wanted us to broaden our vision. Empires demand the deaths of their young people to keep order.

“I am the bread of life,” is an invitation to see a larger world than what empire can promise us. It is a world where hunger is satisfied and thirst is quenched.

This is the covenant that Jesus envisions. This is the fruit of your baptism. To live into this covenant is a choice we all must make every moment of our lives. Will we live into this covenant or won’t we? Do we have the strength today?

There are people in the streets begging us to choose to live into the covenant.
They are begging us to live into the life Christ proclaimed.
They are begging us to live in love.
They are begging us to live in truth.
They are begging us to create a life where black lives matter as much as white lives and where empire is not the last word.
They are begging us to speak out.
They are begging us to rise.

Church, arise! Be resurrected!
Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.

Punks and prostitutes followed him, people who likely had ten grams of something in their pockets while their pants hung down too low, followed him. They played their music too loudly. They marched. They caused trouble. But so did he.

He was accused of false teaching.
He was accused of public disruption.
He was accused of insurrection.
They marched and sang.
He was executed.
His body hung from a tree.
And yet he rose.
The stone was rolled away,
and he rose.

Friends of God, take, eat.
Live in love.
This is the bread of life.
This is God’s insurrection.

Amen.

Too Painful for Words #AMEMassacre

My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.
(Lamentations 2:11)

Should Priest and Prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? Young and old lie together in the dust of the streets; my young men and maidens have fallen by the sword.
(Lamentations 2:20-21)

On Wednesday evening June 17, 2015 at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina a modern crucifixion took place.  Taking the lives of:

Rev. Clementa Pickney (Pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church and a South Carolina State Senator) age 41
Cynthia Hurd, age 54
Tywanza Sanders, age 26
Myra Thompson, age 59
Ethel Lance, age 70
Susie Jackson, age 87
Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, age 49
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, age 45
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., age 74  

Because they were bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, and spirit of our spirit we too are a suffering people.  We cry out with the Psalmist “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.  They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing”. (Psalm 22: 14-18)

Not only do we hurt with the Emanuel A.M.E. Church Family, but God also suffers with us because the name Emanuel means “God is with us”!  Our God meets us in suffering and in death.  The cross is the meeting place between God and us.  The cross is the place where God experiences human suffering and the human family understands the pain of God.  The wounded heart of God is revealed on the cross.  Abraham Heschel has reminded us that in the prophets God experiences pain and sorrow with a feeling of intimate and loving concern because life is a partnership between God and humanity.  The crucified heart of God in the New Testament is revealed through the death of Jesus Christ.  This death on the cross is not only the expression of God’s love for us, but also the defiance of God against evil.

Members of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church engage in a moment of silent prayer Sunday for Charleston
Members of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church engage in a moment of silent prayer Sunday for Charleston

It is so easy for us as a suffering people to grow weary and inarticulate in endless despair and aborted hope that will satisfy the forces of evil; however, the Apostle Paul reminds us “to be in Christ means not only to know the fellowship of His suffering, but the power of His resurrection”; therefore, as a crucified and a resurrected people let us make a double commitment to preach a liberating gospel from the evils of racism, materialism and militarism.  If we can make this commitment then we will respond to the Charleston massacre with living hope.

In 1850 Frederick Douglass, a member of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston stood in Faneil Hall in Boston speaking as if waiting justice would never wipe sleep from his eyes.  In response to his morbid message Sojourner Truth who knew the evils of slavery from personal experience, having been sold four times, and having risked her life many more times as a conductor of the underground railroad arose to her feet, and said with a commanding voice: Frederick is God dead?  As true believers with Sojourner Truth let us act on the words of James Russell Lowell: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch [over] his own.”

Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr.
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr.

Rev.Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., Chair

Sankofa Institute for African American
Pastoral Leadership
Oblate School of Theology
285 Oblate Drive
San Antonio, TX 78216

SANKOFA INSTITUTE FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN PASTORAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL OF ELDERS

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Chair
Dr. Diana Hayes, STD
Rev. Dr. Dwight Hopkins, PhD
Rev. Joni Russ
Rev. Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, PhD
Rev. James Noel, PhD
S. Addie L. Walker, SSND, PhD, Director
Dr. Scott Woodward, Academic Dean, OST
Dr. Rose Marden, Associate Dean Continuing Education, OST

Sacred Lessons in Resistance

Black History Month arrives as a difficult reminder that core ethics of human equality espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King in his DREAM, and called for in the BIBLE, still have not been realized! From Ferguson to Queens to Cleveland to Berkeley, streets are filled with young, angry black protesters joined by brown, white sisters and brothers compelled to mobilize resistance against increased militaristic behavior of police, against loopholes in legal systems, and against a pervasive societal ideology of ‘othering’ that marginalizes based on race, class, sexuality, and faith tradition. These national resistance movements expose this country’s systemic structures of discrimination.

