From the Executive
Director's Pen ...
In the midst of our grieving and outrage over a series of horrific mass shootings that claimed and injured precious souls in several states, we were absolutely stunned by the inexplicably vicious and unwarranted Memphis, Tenn., police murder of Mr. Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old African American man, as captured by cameras worn by the officers themselves and, ironically, a mounted crime prevention camera.
Sadly, none of the cameras prevented the former Memphis officers from engaging in the criminal act of beating and kicking Mr. Nichols repeatedly and reprehensively for 56 minutes during a highly questionable traffic stop. In fact, the cameras worn by the offending former public safety professionals revealed to the world their celebratory violence and choreographed assault on a vulnerable, unarmed, and compliant African American man.
As a result of the grotesque and unjust violation of his God-given dignity, Mr. Nichols is now among the long and sad list of Black and Brown men, women, and children whose extrajudicial executions occurred because of the color of their skin.
The fact that most police officers perform their duties professionally and ethically does little to ease the pain, soothe the outrage, and rebuild broken trust in the law enforcement profession that occurs in all communities, particularly those that are Black and Brown, when police officers target, humiliate, brutalize, and kill Black and Brown people. Therefore, we will not mute our voices and we will not silence our critique of public safety systems that continue to devour Black and Brown bodies. We demand anti-racist and accountable policing.
As people who proclaim and trust the systems-altering and life-transforming love of Jesus Christ, we call upon the United States Congress to show its commitment to justice and the transformation of policing by reintroducing and passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. We call upon the Ohio Congressional Delegation to lead efforts to pass this monumentally important legislative measure that has the potential to transform U.S. policing while building trust in public safety systems.
All people deserve to be treated with dignity by police officers. We all need accountable public safety systems through which respect for human dignity is universal, visible, and verifiable. Therefore, we demand policing policies that ensure Black and Brown people will not be targeted, humiliated, brutalized, and killed because of the color of their skin.
Now is the time for people of faith and goodwill to rise up and say to ourselves, our larger communities, and the custodians of public trust, No more racist extrajudicial executions!
Our nation has heard the shocking accounts and seen the disturbing videos of the unnecessary police murders of Mr. Tyre Nichols, Mr. George Floyd, and so many other Black and Brown bodies, including several here in Ohio. Regardless of our communities of residence, it is our collective responsibility to honor the memory of these victims who were murdered by police and to work together to prevent more such deaths.
Feb. 1 was the day of Mr. Tyre Nichols’ funeral. Let us pray for the Nichols family and all grieving families and communities. After our prayers have concluded, let us then call for the United States Congress to reintroduce and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Amen.
The Reverend Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr.
Ohio Council of Churches
The following governing board members and staff add their signatures to this statement in solidarity:
The Rev. Dr. David Long-Higgins
Conference Minister, Heartland Conference, United Church of Christ
Chair of the Governing Board, Ohio Council of Churches
The Rev. Melanie W. J. Slane
Associate for Mission, The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Cincinnati, OH
Vice Chair of the Governing Board, Ohio Council of Churches
The Rev. LeCounte P. Nedab II, M.Div
Senior Pastor, St. James A.M.E. Zion Church, Massillon, Ohio
Governing Board Treasurer, Ohio Council of Churches
The Rev. Allen V. Harris
Regional Pastor and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Ohio
Governing Board Secretary, Ohio Council of Churches
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
Ohio West Episcopal Area, United Methodist Church
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
Ohio East Area, United Methodist Church
The Rev. Samuel N. Winston, Jr.
President, Ohio Baptist General Convention and Auxiliaries, Inc.
The Rev. Dr. Charles B. Hardwick
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Rev. Errenous E. McCloud Jr.
Presiding Bishop, 3rd Episcopal District, A.M.E. Church
The Rev. Dr. Amariah McIntosh
Associate Director, Ohio Council of Churches
Mrs. Deanna Fouche’ Baldwin
Executive Assistant, Ohio Council of Churches
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
PUBLIC POLICY INFORMATION
Executive Director Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr., Associate Director Rev. Dr. Amariah McIntosh, and Governing Board Member Bishop Gregory Palmer (UMC-West Ohio Conference) traveled to Atlanta, GA, Dec. 9-10, 2022 for the inaugural Faith Leaders of Color Coalition (FLOCC) Conference. The conference attendees represented various states where the death penalty is still a punishment. We heard from people who are advocating for the repeal of the death penalty, exonerated persons, and a family member of one of the Charleston Nine who were slain by Dylan Roof. The faith leaders traveled to a house close to the Georgia penitentiary where executions take place. The house provides a space for families who travel from around the state of Georgia to visit their family members on death row. It provides not only lodging but also provides needed resources for families even after an execution takes place. We are committed to working with our faith colleagues to abolish the death penalty in every state.
In Ohio, the death penalty bills did not make it to the floor for a vote during the legislative lame duck session. The bills will be introduced again in both chambers this year. Gov. Mike Dewine remains committed to signing the bill to abolish the death penalty if it makes it to his desk.
