Cypress trees on Brock Mill Pond, Trenton, North Carolina. (source: flckr.com)

Hardy Brown, Sr. | Publisher Emeritus, Black Voice News

I am an officer on the Steward Board at St. Paul AME Church in San Bernardino, a church whose history is rooted in advocacy for the civil and human rights of Black people.  

Advocating for justice and equity has been my assignment since the day I was born in the Jim Crow South of North Carolina. One of my uncles, Isaac Strayhorn’s body was found in the Township of Trenton in “Brock Mill Pond” bound in chains in December 1942, the same month and year I was born. 

Remembering Uncle Isaac

I just read the story about his death a few weeks ago in the Sun Journal Newspaper in New Bern, North Carolina. His only living son, Clemmie “Square” Strayhorn, is trying to find out what happened to his father and his search was the reason the story was published. 

As a little boy my mother would send us over to the Brock Mill  to have corn ground into cornmeal. Neither my parents nor anyone else ever told their children about the killing. 

As a boy, my mother would send us to Brock Mill to have corn ground into cornmeal. (source: wikimedia.com)

Uncle Isaac was married to my father’s sister, Aunt Bettie.  I know all of my first Strayhorn cousins and the Brocks (White) who lived next door to the pond. 

The Brocks family still owned the only car dealership in the town and Donald Brock, one of the Brock children, was the lawyer for the Jones County courts system. 

I am recounting this story because I want the Bishops of the AME Church to know, I “understand the assignment” given us. 

The following message and call to action was issued by the leadership of the African American Episcopol (AME) Church Council of Bishops including Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Senior Bishop, Bishop E. Anne Henning Byfield, President of the Council of Bishops, and Bishop Francine  A. Brookins, Chair of Public Statements. 

All over the world we are experiencing escalating violence and injustice against Black people and those who dare to stand with us for the cause of equity and justice. On Friday Nov. 19th a mostly all-white jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder and assault despite the uncontroverted facts that his mother drove him to Kenosha Wisconsin, armed with an AK-47, where he infiltrated the crowd of protestors supporting the family Jacob Blake, and murdered people standing up for justice. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

– Rev Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)

During the same week, the attorney for one of the white defendants who chased down and cornered Ahmaud Arbery with his pick-up truck in Brunswick GA before shooting him, has intentionally sown seeds of dissension calling out ‘Black Pastors’ who have come to support the Arbury family in court.  Closing arguments will be made on Monday and a decision from another mostly all-white jury should come before the end of the week. 

On February 23, 2020, 25 year old Ahmaud Arbery, was chased down by 3 white men in two pick- up trucks as he jogged through their neighborhood. An unarmed Arbery was summarily shot to death by one of the men. Allthree men were tried for his murder and on Tuesday, November 23, the jury began deliberation in the case. (source: twitter.com)

This week, we also anticipate a verdict in the civil case in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, VA where 9 Plaintiffs have sued two dozen defendants alleging defendants engaged in a race-based violent conspiracy when planning and executing the ‘Unite the Right’ rally held in 2017. Testimony in the case included extensive evidence about the rise of neo-Nazi and white supremacist collaboration and violence. 

On November 18, 2021, Julius Jones was scheduled for execution in Oklahoma before he was granted clemency with just hours to spare; and on November 18, 2021, the lengthy court battle in Tennessee over whether to proceed with the execution of Pervis Payne ended with the announcement that Payne will instead get two consecutive life sentences. 

Doing the work we are called to do

Thousands of people of good will (including many AME’s) used our resources to intervene on behalf of Julius Jones and Pervis Payne because they may be innocent and because of the evidence of racial bias in their arrest and trial.  

Although we are grateful their lives have been spared, they remain sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for a crime they may not have committed. They are two, of many persons, who have been victimized by racial bias in the criminal justice system. There are far too many people being victimized by systems that criminalize Blackness. 

A continuing call to action

Members of  the Council of Bishops of the AME Church are the chief  officers of the connectional church organization. (source: facebook.com)

We call upon the United States Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act to make partisan gerrymandering illegal so that we can ensure continued access to voting rights. 

Bruce Schroeder, the judge in the Rittenhouse case, is one of the longest serving judges in Wisconsin and is elected to his position. We call upon people of good will to collaborate to ensure that he is opposed if he is eligible to run in the next election. We call upon the Wisconsin State Bar to investigate his egregious conduct during the Rittenhouse trial.  

We seek a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system and demand that Congress revisit and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing bill, and that all police departments be held accountable for brutality. We stand against legislation that promotes the open carrying of loaded weapons and grants tacit approval for vigilantism.  

In gratitude

The Council of Bishops is deeply grateful for all people of faith and good will who actively seek to change the trajectory of injustice by showing up with their bodies, making calls, sending letters, and using their political influence. We thank God for the passionate activists among us. 

We are grateful for the prayer warriors who stay on the wall asking God to intervene. We pray for the traumatized among us and for a renewed strength and refreshing for all who may be growing weary in well-doing. We encourage you to rest so that we may continue together in the struggle until victory is won. 

Finally, as we begin a new week looking to the author and finisher of our faith, we remind you that Black Love Matters and the more others seek to divide and destroy us, the more we must support and affirm one another.