In his provocative 2011book – Punished: Policing the Lives of Black & Latino Boys, Victor Rios’ ethnographic study revealed that poor inner-city kids are targeted, stereotyped, and falsely accused from grade school until anger at such demoralization become self-fulfilling prophecy – demons that provoke bad choices and fuel society’s fear. In reality, by Michael Brown’s age, embedded suspicion of law enforcement, regulatory systems, and a life of economic disparities result in tensions that almost are insurmountable. Across our nation, the land of the free and the brave is far the promise land of human equality–WE’RE NOT THERE YET! Killings increased exponentially since the 2012 assassination of Oscar Grant and the vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin. Albeit marred by violent outbreaks, the clamor for justice drew clergy leaders and people of faith to join in overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations of RESISTANCE. They invoked God’s will to resist injustice, amplified by chants and prayers that sustained a call for SACRED RESISTANCE.

Crucial for our self-reflection is to recognize that this landscape of unrest and tension between those with power and those unduly burdened is not a new phenomenon. We are reminded that righteous indignation and RESISTANCE are Biblical. Jesus knew what it felt like to be ‘othered’ – the Nazarene rejected and critiqued for speaking hope into lives of prostitutes, robbers, demoniacs, invalids, and tax collectors. The Messiah proclaimed his prophetic purpose to “ bring good news to the poor, proclaim release of the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free”- words in direct resistance to Roman imperial occupation and a Jerusalem power structure designed to maintain the status quo. Jesus spoke against undue burden on impoverished and powerless masses under militaristic enforcement. All the Gospels report SACRED LESSONS in RESISTANCE and mode of leadership development: anointing disciples with sacred authority over unclean spirits to cast out evil; teaching with sacred power to speak life into broken spirits; and taking action to change lives.

The first sacred lesson of resistance was to SHAKE IT OFF and keep moving! “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town”… The act of dust-shaking is the first century parallel to a 21st century act of protest; it is an externalization of a reality of hardened hearts in folks intent to preserve a status quo or afraid to push for change! Jesus’ taught such action was sacramental – revealing or manifesting a spiritual reality that ALL won’t accept the truth that the Kingdom of heaven had come near. The disciples were to mobilize a message of sacred justice and deliverance anyhow and, if rejected by folks, have nothing else to do with them, not even to carry the dirt and grime of close-mindedness any further… BUT SHAKE IT OFF! That very physical action was sacred resistance – Racism, classism, sexism – forms of rejection that ignore God’s love for ALL creation – SHAKE IT OFF!

The second lesson of sacred resistance was to recognize the socio-political landscape aims to silence. “See I’m sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…Beware of them for they will hand you over to councils, flog you… persecute you… and put you to death.” Today’s context is: we might be outnumbered but not outwitted. They will beat you with billy clubs, use tear gas, media-manage your story, while DAs and Grand juries acquit their own in ridicule of you! Is it any wonder that young people of color across the nation reject sound bites and political propaganda that say we live in a post-racial society, while overt and subtle discrimination confront them daily? Is it any wonder that some are disillusioned by silence of the church universal until MSNBC AND CNN cameras appear – and as the ragtag rebels caught national attention, then celebrity clergy arrived with rules and caste systems of who “qualifies” for screen time. Jesus said to be wise as serpents – organize, rally, discern true agendas as you proceed gentle as doves!

Jesus knew that principalities and powers did not WANT change that transformed lives – especially sacred change for those so long oppressed, blinded, and imprisoned in systems of disparity. He knew that his words and deeds led to hateful persecution on the Cross; yet, his third lesson assures us that the POWER IN US is greater than any power that opposes us! “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time: for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you!“ Today, as young disciples strategize and pray, clergy colleagues first-hand in Ferguson, New York, and Berkeley affirm that an abiding power of Holy Spirit anointing is evident when young and old courageously assemble and march.

