Stock photo by De an Sun on Unsplash
One of the group’s first activities was a survey of the congregation. We asked people what aspects of social justice they were most interested in pursuing. Racial justice and criminal justice ranked highest, followed by housing, education, immigration, environmental justice, and health care. This influenced the group to select The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander as our first reading, a book that puts the criminal justice system on trial, exposing racial discrimination from lawmaking, to policing, to the denial of voting rights for ex-prisoners.
The book is an excellent resource. Many of us earmarked our copies, and those who are not members of the black community found the reading eye-opening. There were moments when we were in shock and moments that promoted unity and understanding. We wanted to share what we were learning or, for some of us, what we already understood, about people of color and the criminal justice system.
Two films were suggested. 13th by Ava DuVernay, a Netflix film (one hour 40 minutes), and the Kalief Browder Story, a Netflix series. The team met at one member’s home and watched samples of each, deciding that 13th would be an effective film to show because it offers a history of how today’s tragic situation evolved. Once we set a date to show the film in our sanctuary, we had to scramble and find an introductory speaker and set the wheels of publicity in motion. Fortunately, Netflix allows an organization to show the film once to the public.
One of our members reached out to Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) to find a speaker, someone who could give a brief introduction to the film. PLS was very helpful in suggesting Mac Hudson who has served on their board since 2006. Incarcerated for 33 years, Mac litigated against the MA Department of Corrections successfully and also held cultural and religious events to promote community healing. His initial talk (about 10 minutes) prior to the film emphasized how his personal experience is validated by the film. Several people who attended and had already seen the film came to hear him.
Another member created flyers and posters for publicity. These were disseminated all over Roslindale and sent to about 15 community newsletters and websites, the Theodore Parker Church, and Facebook. A special social justice link was also created on our Facebook page. I enthusiastically reminded the congregation to attend and to bring a friend.
So on November 11th at 7 pm with our technology all working and in order (after a tech rehearsal the day before), refreshments ready, programs at the door, and even a sandwich board on the porch holding the poster, we waited somewhat anxiously to see whether the word had gotten out. To our great delight, it had; over 40 people arrived and filled the pews.
After the film, Mac Hudson spent some time responding to audience comments and questions before the audience moved to the back of the sanctuary and continued lively discussions. We were pleased that 21 people completed the survey on the back of the program, all rating the event very good. The film series was a popular choice for future events (20 respondents), followed by speaker, panel discussion, live art, and book club in that order. One attendee alerted us to another film we could present, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman, and we have received a copy.
Showing a film that addresses a contemporary issue proved to be an effective way to let the neighborhood know that Roslindale Congregational Church does indeed believe that black lives matter.
Members of the Social Justice Team: Miriam Owens, Holly Clarke-McAlary, Caroline Andrews, Susan Whitehead, Steve Mooney. Publications chief: Heather Garcia
"Chip" Hurd is the pastor of the Roslindale Congregational Church in Roslindale, MA. A life-long member of Congregational and United Church of Christ churches, he was ordained in 2017. He has twice been a delegate to the General Synod and was the ...