March 22, 2016
To tell you the story about what happened at Howard S. Wright, I want to start at the end, with the private security guard who asked how he could get involved with European Dissent’s anti-racist work. He shook hands with many of the protesters. As we left, I watched him kneel down and hold the hand of a woman in a wheelchair as he talked to her. At the end of the action, he told us how moved he was by what he had witnessed.
What creates an event where the people who are hired to create distance and barriers between people of different viewpoints can be moved? I believe this is a testament to the power of faith in action. Racism is dehumanizing to all of us. We all have to invite the Spirit in to heal, even as we work to dismantle oppressive systems. We said this at Howard S. Wright through prayer, song and reading of our holy texts. We were there to hold up a mirror for Howard S. Wright, and ourselves, as we break the traumatic and destructive cycle of “business as usual.”
We planned to deliver letters directly to Howard S. Wright, but they hired private security to keep us out of the building, so we did church right outside their door. We taped up all the letters we were going to deliver on their outside wall along with many news articles that have been written about the No New Youth Jail Campaign and alternatives to detention. The Raging Grannies sang about the new youth jail (to the tune of Home on the Range) and a few renditions of When the Saints Go Marching In. We did a call and response prayer about our own complicity in the prison industrial complex and our hope for a world without prisons. And finally, because it wouldn’t be “Table Flipping Monday” without it, four people flipped four small tables as they read Jesus’ words from the four gospels.
Does money, our jobs or our sense of security keep us from making decisions we would otherwise make? Keep us from standing on the side we want to be standing on? I think about the security guards who had to tell us to stand outside rather than allow us to deliver our letters; I think about the people who work for Howard S. Wright and find themselves working on a very different kind of project; I think of the people who work in the juvenile detention centers, whose gifts and energy could be used in a liberating, rather than oppressive, environment. As people of faith, I believe in our ability to connect deeply to each other and the Prophetic Imagination of God — I believe this is what we have to offer the movement and our own communities. —Jenn HagedornSubscribe