Lit City & Drum Majors Alliance Co-statement on the Shooting At Mt.Tabor High School

A Call For Peace Through Transformative Justice 

Once again, our city has been gripped by violence. Last week, we lost a precious, priceless, image-of-God bearing young person to gun violence: William Chavis Raynard Miller, Jr.

The reality that this act of violence took place on the school grounds of Mt.Tabor High School makes it all the more painful and communally traumatic. We want to imagine schools as “safe spaces” and portals to flourishing futures, not danger zones and sites of death. Yet, here we are, forced to grapple with not only this tragic incident, but the underlying conditions that made it possible. 

First and foremost, as sibling organizations, Lit City Youth Development and the Drum Majors Alliance want to extend our deepest condolences to family and friends of “Will,” as he was affectionately known. His light was taken from them much too soon. We have not ceased to pray for his loved ones, the Mt. Tabor student body and staff, and parents traumatized by this tragedy. And yes, we are praying for the alleged shooter and his loved ones as well. Yet, we dare not stop at prayer alone. To borrow from the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, “[we] take prayer too seriously to use it as an excuse to avoid work and responsibility.” 

Since 2011, Lit City has had the honor of working with Black and Brown teens in the city of Winston-Salem through leadership development programs on the campuses of schools (Mt. Tabor being one), mentoring and advocacy work, sports and fitness, and the arts. We approach our work with the fundamental assumption that Black and Brown youth are not problems to be solved, but treasures to behold, with destinies that a loving and just village helps to unfold. Yet, these destinies are placed in jeopardy by living legacies of racial and economic injustice and isolation. When villages are systematically targeted and destabilized, gangs and other poisonous elements organically form in response. Our belief in the fundamental dignity and promise of our young folks, linked to our analysis of their material conditions, has led Lit City and the Drum Majors Alliance to embrace a “transformative justice” approach to violence. 

Transformative justice calls us to center the work of healing the harmed, while being sensitive to the reality that harmers are generally those who have experienced deep harm themselves. Such was the case in this most recent incident. The student who allegedly committed the act of gun violence had recently been a victim of gun violence, as well as harassment. All the research around violence shows that victims of trauma who are not cared for properly, are more susceptible to traumatizing others. To be clear, this is not about excusing inexcusable behavior or abdicating responsibility. It is about understanding context and expanding who we hold responsible! Context always matters in peacemaking work, and to varying degrees, we are all responsible. As poet Gwendolyn Brooks put it, “we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business.” Transformative justice is an approach that calls us away from the “individualization” of violence. We will not overcome peer-on-peer aggression in our communities by zeroing in on, disappearing, and demonizing individual youth and adults. We must address the larger conditions and structures. We must come to see that the kind of society and systems that produce these outcomes is the problem. Transformative justice calls us to ask deeper, and more layered questions. In asking deep and layered questions, we are equipped to make deep and multi-layered interventions. This means that we cannot pit the personal against the political or the societal against the familial in our work. Like the Gospel of Jesus, a transformative justice approach is deeply personal, profoundly communal, and unrelentingly political in its scope. It calls us to wed relational efforts like mentoring programs for vulnerable youth, with structural efforts to eradicate the injustices that create their vulnerabilities. 

One of the most important aspects of transformative justice is that it calls us away from our dependence on systems that “at best” are response-based, and at worse, germinate and exacerbate the very issues we seek to overcome. It helps us avoid the pitfall of thinking that police, prisons, surveillance, and detention centers are how we get free and create peace. In the wake of this tragedy, we have seen key players in our city’s power structure engage in what we might call “disaster carceralism.” The word “carceral” refers to systems of punishment and captivity like policing, prisons, monitoring, detention centers, etc. Similar to “disaster capitalism”, disaster carceralism is an attempt to seize a moment of tragedy to further the economic drain, strengthen the systemic grip, and boost the public approval of “solving” issues of violence with law enforcement. As calls are being made for more SROs, more cops, so-called “zero tolerance policies”, and metal detectors in schools, it is important that we don’t repeat the mistakes that some within the Black community made during the carnage of the 90s “crack era.” It is well documented that anti-Black politicians committed to anything but the well-being of Black communities, called for and created “get tough” policies that created mass incarceration during that era. The often overlooked reality of that moment is that some well-meaning Black folks who genuinely wanted safety, echoed and championed these calls to their community’s own peril. As a result they were complicit in causing more devastation and criminalization, not restoration. Let us not make that mistake in this moment. We need radical (root-cause) solutions, not carceral ones.

The carceral state has mastered the art of (re)legitimizing itself in the wake of tragedies, but study it closely and you’ll see that carcerality helped create the climate of peer-on-peer aggression in our communities. Leaning on its structures and employing its logics will not get us free, nor will it heal us. More police, more SROs, more cages, more surveillance, more punishment, more metal detectors, more “reforms” will not save us. We the people must create, sustain, and expand community-controlled systems of care, safety, accountability, healing, and transformative justice. To that end, we call on three key sectors of our city to meet this moment with wisdom and compassion:  

  1. As organizations rooted in the Way of Jesus, Lit City and the Drum Majors Alliance have an intrafaith responsibility to call on the Body of Christ and churches in Winston-Salem to move beyond thoughts and prayers, and towards sustained, compassionate, inclusive, and holistic efforts of peacemaking. Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves demands that we open up our hearts, ears, minds, buildings, and budgets for this important work!
  2. Secondly, we call on the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System to dismantle, not strengthen the school-to-prison nexus. Invest in more counselors and trauma-informed therapists, not cops. Create on-ramps for skilled youth workers to be on campus, not metal detectors. Employ anti-racist restorative approaches to displine issues, not punitive anti-Black ones. Center Black and Brown student’s futures, not white fears. Thoroughly investigate multiple reports of Tabor students being mistreated by law enforcement during last Monday’s ordeal. There is video evidence of one Black student being slammed to the ground and handcuffed by a sheriff during the lockdown. Now is not the time to engage in suppression or repression. It is time to uncover and progress towards transformative justice.
  3. We call on the city‘s power structure to “let justice roll down like an everlasting stream!” Embrace what Martin Luther King Jr. called “a revolution of values.” This revolution demands an end to the unjust distribution of resources in the city of Winston-Salem. We can no longer accept bread crumbs for the most oppressed communities. Instead, it is time to reorder city and county budgets to meet the pressing needs of housing, community-controlled violence interruption programs, community-controlled youth development work, mental health resources, and much more.  

We close this statement with a word to the broader village:

None of the above named institutions will move towards justice minus our agitation, organization, and determination. We who believe that our own flourishing and futures are bound up with the flourishing and futures of our most vulnerable young folks cannot rest til this city “embraces the things that make for peace.”


