When you hear the phrase, “Black lives matter,” what do you think? A few years ago, it seemed controversial, as if it showed preference for one group over another. Some people would respond, “All lives matter.” Unfortunately, this response misses the point.
In 2013, after a jury acquitted the man who killed Trayvon Martin, Patrisse Cullors responded to a tweet from a fellow community organizer, “#BlackLivesMatter.” Her response went viral and many people began using the phrase. At a time when the lives of black people seemed disposable, saying “Black lives matter” resonated as a psalm of lament like Psalm 74. It begins, “O God, why do you cast us off forever… Remember your congregation.” If the psalmist used hashtags, it might have included #YourCongregationMatters.
Now, people cry out, “Black lives matter,” because it still appears that they don’t. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, black men face about a 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by police over a lifetime. According to a CDC study, people of color experience a disproportionate burden of illness and death from COVID-19. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, African-Americans have less access to healthcare than white people. The list of disparities goes on and on. Saying, “Black lives matter,” is not an attack on other lives. It recognizes the world in which we live and the disparate experiences people have. Proverbs 31:8, “Speak out for those who cannot speak,” tells me to join the movement and lend my voice to those who cannot speak, like George Floyd.
On Monday night, Black Lives Matter Cville organized a protest at the corner of W. Main St. and Jefferson Park Ave. That’s our church address, so we offered hospitality in the name of Christ. Volunteers organized coolers of bottled water and ice and snacks. Members of our church family came to the protest to hand out the water and snacks. We opened our doors. We let people sit down and rest in the sanctuary. People filled UniBap Park. We offered a microphone and the use of the church steps. One after another, people stepped up to the microphone and spoke about their experience.
We listened. We learned. Some speeches were stirring. Others were inspiring or informative. A few were not memorable. We ended the evening by joining together and singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Chanting “Black lives matter” and protesting in front of UBC will not change the world. It seems like a step in the right direction, though. After the event, I was talking with a few of the organizers and they were pleased with the event and the location. I told them that they are welcome to come back. They said they would, and one of the leaders said, “I think I’ll be back before the next protest. This seems like the kind of church where I could worship.”
I said, “Indeed it is. You are always welcome here.”