Joseph Ross: ‘Ferguson, Mo. Looking Like Money, Miss.’

MacyBlackLivesNot sure what to think about the Ferguson grand jury decision? Want to trust the justice system to work? Don’t understand why folks won’t just “let this go”?

Please read Joe Ross’ short excellent essay “Ferguson, Missouri Looking Like Money, Mississippi” excerpted below:

Yes, Ferguson, Missouri is looking a whole lot like Money, Mississippi. In 1955, two white men were charged, tried, and found not guilty in the murder of Emmett Till. Then they bragged about it to national magazines. Nothing could be done. The Mississippi “justice” system was built entirely in their favor. That’s how it’s looking in Ferguson today. The Washington Post reported this morning that Officer Darren Wilson was allowed to drive himself alone from the crime scene, wash blood off his hands at the police station, and enter his own gun into evidence. None of this should happen in a professional police department. But that’s the problem. Ferguson is not a professional police department. Apparently Officer Wilson and none of the other officers and detectives who arrived at the scene thought they were at a crime scene. They assumed. They knew. This is the picture of white privilege. And it’s an ugly picture.

With the report of this unprofessional and unethical behavior, no matter what one thought of the case, the very things we call “evidence” cannot be trusted. …

Read Joseph Ross’ whole essay here.

Video: Ferguson When the Cameras Go Home

Hands Up from HandsUpUnited on Vimeo.

Thank you to all the brave folks who walked the streets of Ferguson these past few weeks. Thank you for representing millions of us who couldn’t be there physically.

The question on everyone’s mind is: Is Ferguson a moment or a movement?

The answer: That’s up to you. Ferguson is everywhere – in every community in this country. The justice revolution starts when the cameras go home.

What will you do to end police brutality, mass incarceration, and dismantle racist policies and practices of implicit bias in your community today?

Which Religion Claims You: Slaveholder Faith or Christ?


In the daily gospel reading for August 26, Jesus says in Matthew:

“‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.'”–Matthew 23:23-26

Rejecting any interpretation of this passage that leads to Jew-hating, instead I suggest this is an analysis of unjust power — and all unjust power needs religious cover.

Art by Clifton W. Carter Jr.
Art by Clifton W. Carter Jr.
In today’s reading from “Slaveholding Religion and the Religion of Christ,” in the appendix to Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass (American Anti-Slavery Society: Boston, 1845), Douglass says:

“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”

“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

“Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America. They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Could any thing be more true of our churches?”

“They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”–Frederick Douglass

Which religion has claimed you — the unjust power of the slaveholding religion or that of following Christ Jesus?

Photo: Remember that Location is Vocation


Catholic peace leader Jim Douglass once told me: “Location is vocation.”

The above photo was taken last Thursday night in Columbia Heights at the Fountain (across from the Sojourners offices and about 5 blocks from my house). Sojourners intern Ben Sutter, myself, and Sojourners intern Becca Kraybill are holding our hands up — with about 200 others — for the now emblematic chant: “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”

Through social media the community was asked to gather in support of the people of Ferguson and to send a clear message that we are fed up with police violence. When you don’t know what else to do, show up.

Read: Will Ferguson Be a Moment or a Movement? by Fred Harris

Psalm 142: I Say ‘You are my Safe House’

Family of Michael Brown gather at Greater St. Mark's Family Church in Ferguson, MO.
Family of Michael Brown gather at Greater St. Mark’s Family Church in Ferguson, MO.

Rev. Otis Moss III is preaching this Sunday on Marvin Gaye’s “Make Me Wanna Holler,” Ferguson, and Psalm 142. He says it’s “a psalm of lament and cry for help when the writer felt like an outcast [or] criminal, and not a citizen in his own nation.”



Here is my adaptation of a portion of Psalm 142 (for Dorian Johnson):

… On the street where I walk
the powers have hidden a trap for me.
Check to my right hand and see—
no one one in this country takes notice of me;
not but a second from home,
yet there’s nowhere to hide;
and no one cares.
I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my safe house,
my quiet crib in the land of the living.’
Listen up, O Lord,
for I am felled very low.
Save me from my persecutors, and prosecutors,
and perpetrators, and police,
for they are too strong for me.
Bring me out of this prison,
so that I may give respect to your name.
Then the mob surrounding me will be the righteous,
and You will be my judge and jury.
–adaptation of Psalm 142 by Rose Berger

Video: Ya-Ya Says, ‘A White Man Ran Around the Corner and Punched Me in the Face’

(Video photography and Editing: Travis Houze)

Here’s a taste of the devastating testimonial given at a demonstration last night in Columbia Heights, D.C., by two young African-American women, Erica and Hadaiyah Ya-Ya Bey, from D.C., on their return from Ferguson, MO, where there have been nearly two weeks of demonstrations against the police regarding the murder by the police of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man, on Aug. 9 and rising questions of police responsibility, police brutality, militarization of police, and more. (You might recognize the woman in the white shirt in the opening section.)

Ya-Ya said through her tears, “The first night that we got there … it was 8:30 and the police started gassing and shooting. And Erica, Erica was my partner down there, we were running from bullets and I was right behind her. Maybe a few feet behind her. And a white man ran around the corner in between us and punched me in my face … and told me to ‘sit the F down.’ Uhhhm, that’s why I have this black eye …”

This is what the principality and power of death looks like when it is “at home, rather than at work in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, Afghanistan, Egypt, or the Corrections Corporation of America. It has no problem using whatever tools are at its disposal to crush the souls — and sometimes bodies — of living human beings.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke about this mechanism of Empire and what it does to those who are righteous and trying to live in the land: “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14).–Rose Berger

Video: Shane Flowers and ‘Am I Next?’

“Arise, cry out in the night,
at the beginning of the watches!
Pour out your heart like water
before the presence of the Lord!
Lift your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint for hunger
at the head of every street.”–Lamentations 2:19

‘Am I Next?’: Ferguson’s Protests Through the Eyes of a Teenager from Transient Pictures on Vimeo.

Looting, chanting, tear gas, rubber bullets – these are the images from Ferguson, Mo. entering American homes. But the vast majority of protesters are armed with little more than chalk and paper signs, hoping to create a memorial for Michael Brown, the teenager killed by a police officer in the St Louis suburb on Aug. 9. We followed teenager Shane Flowers as he weaved through the protests, attempting to let his voice be heard and fight for change with darkness slowly falling on Florissant Avenue. As he moves through the crowds, he hears differing opinions from other protesters on the best ways to fight for change.–Filmmakers

This was shot as part of the feature documentary School of Last Resort. VIDEO by Nicholas Weissman and Jeremy Levine; PRODUCER Jeff Truesdell; PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Jordan Jones. See the original short video here.

Power Art – Tracking an Image #Ferguson


This image from Ferguson has become known as “The Man With the Chips” who was throwing a tear gas canister fired by the police. The original photo (lower) was taken by Robert Cohen for the St. Louis Dispatch newspaper. It’s gone around the world and been transformed into iconographic art (above).

Some interpret the photo as a young man throwing a fire-bomb at the police. Some interpret it as a young man throwing a tear-gas canister back at the police. Eye-witnesses say he picked up a tear-gas canister that had been lobbed by the police and threw it in a direction to get it away from the children who were on the sidewalk nearby. Read the story here.