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Another Day After: Ferguson, MO

Nov 25, 2014 — Categories:

On this day after the announcement by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, it is cold, dark and rainy here in Seattle. The weather seems fitting somehow to reflect the despair and hopelessness that so many people are feeling. The announcement that there would be no Grand Jury indictment of the police officer who fired 12 shots to kill a young black man in Ferguson, MO, was made under the cover of darkness because it was shameful. The justice system failed.

On this day after the announcement by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, it is cold, dark and rainy here in Seattle.  The weather seems fitting somehow to reflect the despair and hopelessness that so many people are feeling.

The announcement that there would be no Grand Jury indictment of the police officer who fired 12 shots to kill a young black man in Ferguson, MO, was made under the cover of darkness because it was shameful.  The justice system failed. As a meaningful mechanism for accountability in the case of lethal force by a police officer against an unarmed citizen, how could a Grand Jury and Prosecutor not find probable cause? If an unarmed man is shot dead in the street by an officer, something went wrong. That “something” deserved to be examined in a judicial process, a trial, to determine if the force was excessive and if the officer is responsible for this loss of a human life.  A Grand Jury is not that process, and yet now the Prosecutor and the state can close the book on the death of Michael Brown.

This case and sadly others like it around the U.S. are but symptoms of the intractable racism which brings us the militarization of local police, excessive use of force and mass incarceration targeting men of color, the “war on drugs” and the erosion of voting rights all of which have had devastating consequences for communities of color and immigrant communities.

In 1981, Bernice Johnson Reagon wrote “Ella’s Song” in honor of civil rights leader, Ella Baker.  Last night, 33 years later, as I watched the news unfold after the announcement in Ferguson, my mind went immediately to this verse from the song:

“Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers' sons . . .”

This is the essence of the painful reality of Ferguson which has been repeated for too many years in our country and is still with us. So we face our despair and hopelessness again and again regardless of the focus of our social justice work: domestic violence, sexual assault on campus, climate change, immigration reform and on and on. The occasional victories pale in the face of innumerable defeats.

Ferguson

“You must let suffering speak,
if you want to hear the truth”

Cornel West

So we pause in this moment to remember who we are and to what we are called. I turned to the Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah [31:15-17], because I needed some reassurance from my faith that all is not in vain.

“Rachel is weeping for her children;

she refuses to be comforted for her children,

because they are no more.

Thus says our God:

Keep your voice from weeping,

and your eyes from tears;

for there is reward for your work,

says the Lord:

They shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,

says the Lord:

Your children shall come back to their own country.”

Mothers weep; their children are gone forever; they cannot be comforted in their despair, anger and hopelessness.  What can we offer them beyond our tears? Reagon begins and ends her song with this challenge:

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes”

Jeremiah assures us that beyond tears, there is reward for our collective efforts; there is a future for all sons and daughters.

O God, I pray beyond words that it may be so and that we have the courage and energy to continue to do the work of justice-making in the face of hopelessness and to not rest until it comes.

 

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
www.FaithTrustInstitute.org
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artwork by Clare Obradovich, copyright 2014

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
www.FaithTrustInstitute.org

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Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
www.FaithTrustInstitute.org

Subscribe to my blog

We welcome your comments. Please note that your comments will not be visible until they are approved by the moderator.

- See more at: http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/blog/marie-fortune/202#sthash.OEST8hBF.dpuf
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Ferguson

Posted by Pr Dawn Gregg at Nov 26, 2014 01:38 PM
You say so well what I've been thinking, Dr Fortune. Thank you.
Yes! The Jeremiah passage fits well and brings hope.
When the "decision" of the grand jury was announced IN THE DARK, scripture passages about how the things done in the dark/night will have light shown on them kept coming to mind.

Racism is alive and rampant in all parts of this country but the racists are outing themselves as more and more of this kind of thing is brought to light by their own actions.

Bless you and your ministry. You and all who work to bring peace and justice to all.
Dawn