1 June 2014 John 17:1-11 - "The Words That Were Given to Us"
“…for the words that you gave to me, I have given to them, and they have received them…” We have been given a lot of words from God through Jesus – doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and releasing the prisoner from his chains. All of the words we have been given were summarized by Jesus when he said, “Love God with all of your heart, your soul and your mind and Love your Neighbor as yourself.”
It appears that we, in Madison, are being given some specific words about loving our neighbor at this moment in history. The National White Privilege Conference was held in Madison this spring. A panel was convened at the Unitarian Church to talk about racism in Madison in light of the Casey Foundation report that labeled Wisconsin as the worst state in the nation for Black Children. Dr. Alex Gee’s Justified Anger Coalition (on the cover of the Isthmus in January) is attracting hundreds of supporters. The cover of the May 16 Isthmus has a startling close-up of our County Executive, Joe Parisi with the title, “Joe Parisi’s Race Problem and Ours.” The article talks about the harsh statistics in the Dane County report on Racial Disparities published in October 2013 that verify that a Black child has more chance of success in Mississippi or Alabama than in Madison, Wisconsin. It goes on to describe how Parisi has built his 2014 budget on a theme of “An Investment in Our Values” which contain a number of new programs aimed at helping African Americans.
This is a time when our eyes and ears are being opened to what is, and has been, happening to Black children in Madison. There are many issues of disadvantaged folks calling for our attention in this city - homeless people, undocumented workers, returning prisoners, battered women. It appears that, at this moment in time, we are being awakened to the extent of the specific problem of racism in our community. How can we best receive these words we are being given? How can we link arms with our County Executive, with each other, and with our African American neighbors to begin the work of leveling the playing field? How can we begin to build those relationships of trust with our African American neighbors that will enable all of us to genuinely see each other as neighbors? How can we focus our collective voice to begin the work of changing the systems and structures that have made Madison such a difficult place for Black Children to thrive?