Archive for the ‘peace’ Category

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The Tragic Death of Trayvon Martin

March 29, 2012

by Phil Porter
Minister of Art & Communication

Trayvon MartinLast Sunday, a photograph of Trayvon Martin and a “hoodie” were placed on the communion tables at both services at First Church. Trayvon was a 17-year-old African American who was shot by a neighborhood watch captain in Florida. The man who shot Trayvon was not arrested based on his claim that he fired in self-defense. Public attention and outrage has grown steadily in the month since the shooting.

This case has touched a nerve for many, inviting us to look not only at instances, but at patterns. This situation is not just about the tragic death of one young man. It is about perceptions of young African American men. Though some may see the murder as out of the ordinary, many are seeing it as something that could easily happen to them or someone they love. Thousands upon thousands of parents are now even more concerned and apprehensive about the safety of their sons.

Philadelphia AP writer Jesse Washington talks about having to give his 12-year-old son the talk about the “black male code.” He gave his son this advice:

“Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.

Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.

Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.”

(Read Jesse Washington’s full article “Trayvon Martin, my son, and the Black Male Code”.)

Trayvon is both a victim and a symbol. The tragedy of his death stands alone, but as we mourn him, we are also mourning many lives lost. We have an opportunity to stop and call ourselves and our culture to account for the ways that young lives are cut short or derailed because of race or class.

One of the things that church can offer is a place where the family is extended. In so many ways, teenagers and their parents need the support of the wider community. We can help hold the lives of our young people during a period that is often fraught with challenge. Perhaps Trayvon’s death can spur us to take even more seriously our opportunity to spread our collective wings over our young ones—those right next to us, those we pass on the street and those we only hear about through the news.

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The Axis of Friendship

September 14, 2011

Kevin Omi at the Axis of Friendship eventThese words were spoken by First Church member Kevin Omi at an Axis of Friendship event held at the time of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The event honored relations between people of the United States and Iran and celebrated connections with people of all cultures and nations.

I am a member of First Congregational Church of Berkeley, a progressive Christian congregation serving the East Bay. In church this morning, Dr. Rahim Nobahar, the new Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, was our special guest for our 9 am service. Amir Soltani who has visited with us several times, read poetry in our 11 am services.

More about the various ways First Church commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11…

Two years ago our congregation in conjunction with churches and Conferences throughout the country brought a resolution called the Axis of Friendship to our denominational meeting in Grand Rapids, MI. I am proud to say that our denomination agreed to:

• stood in solidarity with the people of Iran as they expressed their will toward self-government;

• promote and work for friendship between the people of Iran and the United States of America,

• call for an end to the violence, repression, and bloodshed, against peaceful Iranian demonstrators, media, and others

This July our denomination declared its support for our neighbors in the Muslim community, both in the United States and around the world, who feel the impact of anti-Islamic rhetoric and action.  We agreed to denounce actions against Islam or Muslims based on ignorance or fear; and to learn more about Islam and to build relationships with Muslims and peoples of all faiths.

I am also a Japanese American, the proud son of soldier in the 442nd regimental combat team.  The 442nd was the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the United States armed forces. My father fought in some of the most brutal battles of WW-II while the rest of his family, along with 110,000 other Japanese Americans were stripped of their belongings, property, and dignity.  Some were forced to sleep in horse corrals in Tanforan before they were sent on trains to the most desolate parts of the county. They lived in concentration camps surrounded by barbed wire, in tar paper shacks, during brutally hot summers and freezing winters; because of wartime hysteria and a long history of racism against persons of color.

Japanese Americans have been among the most vocal and passionate supporters of embattled Muslims. When we heard talk of “rounding up Muslims”, we immediately saw the potential parallel with our own history. We have folded thousands of paper cranes, which are a symbol of peace and decorated the windows in an Islamic school in Sacramento. We have rallied public support against hate crimes at mosques, signed on to legal briefs opposing the government’s indefinite detention of Muslims, organized cross-cultural trips to the Manzanar internment camp memorial, and held “Bridging Communities” workshops in Islamic schools and on college campuses.

As a member of the United Church of Christ, I believe that God is still speaking and urges us on to work with people of all faiths for the causes of peace, justice, and love.  As a Japanese American, I stand in solidarity with Muslims and all persons who are the object of suspicion, ignorance and fear.  Thanks be to the God that unites and sustains us.

More about First Congregational Church of Berkeley…

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I Choose Love

September 13, 2011

Vickie Crebbin, Olivia Beattie and Greg Beattie singing "I Choose Love"On Sunday, September 11, First Church musicians Vickie Crebbin, Greg Beattie and Olivia Beattie sang one of their original compositions “I Choose Love” for the church’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11. They sang in both services, blending beautiful three-part harmonies with these powerful lyrics.

I Choose Love

Sound and fury, drums of war
In the name of a God with a different face
In the midst of hatred and despair
God of us all, give me grace
To choose love, love

May the seeds of love spread like prairie fire
With wild abandon catch a passing breeze
Scatter far, fill the divide
reaching heaven, rooting deep
I choose love, love

When I stumble, when my heart falters
should thoughts of kindness fade
Lead me to still water
Help me find a way to choose love

To choose love, love

© Victoria Crebbin Blythe and Greg Beattie 2008
835 Sibert Court Lafayette, CA 94549
925 284-3250 beatman@sbcglobal.net