Images of Love, Hope and Unity Surround Kenosha
Ugly tan plywood appeared on windows around the city of Kenosha in the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23, as the city braced for protests and potential damage to property. In response, a group called Kenosha Creative Space came up with the idea of encouraging residents of the city to paint the plywood with the themes of Love, Hope, and Unity, and soon, what was an idea became a reflection of a city grappling with violence responding in a way that did not diminish the pain, but insisted on a better future.
Veronica King was one Kenosha resident who loved the result. As King drove around the city, she noticed how many of the images contained scripture passages and she began to photograph them and share them on Facebook as part of her work with Congregations to Serve Humanity (CUSH), an Interfaith organization in Kenosha where she is Vice President. “This is one way to help begin the healing of our community,” says King, describing the messages and images of hope.
Another part of healing came through an Interfaith prayers service held at Second Baptist Church of Kenosha on Sunday afternoon outside of one of the churches that is a member of CUSH. On a sunny, warm afternoon, religious leaders from Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Episcopal Baptist, and other traditions gathered outdoors at a safe social distance to offer prayers of hope and show interfaith solidarity in this difficult time in their community. Rabbi Dena Feingold, who serves as the leader of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, prayed for the city of Kenosha and the family of Jacob Blake, urging the community to address systemic racism and begin the process of rebuilding and healing. Read her whole prayer here.
CUSH is focused on love and healing but also on acknowledging the persistence of racism that afflicts the city. In a statement on their website they also insist that prayers are not enough and the time is now to act:
We know that hopes and prayers are not enough to stop a speeding bullet or to counteract centuries’ worth of systemic racism and the calculated oppression of our siblings of color so ubiquitous in this nation’s history that many of the privileged among us still do not recognize it even exists. We know that in addition to the hope of our hearts and the prayers of our souls we must act.
“We can live peacefully and safely if we work together, to work through our differences, get rid of systemic racism and have a strategic plan to move forward,” King further explained, emphasizing that CUSH is working with the Mayor’s office along with the Chief of Police and other community leaders to help bring the faith voice, and increased diversity to the committees that are being formed to address racism and to heal the city.
Veronica King brings her own history as a community leader to the effort as the former local NAACP chapter president, as well as her history as a social worker, a profession she decided upon when she was 10 years old and had a dedicated social worker who would check on her monthly at her foster home. King’s work with faith communities started with her own foster parents who were active in their church who offered her “Footing and my grounding."
Even as people come from the outside, eager to disrupt with a rhetoric of division and acts of violence, Veronica King and so many other residents in the Interfaith and artistic communities are working hard to fight against racial injustice and heal Kenosha with hope, love, and unity.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.