Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On! Read Dr. Marvin A. McMickle's musings on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

As we observe the national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and as we see in the film Selma some of the struggles he faced and eventually overcame, I am reminded of one of the songs we sang during our marches and rallies in the days of the Civil Rights Movement; "Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on."

When the struggle was about desegregation of public accommodations or the struggle to attain voting rights in the states of the former Confederacy, nothing came easily. There was struggle, danger, sacrifice, and in too many instance including Dr. King himself, there was death.

Through all of that there were really two songs that encouraged us along the way. One was "We shall overcome" and the other one was a companion to the first; until we finally do overcome we will need to keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!

I think about that today as I ponder the findings of the Rochester Area Community Foundation about childhood poverty and third-grade reading and math levels in the city of Rochester. Our city leads the entire nation among cities of similar size in the category of extreme poverty which is defined as a family of four living on an annual income of less than $12,000.

There will be people who may read this blog who earn $12,000 or more each month. It will be hard for them to comprehend turning their monthly income into their family income for an entire year.

If you add present rates of extreme poverty to the fact that only 6.8 % of Rochester City School District are proficient in reading and the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the prospects for generational poverty already seem to be in place.

Of course, these trends could be reversed and/or reduced. Of course, all of these things could be reduced or reversed. If only we as a region and as a nation could commit to a reasonable minimum wage, affordable housing that is no longer limited just to the city limits of Rochester, investment in pre-natal care that benefits both parents and children, the end of mass incarceration for non-violent drug offenses that greatly reduce an ex-offender's chance of every escaping poverty, working on all fronts to shape a functional and accountable public school system, and a few other policy changes that are well within our reach.

These challenges are formidable, and they will not easily be achieved. They will likely require changes in racial attitudes as well as in public policies. However, they are not more formidable than ending segregation, or establishing voting rights unobstructed by poll taxes or literary tests or the capricious behavior of whites who did everything in their power to prevent African Americans from voting for 100 years after the abolition of slavery in 1865.

If our nation could overcome those challenges, then surely we can overcome the challenges that we face both nationally and locally. All we will have to do is keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!

Please click this link to view, comment on or share Dr. McMickle's post: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/unite/2015/01/15/keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize-hold-on/21837911/

 

 

Dr. McMickle helps issue critical "Call to Action" Message

At its annual meeting at Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, African American Presidents and Deans of theological schools in the United States issued a call for action in light of the current state of social justice in the United States of America. At the prompting of Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, and with his assistance in the drafting, the following statement was released by African American presidents and deans of ATS accredited seminaries and divinity schools on January 15, 2105:

One of our leaders, a founding member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), noted that the socio-economic and political realities that led to the establishment of SNCC at Shaw University 54 years ago are actually eclipsed by the realities of this day. In 1960 there were lynchings and robe-wearing Klansmen. Today lynchings occur, but in different forms. Klansmen today bivouac without robes and hoods. Slavery still exists but under the auspices of a prison industrial complex. Discrimination thrives, with no intent or program for relief. As was true in the 1960’s it is time for citizens of good conscience to once again rise up and rally to the cry for freedom and justice for all.

From a manger in Bethlehem, a Bantustan in Soweto, a bus in Montgomery, a freedom Summer in Mississippi, a bridge in Selma, a street in Ferguson, a doorway and shots fired in Detroit, a Moral Monday in Raleigh, an assault in an elevator in Atlantic City, an office building in Colorado Springs, a market in Paris, a wall in Palestine, a pilgrimage to the shrine of Rincon and a restoration of ties between Cuba and the United States on December 17th, the kidnapping and assault of young school-aged girls and the reported killing of 2000 women, children and men in Nigeria, a new generation of dream defenders, a transgender teen’s suicide note, to our abuse of the environment – God sends a sign – a Kairos moment. The racial climate in the United States, and the respect for our common humanity everywhere, is clearly in decline.

How can Americans acquiesce, remain silent, passive and neutral as African-American men and women are slain in the streets of Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland and beyond? How can people of conscience be still when African-Americans quake with fear to walk without harm in their own cities and towns? How can we remain docile when leaders of our nation, especially the United States Congress abdicate their civic and moral responsibility to set a tone of civility and humanity?

How can we abide a justice system, which is neither blind nor equitable? How can we suffer a justice system that victimizes African Americans and Latinos by jailing them disproportionately? How can we sit idly by while our children are slaughtered in the streets without provocation?

How can we as United States citizens claim that we are “created equal” and that we are committed to “freedom and justice for all” while injustice is rampant in the land?

How can we continue with business as usual in our theological schools in the midst of so many egregious injustices?

We believe that citizens of good conscience must arise and call our nation to assess and address the rising tide of injustice throughout our legal and criminal justice systems. There must be restraint to those who shoot, kill, and maim innocent young men and women in the streets of our nation. And so . . .

We call upon the leaders of our nation to reaffirm the founding principles of this nation: liberty and justice for all.

We call on all freedom loving Americans to reaffirm a commitment to “the beloved community,” where the freedom and rights of all are respected and protected.

We call on the United States Congress to set a civil and moral tone in the way they respect our twice-elected president.

