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    

       sleep.

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

Thirty-two percent of vaccinated Americans reported in June that a faith-based approach made them more likely to get vaccinated, according to the survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).   
As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. echoed Theodore Parker, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Let’s bend it together.
In both my work as an interfaith leader and a dancer, rethinking is all about opening our minds, asking questions, and having conversations.
Some U.S. churches have been reckoning with this activity for years through ceremonies, apologies and archival investigations, while others are just getting started.
A global study of the communication patterns of 1.3 million workers during the global lockdown showed the average workday increased by 8.2% during the pandemic, and the average number of virtual meetings per person expanded by almost 13%.
Across Missouri, hundreds of pastors, priests and other church leaders are reaching out to urge vaccinations in a state under siege from the delta variant. Health experts say the spread is due largely to low vaccination rates — Missouri lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have initiated shots.
The solution, said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, is “the loving care of a family, not another orphanage.” He pointed to Scripture passages that say God sets the lonely in families and call on Christians to care for those who have been orphaned.
The following interview features Debra Fraser-Howze, founder and president of Choose Healthy Life, an initiative that fortifies community infrastructure to better address the pandemic in Black communities. The interview was conducted by Shauna Morin for IFYC; it has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The seven monks have been clearing brush from around the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and running a sprinkler system dubbed “Dharma rain,” which helps keep a layer of moister around the buildings.
Over 800 Muslim Americans are expected to attend the family-focused event at the Green Meadows Petting Farm in Ijamsville, Maryland, making it one of the larger such gatherings around the country in the era of COVID-19.
Besides demanding equitable distribution of vaccines, the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access called on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights for vaccine manufacturing in order to enable more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically.
Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and giving meat to the needy.
Our Lady of La Vang is said to have appeared in a remote rainforest in the late 1700s to a group of Catholics fleeing persecution in Vietnam.
This article is part of a series called Faith in the Field that explores responses to Covid-19—including vaccination efforts—within different faith communities. 
Yet the debate about the vaccine in Tennessee is not solely a debate about science. Rather, I believe the vaccine debate is also a referendum on our public capacity to embrace vulnerability.
The study found that while there are many promising signs that students perceive support for their RSSIs on campus, there is also considerable room for improving welcome, particularly for students whose RSSIs are a minority.
Coronavirus deaths among clergy are not just a Catholic problem, said Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, with faith leaders across denominations having elevated exposure rates as “spiritual front-line workers” ministering to the sick and dying in hospitals and nursing homes.
Legislation legalizing human composting has encountered religious resistance from the Catholic Church.
From the 26th of November, 2020, a farmers protest has been in existence on the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital city. For the past eight months, farmers in the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, have been fighting three laws that threaten the future of agriculture in the country.
Sivan and I feel that it is crucial to work for increased vaccination rates, particularly with more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants emerging across the country and throughout the world.
We made calls to friends, disseminated flyers, engaged in social media marketing, partnered with faith-based communities, and engaged the local health department to encourage members of our community to come to our upcoming clinic and get vaccinated.

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.