We Shall Overcome

By Dr. Timothy E. Tyler, 5th Episcopal District

As we prepared to march with the 3000 clergy that had gathered for the 1000 Ministers March organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network on August 28th,  I made a stop at the Martin Luther King Monument. I couldn’t help but think, “What would Martin say about the things we were marching for today?”

For sure, this crowd was not your average white progressive protestors. These were mostly church people, of all faiths, but predominately black and Christian. As the rally began it was evident that the issues we were marching for at the minister’s march were somewhat similar to what King marched for 54 years to the day, but for the most part there were certainly some different issues placed on the table.

As one of the speakers, a Jewish Rabbi assailed the Trump administrations treatment of Transgendered military personnel my attention turned to a black preacher directly behind me who objected to the Rabbi’s words and loudly referred to transgendered persons as “freaks.” I quickly determined that we were all present to protest, but by no stretch of the imagination were we all in agreement about the injustices we were protesting.

I have long asserted that the reason black people don’t readily sign on to progressive activist movements is because we still have a level of conservatism in us that won’t give us permission to sign on to such freedoms as LGBTQ rights, same sex-marriage, and the freedom of transgendered persons to serve in the military. I have often been questioned by whites who find it difficult to believe that a race of people who have fought so hard for their own rights won’t stand up for the rights of certain groups.

Clearly, the presence of 3000 Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, and others was once again a reminder and a wake-up call that oppressed people cannot truly call themselves social justice advocates if they’re not willing to fight for the rights of others even when they don’t subscribe to certain characteristics of their life-style. Arm in arm, tightly knit, we marched from the King Monument to the Justice Department. At least this was a start as we contemplated being present not only for our issues, but for the issues of others.

As we arrived at the Justice Department, I was struck by the words of one of the main speakers, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Pastor of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ. Bishop Flunder described herself as a saved, black, same gender loving human being. She called out the church’s use of the phrase “Religious Freedom” and she said it was a disguise for religious bigotry. She declared that the church must dispel bigotry if we are going to fight together.

I’m certain not everyone standing in that crowd was connecting with Bishop Flunder, but she certainly provided food for thought. The last speaker of the day was the Reverend Al Sharpton. He asked the crowed to sing “We Shall Overcome.” In times past I would have balked at singing what I have deemed to be a tired civil rights song. But that day, as I reflected on King’s mission I was reminded that much of what we have to overcome has little to do with our outer struggles  and a whole lot to do with our inner struggles. We shall overcome.

 

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