Pastor says to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly
In addressing the theme, "Beyond Words: Doing Justice," Walter Kendricks, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church, spoke to 180 Zoom participants at the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference on Jan. 30.
Opening, he recognized that he stands in the shoes and on the shoulders of those who came before him—his ancestors and parents, those who have struggled for justice, equality and fair treatment, marched with signs, and had dogs and water hoses set on them—and now those who cry that Black Lives Matter.
"We understand legislative priorities and circumstances that have occurred are not just in recent times but from the founding of the nation through its history," he said.
Walter read from the prophet Micah in 6:8: "He has told you, what is good, but what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God."
"Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly, not to talk about justice but to do justice," he said.
He then spoke of the importance of music to feed the soul, he cited lyrics songwriter Allen Toussaint penned in the 1970s.
"Songs tell stories, especially in the African-American community. Music supersedes the sermon," Walter said.
"Toussaint's words reflect a cry about the reality of life for people, especially people of color," Walter said, quoting: "Freedom for the stallion, freedom for the mare and her colt, freedom for the baby child who has not grown old enough to vote. Lord, have mercy, what you gonna do about the people who are praying to you? They got men make laws that destroy other men. They've made money 'God.' It's a doggone sin. Oh, Lord, you got to help us find the way."
"Toussaint talked of men making laws—Jim Crow, separate but equal, segregation—men making laws that destroy other men and make money—prison for profit, inequities in health care" Walter said. "Men making money. It's a doggone sin. You've got to help us find a way."
Walter said the lyrics reflect the centuries-old cry for justice. Then he named Trayvon Martin, James Byrd, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Michael Brown.
"Those things happened somewhere else. Across the mountains in Tacoma, it was Manuel Ellis. In my home town, Cleveland, Ohio, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child, was playing with a gun in a park and, in 10 seconds of police appearing, he was dead," he said.
"Of course there's George Floyd, whom the whole nation saw die. It shook the nation's conscience. For eight minutes and 47 seconds, he pleaded for his life, saying, 'I can't breathe,' as life was choked out of him on a city street. What was his crime? Maybe passing a counterfeit $20 bill. The Black Lives Matter movement, and protests up to and including the election stem from a cry for justice," he said. "I am way beyond words.
"Communities of color, Native, Samoan, Marshallese and Hispanic communities are all beyond words. There are no more words. It's time for us now to do justice," he said.
Walter told of his work on the Governor's Task Force on Independent Investigation, the Washington Commission for African American Affairs, the Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)—made possible because Morningstar Missionary Baptist Church shares him with the community.
The task force grew out of the death of George Floyd, Walter said, saying that Governor Jay Inslee has a heart for what is best for all Washingtonians, while some die of COVID and others demand their rights to the point of infringing on others' rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
On Zoom, the task force gathered people from around the state with different expertise to offer suggestions for a bill now in the legislature. Suggestions came from people exploring what an independent investigation of the police looks like.
"Those who have power rarely give it up," Walter said. "Our issue is with police investigating police, especially on deadly use of force. We don't want police investigating police.
"The Washington Constitution puts power in prosecutors and police, and they don't want to give it up. We were fighting about what an independent investigation is," he said.
Recognizing the importance of legislation, Walter also knows morality can't be legislated.
"There are all sorts of laws on the books, but if we don't recognize a person's basic humanity, it doesn't matter what laws are on the books, because the killings keep occurring. Every one of us—black, white, male, female, rich, poor—all of us should recognize the other's right to exist," he said. "That's what is beyond words and moves us to the cause for justice."
Walter told of systemic racism on the task force. It was set up to be led by people of color, but "we were shoved aside as those with positions spoke. 'Lord help us find a way,' he said.
The Commission on African American Affairs is changing as new people join and want to push forward.
"We advocate on a state level to advance people of color," he said. "It means spending money. Once you write a check, don't micromanage how it is spent. We are smart, educated and trained enough to know what is best. We do not need masters. We can be the master of our own destiny. Why? We're human. That's how we move beyond words and into justice."
With Black Lens editor Sandy Williams, Walter helped form SCAR in outrage about the 2015 murder of William Poindexter, a black man. He was on Altamont St. in East Central Spokane, arguing with his girlfriend. He pushed her.
A guy skateboarding in the neighborhood with a backpack containing two knives and a gun fought with Poindexter. As Poindexter walked away, the accused got in a shooting position and, from 30 feet away, shot three times hitting him in the back twice, Walter said. He died there.
In the May 2017 trial, a jury of 12 white people said the accused was "not guilty."
SCAR came into existence to move the community beyond words and still helps people move beyond words.
"Look at God's Providence," Walter said. "Without SCAR—and someone giving his life to wake us up—when 10-month-old Caiden Henry was beaten to death in June 2017, SCAR was in the courtroom that August as the community's eyes. In that case, there was justice. The accused went to jail."
Walter also praised the NAACP, as it transitions from the leadership of Kurtis Robinson to Kiantha Duncan, its new president.
"She is taking the community in a new direction focusing on unity beyond words," Walter said. "The NAACP has an action focus for the unity of all people. Kiantha's approach is to say, 'Because I love you, I have something to tell you.'"
Walter said some people "desire to go back to yesteryear, but time continues to go forward."
"So how do we to build a just society?" he asked, returning to the scripture: "What does the Lord require of us? Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God."
"That's how we move beyond words," he said. "We know what is right. The time for talking is over."
Walter concluded with a call to free the marginalized, such as the children separated from their parents who still sit in cages at the border.
"The time is now to move beyond words," he said.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March, 2021