We call on leaders on the national and local levels to join citizens of good will to reject practices, legal and adjure, which mar the American dream of liberty and justice for all.

We call on our churches and every house of faith to challenge their members and communities to live out an inclusive commitment to love God, self, the neighbor-enemy, and creation across any and all boundaries that would dehumanize, alienate, and separate.

We call on all Americans of good conscience who gather across the country to speak out for liberty and justice for all… always. As our modern day prophet, Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We invite our colleagues — presidents, deans and leaders of all divinity and theological schools — to arise from the embers of silence and speak up and speak out as the prophet of old, “let justice run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). We encourage you to endorse this statement by responding in your own particular context to our theological call to action with curricular programs, public forums, teach-ins, calls to your congressional leaders, writing op-ed pieces, and more.

We recognize this Kairos moment and stand in solidarity for “liberty and justice for all.”

 

Yours in the struggle,

African American Presidents and Deans in Theological Education

List of Signatories

Dr. Willard W.C. Ashley, Dean of the Seminary, New Brunswick Seminary

Dr. Brian K. Blount, President, Union Presbyterian Seminary

Dr. Marsha Foster Boyd, President Emerita, Ecumenical Theological Seminary

Dr. Michael J. Brown, Academic Dean, Payne Theological Seminary

Dr. Gay L. Byron, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Howard University School of Divinity

Dr. Leah Gaskin Fitchue, President, Payne Theological Seminary

Dr. David C. Forbes Sr., Interim Dean, Shaw University Divinity School

Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President, Lexington Theological Seminary

Dr. Thomas W. Gilmore, Dean of the School of Practical Theology, Ashland Theological Seminary

Dr. Mark G. Harden, Dean of the Boston Campus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Dr. Kenneth E. Harris, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean, Ecumenical Theological Seminary

Dr. Barbara A. Holmes, President, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

Dr. Carrie D. Hudson, Associate Dean for Academic Advising and Scheduling, Ashland Theological Seminary

Dr. John W. Kinney, Senior Vice President & Dean for the School of Theology, Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology

Dr. James W. Lewis, Dean, Anderson University School of Theology

Dr. Myron F. McCoy, former President, Saint Paul School of Theology

Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, President, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

Dr. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President, Starr King School for the Ministry

Dr. Joy J. Moore, Associate Dean of African American Church Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Deborah Flemister Mullen, Dean of Faculty and Executive Vice President, Columbia Theological Seminary

Dr. Evelyn L. Parker, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Perkins School of Theology

Dr. Alton B. Pollard, III, Dean, Howard University School of Divinity

Dr. Angela D. Sims, Dean of Academic Programs, Saint Paul School of Theology

Dr. Emile M. Townes, Dean, Vanderbilt University Divinity School

Dr. Edward P. Wimberly, President, Interdenominational Theological Center

Dr. Robert S. Woods, Vice President of Academic Affairs/Dean, Memphis Theological Seminary

Dr. Mary H. Young, Associate Dean, Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology

 

 

 

 

One More New Year's Resolution: a Reflection by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

Dr. McMickle's latest essay appeared in the January 2, 2015 edition of the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's Unite Rochester blog. You may read it here:

In discussing the problem of war in the modern world where the just war theory no longer applies due to the destructive force of modern weapons and due to the fact that war’s destructive force now impacts more civilians than it does combatants, I am reminded of a troubling observation by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth written during the time of World War II. He said, “War means not only killing, but killing without dignity, without glory, without chivalry, without restraint, and without reserve. It also means to steal, to ransack, to burn, to lie, to deceive, to dishonor, and to fornicate.” This is certainly not true of every individual soldier. However, it is an apt description of what becomes of human nature once nations, tribes, or other opposing forces go marching off to war. These are precisely the things we see in The Ukraine, in Syria with ISIS, in Nigeria with the group known as Boko Haram, as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan on both sides of what was the longest war in which American troops had ever been engaged. As we all consider the New Year’s resolutions that we may have already made, I invite those in power in nations across the world to add one more resolution that echoes the words of the 19th century African American spiritual that says, “I ain’t gonna study war no more.”

To view the post online or to add comments, please click on this link:

http://blogs.democratandchronicle.com/unite/2015/01/02/one-more-new-years-resolution/

To view Unite Rochester's Twitter feed, click here:  https://twitter.com/uniterochester

 

Peace on Earth Takes Many Forms: Dr. Marvin A. McMickle comments on the re-opening of U.S.-Cuba relations

Dr. McMickle recently wrote about the developments with Cuba in the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's Unite Rochester blog:

