Reverend Osagyefo Sekou recently visited Candler and he stated that if "Black Lives Matter" is the word, then Ferguson is the "word made flesh." I posit that if “Black Lives Matter” is the word, Baltimore has also become the "word made flesh." After Freddie Gray’s death, people have poured into the streets of Baltimore in protest and demonstration against this injustice.[1] Marchers chant, “All night, all day, we’re gonna fight for Freddie Gray.” The Baltimore Sun reported, in a statement from the family of Freddie Gray, that the family and the citizens of Baltimore deserve to know the real truth; and the family will not stop until they have gotten justice for Freddie.[2]

For the Gray family, desperately in search of answers and closure for Freddie, protest and activism have become essential methods of care. Many tactics imposed by the police departments in Ferguson and Baltimore in the wake of protests are alarming and threaten the rights of assembly and protest, rights not only granted by the United States Constitution, but also observed by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.[3] Not only are these rights protected under national and international law, but they are deeply imbedded in scripture as tools for opposing unjust systems and as methods of care rendered to God’s people in response to their oppression.

Black people in America must protest the systems and structures that continue to view and treat them as anything less than complete human beings. The widespread protests in response to these recent injustices underscore a tool used against oppression since as early as 1600 BC. In Exodus 2, the situation for the Israelite people had become bleak. After a famine forced them from Canaan, they found themselves favored among the Egyptians. But after a new Pharaoh rose to power, the favor they enjoyed transformed into disdain. They were forced into slavery and made to endure brutal conditions as they manufactured bricks and built pyramids. The new Pharaoh engaged in infanticide in an attempt to control population and instill fear. But Exodus 2:23 says, “The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of their slavery their cry for help rose to God.” Together, they lifted a collective voice in lamentation about an unjust system and their cries rose up to God and God took notice of them. Protests are used to bring notice to unjust systems that marginalize, brutalize, and disenfranchise people in a dehumanizing way.

The action of protest is not only limited to those who are experiencing the injustice, but also to those who are witnessing it. Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a refugee from Germany, stated, “When I was a rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime…the most important thing I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems. The most tragic problem is silence.”[4]

Defiant activism is required in the face of suffering and violence. Faithfulness to God and prayer cannot be the extent of care and action against injustice and racism. Suffering is given to the living and it is humanity’s duty to make it cease. God’s power delivered Egypt, but not without human agency. God took notice of the Israelites, and sent Moses to deliver them.  

What prompted the Israelites to raise a collective voice in protest is the same thing that prompts young black and brown bodies in the streets of Baltimore to march with rocks and bottles aimed at a system that has regarded them as having little or no value. Paulo Freire defines it in his book, Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed as “existential weariness.” This is not a physical weariness, but a spiritual weariness, “which leaves those caught in it emptied of courage, emptied of hope, and above all, seized with a fear of adventure and risk.”[5] Freire explains in his writing about economic situations in Africa, that long exposure to intensely tragic experiences, much like inequitable economic realities in Baltimore for blacks, rejection as persons, as sex, as race, as culture, and as history, equates to the disregard for their lives, which to a perversely murderous white supremacy are of no value.[6] Freire states, “Any black life can simply die or disappear and white supremacy will not care one little bit.”[7]

In America, black bodies have been forced to deal with the idea that time will heal all wounds. A true theology of care dispenses with this myth of time. In his letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writes, “We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”[8] Becoming coworkers with God requires defiant activism and protest against injustice. A theology of care does not wait on inevitability, but it acts as a double-edged sword, both affirming value and challenging systems of oppression through human agency.

God is located not with the systems that perpetuate institutional racial violence and white supremacy, but with the black bodies that have been subjugated to endemic and systemic racism. In a theology of care, the relationship is not one that seeks to establish dominion over; it is rather a relationship of living together. It is interaction and communion and not just intervention. To care is to enter into synchronicity with others; it is to listen to their rhythm and to tune oneself into that rhythm. This means that black lives must never be forced to dispense with their blackness and a theology of care must be able to identify God in that blackness. If it cannot, then blackness may never be viewed as anything other than an evil in need of extermination, a paganism in need of conversion, and a burden to American society. 

>[1] (Accessed April 27, 2015) 

[2] (Accessed April 27, 2015)

[3] International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, University of Minnesota Human Rights Library (Jan. 4, 1969), (last accessed on November 7)

[4] James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching TreCone, James H. The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2011.e., 55

[5] Freire, Paulo, and Freire, Ana Maria Araújo. Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1994, pg 114.

[6] Ibid, 123

[7] Ibid

[8] Martin Luther King and James Melvin Washington, I Have a Dream : Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, 1st edition. ed., 92