Seek the Peace of the City

Houses of worship across the United States are separated by many things: culture, religious denomination, style of prayer, theology and language. We’re also separated by demographics and location, even in the same town.

I believe it was DC’s former police chief Isaac Fulwood who noted that 10 a.m. on Sunday is the most segregated hour of life in the city. Of course, many things have changed since Fulwood’s tenure in the late 80s — and Jews, as well as some other religious communities, don’t hold their biggest weekly worship on Sunday. But his basic point remains.

The relative segregation of our lives and our worship communities means that, in cities like the District of Columbia, some communities mourn violent deaths with terrible regularity while others, in the same city, remain largely unaffected.

It has been one of my deepest prayers that we can find ways, in our various worship communities, to ensure that our worship reflects the welfare of our own city, specifically, while never losing cite of our wider place as citizens of the world. One place we must start, I continue to believe, is for every house of worship in the city to acknowledge the violent losses of its citizens, even if those lost and their primary mourners are not members of the congregation.


In this past week, the District of Columbia has been bereaved of the following individuals through homicide:

  • June 26 1200 block of Raum Street, Northeast
    23-year-old Kevin Cortez Johnson, of Southeast, Washington.
  • June 28 1600 block of E Street, Northeast
    33 year-old Darrell Michael Grays of Northeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 29 Unit block of Galveston Place, Southwest
    25 year-old Rodney Delonte Davis, of Manassas, Virginia.

We are still in the 30-day period of mourning for these individuals, lost to homicide:

  • June 8 5100 block of Southern Avenue
    21-year-old Qur’an Reginald Vines of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 10 (after June 3 injuries) Gallaudet and Kendall Streets, Northeast
    57 year-old Anthony Ray Melvin of Clinton, Maryland.
  • June 13 3200 block of 23rd Street Southeast
    54 year-old Kenneth Fogle of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 13 2300 block of 15th Street, Northeast
    44 year-old Donald Franklin Bush of Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
  • June 14, 5200 block of Central Avenue, Southeast
    26-year old James Brown of Northeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 17 1300 block of Orren Street, Northeast
    25 year-old Larry Michael Lockhart of Northeast, DC.
  • June 17 3300 block of D Street, Southeast
    28 year-old Antonio Lee Bryant of Southeast, DC.
  • June 18 800 block of 51st Street, Southeast
    42 year-old Brian Sickles of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 18 1300 block of 5th Street, Northwest
    26 year-old Patrick Shaw of no fixed address.
  • June 19 3600 block of Calvert, Northwest
    53 year-old Joel Johnson of no fixed address.
  • June 20 (after June 16 injury)
    16 year-old Malik Mercer of Clinton, MD (former 10th grader at Ballou SHS in SE).
  • June 23 (after June 21 injury) 2200 block of H Street, Northeast
    26-year-old Arvel Lee Stewart of Northeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 23 1200 block of Holbrook Terrace, Northeast
    19 year-old Heineken McNeil of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 24 at the Tidal Basin
    20 year-old Deante Tinnen of Southeast, DC.
  • June 25 16th & Galen Streets, Southeast
    21 year-old Stephon Marquis Perkins of Maryland.

Continue reading Seek the Peace of the City

Conversing for Racial Justice (Beyond 32)

Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer, brings a symbolic break in this 49-day journey from Passover to Shavuot. The 32-day plague wrought by disrespect among Rabbi Akiva’s students (see yesterday’s post) has ended. Lag B’Omer is a day of transition. We don’t necessarily cease mourning for who and what was lost, or stop analyzing how things went wrong. But, just as Akiva began anew with five students, it is time to for us to focus on rebuilding.

HeartThe plague story warns that a pretense of respect only obscures danger. It urges us to explore our own communities for places where similar hazards lurk, to engage in necessary conversations.

This break in the Omer is an opportunity to examine our journey, how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.

Now is a great time, too, to check in with others. It is not necessary to follow the same religious calendar in order to join together on a journey from oppression. Counting these days has its own peculiar set of commandments and its own set of benefits. But one need not count the Omer to make these days count.

Rebuilding Tools

Race Forward provides an array of materials designed to educate individuals and groups and facilitate conversations around racial justice. This post includes handy links to a number of their resources, including their relatively new series of videos on systemic racism — all intended for a wide-ranging audience.

Showing Up for Racial Justice works, more specifically, “with white people who are already in motion.” SURJ endeavors to avoid “the culture of shame and blame” which can be found in some activist circles, instead seeking “to bring as many white people into taking action for racial justice as possible.”

SURF offers resources, including suggestions for launching house parties and other conversational activities. Special Mothers Day materials speak to teachers, parents, and others working with children.

Many other groups work to unite people in action and/or further necessary conversations. If you have other resources to share, please post in comments or email me (songeveryday at gmail).

It will enhance our individual journeys to know others are with us. So, please consider using the comment section here to let everyone know you’re committing to begin the conversations we need, or just “like” this post (see star at far bottom of post). In addition, please share this post or the “Conversing for Racial Justice” image to help engage others.

We counted 32 on the evening of May 5. Tonight, we count….

Continue reading Conversing for Racial Justice (Beyond 32)