“How long, O Lord?”

Dear Fremont Family:

The news of Tyre Nichol’s murder at the hands of Memphis Police Officers is still weighing heavy on my heart. Yesterday, I joined a Vigil sponsored by the NAACP and the Albina Ministerial Alliance at the MLK Plaza at the Convention Center at noon. Here, Dr. LeRoy Haynes of Allen Temple CME is leading the gathering in a prayer for justice with other pastors behind him.

I think the thing that lingers with me most from yesterday’s gathering is the growing sense of desolation regarding whether or not things will ever be different. There was an undertone to the gathering (even as the prayers were fervent) that I also feel in my own heart, namely, we have been here before, and we will be here again. In other words, if nothing changes, then nothing changes. Toward the close of the gathering, the group was led in singing one of the Civil Rights anthems, “We Shall Overcome,” and then the pastor who followed with the benediction remarked that he has heard this song his entire life (60 years!). He added, “I need that someday to be today!” Indeed.

Then, this morning I awoke to two headlines that seemed to confirm what we already know: 1. Policing is broken and 2. American History is in denial. The first article focused on the fact that the Memphis police officers who murdered Tyre were a part of a special forces unit called, “The Scorpions” (even the name suggests death). These special policing units often are given permission to use aggressive tactics to do what is called “hot spot policing.” As I understand it, the police target high crime areas and respond with drastic and punitive approaches. Unsuprisingly, those tactics lead to abuse and murder. For more information read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/01/briefing/memphis-scorpion-unit-tyre-nichols-death.html

The second article was an article detailing the changes to the curriculum for the newly established AP African American History class for high school students. After complaints by politicians like Ron DeSantis, the College Board gutted aspects of the curriculum that now leave out important parts of African American history like removing critical race theory and making contemporary events like Black Lives Matter optional. For more information read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/01/us/college-board-advanced-placement-african-american-studies.html?campaign_id=190&emc=edit_ufn_20230201&instance_id=84229&nl=from-the-times®i_id=105533820&segment_id=124103&te=1&user_id=cfae2d4a86a17030c96d22ad8e8dbaa3

All of these pieces of the puzzle fit together in ways that we must intentionally address. Education, policing, economic practices are parts of the greater whole that lead to the murder of Black people. Until we are willing to be courageous and take on systems that are built on submission by violence and the “whitewashing” of history by choice, nothing will change.

Lord, have mercy upon us all.

Grace and peace to you as we grieve together,