Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Letter Demanding Civil Rights in light of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


I tread carefully with the words I am about to lay down, but not so cautiously that I can stand by any longer.

Monday marks only the 14th year that a holiday in King's name has been observed by all 50 states. Not surprisingly, some of my home states’ politicians tried to stand in the way of celebrating this saint. But, the world moves on, dare I say progresses, and since the year 2000, all 50 states have recognized the day. As of late, it has become a day of service. The greatest service the church can provide for the world is to pray and that is what we invite you to do on Monday on the American Tobacco Trail from Morehead Avenue to roughly the one mile marker at Scott Street.

My caution comes from my whiteness, but if I am misunderstood or thought of as treading on ground that is not my own, well, I’m going to risk it, because too many have been hurt and terrorized the last year on the land I call church. I believe that Dr. King and those who marched in the 1950s and 1960s would stand up for safety today, on Durham's American Tobacco Trail. Maybe I am wrong. Some in The Movement wanted King to be done once segregation had legally come to an end, but he went on fighting against war, for the rights of garbage collectors and other issues of civil rights. Such extended fights, probably led to his death.

If I could go down so that others could be safe on the trail, I would gladly lay myself down. Call me a racist, a bigot, I don't really care. If I speak out of turn on behalf of the legacy of Dr. King, and you disagree with my stance, well come out tomorrow and tell me why I am wrong, but while we are at it, let's both secure the safety of those who use the trail by our very presence, by our dialogue, by our conversation.

My civil rights and those of my neighbors, regardless of color, have been compromised. And I will not stand for the wretched behavior that has gone on this past year on the American Tobacco Trail and what our small community calls The Tobacco Trail Church. My wife doesn’t want to worship in all the locations we once did. She is scared for herself and for her children. She is far from alone.

In this country we have taken seriously the freedom of religion or the right to assemble and worship as individuals and groups see fit. Violence on the American Tobacco Trail has compromised that freedom—that particular civil right. I am embarrassed by those in south Durham who enact violence on citizens who use the trail. What is GOING ON??? Why all the violence? If you want a forum to lodge your complaints, as to why certain folks should not get to use the trail, then bring them tomorrow. There will be ears to hear.

I cry out to the land and the people of the American Tobacco Trail—NO MORE VIOLENCE. No more blood. Help your neighbor. Clean up the corner of the trail littered with trash. Fall on your knees and pray to your Father in Heaven that no one be harmed on this trail.

I've spoken to friends in the hotspots of violence like Fayetteville Street and behind Hillside High School. They want it to stop. This is their home and their neighbors are desecrating the trail with acts of violence.

We must be able to walk and run and bike on this sacred pathway. We must be able to carry home our groceries. We must be able to meet our friends for fellowship at a sunset. We must be able to connect to Rocky Creek and Third Fork Creek and Cornwallis and Cook and Fayetteville and MLK and United and Pearson, Juliette, Scott and all the intersecting paths. And yes, I speak on behalf of our little Christian community--we must be allowed to worship on the trail.

This has to go down.

I demand a collaborative effort by all interested parties to make this space safe.

Tomorrow begins another step in the journey. Some will say that prayer cannot do a thing, or change a thing. But all evidence in my life scoffs at such claims and I will continue to pray for a safe Durham and believe that God intends to make this thoroughfare, the American Tobacco Trail, a place of light, not darkness for the Triangle of North Carolina. I'm not giving up. I'm not moving. I'm not being intimidated. I won't arm myself with a gun, but only the prayers of my people and those that have come before me. My sword is the Word of God and the prayers that the Father has placed upon our hearts. Are we waging spiritual warfare? YES, WE ARE.

Join us on the northern part of the trail, near the American Tobacco District, January 21, 2013 between 10am and 4pm.

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