“We don’t always see the face of God in everybody’s face,” Rev. Pamela Ngunjiri tells her congregation. “And that’s the problem with racism. Somewhere along the line the humanity of that particular group has been taken away and that has to be restored.”
Ngunjiri (pronounced Go-jiri) was recently hired as the Co-Director for Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC). She joins the other Co-Director and Healing Minnesota Stories’ founder Jim Bear Jacobs. Together they are leading the Council’s multi-year effort at truth telling, education and reparations with both the African American and Native American communities.
Ngunjiri and Jacobs say the Council’s first truth-telling event will be held in September, details coming soon. Until them, please meet Rev. Ngunjiri.
Hundreds of people attended a vigil in Brooklyn Center Monday night near the site where a police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright. (Crowd video here.) It ended by 7 p.m., the start of a curfew imposed by Gov. Tim Walz.
Many residents ignored the curfew and clashed with police during the evening.
In a media conference today, Brooklyn Center officials spoke to the “tragic” events and the community’s grief, but failed to speak to the community’s justifiable anger.
Brooklyn Park Police Chief Tim Gannon called the shooting “an accident.” The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would do the investigation, he said.
Regardless of who’s doing the investigating, Gannon needs to acknowledge this is more than an accident. The officer’s actions were, at a minimum, reckless and negligent.
Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories, joined roughly 75 other faith and indigenous leaders who gathered in the Governor’s Conference Room today to pray, sing, hold an Anihsinaabe water ceremony, and make a clear demand that Gov. Tim Walz stop the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline — an unnecessary and dangerous project that violates treaty rights.
“Today, my message to Gov. Walz is that you cannot claim to be an ally to indigenous people when you knowingly introduce toxins into the food and water systems. And that is exactly what Enbridge Line 3 will do,” said Jacobs, who is a member of the Mohican Nation. “… I stand with all of you in hope that Gov. Walz will take heroic action and sign an executive order halting Line 3 where it stands,”
At a minimum, Jacobs said Walz needs to support a Minnesota Department of Commerce lawsuit to stop Line 3, an action begun by former Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. The suit argues Enbridge failed to prove the new and expanded Line 3 was needed. The Walz administration is now reevaluating the lawsuit and the Governor is expected to announce early next week which side he will take.
Healing Minnesota Stories is now a program of the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC), expanding its reach and opportunities for transformation.
Begun in 2011, Healing Minnesota Stories is an effort to create dialogue, understanding and healing between Native peoples and Minnesota’s faith communities and their individual members. The initiative grew out of a Saint Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN) conference on racism in the church. SPIN has supported Healing Minnesota Stores over the past seven years.
Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, Healing Minnesota Stories founder, will now serve as the Director of Racial Justice at MCC, continuing to lead Healing Minnesota Stories and other initiatives. “I’m excited for this opportunity with MCC as we begin to dream how we might continue and expand the work of Healing Minnesota Stories on a larger scale,” Jacobs said in a media release issued today Continue reading →
Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, stood before a crowd of hundreds of people Monday afternoon at Leif Erickson Park to state the shared belief of many religious leaders that the state should reject the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline on moral grounds.
“Oftentimes the faith community historically has been on the wrong side, particularly as it relates to indigenous communities and sovereign nations who we are in relationship with.” DeYoung said. “Today we decided to be on the right side.”
The event, held just west of the state Capitol, included civil rights songs, a Jewish cantor, a brass band, chants, and a Buddhist moment of silence. It included indigenous prayer and truth-telling. It included a number of brief speeches from religious leaders from different traditions. But the event’s main goal was to Stop Line 3. To that end, the group delivered an interfaith letter opposing Line 3 to both Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Some 540 faith leaders signed.
Elona Street-Stewart, a leader in both the Native American community and the Presbyterian Church, issued a forceful challenge to the Minnesota Council of Churches. Institutions — including religious ones — “are designed to maintain and protect systems of privilege,” she said, adding:
Please disavow and repudiate all doctrines of domination, and acclaim the rights of indigenous peoples.
Please learn from us, and do not preside over us.
Please accept a place in the circle, but do not occupy the center of the circle.”
Street-Stewart is a member of the Delaware Nanticoke Nation and the executive of the Lakes and Prairie’s Synod of the Presbyterian Church USA, which includes Minnesota. She was one of three people Curtiss DeYoung asked to speak at his official installation service as the new head of the Minnesota Council of Churches. The event was held Dec. 14 at Park Avenue United Methodist Church.
DeYoung previously taught Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, leaving in 2014 to become the executive director of the Community Renewal Society in Chicago. If the list of people he asked to speak at the installation service is any indication, DeYoung will make racial justice and reconciliation a cornerstone to his work at the Council.
Along with Street-Stewart, speakers were Sindy Morales Garcia, a young Latina from Guatemala who works for the Wilder Foundation’s Community Initiatives; and Dee McIntosh, a young African-American pastor at the Lighthouse Church in Minneapolis.
I was deeply moved by all the talks, but for this blog I thought it was particularly important to share Street-Stewart’s words. They are reprinted, below. It is my hope that the Council can live up to the challenge. Continue reading →