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OP-ED: The Role of the Black Church During a Pandemic

NNPA NEWSWIRE — I’ve preached many times that 93 percent of what Jesus did was outside of the walls of the church as he healed, fed, evangelized and organized. Admittedly, if you were to honestly assess the 21st century church, that dynamic has been completely flipped. Far too many churches and pastors are concerned with what happens inside of the building and not concerned or active enough with affecting the greater community, and those who need to be ministered to beyond the opulence and comfort of gleaming wood floors and the immaculate stained glass.

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(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pastor Jamal Byrant)

By Pastor Jamal Bryant, Senior Pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

I recently came across an article on NewsOne.com that highlighted a furor on several social media platforms regarding whether wealthy pastors are contributing enough to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Admittedly, some of the social media memes and tropes were amusing and of course, some were outright meanspirited, sophomoric and disrespectful but that’s the complex mosaic of the social media space and if you’re the public square at all, you have to be able to stomach the bitter and the sweet.

As I processed the article and the dialogue it generated, my personal and pastoral PTSD was kicked into overdrive recalling the pummeling my church (New Birth) and I took just a few weeks earlier when we announced that we’d formulated a partnership with a telemedicine firm and a community health clinic to provide coronavirus testing to our community.

Without bothering to do any due diligence, we were labeled as “opportunists,” “vultures,” “ungodly” and worse.

And while it is always painful to be insulted and castigated, it hurts even more when it’s the African American community leading the campaign of misinformation. Of course, New Birth and I were confident in our intent and execution of the testing initiative and fortunately, local affiliate C BS 46, cleared the issue up nicely and we’re moving forward.

Rather than get lost in trying to salve healing wounds, I believe our focus should turn to the larger question of what exactly the role of the church should be, not only in this season of a global pandemic but as the core societal anchor of the African American community.

I’ve preached many times that 93 percent of what Jesus did was outside of the walls of the church as he healed, fed, evangelized and organized.

Admittedly, if you were to honestly assess the 21st century church, that dynamic has been completely flipped. Far too many churches and pastors are concerned with what happens inside of the building and not concerned or active enough with affecting the greater community, and those who need to be ministered to beyond the opulence and comfort of gleaming wood floors and the immaculate stained glass.

We indeed have a conundrum. Should the church be doing more? Yes; and if you look closely many churches are doing plenty.

I am blessed to pastor at New Birth, where we have the capacity and more importantly, an engaged, committed church family who take seriously our mandate to love, lead and live like Christ. Our goal is to be a church that does 93 percent or more of our ministry beyond the walls of our beautiful sanctuary.

In a little over a year, we have provided meals for furloughed federal workers; we have provided 5 000 pairs of free shoes for school-aged kids in the DeKalb/Atlanta community; we have b ailed o ut first time, nonviolent offenders; and married 30 couples free of charge in two mass w eddings.

Even as we are all in the chaos and calamity of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided that even if church has stopped, ministry doesn’t.

Consequently, we are providing free groceries to 1000 families each week and we have entered a partnership with local hotels to provide free lodging and meals to our beleaguered doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

This is the work of the church and it is not only having a major impact in the community; it is helping to attract souls to Christ and members to our church. To God be the glory for over 300 new members who have joined New Birth since we suspended our in-person worship a month ago.

I am proud of what we are doing at New Birth but there are plenty of other churches who have stepped up in a major way even if they are less heralded, barely noticed and never celebrated.

It is disheartening to see so much misinformation gain momentum and to see the church chastised and rebuked in haste and seemingly at will.

The church is needed now more than ever and as we emerge from this recent Easter holiday, I am praying for my comrades of the gospel and I am hopeful that we as a people will be less antagonistic towards the body of Christ and that God will resurrect our hopes, restore our compassion and revive our love and interdependency on one another.

These times are challenging, stressful and unprecedented; it calls for all of us to raise our game and our consciousness in the hopes that we will emerge as a stronger, better connected community.

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Fighting an Unjust System, The Bail Project Helps People Get Out of Jail and Reunites Families

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

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Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.
Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily — many find it challenging to pay bail

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build — and as the pandemic raises the stakes higher — advocates remain adamant that it’s more important than ever that the facts are straight, and everyone understands the bigger picture.

“The U.S. doesn’t have one ‘criminal justice system;’ instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems,” Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner found in a study released by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative.

Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,850 local jails, 1,510 juvenile correctional facilities, 186 immigration detention facilities, and 82 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” the study authors said in a press release.

With hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily, many find it challenging to pay bail.

Recognizing America’s ongoing mass incarceration problem and the difficulties families have in bailing out their loved ones, a new organization began in 2018 to offer some relief.

The Bail Project, a nationwide charitable fund for pretrial defendants, started with a vision of combating mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

“We have a mission of doing exactly what we hope our criminal system would do: protect the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that we know can criminalize poverty,” Johnson stated.

“Our mission is to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system,” she insisted.

Johnson said The Bronx Freedom Fund, at the time a new revolving bail fund that launched in New York, planted the seed for The Bail Project more than a decade ago.

“Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we can build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution,” Johnson stated.

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Johnson noted that officials created cash bail to incentivize people to return to court.

Instead, she said, judges routinely set cash bail well beyond most people’s ability to afford it, resulting in thousands of legally innocent people incarcerated while they await court dates.

According to The Bail Project, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by cash bail, and of all Black Americans in jail in the U.S., nearly half are from southern prisons.

“There is no way to do the work of advancing pretrial reform without addressing the harmful effects of cash bail in the South,” said Robin Steinberg, Founder, and CEO of The Bail Project.

“Cash bail fuels racial and economic disparities in our legal system, and we look forward to supporting the community in Greenville as we work to eliminate cash bail and put ourselves out of business.”

Since its launch, The Bail Project has stationed teams in more than 25 cities, posting bail for more than 18,000 people nationwide.

Johnson said the organization uses its national revolving bail fund, powered by individual donations, to pay bail.

The Bail Project has spent over $47 million on bail.

“When we post bail for a person, we post the full cash amount at court,” Johnson stated.

“Upon resolution of the case, the money returns to whoever posted. So, if I posted $5,000 to bail someone out, we then help the person get back to court and resolve the case,” she continued.

“The money then comes back to us, and we can use that money to help someone else. So, we recycle that.”

Johnson said eliminating cash bail and the need for bail funds remains the goal.

“It’s the just thing to do. It restores the presumption of innocence, and it restores families,” Johnson asserted.

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PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina

NNPA NEWSWIRE — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and other participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.
The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Administrator to honor legacy of environmental justice and civil rights at event in Warren County, site of protests that launched the movement 40 years ago

WASHINGTON (September 22, 2022) – On Saturday, September 24, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will travel to Warren County, North Carolina to deliver remarks on EPA’s environmental justice and civil rights priorities and the progress we’ve achieved since the first protest and march that launched the movement 40 years ago this week. Administrator Regan will make a significant announcement on President Biden’s commitment to elevate environmental justice and civil rights enforcement at EPA and across the federal government and ensure the work to support our most vulnerable communities continues for years to come.

Administrator Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.

Who:
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan
Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)
Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Leaders
Warren County residents and community leaders
Additional stakeholders

What: Remarks on EPA environmental justice and civil rights priorities and honoring the legacy of the environmental justice and civil rights movement
When: Saturday, September 24, 2022,
Doors Open: 11:30 AM ET
Program: 12:45 PM ET
;
Where: Warren County Courthouse
109 S Main Street
Warrenton, NC 27589
Livestream: A livestream of this event will be available at epa.gov/live.

The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane

Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …
The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …

The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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