Sam Dubose. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Eric Garner. Michael Brown.
These names are now a part of the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement. Not famous for their lives. Tragically, they are famous only in wrongful death.
At the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement is a dichotomy of love and anger. Love is what drives us toward social transformation. Anger is what fuels the tank.
What is the role of faith communities in this movement? That is the question I had when I headed off to Cleveland last week for the movement’s first national convening. And it is the question I am still asking, a week later.
No question, the gathering was spiritual. It was present in the songs, chants, laughter and interpersonal connections. But where were the faith communities?
As the only clergy visibly present (I wore my collar), I began to realize that the Black Lives Matter movement is doing what many of our faith communities are still struggling towards.
They have created radically inclusive, welcoming communities and are striving to live up to the principles that we more seasoned leaders have taught them.
They are committed to living out their values, intentional about developing leadership, and are opening the door to the diversity of who we are as the Black community.
There is great joy and relationship-building… dancing and historical analysis… collaborative leadership and community engagement… trauma and triumph… education and new music being birthed on streets and prison cells… laughter and deep spirituality.
In my short time at the national convening, I saw love, honesty, humor, anger, passion, intelligence and a deep commitment to justice for all. As a “seasoned” (read: older) member of this community, my job is to not get in the way or take over according the way I think things should be done, but be a part of the movement… and to bring my gifts with me.
There is a deep desire to be part of the American story but in a way that calls us to our highest and best selves — people of love and inclusiveness. Success for this movement is not just when law enforcement stops killing unarmed Black people and Stand Your Ground Laws are deemed unconstitutional, but also that Black transgender women no longer fear harassment and brutality from law enforcement and others. Such radical inclusiveness makes many of our faith communities queasy.
Black Lives Matter is a call to conscience for all of us. It is a call to be our highest and best selves. After all, “When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. When one part of the body rejoices, we all rejoice.”