RESISTANCE to injustice is a necessary action and sacred right… No municipality can stop or silence so many voices. Our foremothers and forefathers in Selma and Montgomery believed the sacred message cannot be quelled: ALL are created in God’s image! ALL lives Matter! Black Lives Matter, Asian Lives, Latino Lives, Muslim Lives – ALL Lives Matter! So today, young disciples still ask: Will we go together with divine authority from community to town to city proclaiming sacredness of life for the least and left-out? Do we still have faith to cast out demons of ‘isms’? As 21st Century disciples, will we challenge normative systems of privilege and share the prophetic message of One who was NOT? Sacred resistance shouts GOD’S demands for JUSTICE. It disrupts routines and sacrifices comfort. It respects and dignifies those different and diverse, yet in whom sacred breath of the Creator flows! To resist injustice, WIPE THE DUST OFF our FEET – and keep moving!

Rev. Dr. Valerie Miles-Tribble  is Assistant Professor of Ministerial Leadership and Functional Theology at American Baptist Seminary of The West. A womanist theologian, she is also a consulting leader in the PICO National Prophetic Clergy-Women Network.

Widows, Orphans, and Black Lives Matter

The lives of widows and orphans mattered. In Exodus 22:22, God tells Israel that “you shall not abuse any widow or orphan.” God was so concerned for the widow and orphan that the law provided for their care. It was mandated that grain be left behind for them during the harvest and along the edges of the fields (Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Leviticus 19:9-10). Failing to provide such care provoked God’s wrath.

Why this penchant for the widow and orphan? Did God value them more than anyone else in society? No. The Bible says that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). Yet, God does show compassion and concern for those who are most vulnerable. God lifts up the plight of the last and the least because they are at the greatest risk. And given this concern, God requires that we take special care so that these vulnerable, tender members of society are not neglected and forgotten. To take them for granted, to forget or abuse them invites God’s anger that their plight might become ours.

If we were to cast this concern into today’s context, I believe that God would assert that Black Lives Matter in the same way that the lives of widows and orphans mattered. Black lives matter because blacks, suffering numerous disparities that serve to disadvantage, are most vulnerable in society.

Consider the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, and Eric Garner. Were these just random, isolated incidents? No, these deaths are evidence of the increased risks born by blacks. According to USA Today,[1] a white police officer killed a black person nearly twice a week in the United States during a seven year period ending in 2012.

Then while blacks represent 12% of the U.S. population, they comprise 40% of the prison population.[2] These numbers are increased by disparate policies in terms of policing and drug enforcement. Additionally, exposure to extreme racial disparities makes the public less, and not more, responsive to attempts to lessen the discrepancy in incarceration rates.

Consider also that blacks are more likely to die from preventable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes.[3] Although the differences are recognized, the gap remains persistent due to discrimination, cultural barriers and lack of health-care access.

And blacks suffer disproportionate economic inequalities. The unemployment rate for whites in the United States is 4.8%, but soars to 10.4% for blacks.[4] Furthermore, Black men earn $.75 to every dollar that white men earn, while black women earn only $.70.[5] This issue becomes more problematic when we consider that nearly 1/3 of every black household is headed by a single woman.[6]

So when we consider the disparities that exist in our society and the vulnerabilities that they create, God would undoubtedly declare that Black Lives Matter. Because of higher mortality and incarceration rates, poorer health outcomes, and economic disenfranchisement, black lives are made vulnerable because black lives are impacted. Therefore, as people of faith, we have a responsibility to speak out in the face of such injustices.

By declaring that Black Lives Matter, we exercise our moral obligation to care for the most vulnerable in our society.

By declaring that Black Lives Matter, we assert that those who were slain or who died from preventable diseases did not die in vain.

By affirming that Black Lives Matter, we honor God who gave us the mandate to protect those tender members of society for whom God extends compassion and concern. Truly black lives matter.

Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson
Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson

The Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson is the Executive Director of the Ministers Council, American Baptist Churches, USA, an autonomous, professional, multi-cultural organization of ordained, commissioned and lay Christian leaders serving American Baptist Churches. Dr. Jackson is also the author of the forthcoming Judson Press book, Spiritual Practices for Effective Leadership: 7 Rs of Sanctuary for Pastors.

[1] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/police-killings-data/14060357/.

[2] http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/racial-disparities-incarceration.html.

[3] http://www.cdc.gov/minorityhealth/populations/REMP/black.html.

[4] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t02.htm.

[5] http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0882775.html.

[6] http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2010/02/black_americans_in_the_2010_census.2.html.