Legacy of Freedom

February 23, 2019

Rev. Angela Pleasants, District Superintendent of the Catawba Valley District, took a Legacy of Freedom pilgrimage to Selma and Montgomery with 40 laity and clergy. She shares her story here. 

I am Togolese, Cote d’Ivoire, Bantu, South African, and Zulu. Yes, I am from the warrior tribe of the Zulu Clan. Being a warrior is in my blood. As I began my Legacy of Freedom trip, I was excited and not sure what to expect. Some make this trip to have a story to tell. I made this trip because I felt the call of my ancestors. This was the birthplace of a great evil that stormed the plains of our country. But, it was also the birthplace of a great movement that graced the hearts of many, the Civil Rights Movement. Our country’s hands are stained with blood that will forever be a part of our fabric. And the blood is rising to tell its story. The story is not words but lives being lived out years later through people like me and others.

At first, I didn’t know why God led me to make this trip. Why would God want me to see a place where when we walked into the Museum of Justice and Peace I had to step onto the very warehouse floor where countless slaves were housed? At least those who survived the cramped voyage over. Or the ones who were able to walk on the shores instead of jumping choosing a watery grave rather than the slave master’s whip. Yes, my feet stood on the very spot where these poor souls stood and waited for their fate. What was my call to this place? Feeling my heart lurch as I stood by this beautiful water fountain in Market Square downtown Montgomery, but could only see what was there before – the auction block where mothers, fathers, boys, and girls stood as they were auctioned off like they were nothing but animals.
 
God, what do you want me to know as I stand here reflecting----feeling----what is this that I feel? Why did you call me to walk among the 5,000 names of countless men, women, children who were lynched across this blood-soaked country? And, my tired feet walking across Edmund Pettus Bridge. A bridge named after the grand dragon of the Klu Klux Klan. Why? I smile for God gave me my answer. I rise. As the whip of the slave master could not keep my ancestors down, because they knew freedom would come one day. Yes, one day. I rise! Because I too see freedom. God has given me a warrior spirit, the fight of my ancestors. God has given me the prophetic call, and wherever I go, I will rise and let freedom ring. That is what this Legacy of Freedom ride meant to me. #ebonyqueen.


[Photo Caption: Rev. Angela Pleasants at the Peace and Justice museum. Each of these hanging above my head has the county, state and names of brothers and sisters who were lynched across our country.]

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A Summons to Witness, Protest, and Promise

We give thanks for this Summons to Witness, Protest and Promise written by the cabinet of the North Carolina Conference.  In our ongoing collaboration, we affirm these words alongside them.  Across our state, we invite all United Methodists to be a part of building “the new world God promises as heaven in time descends to earth.” (Revelation 21)

A Summons to Witness, Protest, & Promise

We, United Methodists in The Western North Carolina Conference, join our voices with The North Carolina Conference in witness, protest and promise in these times of violence against our Black brothers and sisters.

We believe. . .

We believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed poured out upon all people.
We believe that in baptism, we are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation, and commissioned to resist evil, injustice and oppression, in whatever forms they present themselves.
We believe that God’s intent for humanity is community, compassion, and holiness, and that justice has been marred by the history of enslavement and racism.
We believe that repentance is urgent for the historic and ongoing violence against Black girls and boys, men and women.
We believe that in the wounding of Black bodies we see Christ crucified.
We believe that those who have been steeped in white privilege, through repentance, can be transformed into humble servants of the living God.
We believe we are called to work for the day when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

We protest. . .
We protest violent murders of Black men and women, most recently Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
We protest the narratives of fear and suspicion that divide people from one another.
We protest our historic failure to ensure all our churches are places of hospitality, welcome, and belonging for our Black brothers and sisters.
We protest the historic and continuing suppression of voting and other basic rights.
We protest all incendiary public leadership in this time of crisis and turmoil.
We protest the lack of will in our communities, our state and our country to protect the lives of our Black brothers and sisters, and especially the most vulnerable, the young and the old.

We promise. . .
We promise to use our voices, resources and power to dismantle white privilege and racist systems, especially within our own United Methodist Church.
We promise to read the Scripture with ear and eye attentive to the continued call toward God’s will for all people.
We promise to exercise the right to vote and to work against voter suppression.
We promise to create around ourselves at all times hospitable space for all people.
We promise to name prejudice when we see it and to receive the correction of others who see prejudice in us.
We promise to be life-long learners, to constantly make adjustments in the way we use our power and influence, to be active participants in the building of the beloved community, and ultimately growing always in holiness toward the perfection we see in Christ.

Signed,

Bishop Paul Leeland
Laura Auten
Carl Arrington
Michael Bailey
David Christy
Amy Coles
Bev Coppley
Beth Crissman
Otto Harris
David Hockett
Kim Ingram
Linda Kelly
Mark King
Melissa McGill
Samuel Moore, Jr.
Dan Pezet
Mark Ralls
David Snipes
Caroline Wood
Jane Wood

Hope Morgan Ward
Tim Russell
Edie Gleaves
Ray Broadwell
Gil Wise
Gray Southern
Mike Frese
Kenneth Locklear
Randy Innes
Linda Taylor
Dena White
Tara Lain
Ismael Ruiz-Millan
Jon Strother
Beth Hood
Lisa Yebuah
Greg Moore
Steve Taylor

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