New York Conference leadership addresses racism through Sacred Conversation on Race
Following the death of an unarmed African American at the hands of a white police office in New York City and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, leadership of the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ is taking action on the issue of racism. The conference’s board of directors has invited the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of UCC Justice and Witness Ministries and a national officer of the church, to lead them in a Sacred Conversation on Race they hope will sensitize them to the reality that racism remains a widespread problem in New York and beyond.
“Having an executive minister of the national setting of the church lead us in this conversation signals how important this is,” said the Rev. David Gaewski, conference minister of the New York Conference. “We hope and believe that Linda’s presence will call attention to what we are doing.
“Because Linda is a Latina, she brings her own genuine experience of racism, which allows her leadership to be close to home and a real-life experience,” Gaewski added.
The discussion will take place Saturday, April 11 during the spring meeting of the New York Conference’s board of directors, utilizing materials from the UCC’s Sacred Conversations on Race Resource Guide and the Justice Leaders Engaging and Developing training manual. The board voted to suspend almost all of the meeting’s regular agenda to dedicate the majority of their time to the conversation.
“Our dialogue will be specifically focused on Sacred Conversations on Race and the possibilities for working together in our shared mission and movement to address issues of race and racism in our local and national contexts,” said Jaramillo. “I commend the board for taking this bold leadership step and look forward to the opportunity for our shared ministry. This is a step toward action that I know the board is ready to engage.”
Gaewski said that while Eric Garner’s death and the Black Lives Matter campaign “woke us up to the current reality” and brought the issue of racism to the forefront in New York and throughout the country, he often hears about everyday acts of racism from African American constituents of the New York Conference. The strong backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of two New York City police officers is another example that racism is still prevalent in this country, he adds.
Gaewski said citizens of New York have worked hard to ensure that Black Lives Matter is not framed as an anti-law-enforcement campaign, and he has been encouraged by the number of police officers who have supported the conference’s participation in the movement by confirming the need for civilian oversight and community policing. Just as the Black Lives Matter conversation has resulted in some positive change, Gaewski hopes that the conference’s upcoming discussion will inspire local churches to have conversations of their own.
“For some, the reality of racism was something that we thought we had put behind us,” Gaewski said. “What we hope to accomplish by this Sacred Conversation is to model to our churches the continuing need to recognize and work toward eliminating the racism that persists in our communities.”
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