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BY MEGAN DOSHER HANSEN

February 3, 2021
Looking back toward the time of slavery, looking forward toward a time of empowerment
A bill would withhold state funds from any Mississippi school teaching The 1619 Project – via WLOX (Jackson, MS)
 
Black Power: Now or Never – Charles Blow in The New York Times
 
Looking Forward With Hope And Some Apprehension: 2 Young Voters On America Under Biden – via WBUR (Boston, MA)
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.
 
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.
 
You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
 
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
 
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

 – Leviticus 19:9-18
It’s the beginning of another Black History Month, and as Rev. Jacqui Lewis tweeted on Monday, “I want a Black Policy Month.” Ashley Nicole Black, in a similar vein, also tweeted on Monday, “Black History Month would be a great month to pass the John Lewis voting act. Actually it’s a great month in general to do anything that addresses our history, instead of just talking about it.” The point here is that studying Black history is great! But what’s even better is the kind of public policy and follow-through that would improve Black lives in the U.S. overall.
 
There has been a lot of attention on voting rights groups in Georgia, largely Black-led, and the huge difference they have made in Georgia politics. This attention is well-warranted, especially since the work these groups have done has been on multiple fronts, over many years. It wasn’t an overnight surge of Black voters that nudged Georgia’s electorate over the line for Joe Biden, Jon Ossoff, and Raphael Warnock, but a concerted effort of multiple groups of tireless activists to fight oppressive voting laws and suppression during voting, and to register, educate, and energize new voters, for more than a decade.
 
Before and since Election Day, there have been wryly truthful observations that the press has not seemed as interested in tracking down “ordinary Biden voters” to seek their motivations for voting for Biden as they were in interviewing Trump voters for the last five+ years. Though Black and Brown voters, and the activists who have been opening paths to the polls, made the biggest difference in 2020’s presidential election--very little effort has been paid to the individual voters who came to the polls to cast those votes. The stories of these voters are few and far between, but I was able to find one short set of essays from WBUR that speak to this lack of media coverage.
 
Charles Blow observes in his column that due to demographic shifts, now is actually the best time to enact policies that benefit Black people in the U.S. Indeed, there is no time like the present, when COVID-19 continues to afflict the non-white population of the U.S. at much higher rates, and bills in several states are attempting to prevent the work of the 1619 Project from being taught in schools. With Kamala Harris becoming Vice President, there are no longer any Black women in the Senate. Rep. Cori Bush’s office is being moved because of her hostile colleague Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s aggressive, threatening, and abusive behavior in the last week. If we are going to say that Black Lives Matter, it can’t be merely lip service.
 
The Levitical laws are a wild ride to read all together, but in Leviticus 19 a strong case is made regarding how we are to treat our neighbors. It spells out all the ways we should not act, that contradict how we ought to love one another. Many of these very acts are ones that have been perpetrated against our Black neighbors in this country. We can go no further until we rectify the harms we have committed. It is not simply enough to read about Black life, Black history, Black struggles and Black joy – we must make sure the Black lives truly do matter in our laws, policies, and daily actions.
  • Call your U.S. Congressional Representative and Senators and tell them to vote in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
  • If you are in a state where an anti-1619 Project bill has been proposed, call your state legislators! Tell them that such a bill denies our freedoms by preventing truth from being shared in classrooms.
  • Do read the 1619 Project, if you have not, or re-read it if you have. Then, share it with others – post links, read it with your families, do studies on it. Read other articles and books by Black authors this month and every month! Not just about Black struggles, but stories of joy, stories from other countries, stories about the future – get a full picture of Black life.
Creator of the universe – you have made everything we have ever known and all the things we have yet to discover. You made human beings, looked upon all of us, and proclaimed the sight very good. Help us not just to know you have made each of us beautiful and beloved equally, but to show that love through our actions. Where we have caused harm and death, where we have stolen or lied, where we have not called our neighbor our neighbor, where we have not loved, let us repent. What we have broken cannot be easily mended, but we cannot use that as an excuse to do nothing at all. Let us repair the damage we can in order to bring healing, to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, to build trust, and to renew. It is only through the love, grace, and perseverance you place in us that we can do this work. Amen.
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