A Jamaica Plain minister has been training protesters in non-violent civil disobedience in Ferguson, Mo., in preparation for the grand jury decision on whether to indict the white police officer who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth, three months ago.
“I’ve been heartened by a new generation of young leaders…[but] disappointed in our democracy,” Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou told the Gazette from Ferguson this week.
Sekou is pastor for Formation and Justice at First Baptist Church at 633 Centre St. He is also the author of the 2012 book “Gods, Gays and Guns: Essays on Race, Religion, and the Future of Democracy,” and a forthcoming book about the 2011 London youth riots.
Sekou has been organizing in Ferguson “on and off” since August, said church pastor Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird, who also joined the protests last month.
Ferguson has been a flashpoint of local and national protests over racism and civil liberties since the Aug. 9 police killing of Brown. The St. Louis-area city was the scene of repeated protests often broken up by heavily armed police.
Over the last two months, Sekou said he and other volunteers from First Baptist have helped train over 800 protesters in civil disobedience in preparation for the grand jury decision, which was still pending at the Gazette’s deadline. A no-indictment decision is expected, and many are already bracing for further protests.
Sekou said he already has been arrested twice and tear-gassed once in Ferguson.
“We hope to see a disciplined, non-violent movement committed to justice for all the Mike Browns of America,” Sekou said of his hopes for the community response to that decision.
As to what prompted him to participate first-hand in Ferguson, Sekou told the Gazette that he “takes seriously the call of Jesus to ‘serve the least of these.’”
Here in JP, First Baptist is among the hosts of the local chapter of the group Black Lives Matter, which are spearheading a local response to the grand jury decision, Wiest-Laird said.
“This is not just about Ferguson. It’s symbolic of a much bigger reality where black men and boys in particular, but people of color [generally], are particularly targeted by the police,” she said. “It’s an issue of systemic racism.”
Sekou formerly was a minister at the Lemuel Haynes Congregational Church in New York City. He is an activist and speaker, and has worked extensively with troubled and homeless youths.