View this email in your browser

The Essential Nature of Black & Brown Lives

Blessings Siblings in Christ,

The last few months have brought many unknowns into the rhythms and rhymes of society. We've had months of living through unprecedented time. In this history of this nation, we've had pandemics and civil unrest, but not many have ever witnessed both at the same time. 

As the Board of Directors of the UCC Mental Health Network we have carried through the last few months in prayer for you, your loved ones, and our families. When some of us thought that living through the COVID-19 pandemic was already hard enough, the senseless killing and spilling of innocent blood continued. 

We, the executive committee of the UCC MHN, are blessed to have three brown and black siblings in Christ serve with us. They have opted to help us better understand from their lenses, what it is to be black and brown during this pandemic and civil unrest. We thank them for sharing their gifts with us and we also acknowledge that not all people of color are able to take these steps.
The Essential Nature of the Mask
by Rev. Shernell J. Edney Stilley 
Associate Conference Minister for Congregational Vitality,
New York Conference, United Church of Christ

Did you know that for what seems like forever, I have had to wear a mask whenever I want to go out of the house? It’s a mask meant to protect me from an invisible disease. Did you know that people in positions of power knew about this disease but chose to deny it, and still do, for reasons unbeknownst to me? I don’t have the disease, but I am 100% certain that this disease is real. And I’m scared. I’m scared all the time. I am constantly checking to make sure that not only do I have my mask on, but I triple check to make sure that my spouse and child have theirs on too. I am obsessing over where they go, what they do, and how long they are gone. I don’t care what anyone says, this disease is real. This thing could kill us if we aren’t careful. No ifs ands or buts about it. No one leaves this house without a mask.

I have to say though, the irony of this is that the masks keep us as safe as any mask could in this situation; yet, I hate the things. I actually resent having to wear mine. It restricts my breathing in a way that makes me feel claustrophobic despite being in wide-open spaces. It’s almost like I’m losing breath and have to work harder to breathe once I put it on. I long for the day when I can go out and expose my face to the elements and breathe naturally. Without the mask.
Nevertheless, for all intents and purposes, the mask is saving our lives. My life. At least, that’s what the officials tell me...Read More
Long Overdue
by Bishop Allyson Abrams
Senior pastor at Empowerment Liberation Cathedral

Looking through the lens of an African-American educated lesbian wife and mother, I believe what painfully arises to the surface of our nation is two-fold. First, we experience protests that are long overdue: white supremacy has prevailed, castrating, and killing black people with no repercussions for far too long. 

Persons acting as if blacks have no rights and can be mistreated with no accountability is an everyday occurrence. The police and institutions of racism have dehumanized and mistreated people of color for generations. So, I stand with those who are protesting for justice for George Floyd. I stand with those protesting for all the other children of God who have lost their lives to police brutality. I stand with those protesting white people who felt it was their right to kill someone because of the color of their skin. 

It angers me that we are still dealing with racism, classism, and discrimination in America so many years after the Civil Rights movement. Nothing has changed in America! For change to happen, I believe white people need to feel the fear that blacks and people of color have felt for years: fears of a business or a house being burned down simply because their skin color is light.
I don’t condone killing anyone or destroying the life’s work of other people, but I do believe in the message that is being sent: justice must begin to reign down in this country for all the lives that have been lost at the hands of racism, hatred, misogyny and so many other isms. 

Second, all this is happening in the midst of a pandemic. We are still at risk of losing more lives due to the pandemic. I hoped love and understanding would arise during this time, yet hatred still prevails. This hatred, anxiety, and loss is fueling a mental health crisis. The inability to adequately mourn loved ones who have died, the inability to go back to "norm," and the traumatizing and triggering photos and videos we see every day adds oxygen to the mental health crisis already smoldering across our country. 

God is our help and our hope in this turbulent time. We must look to the hills from which cometh our help because our help will come from the Lord. My prayers are that God will heal the land and change the hearts of the people. We need a change in this country. We need reform in this country. We need love in this country. We need a community in this country. We need the power of God to prevail. It is my hope that we will be forever changed by the exposure of inequality and racism that flows through our nation.  

Breathe It In, Let It Simmer, and Repeat
by J. Gilbert Martinez, M.Div/Member in Discernment
Digital Outreach Minister at San Lucas UCC, Chicago & Staff Member at A Just Harvest

The oppression of past generations has continued on the backs and souls of people of color. Many of us may have a story of a time when our voice was silenced by the powerful. Many also have some kind of privilege over others. This privilege includes but is not limited to a person's sexual orientation, gender, educational level, economic status, citizenship status. Nonetheless, what has caused the most and longest-term harm in our country is the color of a person's skin. Our nation has taken many steps back with the current national administration evading itself from speaking against racism and systemic injustice.

This whole situation reminds me of an old picture of a child dressed in full klan coverings and their mother next to a sign displaying, "No niggers, Mexican, Porto Rican or dogs allowed." Do you understand how demeaning that sign is? Not only are my black siblings being addressed in a negative connotation, they, along with brown people, are being leveled to the status of a dog, a canine. When have you, a white person, been equated to a dog?

As a Tejano (a male born in Texas), Chicano (Mexican-American), and a pansexual male, I fit various intersections of known oppressional populations. Going through seminary and moving to a big city like Chicago opened my eyes wide to the many disparities that people face. I have been in spaces where they claim to be an open-minded or open and affirming setting, except for my brownness, pansexuality, or Roman Catholic upbringing. 

Several experiences have forced me to recognize the need for openness to learn and grow to make it an ongoing project. My experiences have led me to apply, reapply, and be selected to be on the board of directors for the UCC Mental Health Network. I recognize that while I am one person, I do not represent all people of color or all brown-skinned people. Even so, I am but one small reminder to my white siblings to open their eyes, minds, and ears to others. 

To say that I am angry and so over it would be an understatement regarding the countless unjust killings of brown and black people. Is our world perfect? By all means, no. Yet, it doesn't justify the lack of action by white people to make their voices reflect the oppression, pain, suffering, fear, anger, and hurt of their non-white siblings. I'm not asking that our white siblings speak for us. Instead, I'm challenging them to walk and make room at the table and platforms for us. I could say that all would be solved by such actions, but that would be wishful thinking. It would, however, be a big start.  

Recognizing the issues at hand on the surface is not and should not be enough. We together as siblings in Christ, children of God need to unite. Our white siblings should not wait or expect us to take the lead in the education process. We need our white siblings to take everything they are feeling now during these times of civil unrest and pandemic and really reflect on it. "The hearing ear and the seeing eye the Lord has made them both." - Proverbs 20:12 NRSV.

Reflect, breathe it in, let it simmer, and repeat. Do it repeatedly until you realize those emotions that we people of color experience too often and daily. Imagine how your mental health has shifted with the pandemic and the protests asking for justice, we live it every day. I leave you with this. "Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person's blood be shed; for in their own image, God made humankind." Genesis 9:6 NRSV.

Yours in Christ,

The UCC MHN Executive Committee:
Rev. Alan Johnson, Chair
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe, Vice-Chair
Robin Kempster, Secretary
Hannah Campbell Gustafson, Treasurer
Rev. Amy Petré-Hill, Member-at-Large
J. Gilbert Martinez, Member-at-Large
Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith-Lund, Minister for Disabilities & Mental Health Justice 
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Refer a friend and share this link with them. 
Subscribe to our list.
Copyright © 2020 The United Church of Christ Mental Health Network, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp