‘Nation at a crossroads’: Prince Chapel AME pastor shares thoughts on racial injustice and chances for change
When the Rev. Denise Jackson of La Jolla’s Prince Chapel by the Sea African Methodist Episcopal Church heard about the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and witnessed the protesting that followed, she had one key question: How did we get here?
Jackson shared her thoughts with the Light about how racial injustice that spurred the worldwide demonstrations got to this point and where society can go from here.
Q. How did we get here?
A. “This started well before now, and that is part of the issue and part of the problem that America is facing right now. We have, in this country, continually labeled incidents of racial and social injustice as one wake-up call after another. As far as this incident, I would submit that it is not a wake-up call because this same alarm has been sounding since the 1600s and what people have done is hit the snooze button instead of stopping to address the problems that plague us.
“But we have, very conveniently, not noticed the issue of racism in this country. We haven’t noticed the issue is rampant. Now we see it is alive and well. It doesn’t excuse, but I think a lot of people have been blinded to it … and we’ve become comfortable in our living and dismiss it when it is not happening to me or someone I know. So we haven’t faced it, and incidents like what happened to George Floyd are part of a rumbling that has been going on. Now this rumbling has manifested itself into [the protests and calls for change].”
Q. Where do we go from here?
A. “There is a problem and I don’t think there is any one way to address it, but one thing I think we need to do is first face the fact that we have a problem. … We have a nation at a crossroads and we are going to have to do something about it. These are extraordinary times in our country in that there is a dynamic national movement, and that movement is going to demand a response from federal, state and local leaders … and that is going to take communication, dialogue between community members and community leaders about how to bring these effective changes.
“It’s one thing to know we need change. I’m grateful to those that have exercised their First Amendment right to protest, but this is not the end of it. We have to know the next step now is bringing people together, bringing thoughts together to determine the best way to proceed. … The how of how we are going to create that change is the big question. I’m looking at our government and it looks like everyone is scrambling, but there is no easy fix and there is no easy answer, but there is a way. What is the right way and the right action to get us where we need to go?”
With chants of “No justice, no peace; no racist police” and “Black lives matter” echoing in the streets of La Jolla, crowds of Black Lives Matter supporters gathered June 12 at La Jolla Cove and proceeded to march to Windansea Beach in a mass demonstration.
Q. What can individuals do?
A. “We can start by asking ourselves some hard questions: How can we leverage our connections and our skills to make a positive difference? A positive change that is equitable for all people? If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem, and some of us have been thinking we are part of the solution, when there has been no solution. So have we really been part of the solution?
“It is time for us to examine ourselves and figure out how we can help each other to overcome this pain and hopelessness. What can you do in your community, your places of employment, your churches? It is going to take all of us standing together. When you see people come together in the thousands, you know there is a problem. ... We are going to have to lock arms as a nation of people and move all these things that have heretofore impeded our progress out of the way. We have allowed our voices to be silenced, and now voices cannot be silenced. When you have people out in numbers like that, people are refusing to have their voices silenced, and I see that as a first step in this healing process.
“Are we willing to make the changes that need to be made? Are we willing to make the compromises that need to be made to get to the solution? Are we willing to relinquish these thoughts and opinions for the betterment of all people?”
Q. What are your thoughts about the Black Lives Matter movement?
A. “I’m discouraged to feel that human life doesn’t matter, and what happened to George Floyd was horrible. It would be horrible if it happened to anybody, but the fact of the matter is it happened to a black man, a person of color. We have to pay attention to that. We have to pay attention because we have to work toward stopping that kind of thing. We are all human beings. I frequently hear ‘all lives matter,’ and to that I would say, yes, they do matter. But people need to understand that when we say ‘black lives matter,’ we are not saying only black lives matter. It doesn’t mean other lives don’t have value, but at this time, black lives need our focus. It is black people that are treated as though they have no value. Right now there is a matter at hand. Yes, black lives do matter. We have to do something.”
Q. How does your faith help you in times like this?
A. “I have a big faith in our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and I believe that God has something better for us, but we have to believe it, too. My faith helps me in that at the core of my being is a belief that Jesus Christ is in control of all things that we see going on. Even if we don’t see it, faith tells us that God knows all about it. … My faith helps me to believe that God has something better for us.
“All my life, I have seen God work in situations and seen the miracles that have happened. I’ve seen God bringing this out of that. I can’t relinquish my faith because something like this happens. As a pastor, I have had the privilege of helping people through this crisis situation … and my faith is an anchor for me. But I can’t say this hasn’t impacted me spiritually; it has. I have sat down and just started to cry because of what I see and how it hurts my heart. However, it doesn’t cause me to lose my faith.”
Prince Chapel AME is at 7517 Cuvier St. The church is currently holding services via Zoom. For more information, call (858) 459-0271 or visit princechapelame.org. ◆
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