Where do we go from here? By Trinity Saves
July 6, 2017, will mark the one-year anniversary of Adventists for Social Justice (ASJ). After the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in 2016, two young Black adults, Tiffany Llewellyn and Jermaine Robinson decided to create a space for Christians to advocate for justice. Thus, Adventist for Social Justice was born. That same evening, a Facebook group was created and within 24 hours, 2000 people joined the group. Amazed by the positive feedback to the Facebook group, the founders hosted a conference call to organize/mobilize members, and discuss strategies and ways to develop the movement. From that call, they were able to connect with various interested parties who make up the 10 person Executive Team and their departments today, which include the following: Tiffany Llewellyn, Andrew Johnson, Loretta Merritt, Babawale Adepoju, Randy Goldson, Sarah Sulton, Shane Ray Brown, Pastor Joshua Nelson, Veronica Rose and Kimberly Holmes-James.
Once the ASJ board, mission, core focus and values were formed, the board took it a step further and decided to plan a conference. On November 4–6, 2016, ASJ held its first social justice conference entitled, Pushing Past the Pew, coordinated by former conference chair, Claudia Allen. This conference spearheaded the movement for young Adventist adults to get up from the pews and go out and stand against the injustices that were running rampant in their communities and in the world. The ASJ conference rallied its attendees on Friday evening through a fiery sermon by Pastor Charles Wesley Knight who told everyone to “Get Mad,” about inequality, exploitation, subjection and social injustices just as Jesus advocated throughout His ministry. On Saturday, Pastor Joshua Nelson preached a sermon entitled, “Problems at the Gate,” defining justice as restoring God’s creative correctness and discussing how justice can be restored at the gate. Lastly, on Sunday, Minister Ronnie Vanderhorst spoke about the theoretical framework, therapeutic formula and the theological foundation for addressing social justice issues. In addition to sermons, there were many social justice workshops including, “Improper Legislation in Spite of Adequate Representation: Race & the Cultural Politics of Law in the age of Obama,” “The Skin I’m In: What is Race in America,” “Adventist & Activism: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church & Issues of Race;” and regional ASJ chapters were formed in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Connecticut, Kentucky and the DMV area.
After the ASJ conference, people went back to their respective homes and communities fired up to take on the social justice issues and the first opportunity presented itself two days later with the 58th quadrennial American presidential election. Two candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton and business tycoon Donald J. Trump went head-to-head to secure the highest position in the United States government. Hillary Clinton, the most favorable candidate, was predicted to win the presidency; however, on November 8, 2016, on television screens all across America and the world, the announcement was made that Donald Trump, who never served in an elected public office, would become the 45th president of the United States of America. Americans and people all over the globe were shocked.
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. While some focused on how big were the crowds during his inauguration, the attention had swiftly shifted to a much larger crowd that had descended on Washington, DC on January 21, 2017. Hundreds of thousands of people marched all across the United States and around the globe in support of the “Women’s March on Washington,” one of the largest single day protests in American history. Women and men from all over the globe marched advocating for human rights and other issues, i.e., women’s rights, immigrant rights, and healthcare reform. The purpose of the march was to send a bold message to the new administration that they would continue to fight for the rights that some believed the Trump administration would take away.
After the 2016 presidential election, America has faced a rise in hate crimes, many people are at risk of losing their healthcare benefits, and there are still many issues that continue to marginalize communities of color. On June 16, 2017, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of all charges for the death of Philando Castile. This was one of the deaths that sparked the ASJ movement and this acquittal, along with the many issues that still plague our country, demonstrates that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Now that we know about how we started and where we are now, we need to assess where we go from here? In 2016, many of us left the ASJ conference with a fire raging in our souls to go out and fight for justice. Needless to say we have encountered various roadblocks and challenges. However, the two questions we need to ask ourselves are, have we become complacent with this new found reality and gone back to warming up the pews in our churches? Or, are we “reflecting the character of Christ by seeking justice and defending the oppressed in our communities?” The 2017 ASJ summit looks to address some of these issues and challenge us to continue moving forward for justice.
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