EXCERPTS FROM NEWLAND SMITH’S COMMENTS IN ACCEPTING THE EPISCOPAL PEACE FELLOWSHIP JOHN NEVIN SAYRE AWARD
… it is racism which I feel compelled to name as the issue for our justice work. I am convinced that much of the madness - the violence in our common lives as Americans stems from the horrific legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, of slavery, segregation, and its current manifestations today to which the #BlackLivesMatter voices are a cry for justice.
Three years ago the War Resisters’ League published a 600 page book “We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America” in which the question is asked, “Why have peace groups in the United States been predominantly white? Why has it been so difficult for white members of the peace movement to make the connections between racism and war?” I realize that as a white American, a Connecticut Yankee to boot, in addition to addressing my white privilege and taking concrete material actions as a way to apologize for my part in maintaining these structures of racism, I need to look to communities of color for next steps for racial justice. Earlier this year ten black journalists, artists, and organizers representing Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Black Youth Project 100, joined Dream Defenders in a ten day trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. Marc Lamont Hill, one of the journalists, said, “We came here to Palestine to stand in love and revolutionary struggle with our brothers and sisters. We come to a land that has been stolen by greed and destroyed by hate. We come here and we learn laws that have been co-signed in ink but written in blood of the innocent and we stand next to people who continue to courageously struggle and resist the occupation. People continue to dream and fight for freedom. From Ferguson to Palestine the struggle for freedom continues.” A week ago Sunday, I participated in a Gaza pinwheel exhibit outside a church in Chicago. 521 pinwheels, each with the name of a child who had lost his/her life in Occupation Protective Edge last summer comprised the exhibit. Our job was to pass out leaflets about this tragic loss of life and to engage people going to and fro on the sidewalks and at the CTA Red Line stop and Clark and Division. The young American Friends Service Committee office summer intern, with whom I was working, commented to me that it was black, not white persons who were more open to accepting our leaflets and talking with us. As she said to me, “Black people get it.”
…. I must end. Thank you again for this recognition. May it be a challenge to me to risk more - to risk letting go of my white privilege in order to be able to be in authentic solidarity with Black and Palestinian persons.
Newland Smith is a long-time leader in peace and justice activism and a deputy from the Diocese of Chicago.