Rivers of Justice


I was born by the river, in a little tent

Oh, and just like the river

I've been running ever since


‘Change Gonna Come’ recorded by Sam Cooke January 30th 1964


The river has been important since the dawn of civilization and has served as a commercial hub and lifeline for countless peoples over many millennia. Yet there has always seemed to be a justice that was out of reach for some. So, shall the struggle always continue and be found in the very soil that we inhabit? In his poem ‘Negro Speaks of Rivers’, Langston Hughes connected black people to a place and time even older than the earth. The oldest rivers become veins of blood (and life) running through mankind and we stand with him as we witness the unfolding of human history under the tutelage of black skin aglow with regality. Hughes penned this poem at 18, a couple of years after he had gotten assaulted after wandering into a Polish neighborhood his sophomore year in Chicago. Those words in me produce a sort of indescribable pride that emboldens ones resolve to continue to speak in a loud voice and fight for justice.

In April of 2017 me and a couple of pastors I worked with embarked on the journey of a lifetime to the opening of the Lynching Memorial in Montgomery Alabama. Sponsored by the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization committed to fighting for reforms in the justice system. I instructed my two counterparts to give me space to process. I knew I would be connecting to some painful experiences. As soon as I slowly approached the memorial that day it felt like I was stepping onto hallowed ground. Where the casualties of a sinful country had exacted penance from a suffering but strong people. There is a long winding walkway that serves as the entry into the teeth of the memorial. Where hundreds of steel beams rusted with the elements waited to hang overhead mimicking the very scale of the genocide lynching became. I didn’t make it too far until I needed to sit on a bench and weep for an hour. I began to imagine the fear that gripped many of my people as they moved through the same woods that surrounded the site. You see Alabama had perfected the human trafficking of Africans like no other place had. They constructed railroads to shuffle these brown bodies from places like Savannah to the state that became the epicenter in the South for the fight for civil rights in the 50s and 60s. After the tears stopped streaming down my cheeks and many had stopped to console me, I made my way to the center of the structure to a small mound that served as a place I would memorialize out loud those dead with that same poem by Langston Hughes that crescendos with the lines :


I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to    


I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids

       above it.


From Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes, 1921


As I shrieked these words from a throat hoarse from crying, I felt as if some sort of chain-mail weight had been lifted off of my heart. In this work there is a connection with the lines from Sam Cooke’s haunting track ‘Change Gonna Come’ recorded the year after the march on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream Speech” was delivered. It is a song many people in the US know the words to and is played still rather frequently. Mainly as an homage to all who have died and those who still hope we will be a healed people after all.

There is a stream I feel connects me to the struggles of the past like a never ending consciousness that bids one on into a dangerous future. Many justice seekers of old would speak with a confidence that communicated an inevitability to their struggle. While I aim to always honor black history with my black present I remain aware of the unrolling of black future. One where we hear the constant echoes of the voices of our ancestors and are moved to create life in freedom unseen by anyone. In these times the lament and the pain can be the most present. But it is the joy and beauty of this never-ending river of time that encourages us on. The struggle is not against its current but through it. I close with one of MLK’s favorite biblical passages about justice:

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;

your assemblies are a stench to me.

Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,

I will not accept them.

Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,

I will have no regard for them.

Away with the noise of your songs!

I will not listen to the music of your harps.

But let justice roll on like a river,

righteousness like a never-failing stream!


Amos 5:21-24 (MSG)

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

In order to keep this newfound sense of faith alive and to learn from the wisdom of others, I created a spiritual exercise out of interviewing people around the world about the role of faith changing their lives.
Imam Sultan was greatly revered for his compassionate outlook on life inspired by his faith. He was known for his interfaith leadership in the higher education field and as an active bridge builder.
The site was reported as having a significant number of Sikh employees, and the massacre has left the community shaken and in grief.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.
Ms. Moore discusses what an Office of Equity and Racial Justice does, how she and her team adapted amid the pandemic, and how religious communities are crucial partners for social change, connection, and healing.  
"We know that people of all faiths and philosophical traditions hold shared values that can serve as a foundation for a common life together."
How do we fight the evil and darkness during this time? No matter how small or how far we might be from the situation, we could use our voices to speak up, come to stand together as one human kind.
Musa writes an insightful analysis of data at the intersection of race and religion. He writes: "non-Black Americans seem to be fleeing religion because it’s become too political. Blacks seem to be leaving because it’s not political enough."
And as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, the currently closed museum is highlighting these artifacts tied to Islam on its website's blog.
In light of the urgent need for care within our families, communities, and movements, where can and should interfaith leaders fit in?
In the United States, our laws assure the separation of Church and State. So Sikh and Muslim kids growing up in public schools will never be taught that Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
Vaisakhi, which falls April 13 or 14 depending on which of two dueling calendars one follows, marks the day in 1699 when Sikhism took its current form.
The presentation focused on how chaplains and spiritual life professionals can discover and utilize meaningful data to demonstrate the value of their work in higher education.
Still, there were glimmers that Ramadan 2021 could feel less restricted than last year, when Islam’s holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar commemorating Muhammad’s reception of the Qur’an, begins on Monday.
"Ramadan can be an opportunity for Muslims in interfaith relationships to introduce their partners to the core beliefs and teachings of Islam, as well as to the ways different Muslim cultures share what is a deeply communal experience."
This year, Ramadan will begin on Monday or Tuesday (April 12 or 13), depending on when Muslims around the world sight the new moon that signals the beginning of the lunar month.
"In the Qur’an, God – Exalted Be He – proclaims that we should ask the people endowed with knowledge…All the experts are saying the same thing: please get vaccinated and do it now."
"Among the topics educators must address to reduce bullying and to ensure representation in the classroom are religion and religious identity."
Whether I am based in Los Angeles, Washington DC, or Kansas City, I remain committed to building bridges of mutual respect and understanding among people of different backgrounds.
Biden said the partnership between the seminary and a community health center is one of many that are happening between religious and medical organizations across the nation.

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.