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Social Action Commission – Focus on Baltimore

Focus on Baltimore – A. M. E. Church Servant Leadership

The Social Action Commission commends and expresses how proud we are of AME ministers in Baltimore and the vicinity for the leadership and ministry they have provided in the midst of the struggle now going on in the City of Baltimore. Dr. Jamal Bryant and Dr. Frank Reid III, in particular have demonstrated strong and decisive leadership which has kept a dangerous situation from getting completely out of control, and has led many of the people in Baltimore to turn despair and anger into opportunity and hope. We as AME’s need to be proud of the manner in which AME ministers and church members rose to the occasion and met the challenge placed before them.

In fact, we should be encouraged by the leadership and example of faith leaders and their congregations for the manner in which they have organized and impacted the people and situation in Baltimore. Ministers mobilized congregations to shelter, fed and met the needs of the people. Black men, Christians, Muslims and others stood between angry youth and police, kept others from committing acts which could lead them to be arrested or be injured, and miraculously, forged a partnership between the faith community and gang members to prevent violence, bloodshed and death. We saw in Baltimore this week, the church at its best and God is glorified because of it.

The Social Action Commission calls for several actions to take place; so that justice can be done, and needed actions taken, not only in Baltimore but across the nation.

1. We not only call, but demand that the Baltimore Police Department release to the family of Freddie Gray and the public, why he was arrested in the first place. This information should have been given to Mr. Gray’s family when he was hospitalized. It has now been more than 10 days since his arrest and this information has not been released. This has nothing to do with the autopsy, how he was injured, and possible charges against police or anything else pertaining to investigations. The Baltimore Police Department has no credible reason not to tell the Gray family why their beloved son was arrested.

2. The Social Action Commission calls for the investigatory report of the Baltimore Police provided to the State’s Attorney in Maryland to be made public as soon as possible, and for the State Attorney to decide whether police will be charged in the Freddie Gray case, as soon as possible. The situation in Baltimore and across the nation will only be aggravated as long as this case is dragged out, and there remain more questions than answers.

3. We call upon our political leaders and others, to cease from referring to our young people, even those who destroy property and do violence as “thugs” and similar adjectives. While we do not condone their actions and insist that they refrain immediately, they are the product of their environment and circumstances in which they live, and unless and until we do something to improve their environment and circumstances their behavior will not change. If we do not refer to those in law enforcement who abuse, injure and kill as thugs, we should not refer to our young people in this manner.

4. As we prepare for the 2016 elections we call upon, and must insist that candidates for each President, governor, US Senate and US Representative be prepared to offer and explain his/her position and policy proposals regarding our cities, education, reform of the criminal justice system, drug laws, and a host of other related issues. What is happening in Baltimore is about more than Freddie Gray, it is about racism, poor education, lack of jobs, hopelessness, despair and anger. We have not had an agenda for our cities and the elimination of poverty since the Great Society under President Lyndon Johnson. We must insist that the cities and the poor are a part of the debate during the 2016 elections. Candidates will not do it voluntarily; we must shape the dialogue.

The Social Action Commission ask all of our churches, as we gather this Sunday, to lift up Baltimore and our nation in prayer, and to take steps locally and regionally to address poverty, injustice. We are a people who believe in divine intervention, so let us proclaim that God’s will be done.