Lit City Youth Development

Drum Majors Alliance

Contact phone #: 336-750-6266

Statement of Solidarity With Palestinian People

We unapologetically express our solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for justice, peace, and dignity! We lament the decades long reign of terror, dispossession, and demonization that this religiously, ethnically, and culturally diverse group of people have endured. As followers of a Palestinian Jew who lived under the tyranny of Roman occupation, we ground ourselves in his revolutionary call to love our neighbors, as we love ourselves. A call that begins with the oppressed and vulnerable of the world–the last and the least. 

We see it as our responsibility to bear witness to Kin-dom of God in the face of Christofascist evangelical forces that do the bidding of white supremacy and empire. We maintain that “Christian zionism” is one of the most abominable outgrowths of Euro-colonial Christianity. Quiet as kept, in addition to it being anti-Palestinian, its most dominant form is insiduously anti-Jewish. It weaponizes what should be a healing Gospel for the entire world, into “a miracle weapon in service of the mighty.” Along with many of our peace and justice–loving Jewish comrades, we reject the conflation of Zionism with Judaism. We reject the idea that to be anti the oppression of Palestinians is to be pro the oppression of Jewish people. We hold the lives of all people as precious and sacred, and contend that any political regime that engages in genocidal activity must be outright condemned and resisted. Whatever supposed continuity one sees between ancient Israel and the modern (secular) nation-state of Israel, it cannot be denied that the Hebrew prophets of old stood against the kind of “trampling of the poor” that is part and parcel of this modern regime. Jesus carried this prophetic tradition forward. As his followers we embrace it with the humility that our finiteness requires, and the urgency that the situation demands. Babies and children and civilians are being bombed. Families are being expelled from their neighborhoods. Death-dealing forces are having their way.

We understand ourselves to have a unique responsibility as disciples of the Lamb who live in the “belly of the beast”: the U.S. Empire. We refuse to let this nation go unchecked for its deep complicity in all of this. We name the reality that the U.S. has mastered what Martiin Luther King Jr. called “the peculiar genius of imperialism.” Under the guise of “protecting” persecuted groups and expanding “democracy”, the U.S. has sought to protect and extend its unholy power and ability to exploit. In 1986, our current President Joe Biden said:

 “It’s about time we stop….apologizing for our support of Israel. There’s no apology to be made. None! It is the best 3 billion dollar investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.” 

Joe Biden referred to this statement with pride in 2015 as Vice President under Obama. The nakedness of Biden’s statement demonstrates the U.S.’s true intentions in the present and the past. An honest reading of the historical record will show that the U.S. was slow to rise to the occasion of fighting the anti-Jewish fascism of the Hitler regime. In fact, Jewish people seeking asylum during this era were rejected by the U.S. James Baldwin correctly pointed out that “Europe had nothing against Hitler, and neither did [the U.S.], til he turned his guns against them.” We must not allow the virtue signaling of a nation founded in the fascistic violence of settler colonialism, to throw us off the trail of solidarity. 

Secondly, as practitioners of the Black Radical Tradition we carry forward the legacy of Black (American) solidarity with Palestinians. As a people who have been the victims of settler colonialism and apartheid we know that our struggles are linked. The very same forces that constructed and upheld chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and Jim Crow Jr. in the U.S. have been at work in the land of Palestine. Our respective contemporary movements face police forces that have trained and coached each other in racial profiling and the violent suppression of protests through what are called “police exchanges.”

Angela Davis wrote:

 “Palestine has always occupied a pivotal place, precisely because of the similarities between Israel and the United States–their foundational settler colonialism and their ethnic cleansing processes with respect to indigenous people, their system of segregation, their use of legal systems to enact systematic repression, and so forth.”

Again, our struggles are intertwined and bound together. Therefore, we call for the end of settler colonialism everywhere. From the U.S. to Australia, from South Africa to *Palestine. We reject the “both-sidesism” propaganda of the U.S. media. Settler colonial violence is asymmetrical. Palestinian resistance forces cannot be falsely equated with the Israeli state’s massively funded military. (A military made possible by the cover and backing of western imperial powers.) This is not a mere “conflict”, it is a genocide! Love requires that we speak plainly and honestly. Love requires our solidarity. 

In solidarity,

Drum Majors Alliance | May 13th, 2021 

More Than a Hamburger: A Brief Reflection on the “Greensboro Four” & the Unfinished Work of Dismantling Racial Capitalism

On February 1st. 1960 four North Carolina A&T students sat-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, NC.

The resistance of Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil against U.S. Apartheid sent shockwaves throughout the nation. It helped to sparked what might be described as a leaderful Black youth-led movement. Though their courageous defiance of white supremacist Jim Crow laws is universally celebrated in our times, it is only partially understood.

We generally speak of Jim Crow segregation as solely being about where certain bodies could and could not go. We zoom in on “whites only” public accommodations like bathrooms, movie theaters, fairs, buses, schools, and lunch counter cafes. While this focus is necessary, it masks a critical aspect of what the white power structure was up to. The system of Jim Crow was not simply about where people could and couldn’t go, it was about where ***resources needed for human flourishing went and where they didn’t. Jim Crow was a racist system of apartheid economics that enabled accumulation for white America and deprivation for Black America. South Africans, attempting to analyze their particular apartheid context called it “racial capitalism.” Racial capitalism was/is an anti-Black and anti-Indigenous system of economic exploitation and domination upheld by state and vigilante violence & terror.

In the words of Ruth Wilson Gilmore:

“Capitalism requires inequality, and racism enshrines it.”

The Greensboro Four, the sit-in movement, and the best of the broader mid 20th century Black freedom struggle must be understood as a struggle against racial capitalism. Admittedly, this is a much more dangerous and threatening way to talk about it—hence it is avoided in our schools and in most public discourse. This avoidance can even be found amongst celebrated Black political pundits and best-selling “anti-racist” authors.

However, when you study the history closely and honestly, this is what you find.

You find Ella Baker—mother of the civil rights movement—saying in June of 1960 that the struggle was “for something much bigger than a hamburger or even a giant-sized Coke.” Lunch counters were sites of dramatization for a broader, more radical struggle. Baker communicated that Black youth and their white accomplices were carried along by a vision “to rid America of the scourge” of racial and economic oppression “in every aspect of life.” In fact, she placed these localized struggles in an international/global context. According to Baker, the students felt that they had a “destined date with freedom” that had implications for the “whole world.” A world in bondage to racial capitalist colonial oppression. Some years later, Ella spoke the following relevant words to a crowd in the colonized land of Puerto Rico:

“You have to go back, and reach out to your neighbors who don’t speak to you, and you have to reach out to your friends, who think they are making it good, and get them to understand that they, as well as you, and I, cannot be free in America — or anywhere else, where there is capitalism and imperialism!”

