Walking Together Summit: A Dialogue about dispelling fear, polarization, and racial injustice with Leaders from Columbia’s Faith Communities and Law Enforcement
By Deacon Lexanne Graves, Synod Vice-President
11/3/16 Rehoboth United Church of Jesus Christ, 3420 N. Beltline Blvd, Columbia
Pastor Ginger Littman-Koon, Rev Carl Taylor, Pastor Eric Fink, Rev Walter Griffin, Rev, Vernon Dixon, SC Synod’s Vice President Deacon Lexanne Graves opened up the dialogue of the summit discussing how the SELMA movie viewing has positively impacted our communities. Relationships are being created, walls are being torn down, and hope is being sensed for change in our communities.
Chief Skip Holbrook discussed the many changes being made in and through Richland County Sheriff’s Department. He says he is training officers to be accountable for their actions, give aid to anyone you come across no matter the color of their skin, and know and enforce the law.
Imam Omar Shaheed discussed the many changes in religion over his lifetime and re reminded us that we are all descendants of Abraham and we are loved and blessed by God. So no matter how you identify yourself, Christian or Muslim or Baptist, we are each loved by God and need to be faithful to God.
Bishop Josh Lorrick said, “we all have a conviction to make Columbia, SC to be better, so let’s work together. We are indeed working together to make viable, workable solutions in the areas of racial injustice. And I am glad to be here today because we are taking small daring steps and they are making a difference. And this might be difficult, but we don’t grow weary.”
Rev Carl Taylor stated the truth, “We are not born racist. One is taught racism; one learns racism. So we need to make changes in our own homes and personal actions to make change in racial injustice.”
Space was provided for questions, and answers and it was awesome to hear such genuine and honest answers.
- Chief Skip Holbrook was honest about being wrong in the past about police and recognizing that change and training is happening now to make a change. He stated that our “officers have to be accountable and citizens need to be accountable as well.”
- How do we bridge gaps between all houses of faith? Imam Shaheed said, “we need to respect our differences and look for what we have in common. Different faiths need to meet in our homes, the most private space in our lives. And we have to be honest and be ourselves. There is a common thread of purity in all of us.”
- How important are relationships among individuals in solving this problem in coming together? Bishop Josh Lorrick said, “relationships remove the myths and suspicion of one another; it uncovers the common ground that we all have together. Relationships are very important.”
Rabbi Jonathan Case thanked Chief Holbrook for his humility in how he and his department are going about police officer training to change the fear and suspicion of law enforcement. He prayed for “prejudices to disappear and for persons from different backgrounds, religion, and skin color can be together if they so desire and are blessed when they do so. We don’t need to draw borders and lines. We don’t need to claim that our God is better than your God. We need to be color blind. We need to be religious blind. We need to be culture blind.” Rabbi Case also shared a story that culminated with this: “if you don’t know what hurts someone, then you really don’t love them?” So our challenge is to ask someone who is different from us, what hurts you? That’s how we won’t build barriers or lines; rather, we will listen to another and create a relationship.
Sherriff Leon Lott (a Cubs fan who was present at the Summit, the day after the Cubs won the World Series!) shared that this summit is what makes us different from other parts of the country. We are building relationships across gender lines, racial lines, and religious lines. What can we do together? Together: everyone accomplishes more! He sat down with the leader of Black Lives Matter for 90 minutes and discussed ways for ways that Law Enforcement can work together with Black Lives Matter to strive for the same goal of citizen safety.
Pastor Ginger Littman-Koon and Rev Walter Griffin shared the work that youth, young adults and caring adults are doing through an “artistic” way with cross-cultural, ecumenical efforts called “Unity Through Reconciliation.” Every two weeks youth from across the Midlands gather at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church for Improv and Drama Workshops to promote dialogue and Christian unity. Learn more at www.FB.com/remixcolumbia.
Followed by the many panelists, we gathered in diverse groups to discuss our own personal reflections and stories, where we see signs of hope, and what our next steps will be to keep this discussion of racial reconciliation on the forefront of our minds. Please join us in doing one thing—one thing that you can do to be a part of this movement of racial reconciliation.