Senate Chaplain Barry Black led a group of Congressional staffers and at least two lawmakers in a walk-out demonstration, on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on December 11. The group of over 100 demonstrators, consisting primarily of black leaders, assembled in front of the Capitol in peaceful protest of the non-indictments of officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Photos and videos of the event showed Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Marc Veasey, D-Texas among the lawmakers participating in the walkout.
Chaplain Black, an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister and former Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, stood in front of the large group of demonstrators facing members of the media and other observers and spoke on behalf of the group:
We're gathered here today so that we can be the voice for the voiceless. We believe that there is a power that has fueled our nation toward excellence through the centuries, and we are here today to take advantage of the Free Exercise rights guaranteed to us by the framers and founders of this nation, and we begin this gathering with prayer. So let us pray.
Eternal God, Our Hope for years to come, You have brought America through many challenging times. [Voice from crowd: "I can't breathe!"] Today as people throughout the nation protest for justice in our land, forgive us when we have failed to lift our voices for those who couldn't speak--or breathe--for themselves. May we not forget that in our national history, injusitce has often been maintained because good people failed to promptly act. Forgive, oh God, our culpability in contributing to our national pathology as you keep us aware of our own capacity to be instruments of injustice. Immunize us from that self-righteousness that blames everyone but ourselves. Lord, comfort those who mourn, who know the pain of loss, the anguish of grief and the futility of despair. Remind us that earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Protect and guide your people who gather here today. May the words of our mouths, the meditaions of our hearts and the activity of our limbs be acceptable to you oh God, our rock and our redeemer. We pray this in your sovereign name, Amen and Amen.
Following the conclusion of Black's prayer, all the demonstrators silently raised their hands in the air in what has become a universal symbol of protest against police brutality and racial injustice: "Hands Up, Don't Shoot." According to witnesses, Michael Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot dead by Ferguson Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.
As Senate Chaplain, Barry Black generally maintains an a-political stance in his service to American leaders, but has at times boldly chided lawmakers, including his October 2013 prayer during the Government Shutdown. Black asked God's forgiveness for leaders' "stubborn pride" and "blunders."
In the days following the non-indictment of the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, protests swept the United States and spread to other countries. Seventh-day Adventists have taken part in many peaceful demonstrations, including three protests on the campus of Andrews University and Oakwood University, and in front of the state capitol in Columbus, Ohio, respectively.
Several Adventist leaders have issued public statements on issues of racial justice and public demonstrations following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, including Daniel Honoré, the president of the Northeastern Conference, Daniel Jackson, the president of the North American Division, and the Andrews University Faculty Senate.
Jared Wright is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6489