This morning I received a letter co-written by the National Council of Churches and the Cuban Council of Churches which began with a reference to a biblical verse that says: “Behold, I make all things new.” The letter was celebrating the new era of relationships between the United States of America and Cuba. For the last fifty-three years there has been an economic embargo and a break in diplomatic relations between our two countries. Much has happened during those 53 years. First of all, the other nations of the world ignored our embargo and continued to engage with Cuba. Next, the United States reopened diplomatic relations and trade relations with China when President Nixon traveled to Beijing. It must also be noted, for those who object to these changes on the grounds that Cuba is a communist nation ruled by a dictator, that we never broke off diplomatic relations with Russia even during the height of the Cold War. This was done under the assumption that you gain greater leverage through engagement than you do through estrangement. If we were to end diplomatic and trade relations with every nation governed by a dictator that denied democratic rights to their citizens, we would not be on speaking terms with half the nations in the world. Most of the people in Cuba and most Cuban-Americans want to see this “new thing” between our two countries, because they understand that more exposure to the freedoms enjoyed in other countries will result in those freedoms coming more quickly to their country as well. The embargo certainly did not work. If the chief objective of the embargo was to drive the Castro regime from power, then the embargo can only be deemed an absolute failure. It is time to try a “new thing.” This change in relations between our two countries did not occur without some effort on the part of many people. Negotiations involved the Canadian government, the Vatican and Pope Francis, and various members of the United States Senate, the State Department, and direct conversations between President Barack Obama and President Raoul Castro. That level of direct communication had not occurred since President Kennedy was in the White House. Their efforts have resulted in changes that greatly contribute to peace in our region of the world. Will Cuba be transformed over night into a beacon of liberty and freedom? Probably not! Will democratic principles and free trade agreements begin to take root almost immediately? Absolutely! There will undoubtedly be some grinches that would like to rob the world of this small bit of Christmas joy. The usual cast of characters, most of them in Florida are still viewing the world through the lens of the Cold War; a time in our nation’s history that most Americans including Cuban-Americans under 50, do not even remember. Let me see, we were bombed by the Japanese in 1941, but they are one of our closest allies today. We went to war with Germany in 1941, but they are our major European trading partner today. We fought a war in Viet Nam and lost 58,000 soldiers in the process, but today we have an embassy in Hanoi. Surely, in light of these precedents it is time to enter a new phase of diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. Maybe the former Beatle, John Lennon said it best: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

To view the blog online or to share your comments, click here:

http://blogs.democratandchronicle.com/unite/2014/12/19/peace-on-earth-takes-many-forms/

CRCDS Board of Trustees Chair Bishop Jack M. McKelvey and CRCDS President Dr. Marvin A. McMickle on the decision not to indict in the death of Eric Garner

In the wake of the grand jury decision to not indict the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner in New York City, Chair of the CRCDS Board of Trustees Bishop Jack M. McKelvey and CRCDS President Dr. Marvin A. McMickle shared their thoughts with the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle.

Bishop McKelvey’s letter to the editor is available online through the link provided below. For your convenience, the actual text is provided as well.

Dr. McMickle’s editorial was taken from his most recent Unite Rochester blog posting. The link to Dr. McMickle’s piece is available below along with the complete text.
FROM BISHOP JACK M. MCKELVEY

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/opinion/letters/2014/12/06/letter-garner-case-shows-video-evidence-issue/19967697/
In the wake of the grand jury decision regarding the Eric Garner case in New York City, one could raise the question as to why we need expensive police cameras in order to get justice. What more do we need than a video of action taken by police, a medical examiner's report and the verbal sounds of the victim saying "I can't breathe" to have the situation taken before a jury of the perpetrators peers? Does it not seem obvious that the issue is not video evidence, but rather how we come to decisions which allow the courts of law to act and justice to be done?
JACK M. McKELVEY
ROCHESTER
The writer is a retired Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester.

FROM PRESIDENT MARVIN A. MCMICKLE
http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/unite/2014/12/03/here-we-go-again/19862537/
Here We Go Again

In his book, The Souls of Black Folk, written in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois said "The problem of the twentieth century will be the problem of the color line." As it happens, the problem of the color line has followed us into the 21st century with a pattern of white police officers using deadly force against unarmed black males in cities across the United States.
While the nation is still reeling from the decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, we have now heard that another white police officer in New York City will not be indicted in the death of Eric Garner.
The New York City Medical Examiner did an autopsy on his body and concluded that his death was "a homicide" caused by the use of an illegal choke hold that was banned by the New York City Police Department in 1993! This death played out on national TV for all the world to see. Eric Garner was unarmed. Eric Garner was suspected of selling loose cigarettes. Six police officers were involved in his take-down, and all six police officers doubtlessly heard Eric Garner say 11 times "I can't breathe."
No doubt some people will blame Eric Garner for this death, because they will say he was resisting arrest. Others will say he was guilty of selling loose cigarettes and not paying taxes. All of these issues could have been resolved if there had been an indictment that would have been followed by a trial where guilt or innocence could have been determined. Instead, the pattern continues of the death of unarmed black males being killed as a result of excessive force being used by white police officers.
For many black people, the words of Du Bois still seem relevant: The American problem is the problem of the color line. In the same book, Du Bois talked about his own feeling of "double consciousness" in which he felt the conflicts and limitations of being "an American and a Negro." That is the feeling that is spreading across black communities in this country with this string of deaths that are not even resulting in an indictment, much less a conviction.

We are, as always, grateful for the efforts of Bishop McKelvey and Dr. McMickle to elevate and inform public discourse, particularly on such a vitally important justice issue.