Above are photos from ‘Black Lives Matter Sunday’ at West Angeles and across the nation.
Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake and West Angeles Church of God In Christ joined with thousands of Christian congregations for Black Lives Matter Sunday on December 14, 2014.
The observance was called to protest racial profiling and killings by the police. All attendees, including Bishop Blake, the choir, and the band, wore Black in solidarity with others around the world. Instead of the traditional weekly greetings of brotherhood expressed before the announcements each week, Bishop Blake called for the men of the congregation to gather before the altar for prayer and direction for a stronger future for families, for the church, and for the community. Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Bishop John Bryant of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and many other religious leaders have added their voices to those who decry that “Black Lives Matter.”
Some of the young men in the congregation had faith that the current extreme behavior by the police will eventually give way to a positive outcome, and that prayer is most important in these trying times.
“The relationship between black men and law enforcement…is difficult to understand,” said congregant Brantley Watson. “We must remember that God has a plan for us and that He is the ultimate judge. We will rise above.”
But others are not quite at peace with the current state of affairs.
“We live in a city known for its gang violence,” one woman said, who wished to remain anonymous, “but I’m much more concerned about my husband being profiled by police than about him being attacked by a criminal. And that’s unfortunate.”
It seems her concerns are not unfounded. Statistics shared by Bishop Blake revealed that:
• African Americans are 13% of population; yet are of 26% of the victims of police shootings. • The number of African Americans killed by police is 4.5 times greater than the number of those of other races killed by the police. • Since the killing of Michael Brown, which sparked nation-wide protest, six other African American men have been killed. • Blacks are more likely to be detained, searched, checked, or treated brutally by the police.
“We stand today in unity and solidarity with every family and every community that has been reduced by unnecessary loss of life,” began Bishop Blake, “or repulsed by excessive use of force imposed by police persons who are paid and who are pledged to protect us. We, our political leaders, our judicial authorities, and all of us – must police the police.
“Police are called to abide by the laws they are paid to enforce, and to foster justice, safety and equal protection under the law.”
But Bishop Blake also asked all in attendance, and each of the 12,000 COGIC congregations – both collectively and as individuals – to join with West Angeles in strengthening their communities through the Urban Initiative, a 5-point program which includes:
1. Education, training and mentoring, 2. Crime prevention programs which foster cooperative relationships with law enforcement 3. Economic development, which includes corporate involvement and job development 4. Building strong families and enhancing the role of fathers, 5. Financial literacy
“Each man here has been given an assignment”, said Bishop Blake. “God has kept us here for some purpose. If you are here, then God has a plan for your life”, Bishop Blake admonished. “Don’t ignore doing all the good you can, for everyone that you can”.
Bishop Blake prayed over the men in attendance that God would enhance and refine their abilities, wisdom and strength in order to bring about positive change. He also prayed for covering over law enforcement so that they may work in safety and with wisdom in every decision.
“Let the word go forth that the men of West Angeles are united and committed to the good of our community, to the advancement and the good of our church, and to the welfare of our families. Walk toward your destiny, doing what God has set aside for you to do.”