Wearing Hoodies and Preaching About Trayvon Martin in Mt. Airy
The Rev. Andrena Ingram's words from Sunday's service, where congregants where hoodies.
St. Michael's Lutheran Church encouraged church attendees to wear hoodies to services Sunday to protest the way Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old from Florida, was killed last month.
Martin was wearing a hoodie when George Zimmerman, who was patrolling as part of a local town watch, shot and killed him. The case has inspired protests around the country and in Philadelphia.
The church's pastor, the Rev. Andrena Ingram, said the majority of the congregation wore their hoodies. When it was time for her sermon to begin, she asked them to "hoodie up," and they did.
The following is Ingram's message Sunday. She said she is also working on a community form about racism for shortly after Easter.
I love the prophet Jeremiah, who is also called the “weeping prophet.” He often wept over the spiritual and moral condition of God’s people. He expressed deep grief over the condition of God’s people and their rejection of God’s way of living, and also looked deep within himself as well. Jeremiah did not run from what God would have him proclaim, even though sometimes most people believed him to be burdensome. Jeremiah stood his ground and said what needed to be said.
Our reading this morning from the prophet is one that speaks of coming comfort.
Jeremiah starts off proclaiming: “The days are surely coming, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the one that God made before with their ancestors when God took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. At that time, the people broke the covenant with God. Jeremiah goes on to proclaim: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
I have to be truthful and say that, initially, I had a problem understanding this passage this week, in light of current events. In light of the tragedy that befell Trayvon Martin in Florida. You know, the young man—no—the child who was killed for no other reason then along with whatever else was going on in Zimmerman’s head: "He looked suspicious.”
Trayvon’s death might have gone unnoticed, like many of the other young men and children who are murdered or bullied or discriminated against—followed around in shopping malls, simply because they looked “suspicious."
Trayvon was coming from the store after buying a bag of Skittles for his little brother and an iced tea. How suspicious is that? It must’ve been the hoodie, and the fact that he was black, and that he was walking around in a gated community—yes—suspicious is what he was, as far as Zimmerman thought.
I don’t care how people try and dress it up or make excuses. The root of the problem is racism.
It’s as simple as that.
So what I struggled with this past week was: When is this new covenant coming?
When will God put God’s law within them and write it on their hearts?
When will we be able to walk down the street unhindered?
When will our black young men be safe?
When will mothers stop worrying each time their black sons leave the house?
When will we be able to stop teaching our children how to act, so as NOT to be perceived as “looking suspicious?”
When will the police stop beating our black males? Can’t we all just get along?
When will people stop assuming that the only jobs we have are in “housekeeping” or the “refrectory?"
When will we be able to stop checking ourselves—the way we speak ("you articulate so well!"), the way we wear our hair, the way we dress, the way we carry ourselves, in order to be “acceptable” in thy sight? Not God’s sight, but in the sight of whoever happens to be in positions of societal power.
When will I be able to stop worrying that the last words my son hears before he leaves the house are “be careful, and I love you.”
I met a young man named Montez in Wilkes Barre Friday night who was here from Atlanta on a job site working in construction at a men’s warehouse being built that has 1,500 employees. Five of them are black. He can’t WAIT to go back home to Atlanta. He is 37 years old, and his mother STILL tells him to “be careful”.
When will Montez’ mother be able to rest assured that her grown son is safe?
When will people stop saying “well, you have a black president," as if that proves that we have overcome? He is the president. Plain and simple.
When are we going to admit that racism is STILL prevalent and a problem in today’s society?
Sigh..When? When? When?
I wanted us to wear our hoodies today not so much to identify with Trayvon and what he must’ve been feeling, or to be part of the “hoodie crowd” that has popped up all over Facebook. Everybody has a picture of themselves in a hoodies, with somber faces, some even questioning, “do I look suspicious?” Especially our Caucasian brothers and sisters. How silly is that? Of course you will never be taken to look suspicious.
I wanted us to wear our hoodies as if they were sackcloth (as in the days of our ancestors, when they were in mourning and deep repentance) to reflect upon the issue of racism, to take a personal inventory about the part we play in it, by our silence, by turning our heads, by sweeping it under the rug. We ALL have a part in this tragedy.
I was guilty of it this week. Angry, filled with so much rage. Feeling like we were back in the days of Emmitt Till, back in the days where standing your ground, got you killed, hung or tarred and feathered.
Trayvon’s girlfriend, whom he was on the phone with, told him to run. Trayvon decided instead to walk, to try and lose Zimmerman, and when that didn’t work, Trayvon stood his ground and got killed.
This past week, I have had to pray over and over and over the psalm we heard this morning. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me, for my spirit was surely troubled."
But I digress. Because, in spite of it all, there is a glimmer of hope—for those who have suffered and died because of racism—their lives have played an integral part to where we are today. And believe me, I am in no way stating that Trayvon’s death is justifiable to move us along in the cause. But I am certain that his death will not be in vain. His death WILL bear fruit. The tragedy of his death will be a path to a better future; a movement towards liberty and justice for all.
It has been a slow process. The civil rights movement turned the world around, changed laws, and for the most part, changed some people’s hearts.
It has taken some time, but slowly, I believe, we will one day have a world of peace. Dr. King once said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We have to hold on to that, and more importantly, we have to be a part of that bending. We just can’t sweep racism under the rug. We have to enter into the fray sometimes, and recognize racism for what it really is, in all its cunning and devious and unassuming ways it shows itself. Perhaps this is a time for another series of dialogues around the issue.
And yet here is a glimmer of hope.
I attended the LYO Retreat part of this weekend and listened to Stephanie lead devotions by the lake at Bear Creek Camp. When I look at and listen to the youth in our synod, there is a glimmer of hope. There is a glimmer of hope in Micah, in Faith, in Kirsten, in Brezlon, in Debrice, in Maya. There is a glimmer of hope in Kyra. There is a glimmer of hope in this place, where racism is not a problem, that we may be part of that change to bend the arc a little further. There is a glimmer of hope.
There is a glimmer of hope in this tragedy: That Trayvon’s death will not be in vain. That laws will change, that people will one day not look at each other suspiciously, but will look at one another through the eyes of Christ and see the Christ that is in all of us.
The Greeks came to the festival in our gospel, traveling thousands of miles, wanting to see Jesus. We want to see Jesus too. Let’s start by looking at one another, really looking at one another and finding not the differences, but the commonalities.
Let us not forget that Christ was the first one to be looked at suspiciously, by the authorities. And on the night in which he was betrayed, he had not Skittles nor iced tea, but bread and wine. Christ stood his ground in the Garden of Gethsemane and was taken away and hung from the cross.
We stand our ground at the foot of that cross.
As we enter into Holy Week, let us contemplate the issue of racism. Let us look deep into our own hearts and minds and flesh out what we think racism is, and be prepared to talk about it, not because I am saying that in this space, we suffer from racism, but to arm ourselves so that we might go out into the world to stand our ground against it.
I would like to read a prayer that was offered up by one of our LYO youth— Steph Diewald from Downingtown—yesterday during devotions:
Please God, free me
From all fear of the future,
From all bitterness towards anyone
From all cowardice in the face of danger
From all laziness in the face of work
From all failure before opportunity.
From all weakness when your power is at hand.
But fill me with love that knows no barrier
With sympathy that reaches to all
With courage that cannot be shaken
With faith strong enough for the darkness
With strength sufficient for my tasks
With loyalty to thy kingdom's goal
With wisdom to meet life's complexities
With power to lift me to you.
You see, God has already written God’s law within our hearts and our children’s hearts and made us God’s people. It is the law of love and peace. Amen.