While August 28th marks the 60th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, our hearts are broken for the people of Jacksonville, Florida. 52-year-old Angela Michelle Carr, 19-year-old Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., and 29-year-old Jarrald De’shaun Gallion were all killed in a Dollar General store by a gunman who was intentionally targeting Black people. The killer, who bought his AR-15 rifle legally, wrote a racist manifesto and even tried to target an HBCU before going to the store.
This devastating attack is yet another tragic reminder that we still have so much work to do when it comes to transforming racism and hate. On Tuesday, August 29th, at 12pm, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado CEO Shara Smith will join other faith leaders in attending a press conference hosted by the Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance to respond to the shooting in Jacksonville, Florida. The press conference will be held at: Friendship Baptist Church on 880 Fairfax Street, Denver, CO 80220.
August 28th has been rightly referred to as the day that defined the direction of one of the most momentous decades in history. It was the day that Dr. King shared his dream for America where we are judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.
The March on Washington was significant not just because a quarter million people descended on the nation’s capital in a powerful display of nonviolent direct action for racial justice, and not even because of one man’s speech, but because those quarter million attendees represented every cross-section of America: Those who marched on Washington were not only made up of Black, white, Brown, Indigenous, AAPI, and other individuals, but Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and other faith traditions and beliefs – including those who don’t practice a particular belief system.
One of the people who joined Dr. King and the freedom movement was Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel, who came to America to escape Nazi Germany. As someone who experienced racial discrimination firsthand, Rabbi Heschel was unyielding in is critique of racial discrimination, asserting,
“Few of us realize that racism is man’s greatest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking.”
At a time when our country is grappling with a resurgence of hatred, an abandonment of thinking and reason, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado has continued to step forward to advance faith as a force for good here in Colorado. You have continued to step forward together with us, a gathering of Black, white, Brown, Indigenous, AAPI, and other individuals – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, other faith traditions, as well as those who don’t practice a particular belief system. Together, we have continued to bring people together, collaborating and cooperating to advance the dignity of all people.
This diversity of backgrounds and beliefs represents not only our uniqueness as an organization, but also speaks to the concept of how a broad unity amongst different groups can lead to fundamental changes in society – even changes to systems once thought of as ubiquitous, like the institutions of segregation and inequality.
As we celebrate the anniversary of the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech that defined the Civil Rights Movement, let’s continue to remember the role we each play in defeating injustice and oppression and continue to work together as a network of diverse individuals dedicated to peace. Let’s transform our lives from the inside out, following Rabbi Heschel’s example of changing personal suffering into mission.
Our struggles are not our own. They help point us in the direction of the work we must tackle together. Thank you so much for continuing to walk this path together with us.