It's Time We Do Our Part

 Children stand in front of protesters at the Families Belong Together demonstration.

Children stand in front of protesters at the Families Belong Together demonstration.

 

One of the many hats, or I should say collars, that I wear is one that belongs to clergy.

I am a minister of the United Methodist Church and work for Servant Church in Austin, Texas. One of the fun perks of working at my church is that the people there love sending me places where I can get into what Bayard Rustin called “angelic troublemaking”: going to protests, community events, anti-racism trainings, places where God is at work in the world. This month I feel called to share about the “angelic troublemaking” I’ve been up to.

SKEW typically focuses on pop culture, but this month it feels appropriate to pause my writing about The Carters (tl;dr once again, Beyoncé outshines her husband and reminds the world that she’s the GOAT). That’s because there is a need to draw attention to not only the government's zero tolerance policy that separated families, but the current plan to detain families indefinitely. This policy is just as cruel and must be fought with all our might.

Wednesday June 6 in Corpus Christi, TX in the Omni Hotel lobby I, Rev. Abigail Parker Herrera, and Rev. John Feagins wrote a rough draft of a letter that sought to charge Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III on charges. I insisted we use his full name because the Lord is working on me and my spirit of pettiness; after a series of edits from people more gracious and loving and filled with the Spirit than I am, a more tempered resolution that criticized the policy rather than the person was ready.

 The interior of a CBP facility in McAllen, Texas. Yes. That's children. Sleeping on the floor. (CBP)

The interior of a CBP facility in McAllen, Texas. Yes. That's children. Sleeping on the floor. (CBP)

We began to circulate petitions and get signatures from the Methodist delegates that represent hundreds of thousands of United Methodists in South and Central Texas. After reaching about 600 signatures, Bishop Schnase allowed the resolution to be brought to the floor for the vote and it passed, nearly unanimously, by hand vote. The story grew from there as other United Methodists got vocal as well.

One of my colleagues in ministry, Deaconess Cindy Johnson, helped facilitate conversation around the policy and gather signatures for the resolution, spoke with Rev. Parker Herrera about her desire to take people to the courts to stand in solidarity with the children–some as young as two years old–who are being separated from their parents and put on trial. She wanted Methodists to witness this incredible injustice firsthand because she knows the power of being present with people. Witnessing injustice prompts action.

Thanks to prompting from a member of my congregation, we went to Brownsville to stand witness at the courtroom at an event the ACLU organized. On June 28, we participated in a rally with the intention of going to stand witness in the court. As clergy all decked in our Jesus drag, we ended up near the front. When we learned that the spaces were limited, we stepped back so local organizers could do their thing. We didn’t get in, we didn’t see the kids, but we stood with people from across the state of all backgrounds and beliefs and we demanded our government change this horrific practice immediately.

 Children sit inside a CBP holding facility. These photos were taken by CBP in an attempt to put the child detention camps in a positive light. *rolls eyes* (CBP)

Children sit inside a CBP holding facility. These photos were taken by CBP in an attempt to put the child detention camps in a positive light. *rolls eyes* (CBP)

There are moments that will reflect how we are seen by our descendants. When our children read about this time in our history, they will think about who we are. Just like we ask, “How did grandpa let this happen and do nothing?” or “Why didn’t mom say anything about that time she experienced this?” our children will ask “Why did you let them take that baby from his mom as she was breastfeeding and do nothing?”

“Why did you let them keep children in cages and leave them in a place where no one would comfort them as they cried?”

“Why did you let the government put three-year-old children on trial?”

These are the questions that will shape our generation’s image in history.

It sounds overwhelming.

I told Cindy, my colleague, as much in Corpus. A small group of us that had whipped up votes and had tough conversations with delegates were celebrating in a little half circle. She told me, “You did your part today. Take a breath and celebrate, and when the time comes do your part again.”

I don’t know what your part to do is, but when the time comes, please - do your part. That’s the only way we can make it through the difficult season we are in. It’s overwhelming at times, so celebrate while you can, take a breath while you can, but please do your part.

Wondering what you can do? Try these steps:

  • You can write to your representatives using Resistbot, it’s really easy and secure.
  • If you’re looking for a place to send money that does direct work meeting the needs of asylum seekers and immigrants of all sorts La Posada Providencia is doing incredible work providing shelter, ESL classes, and provide legal services when necessary.