By Nyle Fort
Every 28 hours in America, a black person is shot and killed by police, security personnel, or vigilantes. This epidemic of racialized state violence has a long history in this country, from slavery and lynchings to Jim Crow and mass incarceration. As theologian James Cone writes in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, "Every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus." The state-sponsored execution of Jesus can be directly linked, both theologically and politically, to the execution of black bodies in America. What is our response to the deaths of Amadou Diallo, Shantel Davis, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell, just to name a few? Silence is not an option because silence in the face of injustice is sin.
How are we to express our righteous indignation? How can we respond, with integrity, to racialized violence? As Jesus calls on us to remember his death, so are we to remember the deaths of those "crucified" in our midst. The voices of the executed are crying from the ground, calling us as disciples of Jesus to remember them and advocate for justice. How may we do this? The Church is in desperate need of a political theology that speaks to our theological convictions as well as articulates our political commitments. We pray that this service will be one step in that direction. And the voluntary offering collected during the service will be donated to local organizations working to end police brutality and other forms of state violence.
Similar to the "Seven Last Words of Jesus" traditionally preached on Good Friday, we will convene a "Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks" service with a focus on the final words uttered by seven black people slain by police, security personnel, or vigilantes. These words will be the preaching "texts" for sermons on Eric Garner ("I Can't Breathe); Renisha McBride ("I Want to Go Home”), and Michael Brown ("Don't Shoot!”), among others.
The program will be live-streamed directly on the church's website: http://theriversidechurchny.org/
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