On Tuesday, June 9, the youngest congregation in our district, “Beyond The Walls” Church, which was launched on September 1, 2019, as a satellite of Woodlawn-Faith UMC, sponsored a March for Justice in the Gum Springs community of Fairfax County. County officials estimate that more than 2000 persons participated on the two-mile route, including many United Methodists from churches around the district. Bishop Lewis was one of the featured speakers, along with young adult leaders from Beyond the Walls Church, and civic leaders and activists, including Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler, two county supervisors and representatives of the county school system. The marchers wore masks, carried placards, and raised our voices for racial justice. The speakers shared much information and inspiration, as well as some indignation concerning the ongoing and current struggle in our nation to address racial disparities.
One speech struck me as particularly eloquent. It came at the end of the day, when most of the participants were so hot and tired that they had already departed for home. So, I am attaching it here so that it may be appreciated by a wider audience. Bria Brown is a high school student and a member of Woodlawn-Faith UMC and a participant with Beyond the Walls. She reflects on a visit she made to the Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial in Washington, D.C., and the dream that she had. I am grateful for her permission to share it here:
I would just like to say WOW. Who knew making history would be so empowering! At the last protest I went to we held our hands up in the air for eight minutes and forty six seconds. Not nine minutes, not five minutes, but eight minutes and 46 seconds. My arms were hurting and shaking. That’s how long a cop had his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Take that in and realize how cruel that is that a man can do such a thing and we have to process if he should even have a consequence for what he did.
It’s easy to say these protests are going too far when your life and your people aren’t the ones in danger. The color of your skin DOES NOT define whether or not you are violent or not. It is very sad about all of the buildings and everything that is getting burned down or painted on, but always remember that buildings and businesses will always be able to get built back up, but you can’t bring a person of color back from the dead. If you need a sign of whether or not you want to do stuff, let me be your sign. The time is NOW. You do not wait for change to happen when you can be the change. Get out of your comfort zone and make things happen. Help equality be restored and help us to make change throughout the whole world.
A few days ago I went with my friend to Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial site. It touched me in ways that I didn’t even think were imaginable. It made me realize that I too have a dream. I have a dream that one day I can sit my kids down and tell them about the year 2020. I will tell them about how there were really bad wildfires, all of the lives that the world had lost, how we SURVIVED through a pandemic and had to wear masks most places, but there’s one part to the story where they will stop what they are doing and look in amazement. I will tell them that many years ago, people of color sat down to talk about the issues going on. That because of OUR SKIN COLOR we were at a disadvantage because of the racism that was happening and because there wasn’t the equality that we needed. That because of OUR SKIN COLOR cops and many people looked at us as violent people or just dangerous. Not all people, but just enough to show that we lived in an unfair world.
In the year 2020 there were many protests, some rioting was happening and even looting was going on. The year 2020 we made change that would last forever. I will be able to tell my kids that all of the protest I went to, all of the phone calls I made, the emails I sent, standing out in the hot sun for hours to make sure that justice was served, and any and all parts I had to help with this is why I can sit them down and say that the COLOR OF YOUR SKIN is finally seen by others as just beauty and just as a human being, instead of anything else. Whatever year this will be I will be able to say WE CHANGED HISTORY FOR THE GREATER GOOD.
I will sit my children down and say I HAD A DREAM and we made it happen.
Bria Chanel Brown
Grace and Peace,