Monday, January 19, 2015

Dr. Jill Shook speaks out for justice at the IMA's Martin Luther King Day celebration

Yesterday my wife Jill, aka Dr. Shook, spoke at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Altadena. This event was sponsored by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA), Pasadena's oldest association of African American Pastors. Even though Jill is not a pastor or African American, she has formed such a deep relationship with the African American community that she was entrusted with the responsibility to speak out on issues of social justice. (Jill has been involved with the IMA for over 17 years!) I am very proud of Jill and want others to be able to read  her important message, which is why I am including it in this blog The only other woman speaker at this event was Judy Chu, our local Congressional representative, who spoke out about the need to restore portions of the Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court, thereby enabling states like Texas to pass voter ID and other laws that have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of people, many of them poor, people of color, the elderly, etc. The spirit of MLK was definitely present at this year's IMA event!

Here is the message that Jill shared:
       I grew up in lily white Orange County. Not one black attended any of my schools from Kindergarten through high school. Since embracing Christ as my Savior in high school, I have attended countless churches in many states and countries where I’ve lived and the color of most of these congregations are not much different than during in my school years, including some a number of the churches and schools here in Pasadena little to no diversity. In Ephesians 2 we are commanded by the love of Christ to break down this divide. 
Today I feel deeply honored to be here today to help bridge that divide. I have been a member of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance for over 15 years. I love these pastors and I feel genuine love from them. I am so much richer now by having African American friends. I want that same rich experience for everyone so that hearts across this nation will see the beauty, know the courage and feel love I have experienced by being part of this community.
But simply getting to know and love each other is only a start. A very important start, but not enough. Love dictates that we both seek to understand the issues that divide us and to break down those barriers.
As I began to research the history of US housing policy I was amazed at how racial covenants that disallowed people of color were prominte in Pasadena as well as red lining by the bank, preventing people of color from obtaining loans and mortgage insurance. When the 210 freeway sliced right through middle of a thriving African American business district hundred of family were displaced without sufficient money to replace their homes. These same policies affect every city across the US. The long shadows of those neighborhood patterns set years ago, continue today, perpetuating stereotypes, fears and unspoken dividing walls between NW and the rest of the city.
I will never forget the day that I was trying to make a left turn from Washington onto Fair Oaks and a funeral procession was passing. The signal changed about ten times before I could turn. I was first in line and could see the faces of each person who turned in front of me. Not one was white. I couldn’t imagine how someone could live their entire lives in Pasadena and not know one white person well enough to attend their funeral. But then I recall my own segregated upbringing and the more I come to know and love the African American community, I better understand some of the oppressive and unjust policies, the disenfranchisement and cultural dynamics that keep us divided.
Dr. King also spoke about signals. He said that, “There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a person is bleeding, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed… Disinherited people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved.”[i]
Right now our nation is bleeding. The hemorrhage needs to stop. Dr. Martin Luther King has demonstrated to us that it can be stopped, Fair housing and Civil rights laws can be passed. Just as Jesus and MKK stood with the most vulnerable in our city, today the IMA is standing for justice.  With the love of Christ and the power of God and community we can change these very systems that are broken. Those standing with the police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown have helped bring to light a blind spot in our nation. We need God’s light to bring changes to police policies and culture. Like people across the nation standing with the people of Ferguson I thank God for the IMA’s willingness to stand with the family of Kendric McDade.
In 2012, Kendric McDade, a 19 year old black man was shot seven times by the Pasadena police with all their surveillance equipment turned off.  To prevent this from happening again, over the past year, the IMA has played a key role in the Coalition for Increased Oversight of the Pasadena Police (CICOPP). In this group’s research they have concluded that the best plan to prevent these unnecessary shootings if is for the city to hire a police auditor. Please turn to page ___ in your programs and take time read more about IMAs involvement in this and other justice concerns, for example, the PUSD adopt a school program, support for a Housing Commission to increase the number of affordable housing units and support the nurses at Huntington Hospital to organize so they can provide better patient care.  Please consider how you can play a supporting role, perhaps call you council representative, organized other in your church to so.  And as you leave today, please take time to talk with those in the back supporting the nurses. I want to know if you are a nurse or know a nurse. Please raise your hand. Now I ask that you stand with me for the nurses in our city.
To honor Dr. Martin Luther King and stand with his commitment a spirituality that led to non-violent social change, I ask you again stand with me now if you support real change in police oversight. 
In closing I want to say that I am also very proud of the IMA for being listed among those on lawsuit to make public the independent review of what happened that night that Kendric was shot. For this full report to be released, God will need to move in many hearts. Pastor A.K. Brown, who has been the pastor for Anya Slaughter, the mother of Kendric McDade since she was three, will close my time with a very brief prayer the courage and wisdom for IMA to continue to stand strong on the side of justice.

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