Don’t come for us: Friendship-West responds to attacks of intimidation

Friendship West
Dallas Black Clergy for Safety Equity and Justice leaders held a press conference with local Black media to address the Aug. 4 incident in the Friendship-West Baptist Church parking lot. – Screenshot by Robyn H. Jimenez/The Dallas Examiner

 

By ROBYN H. JIMENEZ

The Dallas Examiner

 

Members of the historic Friendship-West Baptist Church were shocked at the vision of over 1,000 motorists as they drove onto the church’s parking lot with confederate and MAGA symbols, Aug. 4.

“This past Sunday, Friendship-West was stabbed in the back by a Back the Blue crew that misrepresented themselves to my staff as a car club, Texas Ram Club, in need of a rest stop for no more than 30 vehicles,” recalled Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, the church’s senior pastor. “Instead, we discovered on Sunday, it was a Back the Blue convoy of over 1,000 vehicles including motorcycles, SUVs, trucks and muscles cars that violated our sacred space on so many levels. A Back the Blue convoy became a slap in the face to the Black church and the Black community.”

Haynes said that alarmed members texted and called to inform him that white supremacists had taken over their campus.

“They reached that conclusion, even though it was not billed as a white supremacist rally, because it looked like a white supremacist rally,” he explained. “The Trump flags, the confederate flags would be right at home at a Klan rally. Those flags were part of the convoy. Disrespectful participants used our parking lot to relieve themselves and engage in drinking, according to eyewitness accounts. I received intel that a father and his four grown sons from South Lake cancelled a drive-by birthday party for the father’s child because they were going to ‘lock down’ Friendship-West.”

During the incident and immediately following, the Dallas Black Clergy for Safety Equity and Justice contacted Haynes to offer their support to Haynes and the church. Moreover, Haynes said he received support and encouragement from throughout the city and across the country, including phone calls from Houston Congresswoman Sheila Lee Jackson that evening and San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday.

“I just wish everyone could have seen the support of the community on Sunday. As soon as word got out that we were being invaded by these supremacists, the community rushed to the church. Their messages of support let me know that, not only do they appreciate the fact that we affirm in our ministry message and banner that Black lives matter, but they are ready to show up for us,” Haynes stated.

In response to the rally, leaders of the Black Clergy organized a virtual press conference with Black media outlets throughout Dallas County, Aug. 6. The purpose of meeting, hosted by the group’s leader Edwin Robinson, was to address the recent treat to the church and announced a set of demands for the city. The conference featured Black Clergy members: Haynes, Dr. Irie L. Session, Dr. Kamilah Hall Sharp, Dr. Michael Waters, Dr. Michael Greene, Dr. Kwesi Kamau, Rev. Phea Kennedy, Dr. Marcus King and Dr. Jaime Kowlessar.

After Session opened the meeting with prayer, Sharp offered details on the event and discussed other incidents of systemic oppression in the community.

“This past Sunday we were collectively outraged by the violation of sacred space that took place at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Oak Cliff, Texas. A convoy of monster trucks, cars and motorcycles, bearing the flags of the Confederacy, Thin Blue Line and Make America Great Again, physically and spiritually trespassed on the parking ground of Friendship-West Baptist Church. This is the second incident of white supremacists’ intimidation against a Black church in as many weeks. A few days earlier, our sisters and brothers at The Way Church in Berkley, California, were violated by an arsonist attempt to burn down their church, just hours after they proudly displayed their Black Lives Matter banner,” she explained.

“It was a coordinated attack with intimidation, all too reminiscent of KKK and neo-Nazi drive-bys that’s meant to terrorize and strike fear in the hearts of our leaders and cause our community to lose heart.”

However, they didn’t count on the community presenting a fearless show of unity, according to Sharp.

She went on to say that the incident was symbolic of the systemic oppression that occurs repeatedly in Black communities.

“Our communities are violated by economic policies that ensure resources remain segregated in our city,” she continued. “While deck parks, boutiques and sky rises are being constructed in the North, the South is left with food deserts, unpaved roads and stray dog attacks. Our communities are consistently violated through an occupying police force that is paid to ticket, fine, arrest and even kill our people for the slightest infraction and sometimes for none at all.”

Waters offered a historical context of the oppression and racism that still plagues the community, which included a statement on how policing has done more to harm the Black community than it has to help the community.

During the conference, Haynes presented his thoughts on the purpose of the offensive incident in the church’s parking lot. Siting the Confederate flag and flagrant disrespect of the church that has made their social justice mission known to the city, he said that the group came with a large group in an attempt to threaten them. However, Haynes said that they were not intimidated, but inspired to further their mission.

