A project of First Church, supported by a Church of the Brethren grant. A report on the Wednesday evening series:
First Church of the Brethren Chicago was privileged to receive a grant from the Healing Racism fund, through Intercultural Ministries to provide a 7 week series on Criminal Justice, Race and Faith. Our congregation, partners and community members were able to hear from many invited guests to reflect on an aspect of systemic racism that greatly impacts the East Garfield Park community in particular, the city, our country as well as our international relationships. For too long People of color have been disproportionately affected by violence and the entirety of the criminal justice system that disrupts communities, harms entire families and renders all with a life of trauma.
We attempted to weave together a variety of aspects of this issue to consider how we are impacted personally, and as faith and communities of color.
Dr. Anet Satvedi brought us a history and update on violence in Nigeria and the status of the EYN Church of the Brethren there. We felt it important to examine how our communities have and continue to be hurt by violence. We are a part of the International community.
Professor Roselle Prexy Nesbitt, visiting scholar at Chapman University in California, joined former pastor Orlando Redekopp and Joan Gerig via zoom to comment on the newly released film (which we all viewed)”Mandela in Chicago'' which focused on the Anti Aparthied movement in Chicago. First Church Chicago played a significant role in organizing the anti -apartheid movement here in Chicago. It provided a glimpse into the importance of organized people and communities to overcome systems of oppression.
Chris Crater, First Church member representing the Obama Foundation, along with Mary Scott- Boria led a discussion on the history and current status of policing and mass incarceration in the US and its impact on the East Garfield Park Community. East Garfield Park ranks number 3 in crimes in the city. So the dual problem of violence and criminalization is a double harm to this community. Chris further discussed the work of the Obama Foundation to address the needs of young African American men.
Essence Jade Gatheright, a fellow at the Chicago Freedom School, joined us to look at more recent events in Chicago and how young people were mobilized to respond to police violence. This session provided us the opportunity to build our intergenerational network and learn specifically from and with our youth and how we support them.
“Love and Protect” provided a hands-on workshop focused on women who are criminalized as a result of defending themselves against personal and state violence. In addition to learning about how women are impacted differently within the criminal justice system they discussed the deep trauma these women and their families experience and its disruption within the family and community. Love and Protect led us through a letter writing campaign to individual incarcerated women . We will continue to work closely on various projects with Love and Protect.
Dorothy Burge, activist, quilt artist/professional and Restorative Justice practitioner provided a PowerPoint presentation and discussion on her Race and Criminal Justice quilt series. Her quilts are used to discuss the issue and are often offered to families as ways to assuage the harm they’ve experienced. These unique pieces of art are images of the victims police violence /torture. Dorothy was a principal in the campaign to exonerate young men tortured and imprisoned by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.
Dr. Christophe Ringer ethics professor at the Chicago Theological Seminary ended our series with a discussion on religion and mass incarceration. He provided an overview of his recently published manuscript entitled Necropolitics: The Religious Crisis of Mass Incarceration in America. This books explores the religious roots of incarceration as it has impacted blacks in America from slavery to the current crisis.
We ended this series considering ways to continue our efforts to stay engaged on this issue and how to strengthen our partnerships. This will happen by working with these and other organizations to promote a peaceful community that includes addressing and ending the harm and trauma of criminalization, particularly as it affects people of color communities.
At the end of this series we decided to read (as a community) Dr. Drew Hart's book, “Who Will Be a Witness “ to further interrogate our own practice of discipleship around this and other issues. We will also resume our craft circle as a healing practice for members of our community. Perhaps this will also be an opportunity to reach out to other Brethren congregations.
Thanks for the opportunity to work on this project, on behalf of First Church. Mary Scott Boria.
Copyright © 2021 Chicago First Church of the Brethren - All Rights Reserved.