As we stand in the afterlives of both chattel slavery and Jim Crow, may we not only remember the courage of the Greensboro Four—may we EMBODY it!

Generations to come are counting on us to disrupt the deadly status quo.

written by Terrance Hawkins

Siblings stand in front of statue honoring the Greensboro Four on the campus of NC A&T in Greensboro, NC

Reparations & Reallocation in the City of Winston-Salem


As national (and global) movements call for a reckoning with the anti-Black violence of policing, a care-centered redistribution of funds that ordinarily get sucked up Law Enforcement Departments, and a reimagining of public safety itself — the city of Winston-Salem continues to dredge along the same path. The following is a transcript of comments made by local activist & Hate Out of Winston leader, Miranda Jones during the city council’s public comments on December 7th, 2020. Along with other local grassroots orgs (including Drum Majors), Hate Out is calling the city and its leadership to embrace a new path. As Hate Out Of Winston puts it, “WSPD does not need 78 million, the people do!”

“Good evening Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and city council. According to an August 2020 Forbes magazine article, “the notion of slashing and re-allocating police funds is far from universally popular. Just 34% of Americans have a favorable view of the movement, while 53% do not.” This is no surprise as most  social justice movements, in this country, initially faced unparalleled amounts of rejection. We are clear that some of you have given lip service to social justice, particularly during this past summer of heightened racial unrest, while others have remained silent or have been downright caustic. For instance, Councilmember Annette Scippio, I read your resume and was impressed until I heard you speak and read your words.

In a Triad City Beat article from January 2020 when asked about housing you said, “There was a great energy because of employment.” Homes were well-maintained. People worked hard. We didn’t have idleness.  That doesn’t exist now.” I discovered that your platform is one of denigrating, demoralizing, eviscerating and degrading poor Blacks. You seem to suggest that the root cause of those ills are because poor Blacks don’t want to work. At the Delta Arts Center, I heard you reference the so-called “good ole days” which included the manufacturing jobs at RJ Reynolds. Good for who? It certainly wasn’t for my great-great aunt or any of my grandfather who were not paid the same wages as white men. What’s more is those good ole days are gone. Have you considered that a portion of the 78 million dollars could be used for job training programs for people with varying levels of education so they can work in your glorious innovation quarter? Have you considered how this funding can be used in SOAR and YouthBuild?

Other larger cities have already taken the lead on reallocation. Cities like Austin and LA, San Francisco and Portland, and even Salt Lake City whose own mayor proposed reallocation. What’s stopping this city? Some of you, with the most diabolical levels of police encounters and poverty in your ward are silent, often quick to second an adjournment to end the meeting to shut us up. 

In an article from May 2020, Mayor Joines said, Mrs. Parmon could be seen as a “neutral placeholder” until the election decided the result. She has done that but the Northeast Ward (which I grew up in) cannot afford for any city council representative to be neutral. Just like the East Ward, not all of the Northeast Ward lives in poverty but there is more than enough and we know that it’s better for those housed in black skin to be a position to where they don’t have to deal state sanctioned lynchings while we wait for claims that the cause of death was due to chronic disease. Imagine what it would look like if that were addressed by services offered through the city in partnership with the county and agencies with measurable outcomes. In the words of Councilmember Scippio, I ask are you being idle and irresponsible? Furthermore, isn’t it irresponsible of you to have never addressed Mayor Pro Tem’s call for reparations this past August, which was supposed to be addressed in either October or November. It’s December. Mayor Pro Tem said, “the time is right for Winston-Salem to move forward on reparations,” she further noted how none of the other city council members offered comments or questions when she brought up the matter in committee. I was dismayed to know that the other black councilmembers sat in silence. Who did you all allow to silence you? 

She said, “it is a conversation about poverty and social justice, and no one wants to talk about it.” Your silence is so resoundingly loud in its insistence that defund won’t work, reparations won’t work, and reallocation won’t work! Mayor you said the city doesn’t have enough money for reparations. Well I guess not, you all have given the money to the police and developers. WSPD does not need 78 million dollars, the people do!”

To follow the work of Hate Out of Winston visit their Instagram page here or Facebook page 

Statement Concerning Our Incarcerated Neighbors In Forsyth County Detention Center

Officials change mask policy at Missouri women's prison | The Kansas City  Star

October 8th, 2020

The following is a public statement from the Drum Majors Alliance concerning the treatment of incarcerated neighbors in Forsyth County Detention Ctr under COVID-19:

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

We stand alongside the Prisoner Outreach Initiative, the Triad Abolitionist Project, and our detained siblings in condemning the callous, careless, and life-endangering policies and procedures of the Forsyth County Jail and of their healthcare provider, Wellpath. 

Despite what our city, county, and country seem to believe, incarceration does not mean one’s life is less valuable or worthy of protection. Ever since slavery – in its chattel form – was made illegal, the detained and incarcerated of this country have been treated as a disposable and exploitable population. And the recent broken promises of our local sheriff’s office and the wanton disregard for prisoner safety by Wellpath have made it abundantly clear that Winston-Salem is continuing in this long and damnable history.

By not providing incarcerated people with masks and not requiring the use of PPE by correction officers and medical providers within the jail, Wellpath and our local sheriff’s office have sent a clear message that these irreplaceable, priceless, image-of-God-bearing human lives are not worth their time or money. And by breaking its recent promises to the citizens of Forsyth County, the sheriff’s office continues to dismantle the trust between this city and its citizens. You may not have shot an unarmed black man in the street, but you are willingly denying him every protection within your prisons.

As citizens, we call this injustice. As followers of Christ, we call this sin. They are one and the same. And we draw from the depth of biblical tradition to demand that justice roll down like mighty waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Your decision to endanger the lives of incarcerated neighbors does not make for justice. It does not make for peace. You are forgoing justice. You are standing in the way of peace. For while mothers and fathers and children and siblings and neighbors lift their voice in demanding you treat their loved ones with dignity and respect, we will continue to lift our voice alongside theirs. We will continue to demonstrate that peace that is not peace for all is peace for none.

We stand in solidarity with the following demands put forth by the Prisoner Outreach Initiative. These demands have been shaped by the self-advocacy and self-determination of those incarcerated in Forsyth County Detention Center:

1) 7 masks for 7 days. Disposable masks are not meant to be reused for an entire week.

2) Regular testing for all people in the jail. With guards coming and going, and regularly failing to properly use PPE, it’s not enough to only test people at intake.

