As we prepared ourselves to settle into long and arduous meetings during the 50th Session of the General Conference, Alton Sterling was gunned down by police in Baton Rouge.
On Wednesday July 6, my roommate Brandee and I joined with a group protesting in the City Center of Philadelphia directly across the street from our main hotel. My 28-year old daughter called as we were walking over. She screamed, “Maaaaa!!! When are they going to stop killing us??!!” My son—a 26-year old husband and new father—said, “Every day the only thing I want to do is get home to hold my baby and cook dinner for my wife.”
We marched and we chanted through the Philadelphia streets: “Black Lives Matter! No Justice, No Peace! No Racist Police!” We stopped incrementally to hear speeches and claim space in the streets. At one stop, Brandee and I spotted another AME from Philadelphia. He was wearing his General Conference T-shirt just like us! It was like seeing family in a foreign land.
When the young people in this group sat in the street, I felt compelled to sit too. I sat for my daughters. I sat for my son. I sat for my new grandbaby, Sol. I sat for Josh who is still in jail. I sat for Sandra Bland. Sitting was my fight. I cannot protect my loved ones but I can fight. Overwhelmed with grief, anger, fear, and pain, I allowed myself to be arrested that evening as we sat in the streets blocking the highway ramp. We were claiming space and resisting power.
We finally made it back to our hotel. As we showered and prepared for bed, we saw the Facebook footage of Philandro Castille, who was murdered by police in Minneapolis—live.
On Thursday July 7, the young adults provided leadership for an action resisting power and oppression. I was invited to attend the organizing sessions. Being included by them in their work was beautiful. The young adults of our Church are brilliant, passionate, confident, and engaged!
The march turned into a General Conference action! Thousands of AMEs from all over the nation—from all over the world—flooded into the streets chanting: “Black Lives Matter! Shut it Down! No Justice, No Peace! No Racist Police!”
We marched to a sanctuary where powerful messages of hope and challenge were lifted. We told the world that “We are Fired Up and Won’t Take It No More!”
On July 13, we commemorated the anniversary of the death of our own Sandra Bland. We were at the Quadrennial Session for the Women’s Missionary Society when we heard the tragic news that she had been killed in a jail in Waller County, Texas. I am hopeful that AMEs rise as a force with which to be reckoned. When a young person uses the hashtag #IamAME, the forces against them will back off knowing when a fight is picked with one AME, it is a fight picked with us all.
We are a powerful force. The General Conference action has left me hopeful that our historical movement will resurge from memories of the past to a movement yet moving today.
The Rev. Renita Marie Green, M.Div., has served as a pastor in the AME Church for the past 15 years. She is currently enrolled at Eden Theological Seminary as a Doctorate of Ministry student with a focus in Social Justice. Pastor Renita has contributed writings to the Huffington Post, The Christian Recorder, CNN, St. Louis American, and the local Patch.com blog site. Her favorite role in life is being mom to Chrissi and Darren (Danielle).