Black Lives Matter: Go to an African American Church in Solidarity This Coming Sunday Morning

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Tens of millions of Americans are deeply disturbed by the racism that has recently gotten the focus that it should have had for the past many decades. The failure of juries to indict police who kill African American males was not new, but the awareness of this reality which has been just one of the many faces of racism that weigh down the lives of African Americans in this society was quite unusual and momentarily broke through the dominant discourse that “that problem has been solved decades ago after Martin Luther King, Jr. saved his people by ending segregation and winning the voting rights laws.”
Of course, even now there are many in the media who try to deny the ongoing significance of racism in our society. Yet the outpouring of anger that we’ve seen on college campuses and in the streets of the U.S. is a reason for hopefulness that when the media turns its attention away from this issue some of the consciousness about racism will remain alive beyond the peoples of color who can never forget it as long as it is shoved in their face by police, unemployment, hunger, poverty, harassment, and endless opportunities to experience the contempt that many whites feel toward them.
Is it any wonder that some young African Americans find it hard to believe that there is a strong connection between how hard they work and how well they will be treated in this society? Does anyone really think that if a Black cop had killed a middle class white youth or strangled and then let die a white man that the grand jury would not have indicted him? What we have been hearing more clearly than ever in the past few years is the tremendous fear that African Americans carry with them at all times — fear of white majority and their occupying force in communities of color that we call police and some of us call “pigs,” and fear of the way the system keeps on undermining them, manifesting contempt for them, and treating them as though their lives did not matter.
That’s why I am so glad that this Sunday, December 14, the Progressive National Baptist Convention has called for a morning of standing in solidarity with African Americans. I strongly urge you to find a Black church near you and show up in solidarity. The focus is not only on mourning but in publicly proclaiming: “Black Lives Matter.” That afternoon, we at the Network of Spiritual Progressives will be holding a strategy conference to assess what needs to change in the way the liberal and progressive forces have developed in the past few decades that has rendered them less influential and hence less able to defend the mini-steps that were taken in the past to overcome American racism. I’m hoping that our event will spur dozens of others.
This is a discussion which can’t stay at the level of pointing out how spineless and hence disappointing President Obama has been, how absent of a positive message the Democratic Party has been, how splintered and unable to cooperate have been the various organizations and movements of the liberal and progressive Left. We need to look deeper.
The issue of racism, after all, is really the issue of “othering” — taking some group and making them the demeaned other. What pain in people’s lives makes this othering so attractive?
We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives point to the corrosive impact of patriarchy and class society in dividing people and making it in the interests of the powerful to foster hatred among groups of the relatively powerless. This has taken much more sophisticated form in contemporary capitalist society where most people have been indoctrinated into the belief that they live in a “meritocracy” in which people end up economically, but also in terms of the quality of their lives, families and love relationships, in exactly the place they deserve. Those who are most successful deserve that, and the rest of us deserve what ever happens to us. The result: massive self-blaming which feels terrible. No wonder that many are attracted to religious fundamentalist or ultra nationalist movements or institutions which promise them support and caring (and this promise is often really delivered). However, the nationalist holidays pass, the Sunday church experience passes, and then people are right back in the very same capitalist marketplace in which they are seen as valuable only to the extent that they can accumulate lots of money and power. The selfishness, materialism and looking out for number one that so undermines loving relationships returns to the forefront, and the religious or nationalist high doesn’t last. And here the ultra-Right comes forward to provide an explanation: “there is some group that is destroying what would otherwise be a wonderful and nurturing society” and then point to whoever is the designated demeaned other, and blame it on them.