3) Free phone calls and free postage. With family visitations cancelled outright, people in the jail are isolated and lonely, and should not be forced to pay exorbitant rates to continue speaking to their loved ones.

4) Release at-risk people and low-level offenders. Most people in our jail are in for drug offenses, parole violations, property crimes or other minor infractions, and should not be kept in a confined space with no ability to keep themselves safe in a pandemic.

**5) End the contract with WellPath. WellPath has shown consistent negligence in its treatment of people incarcerated in the jail, leading to several deaths, and must be replaced with a county- or state-run service that can be held accountable to the people whose families are incarcerated here.

Call to Action: Join Prison Outreach Initiative and Triad Abolition Project for a march on Forsyth County Jail this Friday at 6pm. Details HERE!

The Hamer Blessing


The Hamer Blessing

The following is a prayer of blessing inspired by the life, words, & witness of  the revolutionary Jesus disciple & freedom fighter, Fannie Lou Hamer:

May God bless you with the gift of being “sick & tired of being sick & tired.” 

May your sick & tiredness of the way things are, move your body to practice the way things should be.

May God transfigure your frustrations into a beautiful struggle for liberation.
May God bless you to know that whether you “have a PHD, or no D”, your voice, your light, & your place in this struggle matters!
May God bless you with a bone deep knowing that “nobody’s free, til everybody’s free.”
May God bless you with holy discontentment with visions of change that leave any of our kinfolk out!
May God bless you with healing from trauma, and hope in the New Jerusalem promise!
May God bless you to call the Reign of Heaven down to earth with your praying, your singing, your protesting, your giving, & your preaching!
May God bless you with goodness in the face of evil, courage in the face of fear, joy in the face of sorrow, & revolutionary love in the face of injustice!
Above all, may you be blessed with an overwhelming sense of the Almighty’s nearness on this freedom journey!!
And by the grace of Jesus, may even your “falls push your forward in the fight for freedom.”
Amen & Ase
-Terrance Hawkins 


Infection Anywhere Is a Threat to Public Health Everywhere: COVID-19 and the Forsyth County Detention Center


Terrance Hawkins speaks in front of Forsyth County Detention in Winston-Salem, NC.

This past Saturday, Drum Majors Alliance co-founder, Terrance Hawkins, delivered a speech at a protest calling for humane treatment, COVID-19 testing, and release of inmates from our local detention center, starting with the most vulnerable. (Read the demands HERE.) The following is the written adaptation of that speech:

I’ve said this at least 100 times over the last few months, but it must be said again: Covid-19 is apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word. Apocalypse means to “unveil, unmask, or uncover something” and this pandemic has unveiled & unmasked the injustice and isolation that plagues our city, state, nation, and world.

As Reverend Osagyefo Sekou recently said, “[Racial] capitalism is Coronavirus’s preexisting condition.”

And what a deadly pre-existing condition it is!

From the days of Jim Crow Sr to our Jim Crow Jr moment, Winston-Salem has for or all intensive purposes, been an Apartheid City.  We practice apartheid economics, medical apartheid, and educational apartheid. There are literally TWO Winston Salem’s. One marked by a history of power & privilege and another marred by a history of disinvestment & dispossession.

As others have  put it:

“Yes, we are all on the same “ocean”, attempting to ride out the same storm of COVID-19. But we are not all on the same boats.”

Due to this city’s history of apartheid, some communities are riding out this storm on boats that are far less seaworthy.

Black Winston-Salem is uniquely vulnerable.

Brown/Latinx Winston-Salem is uniquely vulnerable.

Our elderly and immunocompromised loved ones are uniquely vulnerable.

Our unhoused neighbors have been uniquely vulnerable.

And those imprisoned in our detention center are uniquely vulnerable!

But we believe that our freedom and flourishing and future is bound up with the freedom, flourishing, & futures of the most vulnerable.  Yes, as a son of the radical Black church tradition, let me put a little scripture on it. The writer of Hebrews wrote:

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  (Hebrews 13:3)

Fannie Lou Hamer, another child of this tradition, taught us that “nobody is free, til everybody is free”

Or as Martin Luther King Jr. put it:

“We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Or we could say that infection in the detention center is a threat to public health outside of the detention center.

The lack of response to the crisis in our local detention center demonstrates that the forces of UNFREEDOM are strong in the city of Winston-Salem. Don’t let the power structure of this city fool you when they “cosplay” as freedom fighters! We know better.
When COVID hit, many of us forcefully said that the city must break pre-existing patterns to save lives in the present AND to chart a new path for the future.

But what did they do? Well as I put it a couple months back:
“Winston-Salem’s response to COVID-19 has been SO “Winston-Salem.”

This was the pattern we saw:

1) Winston-Salem/Forsyth County put forth unsatisfactory COVID-19 response plans that funneled the money into our city’s bloated non-profit industrial complex.  The wealthy got to play the hero through philanthrocapitalist endeavors.

2) Grassroots organizations, advocacy groups, & activists pushed back, protested, & put forth demands.

3) In the wake of sustained pressure, City/County officials implement a diluted “great value” version of the demands that emerged from grassroots groups.

4) With the help of the local media apparatus, city & county officials announced updated plans as if they were entirely a result of their own thoughtfulness & commitment to justice.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Now they are holding town halls to “dialogue about injustice” with panel lineups that consist primarily of folks who hold power. But this way of getting to the bottom of a city’s commitment to justice ain’t in alignment with the tradition I come from.

Brother James Baldwin taught us:

“Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! —and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any Black [person], any poor person—ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” 

This tradition teaches us that we must let the lion tell her part of the story so that history can no longer exonerate & glorify the hunter–while denigrating & dehumanizing the hunted.

Rooted in this tradition, we can see that what’s happening in our local detention center is not unprecedented. We can see a clear thread from the conditions forced upon enslaved Africans in the hold of slave ships to the inhumane conditions so common in our jails & prisons (disproportionately occupied by Black bodies). We can see a clear thread from slave patrols of the antebellum south to 21 century policing. We can see a clear thread from the “post-emancipation” system of convict leasing to the present evil of mass incarceration. We can see a clear thread from the stories of Johanne & Maria Samuel—the First enslaved Africans baptized into the Moravian church. After their emancipation, they never got any justice or reparations, only patchwork charity. As a result of their economic instability, they engaged in “petty theft” & were in and out of jail. This local history echoes & rhymes with the stories of so many in our community today. There has been very little healing justice & hand-ups for the oppressed, just handcuffs & stiff arms.

