By Charlotte Brockway
The Black Ministerial Caucus and Graduate Division of Religion Students Association are partnering up with the Theological School to invite the Drew community to join them on Tuesday, Oct. 25 for a Black Lives Matter Program. The event will include a Chapel service which begins at 4:10 p.m. with Rev. Andrew Wilkes Associate Pastor of the Greater Allen A.M.E. and Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute, followed by a workshop to culminate with a peaceful protest that will consist of walking from Drew to Madison City Hall.
“Now, more than ever, it’s time for us,” said Devon Horton, the Community Liaison, “as a people, to unite, to become educated, and make our presence known in the community–’peacefully!’”
“This is a student led activity,” said Ericka Dunbar, co-chair for the Graduate Division of Religion Student Association, listing several reasons on why they have decided to organize this event.
Dunbar identified many reasons on why the community should join the event. “It’s our moral and ethical responsibility to speak out against injustices against humanity. It’s no secret that there are intersecting systemic oppressions that gravely impact people of color but Black people in disproportionate rates. We cannot be silent about these issues. We must speak out and ensure actions are followed up to ensure safety, liberty and justice for ALL, which includes Blacks,” said Dunbar. Adding onto this, she remarked that “We want to encourage the Theo School and Drew University to take a stance, articulate it and to transform policies and procedures that sustain the culture of oppression. These injustices aren’t happening only in communities outside of Drew but are happening to Drew students as well.”
Dunbar also shared many unfortunate encounters Drew students face even in Madison.“Many students complain of being profiled by Madison police and police in neighboring towns, many are being profiled in Walgreens in Madison, many of Madison’s residents disrespect and dehumanize Drew students on and off campus.” She identified that “There is a persistent problem of people coming over to the Shakespeare Theatre treating Drew’s students as criminals or thugs, locking their doors as we walk through our own domain and making remarks as if we pose a threat. These things are also happening to students of color at neighboring institutions. We are calling these detrimental behaviors, attitudes and ideologies out and calling forth a moral revolution of values to transform the moral and ethical bankrupt systems that are killing our people.”
When asked what they expect from the outcome, Dunbar said, “we hope that people will become allies with Black people enduring historical, multigenerational and very complex social and personal traumas. We hope to transform insensitivity, ignorance and complacency. We need allies to live into the values they espouse but don’t embody.”
When Drew students were asked how they felt about the program, some of them mentioned they would love to attend but were unavailable.
“As far as the event, I’ve loved to attend,” said Zsane Sadler (‘17), “but unfortunately I have another obligation during that time. But I think it’s an excellent opportunity to bring awareness to ongoing issues within the black community. Even though I can’t go to the event, it will still be great for people at Drew to come together on these issues as I have seen happen in the past.”
On the overall importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Dunbar had this to say,
“We live in a country that declares we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It’s a lie. We’ve always been divided as the country was built off division and terrorism as colonizers caused many ruptures…between people and lands, cultures, identities, etc. The nation was built on bondage and injustice for several groups, namely diasporic Africans and Native Americans.
We were brought together under false pretenses as colonizers gave us a God and a Bible whom they claim supported our exploitation and commodification. The Movement of Black Lives Matter is doing to work of exposing the ramifications of the original sin of America. If ever we are to embody liberty and justice for all, it will begin with the work of acknowledging America’s original sin and its consequences. Consequences that are affecting Black bodies and souls in ways that are detrimental to not only Blacks but to the moral fabric of society.
Black Lives Matter is doing the hard, necessary work that must be done. Where the community comes together is those who are perpetrators and perpetrators of injustice have to acknowledge their wrong-doing and bring their practices to a halt. The work of Black Lives Matter isn’t enough. We are giving the vocal call, but there must be a response in embodied actions.”
Dunbar advises allies and those attending to forgive yourself, ask God for forgiveness for your role in perpetuating oppression, change your behaviors, transform despotic attitudes and ideologies that you’ve been committed to and do the hard work of ensuring liberty and justice for all.