Officials from several historically African-American Christian denominations convened a Wednesday press conference put on by The National Council of Churches and the Conference of National Black Churches at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Titled, “Liberty and Justice for All,” the September 2-6 conference pushed for the nation to confront racism and demanded legal solutions. Speakers included members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church.
The press conference opened with an address from Bishop Reginald Jackson of the AME Church who recalled reciting the pledge of allegiance as a child in elementary school.
“There are some words in that pledge that stood out to us: ‘one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” said Jackson. “I believed and still believe deeply in these words. Yet, as we embrace and believe in these words, I and so many blacks do not believe these words apply to us.”
Jackson and the speakers who followed preached on how racism is a modern problem denied by many, and that steps towards racial equality involve legislation geared toward criminal justice reform, education, gun reform, economic justice and voting rights. The conference speakers blamed racial profiling as the primary cause of police brutality and gun violence afflicting the black community.
The call to action included admonishment of the black community for neglecting to address violence among themselves and prevent access to guns among their youth. Dr. Staccato Powell of the AME Zion Church preached for repentance within the black community for failure to confront racism and prevent violence.
“We confess our faults and failures for not speaking sooner and louder regarding the despicable issue of the prevalent atrocious acts of mayhem and murder among ourselves,” said Powell. “We are not without blame; we too perpetrate too many acts of violence among each other.”
A litany penned by Bishop Adam J. Richards, Jr. of the African Methodist Episcopal Church for End Racism Sunday (September 6) exhorts the Church to pray and live as examples of peace, love, hope, and faith; as well as to maintain vigilance against racial injustice. Before emphasizing the duty of the faithful to take action in the legal sphere, Bishop Richards’ litany lists violent tragedies that deserve remembrance alongside the problem of racism in the United States. The litany includes a quote from Frederick Douglas: “I received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” After each of the Bishop’s exhortation, the congregation responds, “Vigilance follows the vigil!”
The focus of the event is in keeping with the NCC statement mourning the recent shooting massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Part of the statement reads, “We pray the motives behind this horrible act will be discovered, and that we as a society may finally draw lessons from it that bring life to our nation.”