Black, Brown, Indigenous people have always been viewed as cage-able, enslavable, killable, & discardable.  But in this moment we are calling for a radical turn, not a neoliberal tweak.  We don’t want the thread of enslavement to get more “colorful.” We don’t want the thread “painted” or tied in a pretty bow of “diversity.” In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “we are sick of symbolism we are fighting  for our lives.”

What do we want? We want this oppressive thread broken, dismantled, and abolished! We want a city and a world rooted in the understanding that you can’t cage, handcuff, & court case your way to peace. Peace is the offspring of revolutionary love & transformative justice. Peace is rooted in acts of care, restoration, healing, & the pursuit of liberation! Peace is a mighty river flowing from the throne of the Holy One! Our city will never live into its name (Salem/Peace) til it lets this river wash away the stains of apartheid.

I leave you with the words of martyred BPP chairman Fred Hampton:

“Peace to you, if you’re willing to fight for it!”

COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance

COVID-19 Covenant of ResistanceIMG_7602.JPG


Times of great challenge are upon us, and as we have in times past, the community of faith is demonstrating an ethic of love rooted in our belief that we are called to love God and our neighbors. Christians, churches, and faith-based nonprofits are springing into action through prayer and relief efforts to support the most vulnerable in our cities and communities. The Drum Majors Alliance and Sanctuary Consulting, LLC applaud and affirm these efforts. We thank God for every individual and institution that is at work in these ways. Still, we must say that while these efforts are necessary and important, they are incomplete. The fullness of our calling in this time is rooted in the spiritual principle of resistance. As we continue our journey through this Lenten season, we must recall Jesus’ love-rooted resistance of Satan while fasting in the wilderness. We must recall the holy resistance of the prophets against the evil of their own people and the powers of their time. We must recall Jesus’ own prophetic resistance to the empire in proclaiming the in-breaking reign of God, not Caesar. We must recall his resistance to the religious legitimation of economic exploitation as seen in his cleansing of the temple. We then, in the tradition of our faith, must resist the forces that make charity toxic, that leave stories unheard, and that erases our prophetic calling to do justice, as we engage in acts of mercy/relief, and walk humbly with our God. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word.  The word apocalypse means to “unmask or unveil.” This pandemic unmasks and lays bare the pre-existing conditions that have diseased the body politic of the U.S. for decades, even centuries. Now is not the time for “political quietism”, neutrality,  or for the mouthing of “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.” This is a moment that calls us to live into the holistic nature of our call to love God and neighbor. The biblical notion that “love conquers all” is not about the power of abstract feelings to save the world. It does not stop at the noble act of food distribution when ignoble forces ensure communities remain in situations of deprivation.  Rather, authentic love concretely faces, and seeks to overcome every barrier to liberation, community, and human flourishing. The pre-existing barriers to flourishing created by systemic injustices like racism, health care inequity, and poverty have only been further exasperated in this moment. 

We will not be able to “charity” our way out of this crisis. Our church budgets cannot fill in the gap left by an ever-sagging social safety net. The demands of resistance move us beyond charity, and towards ministries of solidarity! We are in a moment that will almost certainly set the direction of this nation for years, and perhaps even decades to come. The city of Winston-Salem was already in deep crisis. As we boasted of being one of the best places for the economic mobile to relocate, we were simultaneously amongst the 3rd worst nationally in economic mobility for children born in poverty and 20th worst in eviction rates. Bolstered by over a billion dollars in investment, our very attractional downtown has experienced a renewal that has skipped over those that Jesus called “the least” and “the last.” From the top to the bottom, our city is in need of a revolution of values. The Church should be a harbinger of this revolutionary transformation. Yet, too often churches, the preacher class, and others in the faith community have not stood firm in their position as the conscious of the city, and have instead colluded with forces that trample the poor, the disabled, the sick, the outcast, the imprisoned, and the immigrant.  

Now, more than ever, it seems we must make a radical turn. At our best, the Church brings unique gifts to this work. Think about it: we are a community of people who have been called into a life-long practice of repentance and transformation that demands that we face our frailties and faults while holding on to a sense of our belovedness. What would it look like for the church to be a leavening presence, aiding this work of transformation to take place on the personal, communal, AND political levels of our city.

We, The Drum Majors Alliance and Sanctuary Consulting, LLC, along with other organizations and individuals, ask that you prayerfully consider joining with us in what we are calling the COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance. The aim of this covenant is to spur the Body of Christ on to a holistic response in this moment of turmoil and uncertainty, and to provide resources and a concrete blueprint of what that might look like. Below you’ll find six (6) points of resistance along with six (6) actionable alternatives. The accompanying COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance Resource Toolkit (available via Google Docs) will be updated constantly with tools needed to flesh out these actions. May God empower us all by the Spirit to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus’ Kin’dom in this critical moment!

Covenant of Resistance-3

Read the detailed description of the covenant below & let us know that you or your organization is committing to the covenant by clicking [HERE]



Drum Majors Alliance 

Sanctuary Consulting, LLC                                                                                                              

Freedom Tree (IDR)

Housing Justice Now

Terrance Hawkins (Drum Majors Alliance, co-founder)

Allonda Hawkins (Drum Majors Alliance, co-founder)

Reverend Kenneth Pettigrew, M.Div (Sanctuary Consulting, LLC, principle)

Minister Vennekia Williams, M.Div (Sanctuary Consulting, LLC,  principle/project director | Drum Majors Alliance)              

Thomas Lees (Drum Majors Alliance)

Ricky Johnson (Political Action Chair of Education Chair for YAC, WS-NAACP | Drum Majors Alliance)

Reverend Dr. Melva Sampson (Curator, Pink Robe Chronicles)

Darrick Young (Global Citizen, Comrade) 

Reverend John Mendez (retired pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church W-S)

Dalia Antunez (Siembra) 

Phillip Carter (Housing Justice Now) 

Miranda Jones (Hate Out Of Winston) 

Reverend Willard Bass (Freedom Tree, IDR) 

Jennifer Bibb

Reverend Byron Williams (Author) 

Sarah Avery 

Reverend Chaz Snider

Walter Author (The Twenty-Faith Committee)

Dr. Clay Cooke (School of Love, Co-Executive Director) 

Pastor Chris Jones

Chuck Byrd (The Twenty Faith Committee, Ebonites Treasure) 

Dr. Sharee Fowler 

Kenny Williams 

Bishop Tejado Hanchell (Mt Calvary Holy Church)

Ejay Chandler (Lit City, Youth Engagement Director)


Good Neighbor Movement (Greensboro, NC)

Reverend Brandon Wrencher (Good Neighbor Movement)

Reverend Dee Stokes (Dee Stokes Ministries)

Reverend CJ Brinson (Genesis Baptist Church, The Movement Consulting)


Reverend Starsky Wilson (President/CEO of Deaconess Foundation – St Louis, MO)

Reverend Bethany Rivera Molinar (Co-Pastor, Church in the Park Cuidad Nueva Community Outreach | Board Chair Pres of the Texas CCCDA)

Reverend Delonte J Gholston (Peace Fellowship Church, Peace Walks DC/Live Free DC)

Reverend Derrick Rice, M. Div (Senior Pastor Sankofa UCC, Atlanta, GA)

Pastor Stephanie Answer (Co-pastor of New Community Church, Kansas City, MO)

Pastor Daryl Answer  (Co-pastor of New Community Church, Kansas City, MO)

Pastor Shannon E. Jones (Founding Pastor, The Gathering Church, Atlanta, GA & Liberia)

Reverend Dr. Reginald Williams, Jr. (First Baptist Church of University Park, IL – a suburb of Chicago) 

Reverend Ronnie Galvin (VP for Racial Equity & the Democratic Economy, The Democracy Collaborative) 

Read the detailed description of the covenant below & let us know that you or your organization is committing to the covenant by clicking [HERE]


COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance (access resource tool kit to take specific actions HERE.)

1.) Resist: Prayerlessness, fear, & paralyzation 

     Action: Embrace daily rhythms of prayer, silence, & meditation

Embrace and create rhythms of prayer, worship, lament, silence, scripture meditation, and other practices of love-rooting, courage-building, joy-making, and self-care. It is okay to sit with your grief. It is okay to feel disoriented. Our worlds have changed abruptly. We are all trying to catch our bearings. Those of us with pre-existing mental health struggles are finding ourselves all the more challenged. It is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to cry. It is okay to lament. It is okay to be afraid. To experience fear is to be human. 

Yet, the Spirit calls us to taste, see, know, and experience a deep abiding love that has the power to cast out fear. Our birthright as followers of Jesus is not paralyzing terror. Rather, it is courageous compassion in the face of fear. As many have said, “courage is not the absence of fear.” It is the willingness to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God even as we battle fear. 

The Drum Majors Alliance will be curating prayer resources in our COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance Resource Document over the next few weeks. We invite you to make use of these resources and we encourage you to find ways to experience joy and peace in the days ahead. Experience the wonder of creation around you by taking a walk. Practice being still and silent. Get up and dance to your favorite tunes. Sing, write, draw, create something lovely. 

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” Luke 18:1 


2.) Resist: Gathering

    Action: Engage in social solidarity, not just physical distancing.

We implore all church leaders to halt all in-person gatherings like bible studies and Sunday services while exploring and implementing creative alternatives. It has been well-documented around the globe that churches who do not follow these guidelines put vulnerable congregational members at risk, as well as the broader community. We understand the financial strain and stress that this time will put on many churches. We also trust that God will provide and honor your church’s commitment to care for souls and bodies, because truly, “lives matter more than tithes matter.” Shutting down services is the most compassionate, wise, and therefore Jesus-like thing to do. This is not an “Acts 4:19” civil disobedience moment. It’s a moment that calls for faith-rooted sensibility, hope-soaked realism, creativity in caring for your congregants, and for the least of these.  

Against the urgent counsel of almost every medical professional in our nation, President Donald Trump has recently suggested that Resurrection Sunday should be the day that things “reopen” around the country. If the president continues to push this ill-advised idea forward, we strongly urge you to resist. We must not allow our holy desires to gather on this sacred day to be exploited by the Powers. It would be tragic to set in motion more death and sickness on a day that we celebrate resurrection life and healing. To do so is not an act of faith rooted in the belief of the miraculous. As people of the resurrection, it is, in our estimation, an act of bad faith, rooted in a lack of compassionate wisdom. 

Having said all of that, the call of the Church cannot be reduced to “social distancing.” In fact, the term social distancing may present us with an unhelpful understanding of the nature of what this moment demands from us. As this article effectively demonstrates, a solely individualistic focus on keeping oneself safe will be catastrophic for the most vulnerable–like the elderly, the disabled, women in situations of domestic abuse, and LGBTQ youth estranged from their families. Instead, we must fiercely advocate for *physical distancing and a moratorium on religious gatherings as one act of care among many. To holistically work for the well-being of our communities, churches, individuals, and nonprofits must think of creative, dignity-affirming, acts of care and mutual aid. “Mutual aid” gives us a different frame for community engagement. It calls us to solidarity, not charity. It calls us to work in a spirit of mutuality, not superiority. It moves us away from our tendency to show up as “saviors,” and roots us in our true calling to be good neighbors. As you engage in whatever relief work you may do, think of ways to do it with your community as a partner and an equal. As you strategically meet immediate needs, dialogue and dream together about how we can cultivate a world of shared flourishing. (For more resources on mutual aid please engage the Resource Document.)

“…there is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” Ecclesiastes 3:5 

3.) Resist: Racialized, ageist, ableist narratives-                                                       

     Action: Call out racist, ageist, or ableist language & behaviors. 

The triplet evils of idolatry, injustice, and isolation are upheld by social narratives that over-affirm the belovedness of some, while under-affirming the belovedness of others. Generally speaking, there is a direct correlation between dehumanizing rhetoric against minoritized groups and the interpersonal or systemic brutalization of said groups. Currently, Asian-Americans are being attacked in our city streets and online. This uptick in hate can be traced directly to the white house & 45’s xenophobic choice to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”  In 2015, the World Health Organization issued new guidelines that infectious diseases should not be named after nations, ethnic groups, or even animals, in an effort to “minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies, and people.” We must disrupt these narratives online and beyond when we see them. Don’t look away. Silence is ungodly. Speak up with humility and urgency. Over and over in the Gospels, we see Jesus subverting narratives and practices that demean and demonize the vulnerable. In the Spirit and name of Jesus may we do the same. Lastly, there has been a tendency to downplay the impact of the COVID-19 because the groups that it most fatally impacts are people over 65 and people who are immunocompromised. Ageism and ableism are not congruent with the Gospel. A redemptive imagination that is willing to sacrifice the 2.5% as “economic liabilities” is in no way congruent with the kin-dom ethics of a Jesus who would leave the 99 to save the 1 who was in jeopardy of being lost. Our elders are not disposable and should not be placed on the altar as sacrifices to secure the economy. The truth is that the nation can both protect and preserve the lives of the most vulnerable while also building a just economy. The two aims go hand-in-hand.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” 2 Corinthians 5:16

4.) Resist: houselessness, inhumane conditions in jails/prisons, & deportations.

