New Abilene African-American Council of Leaders Declares ‘Hatred Will Not Find A Home Here’
By LORETTA FULTON
“Racism is a sin. It is a sin against God.”
With those strong words, Kelvin Kelley set the tone for a press conference announcing the formation of the Abilene African-American Council of Leaders.
The press conference was held Monday at North Second and Mulberry streets in front of Station 1 Venue, a former fire station that has been converted to a venue for weddings and parties. The back of the venue was the site of recent racist graffiti that has been painted over, thanks to a couple of nearby business owners who saw it–Robbie Jonson, owner of HasBeenSports, and Roberto Antonio Maldonadao Jr., owner of Truly Blest.
One after another, guest speakers added powerful voices to Kelley’s pronouncement at the Monday press conference. Kelley, who is African-American, is a religion professor at Hardin-Simmons University, where a white student was suspended after posting a racist video.
Jeanene Reese, professor emeritus at Abilene Christian University, a white woman, reminded the crowd of the story of Joseph in the Bible. He was sold into slavery by his brothers but he survived and became the second most powerful man in Egypt. In the story, Joseph points out the irony of the brothers’ action.
“What you intended for evil, God is using for good,” Reese said.
That can happen in Abilene, too, if enough people stand up in the face of the evil of racism, Reese said.
Also speaking were Jason King, associate professor of English and writing and president of the faculty council at Hardin-Simmons; and Jerry Taylor, religion professor at ACU and founder of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies & Spiritual Action, which is housed at ACU.
Taylor noted that Abilene is home to three church-affiliated universities and numerous churches of all denominations. That means Abilene is filled with people who should stand against racism.
“Christians are called to expose and challenge credible threats to peace,” Taylor said.
Taylor is known for his deep voice and oratory style that brings to mind a revival preacher. As he reached a rhythmic cadence, the crowd joined in with “Amen!” and “Come on!” Taylor did not disappoint as he denounced the ugliness and violence of the graffiti, which carried a swastika with a racial comment.
“This hatred will not find a home here,” Taylor declared, and the crowd applauded in agreement.
From the beginning, Kelley, who was instrumental in forming the new Abilene African-American Council of Leaders, emphasized its religious underpinnings.
“The Abilene)African-American Council of Leaders is formed in and committed to this same creative model evidenced in the life of Jesus Christ and all who follow him,” Kelley said.
God created one new man, Kelley noted, by reconciling all human differences in himself. This “new man” or humanity, Kelley said, acknowledges we no longer need biased, prejudiced, and stereotypical language that divides and devalues. As God reconciled human differences in himself, humans must reconcile differences, too.
“We believe reconciliation is the pathway to healing and restoration of hope in our community and nation,” Kelley said. “In fact, it is the only pathway.”
Kelley announced that the newly formed council plans to actively participate in Abilene and the surrounding area by:
Philosophy: Honoring the humanity of all people. Community is best expressed through authentic and meaningful human interaction.
Strategy: Addressing structural realities that minimize the full participation of all people. Racist views are taught and sustained in systems of oppression and bias.
Legacy: Developing generational leadership (young-adult and youth) in education and economic systems. Viable patterns of community are forged in creative not trivial responses to crisis.
Kelley called on leaders of all sectors of the Abilene community to join with the new council to publicly denounce the act of white supremacy and to publicly declare a commitment to work together for a better and just world–The Beloved Community.
“In the spirit of the abolitionists and activists of the past,” Kelley said, “we, the Abilene African-American Council of Leaders, declare God’s space and value wherever humanity is present.”