Sunday: Memorial Day Service
and Black Lives Matter Banner Installation
“Black Lives Matter is the civil rights movement of our age,” says Rev. Roberta Finkelstein.
WHAT: First Unitarian Church of Wilmington will cap its Memorial Day Weekend service with the installation of two large banners along Rte. 202 in Sharpley, proclaiming the congregation’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
WHEN: Sunday, May 29. Service begins 10:30 am; procession and banner display approximately 11:20 am.
WHERE: First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, 730 Halstead Rd. (corner Whitby Rd. and Rt. 202), Wilmington DE 19803. The banners will be displayed on church property along the west side of Concord Pike, just south of Whitby Rd.
WHY: First Unitarian Church is acting on its Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious principles, the first of which is “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” UUs have a long history of working for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, seeking to bring about a world community of peace, liberty, and justice for all.
We consider Black Lives Matter to be the Civil Rights movement of our age,” says Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, minister. Church members, who are largely white, have prepared to publicly support Black Lives Matter with a 10-hour workshop series “Being White in the Black Lives Matter Movement” and two congregational meetings to discuss their public commitment.
Both the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) and First Unitarian Wilmington’s board of trustees have adopted resolutions in support of Black Lives Matter. UUA President Rev. Peter Morales calls Black Lives Matter “a cry of outrage in the face of the specter of the repeated killings of black people … [and] a cry of protest against the continued marginalization of millions of African Americans.”
Peaceful Rally Expresses Anger Over McDole Shooting, Calls for Federal Civil Rights Investigation
Mahkieb Booker, founder of the Delaware chapter of Black Lives Matter, with Linda Sanders of First Unitarian Church. (All photos by Elizabeth Siftar.)
If you read the article in today’s News-Journal, you might think that yesterday’s rally in support of the family of Jeremy McDole—demanding further investigation by federal authorities—was merely an angry confrontation between protestors and police. In fact, although anger over the failure of the Delaware Department of Justice to charge any of the officers involved in killing McDole last September was certainly expressed, the rally and march were nonviolent and there were no arrests.
The following First Unitarian members were there: Linda Sanders and Tiffany, Rev. Richard Speck, Ed and Darlene Scott, and Elizabeth Siftar. Jack Guerin of Mill Creek UU—a member of our winter workshop, “Being White in the Black Lives Matter Movement”—also attended.
#BlackLivesMatter has a reputation for being “against the police,” yet the movement’s position is clear:
“Police officers are people. Their lives have inherent value. This movement is not an anti-people movement; therefore it is not an anti-police-officer movement. Most police officers are just everyday people who want to do their jobs, make a living for their families, and come home safely at the end of their shift. This does not mean, however, that police are not implicated in a system that criminalizes black people, that demands that they view black people as unsafe and dangerous, that trains them to be more aggressive and less accommodating with black citizens, and that does not stress that we are taxpayers who deserve to be protected and served just like everyone else. Thus the Black Lives Matter movement is not trying to make the world more unsafe for police officers; it hopes to make police officers less of a threat to communities of color. Thus, we reject the idea that asking officers questions about why one is being stopped or arrested, about what one is being charged with, constitutes either disrespect or resistance.
The Black Lives Matter movement is not trying to make the world more unsafe for police officers; it hopes to make police officers less of a threat to communities of color.
“We reject the use of military-grade weapons as appropriate policing mechanisms for any American community. We reject the faulty idea that disrespect is a crime, that black people should be nice or civil when they are being hassled or arrested on trumped-up charges. And we question the idea that police officers should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to policing black communities. Increasingly, the presence of police makes black people feel less rather than more safe. And that has everything to do with the antagonistic and power-laden ways in which police interact with citizens more generally and black citizens in particular. Therefore, police officers must rebuild trust with the communities they police. Not the other way around.” (from “11 Major Misconceptions about Black Lives Matter”: http://blacklivesmatter.com/11-major-misconceptions-about-the-black-lives-matter-movement/)
Tomorrow (May 22) we will hold a Q+A session in the sanctuary after church. Bring your questions about why Unitarian Universalism and First Unitarian Church are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. And on Sunday, May 29, attend the Memorial Day service, which will include placing banners in support of Black Lives Matter on church property along Concord Pike.
Click to enlarge images.
Action of Immediate Witness:
March for Justice in the McDole Case
For the family of Jeremy McDole, last week’s announcement by the Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) was not merely disappointing—it was evidence of the same injustice in Wilmington that they had seen in other cities across America—of misconduct by police being ignored or excused in what seems like systematic bias in law enforcement and prosecution.
After months of investigation, the DOJ failed to charge any of the four Wilmington officers who shot Jeremy out of his wheelchair on Sept. 23, 2015. The family—and Wilmington—still needs answers. Today, a group of black community leaders—political, clergy, and activist—called for the federal Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into the shooting death of Jeremy McDole by four Wilmington police officers.
This is a call for First Unitarian members and friends to join in a march and rally on Friday, May 20, to support the McDole family and keep their demand for justice alive. After gathering at 11 a.m. at the basketball courts beneath I-95 (3rd St. between Adams and Jackson), the march will proceed to the offices of the Delaware DOJ.
According to the News-Journal, the DOJ report suggested that Senior Cpl. Joseph Dellose, the officer who fired the first shot at McDole—a blast from a shotgun—had exhibited “extraordinarily poor police work” during the incident. Dellose fired at McDole approximately two seconds after initially ordering him to put his hands up. The News-Journal also wrote: “The [DOJ] report … suggests that Dellose should not be employed by the city police in any role where he would carry a firearm in public. It also said the city’s use of force policy was vague and needed updating, and that officers get little guidance on de-escalating similar situations—especially among people who are physically or mentally disabled.”
Friday’s march is being supported by Black Lives Matter of Wilmington and the Wilmington Peacekeepers. They believe that charges should have been filed against at least some of the officers involved in the McDole shooting. The UUA General Assembly has called on UUs everywhere to act in solidarity with Black Lives Matter; our own board of trustees has called for our congregation to take action.
To participate, meet at First Unitarian Church at 10:15 on Friday. Rev. Richard Speck will be there to organize carpools to the march location and lead our UU contingent. Wear a Standing on the Side of Love Shirt if you have one.
Ticket are FREE, but advance registration is required for this Saturday’s exclusive advance screening of UNDER THE GUN, a new film about gun violence in America, executive produced and narrated by Katie Couric. The showing will begin promptly at 9:00 and will be followed by a discussion of what you can do to reduce gun violence in Delaware.
Saturday, May 7, 9:00 a.m.
Penn Cinema at the Riverfront
401 S Madison St Wilmington, DE 19801
Tickets are free but advance registration is required: HTTP://BIT.LY/UNDERTHEGUNDE
Sponsored by Movement for a Culture of Peace, Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, and EPiX. Discussion moderator: Jeffrey Lott of First unitarian Church.