By MICHELE STEWART-COPES
It was traumatizing to see the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on television! Historically, people have been lynched by hanging from the neck, but Mr. Floyd was lynched by a white police officer kneeling on his neck. So much work needs to occur to address structural racism in our institutions and community.
It was just six years ago, in 2014, when more than 100 New Britain protestors marched down Martin Luther King Drive to demand justice for the unlawful killing of Eric Garner, and so many others. My husband’s picture, Lex Copes, was on the front page of the Herald newspaper, with his NAACP sign, as marchers chanted “hands up, don’t shoot;” “no justice, no peace;” “I can’t breathe,” just like we are hearing today! The current pastor at Spottswood AME Zion church was quoted to say, “We as a people can’t breathe. It’s a time of challenge and oppression and we have to push for justice.” My husband feels that this is “open hunting season for the black man.” Is this progress or regress?
Many reporters, politicians and ministers are quoting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and how he stood for non-violence. However, in his book that he wrote before his assassination, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” he stated, “Declarations against discrimination, however sincere, are not enough. The church must take the lead in social reform. It must move out into the arena of life and do battle. It must lead men along the path of true integration and equality. Something the law cannot do.”
My pastor at Spottswood AME Zion, Rev. Samuel Blanks, wants the church to take a stand, in a call to action, for the church to perform its role to heal the community. We need to partner with first responders to help resolve community crises, trauma and violence.
Chief Bruce Baxter, Executive for New Britain Emergency Medical Services, came to Spottswood AME Zion Church, asking for assistance and partnership to address community crisis, trauma and devastation. When first responders leave, people still need ongoing support, assistance and healing. Numerous congregants in black churches were trained to join the New Britain EMS Citizen’s Academy. Classes were provided, such as “Family & Friends CPR” and “Until Help Arrives.”
The church is needed to help our communities to prosper. We need the police, all first responders, community providers and civic organizations to develop partnerships, working relationships and contracts with churches to develop sustainable strategies and solutions to address the violence, substance abuse and behavioral health problems that are destroying and stigmatizing our neighborhoods.
Martin Luther King said that people fail to get along because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
We must now all come together with the faith-based community to have planning conversations on how to heal, act and build a better future!
Michele Stewart-Copes is part of the Spottswood AME Zion Care Team; SEET Consultants LLC, System for Education Equity & Transition in New Britain