April 7, 2019. The Palm Beach Post.
“Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of light and air, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” — Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Letter from a Birmingham Jail
For the past five years, PEACE (People Engaged in Active Community Efforts) has held a Nehemiah Action Assembly, with more than 2,000 in attendance. The purpose of these rallies is to expose the “boils” which must be cured in our community – horrible injustices around which the members of our 19 congregations have cried out, and then seek from our public officials serious commitments to address these injustices.
On Monday, we will do this again. We will be asking our county commissioners to make commitments surrounding homelessness, and we are asking the sheriff and four police chiefs to make commitments to address racial profiling.
Sadly, the number of invited officials who have let us know they plan on coming stands at less than half. Why? They do not approve of the “format.” They do not like being asked “yes” or “no” questions. Our Assemblies are uncomfortable, and – in the words of Rev. King – they are “tense.” The latest excuse we have heard is PEACE members “boo” the officials (this has never taken place and we invite anyone to view videos of our Assemblies).
For the record, our officials are treated with civility and respect. They are asked to either commit or not commit to what we see as reasonable solutions to awful problems facing our community. The unveiling of these problems – the exposure of these “boils to the natural medicines of light and air” — is indeed often tense. It creates discomfort with those who are being held accountable to find solutions to those problems. However, isn’t this what our officials signed up for when they accepted their positions? Uncomfortable as it is (even for us), for the sake of those in our communities who are suffering daily from these injustices, we can do no less.
So, in the spirit of King’s calling to all of us to build a beloved community, we call upon our leaders to show up. We commend County Commissioners Mack Bernard and Gregg Weiss, who told us weeks ago that they would be there, and respectfully ask the others to join them. We ask our police chiefs and, in particular Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, to be in attendance.
They can either agree or disagree with our positions. However, refusing to meet with the largest grassroots gathering of people working for justice in Palm Beach County, is not an acceptable option.
REV. JASON FAIRBANKS, LAKE WORTH
REV. JOVAN T. DAVIS, BOYNTON BEACH
Editor’s note: Fairbanks is pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Lake Worth, and Davis is pastor at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Boynton Beach.
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