Today, Tim Dechristopher, a climate activist, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for disturbing a 2008 Bureau of Land Management auction in Utah. Prior to the reading of his sentence, he had the opportunity to address the court and the judge. DeChristopher is 29 years old; his words to the court, which have been made available at CommonDreams.org, are at once autobiography, theology, and a moral call to action.
“With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.”
Please read his statement in full: I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me
by Tim DeChristopher
Across California, 6,600 prisoners have joined in the hunger strike that began July 1 with prisoners held in security housing units, a sanitary term for solitary confinement, inside Pelican Bay State Prison refusing food and issuing demands that include adequate food and nutrition, an end to group punishment and abuse, as well as compliance with the 2006 Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons recommendations on ending solitary confinement practices. On the outside, demonstrators and coalitions have shown their solidarity with the prisoners through rallies in various cities, online petitions and calls to action. So far, the California Department of Corrections and “Rehabilitation” (CDCR) has refused to negotiate or shown any signs of addressing prisoners’ demands. Check out the rest of my posting at Tikkun Daily.
In July 2011, 43 prisoners inside California Pelican Bay State Prison’s security housing unit (or SHU, a fancy name to get those of us not in prison to think it is something other than solitary confinement and all that entails) began a hunger strike against torture and for self-determination and liberation. Solidarity with prisoners who are organizing themselves for justice is just a click away. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, a San Francisco Bay Area coalition of grassroots organizations “committed to amplyifing the voices of and supporting the prisoners,” has a blog and I suggest you check out like I did by clicking here.
It’s day two and at the same time as these 43 prisoners refuse food in participate in this hunger strike at Pelican Bay, 2.3 million people are in similar conditions, marginalized in solitary confinement and isolating conditions within an already hidden and dehumanizing system. For those of you who have not thought about the prison industrial complex as a justice issue for people of faith specifically, just that number of people hidden in our society seems like something to pray on. Here’s a couple other reflections that convinced me to learn about mass incarceration as a social justice issue and now to write about and pray for the Pelican Bay prisoners:
- To get through prison and to survive as a formerly incarcerated person, is resistance in and of itself to the policies and practices carried out throughout the U.S. Resistance is an expression of faith.
- To become organized for justice is an act of faith in community, the communities we see daily and those communities hidden from us for one reason or another, structurally or socially, emotionally or culturally.
- Equal access to health care is a human right. The demands listed by the Pelican Bay prisoners include necessary reforms to the currently inadequate health care and nutrition available. The conditions under which the 43 prisoners begin this hunger strike are dangerous. People of faith everywhere call for health care justice — prisoners are no exception to those who deserve equal access to quality care and food.
- People of faith have the power to link communities to justice issues in our congregations and to build religious leadership for change. We have the chance to strike up a dialogue about the intersections between mass incarceration and issues of police brutality, housing, employment, education, and yes, unearned privileges.
If you’re with your faith community tomorrow, will you tell them it’s day three?
For ways to take action, visit the Prisoners Hunger Strike Solidarity blog.
On Friday, April 8, I presented a paper at the Unitarian Universalist Emerging Scholars Conference hosted by Starr King School for the Ministry and also co-sponsored with Starr King by Harvard Divinity School, Meadville-Lombard Theological School and the Unitarian Universalist Association Panel on Theological Education. I recommend checking out the Tikkun Daily posting by Michael Hogue (Meadville-Lombard) that discusses this invigorating experience.
On Monday, March 28, 2011, I presented a paper on the Womanist/Pan-African section’s panel at WECSOR, entitled “New Womanist, Religious and Theological Lenses in the Study of the African Diaspora,” in Whittier, California. My paper will be one of three on the panel and is entitled: “‘The Story Can Be Told Another Way:’ The Contributions of Womanist Ethics to the Principle of Respect for Autonomy in Bioethics.” The paper presentation represents a project very much in-progress.
I enter the dialogue between womanist ethics and bioethics through a very recent and very public example of the intersection of race, health and ethics: the ant-choice billboard campaign protesting Planned Parenthood: “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in the Womb.” In many ways, this destructive ad campaign, which has been featured in Illinois, Texas, Florida and NY, represents the need for bioethics to be responsive to womanist theo-ethical lenses in new ways: invoking the African American woman’s womb as a place of danger has an unsettling history to say the least. Where is the principle of respect for autonomy and its underlying framework for morality now? How does womanist analysis of the fantastic hegemonic imagination help illuminate how “the story” of Black women’s wombs (and even Planned Parenthood) “can be told another way?”
Tomorrow, I hope to show that it is in life experiences and historical consciousness where discussion of principles, particularly a respect for autonomy, should begin.
Stay tuned for a posting of my presentation along with (hopefully) a podcast.