All opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not represent the opinion of my employer, church, family or any other individual or entity.

LET JUSTICE ROLL- INAUGURAL POST

On this past Sunday, February 26, Brooklyn, New York, the church that I pastor, Abundant Life Church hosted a special sermon and panel discussion on “A Spiritual Community of Resistance." It was part of the church’s Black History Month Celebration and featured keynote Speaker, Reverend Kirsten John Foy, the Northeast Regional Director of the National Action Network (Reverend Al Sharpton’s network), panelists Rev. Gil Monrose, Harold Williams, L. Joy Williams, David Grant, and New York Councilman Jumaane Williams.

The event was planned to be an inspiration for the church’s ministry of social justice advocacy. As a seven-year-old church, we feel strongly called to be engaged in social justice advocacy and youth development as part of our spiritual growth and our Christian calling. Hence, it is only fitting that I use this occasion to launch my new blog on Positive Youth Development and Social Justice Advocacy.

It is also an appropriate time to have the difficult conversation surrounding social justice during our country’s current climate of xenophobia, Islamophobia and in the midst of the threat that this country will abandon its moral obligation to care for the poor and protect civil liberties for all. It is a very necessary conversation that this blog is honored and anxious to join. I also hope to be a part of an expanded conversation that includes a discussion of city and state policies regarding healthcare systems, educational systems, housing systems, employment systems and all the other various systems that create barriers and cause disadvantages for poor children.

Let’s get to it: In this inaugural post, of a blog focusing on youth social justice advocacy, a natural and obvious question would be, "what is 'youth social justice'?". I offer that social justice, from a faith-perspective, is creating the world that welcomes and honors all of God's children and ensures systems that prioritize enhancing opportunities, not imposing barriers. Justice is a concern for peace and respect for all human beings without regard to ethnicity, economics or other determining factors.

Unfortunately, that is an ideal and not a reality. We have systems that have disproportionate negative impacts on people based on their race and their income. For example, we don't have equity in access to quality health care service, opportunities for employment, equal access to quality educational or equal treatment by the criminal justice system.

One of the definitions I appreciate the most is by Mae Elise Cannon (Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World) who describes social justice as "...the way that material resources and social advantages are distributed and made accessible in society."

Conversation and blogging do not alone lead to meaningful change, but change also does not happen without meaningful conversations. Hence, engaging, passionate dialogue, hopefully, gives a reason for optimism. As Plato, noted, "Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as First it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens." The Biblical, prophetic voice of Amos reminds us to, “…let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never ending stream.

Karim Camara is a Motivational Speaker and Life Coach. He serves as Pastor of Abundant Life Church, Brooklyn, New York and CEO, Camara Strategies International. For his blog on individual and organizational development check out www.KarimCamara.com

  


Our Greatest Domestic Terror Threat: Not Muslims, But White Supremacists

President Donald Trump has retreated from his condemnation of the hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other members of the so-called alt-right movement that participated in the recent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  His initial comments condemned the violence “on many sides,” followed the next day by more directly condemning “the KKK, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists and other hate groups,” and then followed by blaming “both sides.”  Trump’s refusal to be unequivocal  in condemning hate groups, and neglecting to call the tragic death of Heather Heyer (the victim of the fatal car attack) an act of terrorism, raise his comments from unfortunate tragicomedy to potential national security threat.

While there were Trump campaign pledges and post-campaign Executive Orders to ban individuals from certain Islamic countries, based on a rationale to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, there have been no known or announced efforts by the Trump administration to curtail our greatest threat of terror, white supremacist groups.  According to a Joint Intelligence briefing released by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May 2017, white supremacist groups have carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years.  In addition, the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute claims that according to their database, white supremacist plots and attacks outnumbered attacks by Islamist groups by almost 2 to 1. 

Although Attorney Jeff Sessions is investigating the car attack that killed Heyer as a hate crime, and an act of domestic terrorism, nothing would do more to appropriately categorize the fatally violent act than a definitive statement from the bully pulpit of the Oval Office.

The use of the word “terrorist” is not foreign to Trump. When accepting his party’s nomination as a candidate for President, he condemned the Black Lives Matter movement by declaring that,“…the attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life”.

It is not just the President who deserves criticism. Ironically, the use of the word “terrorism” has been prevalent in unwarranted criticisms from the right of the Black Lives Matter Movement and other “left” labeled advocates of social justice causes. Yet, the same groups are all but silent when there are race-related terrorist attacks. In order to bring about necessary social change, leaders have to “speak truth to power.”

Are all individuals who embrace Confederate flags and monuments domestic terrorists? Of course not. But the Charlottesville rally, with many of its marchers wearing hats with "Make America Great Again" inscribed, felt empowered by President Trump's campaign rhetoric – and post-campaign pledges – to march on Charlottesville in such spirit that many of us have not seen since the lynch mobs of America’s earlier years.

Further, it is clear that the organized defense of Confederate flags and monuments has always been in support of our Nation's history of white supremacy and, hence – by extension – in support of Jim Crow Segregation.  It is also clearly and rightfully interpreted as an attempt to return our country to that past; under the leadership of a President that they perceive to be committed to supporting them in   accomplishing it, by way of whatever means are necessary, including violence.