THE OHIO STATE BUDGET
The Council will be doing advocacy work with Deacon Nick Bates of the Hunger Network to ensure that the Ohio budget under consideration will secure adequate funding for education, hunger, and health care. Deacon Bates reminds us that “budgets are moral documents.” A day of prayer and advocacy is being planned during the month of march.
HONESTY FOR OHIO EDUCATION
The Honesty for Ohio Education Coalition met in a retreat at the Columbus Metropolitan Library on Friday, Jan. 27. In response to the escalating, politically fueled extremist attacks on Ohio students, educators, and school districts, Honesty for Ohio Education is advancing a unified, statewide, value-based vision for public education that centers on student well-being, honest education, and a high-functioning, multiracial democracy. Locally, the coalition is launching a community-organizing plan that will build local Honesty Action Teams in communities across the state. This field organizing will amplify parallel to Honesty’s state-level work. Teams will: 1) provide immediate support and resources to communities in vulnerable districts; 2) build meaningful partnerships with local leaders and advocates; 3) educate communities about honest education, the Whole Child framework, inclusive school policies, and school board operations; and 4) empower and equip local residents to protect honest education and actively engage in democracy. These teams will be in regions around the state. The Ohio Council of Churches and other faith partners will be engaged in these efforts. As the teams develop, more information will be shared.
Rev. Dr. Amariah McIntosh
Please join us on Feb. 8, 2023 at 3 p.m. Eastern time as we present new research from the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) concerning Colorado installment loans. We’ll expose the hidden costs of longer-term installment loans, from unnecessary insurances to auto club memberships, and reveal how even mainstream lenders drive up the costs of lending with junk products. We’ll also discuss the Attorneys General lawsuit, headed by Pennsylvania, that takes aim at these deceptive practices.
Speakers and additional details will be shared soon.
Please register now to reserve your space.
I hope you enjoyed a relaxing and joyful holiday season with your family and that your 2023 is off to a wonderful start!
We are excited about all the initiatives happening this year as we enter our 2nd year as the Black Appalachian Coalition (BLAC). With your help, we will continue to stand up for what matters to us the most – telling our stories for change. Let's work together to heal our land and ourselves.
Please take a moment to view my Youtube video greeting (click below). And check out the upcoming events and mark your calendar. Your voice and experiences are needed in this movement!
Bishop Marcia Dinkins
BLAC Executive Director
On Friday, Feb. 17 at noon ET, join the Black Appalachian Coalition for a lunchtime discussion of the impacts of petrochemical development on Black communities in Appalachia.
Petrochemicals — oil- and gas-based chemicals used to make plastics and pesticides — are harmful to human health and the environment. The process of making petrochemicals creates dangerous air and water pollution. People living near petrochemical production facilities have higher risks of many types of cancer, birth complications, asthma and respiratory illness, and kidney disease. Children are especially vulnerable to harm from petrochemical pollutants.
Petrochemical production facilities tend to be located in Black communities and poor communities because of decades of racial discrimination in housing and financial services. In majority-Black census tracts, the estimated risk of cancer from toxic air emissions is more than twice the risk found in majority-white tracts. In 2021, the United Nations officially declared petrochemical growth along “Cancer Alley” in the U.S. Gulf Coast a form of environmental racism.
Now, petrochemical development has come to Appalachia. Shell’s enormous new petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Penn., threatens our health and our environment. In 2022, the facility went over its annual emissions allowance set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The facility has also begun churning out plastic pellets, called “nurdles,” into the Ohio River.
Join the Black Appalachian Coalition to hear from experts and frontline residents about the risks of petrochemicals and their outsized threat to Black communities.
SAVE THE DATES
STRATEGY PLANNING SUMMIT
Please join Bishop Marcia on Thursday, Feb. 23 for BLAC’s first strategy planning summit: “Voices of the People – Planning the BLAC Agenda.” We will meet virtually from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. We welcome everyone to join in the discussion. More details to come soon.
ANNUAL POLICY SUMMIT
BLAC is excited to host our 2nd annual BLAC Policy Summit July 21-23, 2023. The virtual summit will seek to amplify Black voices and influence effective, community-centered policies. If you would like to present at the summit, please email Bishop Marcia.
BLAC FELLOWS PROGRAM
Want to get more involved in this movement? Do you have a passion for making a difference and making our voices heard?
We have launched the BLAC Fellows Program. This might be a great fit for you or someone you know! The fellowship is a 9-month opportunity to get involved and help with the podcast, meet with local groups, gather stories, and more. Fellows play a key role in BLAC as it helps us to have a deeper involvement in each of the regions. We are very grateful for their dedication to this mission!
We are excited to expand our reach and impact in 2023. Please stay connected and invite your friends and family to join BLAC, too! If you have any questions, please reach out anytime! Visit our website.