On January 17, 2017 the members of Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter met with Bishop Jim Lowe about his involvement in a recent Washington D.C. press release hosted by a group of pastors seemingly in support of Jeff Session’s appointment to Attorney General. We expressed our feelings about the importance of local pastors’ involvement in social justice and other issues in the community in a way that is intentional and effective, with a focus on the great responsibility of using powerful platforms to send messages of support to the people.
It was clear that there had been a disconnect with Bishop Lowe’s decision to advocate for Sessions receiving a fair hearing (as he believed the confirmation hearing was important to a democratic process) and various community intentions of blocking his nomination. We expressed to Bishop Lowe that while his words did not express an endorsement, his presence among others who did was disconcerting. He admits that “the optics” of the situation could be viewed as troubling. He understands that it did not look good. However, he asked that the community judge his heart. BLM-Birmingham Chapter explained to Bishop Lowe the issue of intent vs. effect/impact. While what he did might not have been intended as a malicious act, we hold strong to the belief that the impact that Session’s appointment to Attorney General has on vulnerable communities is unfathomable. In the future, we hope that Bishop Lowe and his associates consider the totality of circumstances when speaking for, to, or on behalf of vulnerable communities.
We reached some common ground about the issue of intentional media strategy, as Bishop Lowe discussed with us that it was his expectation that his own particular speech being viewed as separate and distinct from the opinions of the pastors in the group who hosted the press conference. We connected with the fact that media outlets may construe or limit narratives by showing snippets, and that it is important to think about how perception can cause harm. As an organization that has repeatedly experienced mischaracterization by the media, we recognized this fact. However, we noted and discussed how our group has dealt with this by being more intentional and mindful about the work that we do.
We are of the belief that we must always search for more effective ways to eliminate systemic oppression. In order to do this, we are required to challenge and critique ourselves and others critically as it relates to strategies of intervention, and implementation of restorative justice. We will continue to compel community leaders to affirm members of marginalized communities and challenge them on their perspectives. In particular, it is our goal to bring faith based communities back into the fold of social justice movements, and bridge the gaps in education about community organizing, and the causes of privilege, oppression, disadvantage, racism, and patriarchy. We are dedicated to affirmation, solidarity, and critical critique. We will continue to challenge Bishop Lowe and his organization, Gatekeepers, to approach discussions around our most vulnerable communities from an asset-based approach. This is how we shift the narrative and ultimately the world.
We look forward to expanding the conversation with others about the transformative nature of community action.
Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter