Courageous Conversations: Local bishop addresses moving monuments — and moving society forward

Chesapeake

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY-TV) – For the last month, the country has been grappling with some very serious issues regarding race. At WAVY-TV, we’ve taken this moment to go beyond a typical soundbite with community leaders to address how to create a more equitable path forward. 

10 On Your Side’s Anita Blanton talked with Bishop Kim Brown, the leader of the Mount Global Fellowship of Churches for this week’s installment of Courageous Conversations.

Brown shared his thoughts on the raw emotions of a movement, helping to craft one of Hampton Roads’ largest marches in protest to racial injustice, bridging generational divides on tackling the problems of today, and one powerful music video featuring three of the church’s worship leaders pouring out their souls through song at one controversial place: the recently removed Norfolk Confederate monument.

The music video begins with the well-known and long-sung spiritual “We Shall Overcome.”  For generations, it’s been a reminder in troubled times for Black Americans to continue believing in change someday. But in 2020, when a pandemic hit further and exposed racial disparities in healthcare that have been much-debated for years, many were left wondering exactly when that “someday” their forefathers sang of would finally arrive.

That question also came after Ahmaud Arbery journeyed out for what would be his last jog in life and it took months — and there was public outcry before any arrests were made. It also came after 8 minutes and 46 seconds shocked the world after George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis Police as an officer knelt on his neck.

“I think the monuments coming down is great, but it does not matter … if we take the monuments down on the street and don’t take the monuments down in our hearts,” said Brown. “There’s a lot of monuments still up in people’s hearts. What happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery revealed what many of us already knew but fail to acknowledge: that America still doesn’t have a vaccine for its deadliest virus — racism. My older brother would come home during the 70s when integration was really happening and they were closing down I.C. Norcom and Crestwood and all of that stuff with his pants ripped because they were protesting. If you just listen to the beginning of the song and you’re a young adult you might say ‘Oh naw, I’m tired of singing We Shall Overcome.'”

If you were angry decades ago, just imagine the hurt of those who thought it would end with you, hence the shift in the video’s lyrics to singing “Something’s Gotta Change.” He says the march his churches took part in was the brainchild of that younger generation and fully supported and amplified by him and many others around.

“I think it’s time for us to listen because they’re crying out,” said Brown. “We’re supporting you. We got your back. We’re not criticizing you. We understand. I told the mayor the young people are going to eventually get to our city. They’re going through all the cities and I don’t blame them. I understand it, but I think it was those in my generation’s assignment to apply wisdom to their energy. And his response was ‘I’m excited.'”

Brown says the Chesapeake chief of police was immediately on board, too, making sure there was protection all around and even buses to carry people back at the end of the march. He says it was about helping the younger generation channel their feelings, but not discourage anyone from releasing the anger within.

“We understand why y’all are out there knocking the head off of a statue, and I told my son if I were 25 I might have been out there sitting up on the statue, I don’t know,” said Brown. “But at 58, you think about life different. But that doesn’t mean you’re not as angry. I’m not condoning destroying anybody’s property, but I think one of the things that I’ve learned is people communicate in many different ways. I think young people are communicating that they’re tired and that they’re not willing to not see change.”

But he says young people also have to realize change requires everyone, all ages, all races, all willing to speak up because now is not the time to remain silent.

“What we can’t do in this season is get so emotional that we don’t understand there are good people and bad people of all ethnicity,” said Brown. “Everyone is created in the image of God. If I believe that that’s what the word says — and I believe what the word says — then when I see somebody whose skin color is different than mine and I discount them, I’m discounting God. In this season, we cannot be afraid to have real conversations. And unfortunately, the level of real conversations that we need in this season for us to begin to have any kind of genuine racial reconciliation is going to take courage. I’m not asking you to have answers. I’m asking you to have an ear.”

Soon, you’ll be able to find the song, “Something’s Gotta Change” to purchase on iTunes.


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