Action: Contact local officials and courts on behalf of those who are vulnerable. 

During this time of crisis–and beyond– it is important that we come to see housing as a human right! We must refuse to allow neighbors to be put out into the streets and for those already without housing to be left uncared for. Thankfully, as a result of the work of various groups of activists our state and local officials have mandated a freeze on rent, a hold on evictions, and a moratorium on foreclosures. We must still remain vigilant in making sure that landlords, leasing companies, banks, etc are abiding by this. We must make sure that residents are aware of these mandates so they are not needlessly burdened with fear and anxiety about the possibilities of being put out of their homes as so many are falling into unemployment. City With Dwellings–an initiative that works to end the crisis of homelessness in our city–is working hard to ensure the best possible actions are made to protect and care for those who are chronically homeless. Please join them and others in calling for the city to fund and embrace the most humane measures possible for their well-being.  We must also continue to show up in solidarity with our undocumented neighbors who have in other states been preyed upon & arrested by ICE even in the midst of this tragedy. Due to the ongoing climate of fear, language barriers, and lack of resources, far too many of our Latino/a/x neighbors are foregoing medical care and testing. Additionally, as an absolutely indispensable portion of the U.S. labor force, the Latinx community will be hit hard by the massive layoffs that are occurring.  However, unlike others, they will not be recipients of stimulus checks due to their citizenship status. We invite you to keep track with and support the ongoing efforts of Siembra, a Latinx organization on the front lines of this struggle on the local and state level as they work to secure needed resources for their community. Lastly, prisons and jails are high-risk spaces for the spread of the virus. We are admonished by the writer of Hebrews to “remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them.” A coalition of local activists are calling for the immediate release of everyone being held pre-trial….unless the person poses the immediate threat of specific physical injury to a specific person.” Read more on this here & sign the petition calling city leadership to respond. 

“…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-36

5.) Resist: disaster capitalism 

     Action: Call for economic decisions that put people over profits. 

From its beginnings, US capitalism has been incubated in the womb of great disasters, intentional and unintentional. The disastrous original sins of the transatlantic trade slave trade and the genocidal dispossession of indigenous people’s land are undeniably the roots of our nation’s wealth and economy. Millions, upon millions, upon millions of image-of-God bearing people have been sacrificed at the vile altar of mammon in this nation’s history. As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr put it:

“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, here and abroad.

This nation has never repented of these unholy beginnings and as a result has continued to foster a racialized and gendered cycle of economic exploitation, disinvestment, and inequity. And as King pointed out in the above quote, poor white folks and even those who sit in an ever-increasingly fragile middle class, suffer under neoliberal capitalism. (Neoliberal capitalism is an economic philosophy that seeks the “triumph of the market over all other social values.” Portions of the city of Winston-Salem’s business sector AND swaths of our bloated non-profit sector are complicit in this triumphalism.)

“Disaster capitalism,” as defined by author  Naomi Klein, is the way that private industries seek to profit off of large-scale crises, be it war, hurricanes, or in this case, a pandemic.  From Katrina, to Hurricane Maria, to the 9/11 tragedy, we see examples of how the ruling class seizes times of tragedy as an opportunity to increase its economic power and political dominance by pushing policies that would generally be opposed. At the time of the release of this document both republicans and democrats are debating a stimulus bill that falls very short of robustly helping the people in this unprecedented moment of job loss, economic downturn, and sickness. 

It seems that now, more than ever, this nation needs to make a radical turn from its practice of giving bailouts and hand-outs to corporations, while giving stiff-arms and beatdowns to the people—especially the most vulnerable. To be clear, this practice has *always been unsustainable. We just happen to be in a moment in which this will be **forcefully demonstrated. The Church must call the nation to turn its gaze away from the stock market and to look upon Jesus in the face of the oppressed. The market is not God and neither is it an indicator of the material conditions of the masses! Ask the unhoused if a stock market rise lifts them out of their situation. Ask the uninsured if historic climbs in the market have enabled them to climb the massive barriers to health care. Ask the underpaid working class if filled coffers on Wall Street have resulted in the filling of coffers on “MLK Drive” or “Main Street.” Ask communities who have undergone decade after decade of mass disinvestment if they see trillion-dollar “hook-ups” for corporations as a sign that things are looking up for them. Ask “the least” and “the last” if a stock market jump means they’ll be able to jump to the front of the line. Finally, we must ask the Spirit if we can serve mammon AND a God who calls us to a revolutionary love ethic that puts people over profits. We must remember that “Jesus didn’t say that you “shouldn’t” serve God and mammon. He said that you CAN’T serve God and mammon.” 

For this reason, along with national groups like the Poor People’s Campaign state groups like NC United for Survival & Beyond, and local groups like Housing Justice Now, we are calling for community oversight on the disbursement of our city’s relief fund,  guaranteed monthly income, mass investments in free access to health care and testing for ALL, adequate PPE for health care workers, paid sick leave for workers that are literally keeping the country afloat, rent freezes, small business grants (not loans), student debt cancellation, and so much more. Join us in amplifying the demands of the above organizations and calling others in the household of faith to do the same! But let’s not leave it there. Let us practice the communal values of GOd’s reign on the micro-level as we call for them to be embraced on the macro level. The evil of an unjust economy is not situated “outside” of us. It runs through our veins, our families, and our institutions. Let us resist conformity to the unholy patterns of this world by refusing to hoard, by reorganizing our budgets to help the most vulnerable as best we can, and by honoring the humanity of friends, enemies, and strangers! 

“Thus says the Lord: Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, 2 and say: Hear the word of the Lord, O King of Judah sitting on the throne of David—you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:1-3 

6.) Resist Propaganda & Misinformation:

     Action: Fact check like the Bereans! 

The US is arguably the most propagandized nation in human history. None of us are immune to the ways in which our intellects, passions, and desires are prodded, poked, and influenced by the onslaught of mass media. In this hour, it is especially important that we help one another resist propaganda and misinformation, no matter what side of the political aisle it emerges from. Whether false or misleading info comes from the White House, a loved one in your own house, or a “friend” on Facebook, we must remain compassionately critical in the spirit of the Bereans.  Fact check, compare news from various outlets, and look for the sources of claims being made. Lives literally depend on it!

“4 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.”  Isaiah 59:14-15

In closing, we beg everyone to obey the holy command: “wash your hands!”  😀 Not in the “spirit of Pilate” who absolved himself of responsibility, but in the Spirit and Name of the One who gave himself for the healing of the world.

