Two banners were unfurled Sunday in the front of the Ecumenical Campus Ministries building, 1204 Oread Ave., in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after a series of speakers spoke out against white privilege and systematic racial oppression.
The message speakers shared with the mostly white audience was to examine their lives for examples of white privilege, denounce it and demand equality and justice for all.
Rev. Jill Jarvis, of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lawrence, said the banners were the result of a yearlong effort that started with the congregation of that church agreeing to display a banner in support of Black Lives Matter. That banner wasn’t meant to be the end of the conversation, but a reminder to the congregation to confront the casual acceptance of white privilege and the continued oppression of people of color, she said.
With that understanding, the congregation then decided to ask other faith communities in Lawrence to come together in a common message of support of Black Lives Matter, Jarvis said.
“It’s been a year of listening and a year of learning of the continued assault against black lives that confronts us every day,” she said.
The request led to difficult conversations within Lawrence congregations, Jarvis said. After those conversations, the Ecumenical Campus Ministries, First Presbyterian Church of Lawrence, Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, Oread Friends Meeting, Peace Mennonite Church, Plymouth Congregational Church, St. Luke Evangelical Methodist Church and Unity of Lawrence joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in agreeing to put their names on a banner supporting Black Lives Matter. The Islamic Center of Lawrence also participated in Sunday’s program.
Jarvis and former ECM minister Rev. Thad Holcombe said they were confident other faith communities would eventually join in the visible support for Black Lives Matter.
“We believe and we pray more people will join us in undermining the theology of white supremacy,” Jarvis said. “Not since the Civil Rights Movement has there been such an intergenerational movement dedicated to addressing the cultural resistance to ending systematic racism.”
Reggie Harris, a visiting singer-songwriter who recorded with his wife, Kim, “Steal Away: Songs of the Underground Railroad,” through the John F. Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program, said Black Lives Matter has not only forced the country to confront police violence and hatred toward people of color but has served as recommitment to the fight against social injustice.
Harris reminded the ECM crowd that it was mostly white college students who traveled to the South in the Freedom Summer of 1964 to register African Americans to vote. He then led the assembly in a gospel song from the period.
Edith Guffey, conference minister for Kansas and Oklahoma with the United Church of Christ, said those in attendance needed to be ready to turn the focus back to African Americans when people tell them “all lives matter.” The systematic oppression that decides who is at the table and who isn’t offered evidence in America “all lives don’t matter,” she said.