We love Jamaica Plain. Nowhere else in Boston is there such a diverse mix of peoples and cultures so close together. The community we share is, for us, a little taste of Eden in America, to invoke the old 19th century appellation for our neighborhood. But as people of faith, we are not blind to the ongoing injustice and discrimination that affect the people of color in our neighborhood and our country. As people of faith, we hear the sacred call to seek justice, to protect the oppressed and vulnerable, to not rest until “…justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
Across our faith communities, different eras were times for responding to different calls for justice: from abolition, to women’s suffrage, to civil rights, to marriage equality. In our time, we hear the call for justice in the need for the realization of the dignity and worth of African-American lives and the redressing of centuries of brutal oppression that have created a culture, both political and economic, of white privilege. This call has been galvanized by the repeated killings of African-American men, women and children by police officers. In response to this tragic loss of life, this call to justice in our day has been made with the words Black Lives Matter.
These words are challenging, so much so that many dismiss them or actively oppose these words with the counter-call that All Lives Matter. As people of faith, we affirm that all lives matter, and that is exactly what leads us to add our voices to the chorus, led by young African-American activists around the country, that declares Black Lives Matter. We believe that asserting All Lives Matter when a group of people is actively drawing our attention to the countless systematic ways their lives do not matter is mere platitude at best and verbal violence and oppression at worst.
Our communities of faith these last few months have been raising banners in Jamaica Plain to use our buildings and our land to echo and take up the call for justice that Black Lives Matter. Locally, First Baptist Church on Centre Street led the way. Once raised, their banner was first defaced, and then stolen. They raised their banner a third time. Two more churches raised banners to join them, and one of the banners at Hope Central Church was defaced by someone painting over the word “Black.”
We say Black Lives Matter. We say that today, in this time and place, we must answer the call to seek justice, to dismantle white privilege, to support African-American men, women, and children as they seek justice and dignity until their lives matter as much as the lives of white men, women, and children do.
This is hard work, and it calls for a generation that has benefited from white privilege to recognize it and actively seek to break it down. This happens through spirit, through soul, through sacrifice, through empathy, through hearts open to hearing the suffering of others, through minds strong enough to see clearly, without fear and through wills compassionate enough to act justly. If we can find within ourselves the spirit and soul to do these things, then Jamaica Plain really can be worthy of being called Eden in America.
Rev. Tracey Robinson-Harris, First Church JP Unitarian Universalist
Rev. Ted Cole, Jr., St. John’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Laura Ruth Jarrett, Hope Central Church
Rev. Courtney Jones, Hope Central Church
Rabbi Victor Reinstein, Nehar Shalom Community Synogogue
Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird, First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain
Rev. Tricia Brennan, JP Resident