Posts Tagged ‘three strikes’

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Justice & Injustice

January 26, 2012

Seminary Intern Andrew Greenhaw reflects on justice and injustice, following a weekend celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Having the opportunity to preach this last Sunday as our community celebrated the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a privilege. As I worked to prepare the sermon, I read and reflected on King’s incredible response to God’s call to justice. King had a gift for hearing God’s word for our society and had the courage to respond to that word.

During my time here at First Church, I have noticed time and again this congregation’s concern for justice, whether it be the Occupy movement, the UCC’s Mission 1 Food Justice Campaign or the unlawful imprisonment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Last week as I was reading and reflecting on King’s life in preparation for my sermon, I heard another call to justice.

On the local news was a story about a man named Marcel Johnson who had been arrested at the Occupy Oakland camp. After being taken to jail, Johnson, who also goes by Khali, did not receive his psychiatric medication and had an altercation with a corrections officer. Because of Khali’s prior arrests, under California’s three strike law he may now face life in prison on charges stemming from the altercation.

I do not know Marcel Johnson, but I know that this is injustice. We live in a country that locks more people in prison than any other. And it is widely known that a horrendously disproportionate number of those locked away are, like Marcel Johnson, African American. It may not be as widely known, but is no less true, that a shocking number of those imprisoned for life under California’s three strikes law are black men convicted of non-violent crimes. This is not justice. This cannot stand.

If we are concerned for victims of torture, if we are concerned for prisoners at Guantanamo, let us also be concerned for Marcel Johnson and prisoners here in California. If we want to honor the work of Martin Luther King Jr., let us speak out against the mass imprisonment of black persons in this country. I know how much this congregation cares about justice and how much it does to bring about justice.

So when I heard the call to justice in Marcel’s story, I felt I needed to share it with you.

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