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Black clergy stand their ground against Zimmerman verdict

Freddie Allen | 7/29/2013, 5:39 p.m.
Just as they did during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, last Saturday’s demonstrations in more than 100 cities ...
Rev. Michael Walrond, senior pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, at a press conference in front of Justice Department. Freddie Allen

Even though it’s important to honor the memory of Martin, the Black pastors wanted to ensure that this tragic moment would not be lost to history.

Bryant said the laws and the climate that catapulted this case onto the international stage need to be addressed.

“I don’t want us to get so caught in the personality that we miss the principle,” Bryant said. “The principle is unequal sentencing and other [disparities] in the judicial system. There are 30 states under the banner of Stand Your Ground. It’s bigger than George Zimmerman. He’s just the representation of the principle of Stand Your Ground. So, the focus has to be much bigger than that.”

Working with the Florida state legislators, the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council helped craft the controversial Stand Your Ground law in 2005. The law basically extended the “Castle doctrine” – a person’s home is his or her castle and can be defended with gunfire – to the streets, allowing a person in what they feel is a life-threatening situation outside of his home to defend themselves with deadly force, rather than retreat.

According to In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and public contracting, “ALEC plays an important role of providing corporations with valuable and unfettered access to state legislators. ALEC works with its members to draft model bills that state legislators can introduce and push in their states.”

The watchdog group said that ALEC eventually dismantled the task force that helped Florida state legislators craft its Stand Your Ground law, after coming under fire for also promoting controversial voter suppression laws.

During a national pastors’ conference in Miami, Fla., this week, Sharpton addressed a number of key issues that came to light during the Zimmerman trial, including ALEC’s involvement in shaping Stand Your Ground laws across the nation. Even though many of the pastors present at the news conference last week hinted at boycotting companies that financially support ALEC, no specific plans had been developed at that time.

The Black pastors pushed back on the notion that Black leaders are simply fanning racial flames instead of addressing the crime and gun violence that claims the lives of thousands of young Black males in our nation’s largest cities.

“All across the country in urban centers and cities across the country there have been people raising their voices around violence. In New York City, in Chicago, in Philadelphia, it’s not just one time,” said Rev. Michael Walrond, senior pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem. “Because of the national scene and the national view of the Trayvon Martin case, any reaction we have to it, any engagement we have with it, is going to have larger-than-life proportions.”

Walrond added that organizations across the country have been dealing with violence in the Black community. Unfortunately, those smaller movements just don’t make it into the newspapers.

Bryant’s Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Md., will host a gun buy-back

program on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Dr. Frederick Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, said that it’s unfair to point fingers at the young men who are the victims and perpetrators of most of the crime in our communities, without pointing a finger at those who create the insufferable conditions that force those young men to make tough choices.

“In darkness, crimes will be committed,” Haynes said. “You just don’t indict those that commit the crimes you also go after those who cause the darkness. The darkness is poverty, the darkness is a lack of options, the lack of

opportunities, the darkness is a lack of a quality education and until we address the darkness, crimes will be committed.

“We do our part in terms of mentoring our young men and showing them a better way, but if they do not have options, because of economic, educational, political and social injustice, then the sad reality is that there’s darkness that will be created, where the crimes will be committed.”