Our Commission on Religion & Race (CORR) invites Eastern PA Conference members, families and friends to join a one-day freedom and fellowship ride to the nation’s capital on Wednesday, April 4, to rally against the scourge of racism in America. With 36 registered so far, there are still 11 seats open on the 47-passenger bus. But if you want to join us, you must register by the deadline of Tuesday, April 3 at 12 noon. So please sign up today.
The Klein Transportation bus will first depart with registered passengers at 4:45 AM from Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing, PA, in the Reading area. More passengers—including Bishop Peggy Johnson and other Cabinet members—will board at the Eastern PA Conference Office at 5:50 AM; and others will join them at 7 AM at the at Delaware House Travel Plaza in Newark, Del., along I-95. The bus should arrive near the National Mall in Washington, DC, by about 9:30 AM, traffic permitting, for riders to join the rally there.
The ACT (Awaken, Confront, Transform) to End Racism Rally begins with a silent, interfaith prayer walk from the nearby MLK Jr. Memorial to the Mall at 7 AM. An interfaith worship service will happen at 8, and the rally and “call to commitment” will follow from 9 to 4. Our bus will return that evening. See the information and registration page for more details.
The rally is part of the ecumenical National Council of Churches’ Truth and Racial Justice Initiative. The full event, including public worship and witnessing, happens in Washington, D.C., April 3-5, when the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (April 4, 1968). “We will commit to do our part to eradicate the entrenched racism that grips the United States and paralyzes our ability to see every human being as equal,” say event organizers.
Several lay and clergy members reflected for us on their reasons for going on this journey to rally against racism:
Janet A Mills, Janes Memorial UMC Philadelphia:
Race is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as a difference among peoples in their physical characteristics. Yet, our world for more than five centuries learned to discriminate and marginalize based on unchangeable DNA. My living room wall displays a photo of 19th-century Philadelphia civil rights leader, Octavius V. Catto who merely wanted free elections for all people. Brother Catto lost his life in 1871 for his passion for human rights. If I, in this small measure, can carry on one his legacies; I shall do so!
The Rev. Deborah Tanksley-Brown (Deacon), Church of the Open Door, Kennett Square:
I remember watching TV as a very young person, as the “freedom riders” boarded buses headed for “battlefields” in the South. I remember watching the multitudes gathered in Washington and the tent cities. Now 50-plus years later, I am preparing to board the bus, to take a seat and a place in line with other freedom riders and justice seekers. I will be joining with the thousands who went before me, who were willing to stand in unity and demonstrate with the choir of saints that “We may be persecuted, but we are not crushed.” And “still we rise” to resist and persist until the fullness of peace (shalom) prevails.
The Andrea Brown, Grandview UMC Lancaster:
When I have participated in marches in the past, it has been powerfully encouraging to me to see, hear, and feel the presence of people of faith and especially Christians making a stand for what we believe.
Once, while marching in a protest to the Iraq War, I saw a woman wearing the second baptismal question on her T-shirt: “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” That question has gained more authority and substance for me because of her witness against the evils of war. So, I want us to be part of making a witness to other Christians and to those who don’t know Christians as justice-seeking people.
I’m tremendously grateful for the “Healing the Wounds of Racism” experience I had in our conference. It was transformational for me in the truest spiritual meaning of that word. Joining with others to do anti-racism work is one of the fruits of that experience of repentance and grace in my life.
If I could add an epistle to our Bible, it would be Rev. Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Reading this letter at least once a year is a key spiritual practice for me. It convicts me. My life is different because of his life and his writings. Participating in this march on the 50th anniversary of his death feels like one way of honoring that, as well as the work of others in the civil rights movement, which has made our nation better and still shows us what needs to be done.
The lineup of speakers has been released for the upcoming Rally 2 End Racism. They include:
Yolanda Adams is a gospel singer, record producer, actress, and former radio host of her own nationally syndicated morning gospel show. Adams is known as the “Queen of Contemporary Gospel Music” and the “First Lady of Modern Gospel”. Variety dubbed Adams as the “Reigning Queen of Urban Gospel.”
Louie Blue Coat is from the Dakota Association United Church of Christ and was a clergy participant at Standing Rock gathering for prayer, solidarity, and repentance.
Danny Glover is an actor, film director, and political activist. He has appeared in many other movies, television shows, and theatrical productions, and is an active supporter of various humanitarian and political causes.
Louis Gossett, Jr., is best known for his Academy Award-winning role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, and his role as Fiddler in the 1977 ABC television miniseries Roots. Gossett has also starred in numerous film in an acting career that spans over five decades. He has turned his attention to ending racism through his organization, the Eracism Foundation.
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Harvey is a writer, speaker, and professor at Drake University. Her work focuses on racial justice and white anti-racism. Dr. Harvey’s most recent books include Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in Racially Unjust America (Abingdon Press, January 2018) and Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation (Wm. B. Eerdmans). Dr. Harvey has also contributed to New York Times and Huffington Post and is ordained in the American Baptist Churches (U.S.A.).
Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes, III, is the Sr. Pastor at Friendship West Baptist Church (Dallas, TX) and is a prophetic pastor, passionate leader, social activist, and eloquent orator. He is an educator engaged in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, fighting against racial injustice, committed to economic justice and empowerment in under-served communities and to touching and transforming the lives of the disenfranchised.
Bishop Vashti McKenzie is a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. McKenzie is the first female elected as bishop in the denomination’s history. She is also the national chaplain of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the granddaughter of Delta founder Vashti Turley Murphy.
DeRay Mckesson is an American civil rights activist and former school administrator. Mckesson is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and is known for his activism via social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram and has been active in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. Mckesson has also written for The Huffington Post and The Guardian. Along with Johnetta Elzie, Brittany Packnett, and Samuel Sinyangwe, Mckesson launched Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence. He currently hosts the Crooked Media podcast Pod Save the People.
Bishop W. Darin Moore is the Presiding Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church and currently serves as the Chair of the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches, USA.
Dr. Mary I. O’Connor. As an orthopaedic surgeon, she sees firsthand the disparate care women and individuals of color often receive and has been a strong voice in the Caucasian male-dominated orthopaedic profession to improve the diversity of providers and equality of care. Since its founding in 2010, Dr. O’Connor has served as Chair of Movement is Life, a multi-stakeholder group committed to decreasing healthcare disparities through work at the patient, provider, community and policy levels.
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner serves as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He has led the Religious Action Center since 2015. Rabbi Pesner also serves as Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism, a position to which he was appointed to in 2011. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader and tireless advocate for social justice.
Bishop Marvin Sapp is a Gospel music singer-songwriter who recorded with the group Commissioned during the 1990s before beginning a record-breaking solo career. Sapp is also the founder and senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Jim Wallis is a New York Times bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life. Jim is the author of 12 books. His most recent book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, was released in January 2016.
In addition, Ben & Jerry’s co-founders and activists Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield will be on hand to speak and to scoop up free ice cream!