Jews were the identified demeaned other of Europe and it led eventually to genocide against the Jewish people (including many of my relatives). But in the US by the time my grandparents arrived here there already was a “demeaned other” that replaced Native Americans (once they had been genocided nearly out of existence), and so the demeaned other became the Blacks brought here as slaves and then eventually freed from legal slavery but subjected to various forms of domination and humiliation that continues to this moment. And the hatred of Blacks is layered over not only to function as an effective way to channel the anger that people might otherwise be feeling toward the larger economic system onto the backs of African Americans, but also as a way of protecting the American public from ever really having to face up to how debilitating and cruel has been the practice and legacy of slavery, then Jim Crow and segregation, then the more hidden but nevertheless pervasive ways that racism continues to function as a central dynamic in American politics and economics. We can witness how difficult it is for the American public to acknowledge the torture we visited on a wide variety of people in Guantanamo and other secret sites, even when a U.S. Senate committee report provides much of the evidence, and that was only a few thousand people being tortured by a handful of distorted people. Imagine then how hard it is for a society like ours to have a serious look at the way tens of millions of African Americans and other peoples of color have been living and suffering. Far easier to deflect attention by blaming the victim — particularly in capitalist societies where people have already been taught to blame themselves for their economic failures, and where othering is the coin of the realm.
A serious anti-racist movement must address these psychological dynamics. It must affirm the possibility of a world based on love and generosity even in the face of being dismissed as “unrealistic” because all of us have to some extent been immersed in the selfishness-generating worldviews that are taught in the schools and media and massively reinforced by our experiences in the capitalist marketplace, so most of us have come to believe that these behaviors reflect “human nature” rather than the products of a particular form of economic and social organization through which we’ve been living and then recreating in our own personal and economic lives.
Yet most people yearn for something quite different, and that is why we at the Network of Spiritual Progressives are building the Love and Justice movement. More of that soon! For the moment, I hope you might yet try to get to the Reclaim America conference this Sunday or at least join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and help convene such a gathering in your part of the world.
And given the now-documented torture that the U.S. Senate revealed yesterday that is being highlighted in the media today, we have a lot more from which to be reclaiming America. But in the long run, that torture is just another manifestation of the “othering” that permeates the consciousness of so many Americans. How else explain the collaboration with the torturers by the American Psychological Association? And that othering is most systematically manifested in the racism toward peoples of color and in particular toward African Americans. So do find an African American church this Sunday and show up and demonstrate that they are not alone and that Black Lives Matter to you no matter what your racial, religious or ethnic identity!

Finding a Church in the Bay Area
If you live in the Bay Area, look below for some relevant places to attend church services that morning. Many of us, like myself, are not Christian — but solidarity requires going to one of the major places in which African Americans will be seeking support this weekend as the media switches the focus, leaving behind the ongoing problem of American racism, to focus (importantly) on the torture crimes of the Bush and Obama Administration (can you believe that Obama, through his Secretary of State Kerry, tried to convince the Senate not to release this report ‘at this time’ which would have left it in the hands of a Republican Senate that would have never released it?).
We have made that solidarity a theme of our Reclaim America conference that afternoon Dec. 14 from 1:00 -7:00 p.m (along with the larger focus on developing a strategy to take back the country from those in the new Congress who seek to defund social programs and cripple the implementation of environmental regulations).
It’s not too late to join the hundreds who have already signed up for the conference–go to www.spiritualprogressives.org/reclaimamerica. So, to make this clear, we urge you to respond to the Progressive Baptist Convention and go to a nearby African American church, and then if you are in Northern California to come to the Reclaim America conference starting at one that afternoon at the University of San Francisco’s McLaren Hall.
If you live in the Bay Area, please consider going Sunday morning, before our conference, to one of the following:
If you are going to be at our conference in S.F. at 1, you might find it most convenient to come to the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco at 1399 McAllister Street (just east of Divisadero) for their10 a.m.service. Pastor Amos Brown has expressed a warm welcome to our potential attendees.
If you live in the East Bay, please consider going to the8 a.m.service at the Allen Temple Baptist Church at 8502 International Blvd. in Oakland (their later service will be over far too late to then make it over to a key part of our conference which begins at1 p.m.in S.F.). Their pastor J. Alfred Smith, Jr. has expressed a warm welcome to our potential attendees.They request that we wear black that day in mourning for all the victims of police violence against African Americans.