For further resources–including emails, telephone numbers, & scripts to contact government officials–please take advantage of our COVID-19 Covenant Of Resistance Resource Tool Kit HERE 

Harmonies That Make The Angels Weep: Worship, Justice, & The Crisis at Our Border

“Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”  Amos 5:23-24

Image result for concentration camps borders

Worship & justice are bound together. They are inseparably linked. As one theologian put it:

“Since God is just and the world belongs to God, worship cannot be separated from justice because worship or union with a God of justice empowers the worshipper for a life of justice.”

Yet, so often “worshippers” behave as if the Song of the Lamb inoculates them from the realities of a world plagued by injustice & abdicates their responsibility to challenge it. This morning millions upon millions will gather to sing, pray, & hear preaching that will in no way, shape, or form direct their attention to the unjust suffering at our borders, in our cities, & right up under our noses. Instead, the cries of the oppressed will be metaphorically drowned out by the sounds of guitars, drums, worship singers, choirs, & Hammond B3s. In this, we are “harmonizing” with a history that makes the angels weep & provokes the Almighty to turn a def ear to our praises. The following harrowing account of a church’s (mal)practice of worship during the holocaust is quite sobering: 

“I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars!

Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more.  Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.

Their screams tormented us.  If some of their screams reached our ears we’d just sing a little louder.”


O God,

You watch over the refugee & frustrates the plans of xenophobic powers. Teach us how impossible it is to “concentrate” on You & ignore the suffering of those in concentration camps. For you dwell with the downtrodden & oppressed. What we have done to those languishing at our borders we have done to you. May our actions reflect Your borderless love for we have not been called to conform to the patterns of the Nation-state. We choose this day to worship &  serve You, & pledge allegiance to Your reign above all others! In the Name & Spirit of Jesus we pray.



Article written by T. Hawkins

The Violent Geography of Winston-Salem

written by Thomas Lees 

If you were to find yourself behind First Baptist Church on North Highland Ave. in Winston-Salem’s East Side, you could look over Highway 52 and get a good view of the brightly shining Innovation Quarter – a name intentionally taken from the slogan adopted by the city back in 2014: “The City of Arts & Innovation.” (1)

When the Winston-Salem Journal reported on the slogan’s adoption by the city council, they included a man’s reaction to the new slogan. “Otherwise it’s, you know, beer and doughnuts, and cigarettes,” he said. “So arts and innovation sounds pretty good.”

Now while that’s just one person’s off-handed response, that sentiment represents a deep and widespread lack of awareness of place, of the history and stories that surround us. This is a result of what Dr. Willie Jennings has referred to as geographic whiteness. Without getting too deep into the weeds, Jennings says that geographic whiteness is “a desire to create communities that normalize white dominance by creating communities that structure ignorance and invisibility.” (2)

The idea that Winston-Salem is just “beer, doughnuts, and cigarettes” is spoken out of the ignorance and invisibility created by geographic whiteness.

And Winston-Salem, like practically every other American city, has been designed to promote that ignorance and invisibility. Dr. Jennings points out that “place and space for us are always deeply designed” and that “racial calculations and spatial calculations have always flowed together in the history of the colonial west and we live in the powerful undertow of that history.”

Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter and Highway 52 are perfect examples of such calculations, of Geographic whiteness that is born out of racial calculations and that continue to structure ignorance and invisibility.

For example, if you are a white resident of Winston-Salem, it is unlikely that you have any idea of the communities or businesses that were uprooted or cut down to make way for Highway 52. It is also unlikely that you regularly find yourself on the other side of 52 to eat at restaurants, pay bills, or shop. This was not and is not accidental. (3)

There’s obviously a long history that has impacted this, but much of the way Winston-Salem is structured is due to the Federal Housing Authority’s red-lining policies of the 1930’s and the Interstate boom of the 1950’s. Red-lining was the creation of maps by the federal government that dictated the “risk” of investing in particular communities. If a neighborhood was marked red or “redlined” on these maps, it was nearly impossible to get loans to start businesses or buy homes or to get the city government to invest in services, infrastructure, or development.

And if you think that these neighborhoods just happened to time and time again be neighborhoods of color, let me point you an original Federal Housing Authority evaluator report about a particular community:

This is a ‘melting pot’ area and is literally honeycombed with diverse and subversive racial elements. It is seriously doubted whether there is a single block in the area which does not contain detrimental racial elements … It is hazardous residential territory and is accorded a general medial red grade.

It was not because people of color couldn’t run their own businesses or because they couldn’t take care of their own communities that their neighborhoods and businesses suffered. It was because the resources needed for the flourishing of their community were explicitly denied on the basis of race.

By way of a short theological aside, I am reminded of the story of the Passover that was celebrated just a few weeks ago. This story in book of Exodus climaxes with the red blood of a lamb marking the doorposts of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt so that God would know who his people were, so that “the destroyer” would pass over their homes, that their homes would be “spared” the final and worst plague.

But our city – like all American cities – enacts and embodies an unholy reversal of this story, where red lines marked homes and communities that the state deemed were not their people. And houses marked by these red lines were not passed over, not spared, but have had the plagues of injustice and divestment and displacement visited on them.

Map detailing redlined areas of Winston-Salem

And so, because these black and brown communities had been redlined and intentionally divested from, they economically withered, having been systematically cut off from any kind of economic lifeline. These very communities thereby became “prime real estate” in the eyes of city planners to be carved up and paved over during the 1950’s and 60’s highway expansion.

Highway 52, like pretty much every highway constructed during its time, was laid right through Winston-Salem’s black community. This was a trend so prevalent and so common that people of the time not infrequently referred to it as “white roads through black bedrooms.” (4)

This is the still-living legacy of Highway 52. But most of us, well, most of us white folk, don’t know that history – and as Dr. Jennings said, that’s not an accident. And as Winston-Salem continues to “innovate” by “renewing” urban areas, by “renovating” buildings and “refreshing” neighborhoods, it continues to expand a “violent geography” (in the words of Dr. Jennings) that we’re supposed to see as normal if not praiseworthy. But as Jennings emphatically says, “there’s nothing – NOTHING – normal about the geographic patterns of our country, cities, or towns. They are shaped by a racial past and dictate a future that divides us, that only furthers injustice and inequality.”

The hope in all this is that by confronting the ways our city is racially structured, the way race informs where our city invests and builds, who our city invests in, who it builds for, what stories it erases as it continues to “innovate,” that by confronting these truths that “white geography” seeks to make invisible, that we may better know how to move forward, who to come along side of and what to stand against, in order to (and I’m hopefully paraphrasing Dr. Jennings faithfully here) image ways of life that move beyond cultural fragmentation and segregation, but instead open up possibilities for truly sharing life with another. (5)





3. This is not to say that every space has to be built for or accommodating to white people.