Just Breathe: Weaving Together the Creation Narrative and Communities of Color

Just Breathe: Weaving Together the Creation Narrative and Communities of Color

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by Katherine Schofield, Old South Church

On October 11, Old South Church in Boston hosted Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Founding Pastor of New Roots AME Church, as she preached powerfully on the intersections of the climate crisis, racism and health disparities in our nation.  Rev. White-Hammond is an advocate for ecological and social justice, youth engagement, and Spirit-filled organizing.

Using an intersectional lens in her ecological work, she challenges people to see the connections between racism, economic justice and climate change. Focusing on the concept of the breath (ruah - the breath of God) Rev. White-Hammond's sermon, "Just Breathe", weaves together the creation narrative, statistics on asthma among communities of color, the stories of Eric and Erica Garner, and a call to action to move away from polluting energy sources and our habits of overconsumption.

"In 2015 Black people were 20% more likely to have asthma than their white counterparts. Latino children were twice as likely to die from asthma as white children. In China Asthma is the leading cause of hospitalization for children. And a recent study found that exposure to pollution was one of the key reasons that Black and Latino communities were so disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Who knew that environmental racism was a pre-existing condition.

"To maintain our global consumption companies and municipalities make an economic assessment that pollution can be concentrated in low income communities and communities of color, like the one that Eric Garner lived in, We make a decision that these communities don't matter, and that these people, like Eric Garner, find themselves literally unable to breathe.

"In January 2016 Erica Garner wrote an Op Ed piece titled, 'Black Lives like my Father's Should Matter'. In it she said, 'If our lives really mattered we'd have equal access to decent jobs, good schools and affordable housing. If our lives mattered in this country we'd have equal access to clean air, clean water and real investment in black neighborhoods. If Black lives mattered in America, those who routinely brutalize us wouldn't be the ones paid with our tax dollars to keep us safe.

"As Climate change exacerbates the effects of pollution we are at a crucial time in human history. The decisions we make now will determine whether or not our children will be able to breathe into the future
If we want to honor God's creation, if we want to save our species we must change. It is time to change in our energy policy away from polluting energy sources and towards creation powered sources like wind and solar. It is time to stop thinking of healthcare as a privilege and ensure that all God's children have access....

"Getting humans, and especially Americans, to shift away from consumption will literally require an act of God. I look at what is happening in the world and I think, 'We need a rushing wind, to come in and disrupt things to blow some things over and whisk away the covers, to expose some hidden problems.' I don't know about you, but I want the Spirit to come in and fill me up. I want her to give me the ability to walk and not get weary, to run and not faint."

Hear the full sermon here.    Learn more about the work of New Roots AME Church here.  
Image by Ian Kiragu for Unsplash
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