“Let me just say again, this was a violation of sacred space with a vicious history in this country – 1961, racists surrounded a Black church in Alabama housing Freedom Riders to intimidate them. Among those Freedom Riders was John Lewis that our nation is lovingly crowning as a hero in his death. But John Lewis understood what it was like to be on sacred space and have it surrounded by white supremacists with bad intentions,” Haynes emphasized. “In 2020, a convoy with a name of Backing the Blue – in the year of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others – tried to shut down Friendship-West, a church, I might add that unites Jesus with justice and through our ministries and mission affirms that Black lives matter.”

“They came to shut us down. But they didn’t know, they stirred us up. They came to intimidate us, but they inspired us.

“Parenthetically, I might add that the organizers who came to my staff asking for parking for 30 vehicles, they could have gone to one of several other big churches, but they chose Friendship-West. They could have gone to Target, huge parking lot. They could have gone to the now-closed Walmart, huge parking lot. RedBird Mall … but they chose Friendship-West – ironically, a church that not only in her ministries and mission affirms Black lives matter, but to make sure that folk on I-20 know. We have a huge banner hanging from the side of our church that says, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ And so, they came to intimidate us. No, they inspired us.”

 

Furthermore, the minister said that the church was inspired and stirred up to speak truth to power. Part of the truth included a discussion on Dallas, which he called a “tale of two cities.” Stating that the city was “dead last” in economic inclusion, he went on to say it was the poster child for environmental racism and economic apartheid, referring to the vast underserved minority areas of the city that lack food, job and business services and opportunities.

“So here’s the deal, y’all came for us, we didn’t send for you, but we got something for you. Dallas, you saw what happened and it’s time to make some things happen, as appose to wondering naively why they keep happening. You know why they keep happening. They keep happening because this is a city just like this country … born in racism and shaped by white supremacy,” Haynes stated.

“That’s why we’re demanding that our city adopt the 10 new directions for public safety and positive community exchange. We’re demanding that we defund policing in our community. Listen, and don’t come play with us Dallas, because San Francisco has a population where less than 4% of that city is Black. And yet their mayor, London Breed, had the courage to reimagine public safety. And they are allocating $120 million to the Black community, because they know they owe it to the Black community.

“In your budgeting process, we want you right now to show San Francisco, to show Los Angeles, which has allocated $150 million, that you are going to step up because you recognize Dallas born in racism and shaped in white supremacy.”

He gave an example from Dr. Jeremiah Wright, who said, if you bake a cake and forget to put sugar in it, are you going to put sugar on the top? No. You have to bake a new cake. He said that’s what we need to do with Dallas, “we need to rebake the cake.”

The plan also included reinvesting in city staff that would lose their jobs during the pandemic and training them on contact tracing; forming a team to answer mental health related calls; addressing incidents regarding immigration, stating that deportations have impacted Black immigrants from Haiti and African nations disproportionately; and to increase safety and accountability measures.

Haynes concluded with a call for the community to participate in a ride-in.

“This Sunday, we’re calling for the community to join us in a ride in for a new Dallas. I love it,” he said. “A ride in for a new Dallas, in the tradition of the Freedom Riders, in the tradition of sit-in movement. We’re going to ‘ride-in’ … for a new Dallas.”

The Ride-In for a New Dallas began Sunday, 8:30 a.m. at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. As vehicles filled the streets, the convoy drove through Oak Cliff and concluded at Friendship-West at 10 a.m. Respecting social distancing, participants were asked to tune into two local radio stations to hear Hayne’s message. The event included a discussion on influencing the city budget process.

“We’re demanding resources for our side of town,” Haynes stated.

As part of the ride-in, the church provided opportunities for residents to register to vote and complete the 2020 Census.

“Since the occupant of the White House has decided that he’s going to cut the time for the census by one month, guess what, the church that’s for the community, about the community, is going to make it easier for the community to register for the census,” Haynes announced.

Uplifted by the show of support, Haynes encouraged all organizations and businesses that have been concerned about displaying a Black Lives Matter sign or permitting staff to wear Black Lives Matter masks or clothing, to proudly display their gear to openly show support of the Black community.

“Hang that banner proudly,” he insisted. “I promise you, it will be a great source of marketing. A lot of us can’t wait to see businesses that are affirming that Black lives matter. So go ahead, show that banner and watch us show up and come through.”

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