Ways Minnesota’s white churches need to use their power and faith

Anahkwud Mihgiizay, Ajiijak Dodem (Wendy Stone)

A guest blog by Anahkwud Mihgiizay, Ajiijak Dodem (Wendy Stone), a descendant of some of the continent’s original inhabitants, the Chippewa and Peoria peoples. (She also is a direct descendant of Gouveneur Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and framer of the US Constitution.) Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Minneapolis. Ms. Stone volunteers for the Great Lakes Peace Center, Mask Movement (a response to the coronavirus) and water protection, environmental, and human equality organizations.

Churches of Minnesota! It’s time to use your might and faith for real change, embracing your values of love and justice. Right now. This is your moment, if you have the courage to challenge yourself and your members.

You cannot “support the good police officers” by continuing to defend the very corrupt and dysfunctional systems created by and for the police. It’s time to acknowledge the basic truth: The system has shown us time and again that it’s utterly broken. George Floyd’s murder is just the latest exclamation point.

Here are concrete ways you can act. The ideas below were put forward by people of color, leading other people of color, who have devoted years to dismantling the laws that perpetuate the cycles of brutality and protests. These are tangible, effective ways you can leverage your congregation’s position and influence. Continue reading

An open letter to white clergy on George Floyd’s murder and the current unrest

An Open Letter to White Clergy

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs

To my colleagues in ministry, particularly in the Twin Cities,

We are all challenged with how to be a ministering presence during these difficult times. George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis Police department. Many of us took to the streets during a global pandemic to demand justice. As I write this, I witnessed outside my suburban window a steady stream of city buses filled with state troopers speeding towards Minneapolis. Our cities are burning. On top of that many of you are prayerfully attempting to craft this Sunday’s sermon. Pentecost Sunday. When fire came to earth and turned the world upside down. My dear friends, especially my white colleagues in ministry, as you work on your sermons for this Sunday please heed this word of caution.

Right now, you may not know what words to say. You are feeling an impulse to pray and appeal to God for peace. I want you to consider not praying for peace. I know that this seems counter intuitive, but please don’t dismiss me just yet. So often in the midst of unrest we make an appeal for peace, but what is meant by peace? What are we asking for? When the unrest is a reaction to blatant racism; When the righteous anger makes you fearful; When our cities are burning; When in the midst of all this you take your pulpit and pray for peace, it is often a veiled plea for a return to “law and order”. If this is what you plan to do this Sunday, I would implore you to promptly resign your pulpit. To you this may seem extreme but I assure you I am absolutely sincere.

Your desire for law and order may seem peace to you, but it is definitely not peace for our communities of color. The prophet Jeremiah warns against superficial peace. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace Peace’ they say, when there is no peace.” Your “peace” is based on law and order which itself is based on the Constitution. This constitution didn’t codify into common law that YOU were less than fully human. This Constitution didn’t have to be amended to grant that YOU are not property. This Constitution and the system of laws that grew from it work great for YOU, but make no mistake it was never meant to protect Black and Brown people.

When white people cry for peace it is too often an appeal to silence Black anger to make room for White comfort. We don’t need peace. We don’t need things to return to normal. Normal is what got us here. We need leadership that will bravely face the truth of our white supremacist society and commit to change it. We need white people to get comfortable with dis-comfort. We need many things, but we do not need a superficial peace. For if you declare a shallow peace without the depth of justice; without the upheaval of systems created to intentionally suppress Black and Brown people; the prophet Jeremiah again warns of your awaiting fate. “So, they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them, Says the Lord”

If this Sunday you plan on praying for peace without committing to work towards justice. If your desire is simply to see the status quo restored, then do yourself a favor and resign your pulpit. Save yourself from God’s judgement.

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican)
Director of Racial Justice, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories
MN Council of Churches

Charges brought in George Floyd’s murder, greater work remains around systemic racism, police reforms

Officer Derek Chauvin remained kneeling on Floyd’s neck even after another officer said he couldn’t find Floyd’s pulse.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd’s death, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced today at a press conference. He expected to bring charges against the other three police officers at the scene who failed to intervene, but those cases are still under review, he said.

People not only want justice for Floyd but they want and deserve systemic change, both to address the underlying problems of structural racism and the long-standing problems at the Minneapolis Police Department that Floyd’s case represents. That work requires that we speak clearly and directly to explain the causes and conditions that led to Floyd’s murder. Continue reading

MN Council of Churches CEO calls for the arrest and prosecution of Minneapolis officers involved in killing George Floyd

Many organizations have released statements of grief, sadness and calls for justice in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. The following comes from Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

(Full disclosure, Healing Minnesota Stories is an initiative of the Minnesota Council of Churches.)

Under the heading: “How long, O Lord,” DeYoung calls on faith leaders to press for systemic changes in policing in Minnesota. He calls faith leaders to push for the arrest and prosecution of the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck until he died, and the arrest and prosecution of the three officers who stood nearby and failed to come to George’s aid. Continue reading

The protests and anger are about George Floyd and so much more

A heavy police line barricaded East Lake Street at 27th Ave. S. near the Third Precinct headquarters.

The unfolding protests against the Minneapolis Police Department over the death of George Floyd aren’t about the actions of one rogue cop but about a department culture where it seems officers are unable to challenge a peer when that peer’s actions clearly violate police procedure and basic human decency.

As I write this blog, the unrest is getting worse. Police are using tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protestors are throwing things at police. Some were even vandalizing local businesses. I’m sure that conflict will draw most of the media coverage. The focus in this blog will be on the roots of community anger.

Floyd was on the ground in handcuffs while Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck. Floyd cried for help. None of the other three officers on the scene did anything to intervene. By the time Floyd was moved to the ambulance, he was “unresponsive and without a pulse,” the Star Tribune reports. The three officers’ disturbing indifference and silence to Floyd’s pleas speak volumes to many in the community who already mistrust the police.

And while Floyd’s death is the latest flash point between Minneapolis police and the community, these protests are about a whole lot more. Continue reading

This Day in History May 27, 2020: Menominee Tribe wins landmark case to preserve hunting and fishing rights in spite of official “termination”

In one of the more blatant examples of broken treaties, the United States tried to unilaterally end the existence of Tribal Nations and their treaty rights during what is known as the Termination Era. Forced assimilation policies spanned the 1940s to the 1960s.

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin was one of the first tribes officially terminated by an Act of Congress, and one that pushed back. On this day in history, May 27, 1968, the Menominee Nation won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case reestablishing its hunting and fishing rights, the first step in reestablishing its status as a sovereign nation. Continue reading