Other progressive African American Congregations, in the East Bay include the following:
Imani Community Church in Oakland
Beebee Memorial Cathedral C.M.E in Oakland
First A. M. E. Church in Oakland
McGee Ave. Baptist Church in Berkeley
The Way Christian Center in Berkeley
Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond
Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond
St. Mark’s United Methodist in Orinda
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Or consider attending Sunday morning services at any of the following congregations in the West Bay:
San Francisco Muslim Community Center             San Francisco
St. Peter’s Missionary             San Francisco
Ascension Baptist Church             San Francisco
Olivet Baptist Church             San Francisco
Without Walls Church             San Francisco
Mount Gilead Baptist             San Francisco
Glad Tidings             San Francisco
Wright Chapel A.M.E             San Francisco
St. Andrews Missionary Baptist Church             San Francisco
Union Springs Baptist             San Francisco
Third Baptist Church             San Francisco
New Antioch Baptist Church             San Francisco
Calvary Hill Baptist Church             San Francisco
St. Andrew’s Baptist             San Francisco
First Union Baptist Church             San Francisco
True Vine COGIC             San Francisco
Lady of Lourdes             San Francisco
Faith Temple COGIC             San Francisco
Bether A.M.E Church             San Francisco
Love Chapel COGIC             San Francisco
New Life Flowwship             San Francisco
Jones Memorial United Methodist Church             San Francisco
Rhema Word             San Francisco
Metropolitan Church of Christ             San Francisco
Emanuel COGIC             San Francisco
Holy of Holy Baptist Church             San Francisco
Hicks Temple COGIC             San Francisco
Second Union Baptist             San Francisco
New Stranger’s Home Baptist Church             San Francisco
Galilee Baptish Church             San Francisco
First Apostolic Faith Church             San Francisco
City of Reguge             San Francisco
Voice of Pentecost Church             San Francisco
St Paul of the Shipwreck Cath. Churhc             San Francisco
Voice of Pentecost Church             San Francisco
Cosmopolitan Baptist             San Francisco
New Providence Baptist Church             San Francisco
Ingleside Presbyterian Church             San Francisco
Paradise Missionary Baptist Church             San Francisco
Neighborhood Baptist Church             SanFrancisco
Greater New Light Batist Church             San Francisco
James Memorial COGIC             San Francisco
Missionary Temple C.M.E Church             San Francisco
Providence Baptist Church             San Francisco
Glide Memorial Church             San Francisco
Paradise Baptist Church             San Francisco
St. John African Orthodox Church             San Francisco
Philadelphia Seventh Day Adventist             San Francisco
Bell Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church             San Francisco
Hamilton Memorial COGIC             San Francisco
Shiloh Full Gospel Church             San Francisco
Third Baptist Church             San Francisco
Rainbow Seventh Day Adeventist             San Francisco
Broad Street Baptist             San Francisco
San Francisco
Zion Hill Missionary Baptist             San Francisco
Trinity Baptist             San Francisco
Bayview Tabernacle Baptist             San Francisco
El Bethel Missionary Baptist             San Francisco
New Liberation Presbyterian Church             San Francisco
Glide Memorial United Methodist             San Francisco
Greater Gethsemane COGIC             San Francisco
Pilgrim Community Church             San Francisco
Mt. Trinity Baptist Church             San Francisco
St. John Missionary Baptist Church             San Francisco
Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church             San Francisco
Metropolitan Baptist Church             San Francisco
New Home Baptist Church             San Francisco
St. Cyprians Episcopal Church             San Francisco
Fellowship Bible Church             San Francisco
Little Bethany Baptist Church             San Francisco
True Gospel Baptist Church             San Francisco
The Greater Good Shepherd             San Francisco
Pentecostal Temple COGIC             San Francisco
Community Assembly of God             San Francisco
Christ Missionary Baptist Church             San Francisco
Community Baptist Church             San Francisco
First Friendship Institution             San Francisco
True Hope COGIC             San Francisco
St. Paul Tabernacle             San Francisco
Matthew Zion Baptist Church             San Francisco
Mt. Zion Baptist Church             San Francisco
Glide Memorial Methodist             San Francisco
Calvary Apostolic             San Francisco
Mt. Herman Baptist Church             San Francisco
St. James Missionary Baptist Church             San Francisco
Allen Chapel, AME             San Francisco
Evergreen Baptist             San Francisco
First A.M.E. Zion Church             San Francisco