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'A Cry For Help:' Here's How Some Charlotte Clergy Responded To George Floyd Protests

Daniel Morton

Sunday evening marked the 10th straight night of protests in Charlotte demanding an end to systemic racism and police brutality. But Sunday morning gave clergy in a city known for its churches a chance to speak their minds.

Protests erupted nationwide after a black man named George Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25. The officer – who was fired and charged with second-degree murder – was videotaped kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd died.

When the Rev. Dwayne Anthony Walker saw that video, he told members of Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Sunday in a live-streamed service, he "was about to burst."

"Recent events have put the spotlight on the oldest pandemic that's other than sin, and the oldest pandemic other than sin is racism," Walker said.

Floyd's slaying came after headlines about two other high-profile killings of African Americans: the shooting of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Kentucky, as she slept and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbrey in Brunswick, Georgia, by white men.

Walker said he was thankful, though, for people who've risen in protest to demand lasting change, saying "there would never be change if it were not for those who did not mind raising their voices."

"You can't continue to see black and brown people be killed with impunity and not say something," Walker said, pointing out that people who are killed by police never get a chance for trial. "... Too many black and brown men and women have not made it from the arrest to the jail alive. The list is too long for me to name all of them now. We are sick of all these hashtags, and so we must protest, and so we must raise our voice."

Pastor Clifford Jones at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church said in his live-streamed service Sunday that African Americans have had many struggles over "the unfulfilled promises of a fair system and equity." Jones mentioned major struggles in the 20th and 21st centuries, like racist violence, integration of public schools and police brutality.

"When you need help ... and the very persons you need help from become the places of our pain, it can cause one to be frustrated and angry and irrational and reactionary," Jones said. "A brick, a rock, fire only becomes an extension of a cry for help."

Jones encouraged people who want change to not just protest but vote.

"You want to destroy and conquer power? Vote," Jones said. "You want to conquer power? Take the bricks and the stones and build buildings and ... establish financial equity and power and interdependence. That's how you can confront and conquer and manage and live with power."

St. Luke's Lutheran Church's live-streamed service carried a sermon by the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Eaton said members of the church should reject colorblindness – the notion that someone "doesn't see color" as it relates to race – because it "washes out God's gift of diversity." She also likened the "crucifixion and the passion" of Jesus to Floyd's death and the many Americans who live in fear of the violence of racism.

"We work for peace, but not the passive peace that allows the mechanisms of white supremacy and racism to stay in place," Eaton said.

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Dash joined WFAE as a digital editor for news and engagement in 2019. Before that, he was a reporter for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia, where he covered public safety and the military, among other topics. He also covered county government in Gaston County, North Carolina, for its local newspaper, the Gazette.