Committee to End the New Jim Crow
The mission of the Committee to End the New Jim Crow (CENJC) is to end mass incarceration through educating ourselves about the ways the criminal justice system perpetuates racial and economic hierarchies and to take action to contribute to efforts to change laws, policies, and programs that create mass incarceration. We hold monthly meetings on the fourth Wednesday averaging at least a dozen attendees. In an effort to educate the congregation and visitors about the activities of our committee, we have a table each Sunday in the Atrium. The committee takes turns staffing the table and updating the information. Initiatives of the committee are summarized below.
Black Lives Matter: We have led the congregation weekly walking along S. Pennsylvania Avenue holding Black Lives Matter signs. Members of the committee wrote personal testimonies about why they support this action. This action is announced every week from the pulpit. Support for Black Lives Matter is featured in our printed materials and the church’s presence on the internet indicating a strong buy-in from the whole church on this initiative.
Worship Service January 14, 2018: We developed and organized a “Black Lives Matter” Sunday morning service in which LaShawn Erby of Black Lives Matter Lansing gave the sermon and we presented awards to the young athletes who had gained unfortunate notoriety at Lansing Catholic Central for taking a knee during the national anthem at football games to protest racial injustice. We recognized their courage and willingness to speak out regardless of the consequences they personally experienced. This service had the largest attendance of any service this past year.
Black Lives Matter Sign: A task force was appointed by the Board, with members from the CENJC, the Diversity and Inclusion Team, and the Board, with the primary objective of getting a permanent sign and continuing to educate the congregation with regard to why we support Black Lives Matter. In March, we installed and dedicated a banner on the front of our church that proclaims that we are a congregation that believes that Black Lives Matter.
Activities with other organizations and faith-based communities: CENJC has continued to work closely with Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration (MI-CEMI), Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS), Citizens for Prison Reform (CPS) and other faith-based communities. UU Lansing has generously provided space for these groups and their meetings and we send members to their meetings. CENJC has annual, paid, memberships in CAPPS and CPR funded by the Social Justice Committee of UU Lansing.
Donations of books to jails and prisons: CENJC has coordinated book collections and delivered these books to Ingham County Jail, Ingham County Juvenile Center and Eaton County Jail.
Classes taught: With the guidance of Derek Frank from the MSU law school, CENJC members taught a series of classes on Restorative Justice with many Committee members and others participating. Two members also put together and delivered presentations on mass incarceration to the UU Lansing Sunday Morning Forum and to Edgewood United Church.
Resource material: Members of CENJC developed a resource compilation that is available on the committee’s table.
Public Presentations at UU Lansing:
In the fall, CENJC worked with LaShawn Erby of Lansing Black Lives Matter and Action of Greater Lansing to show the film “13th” which is about the relationship between incarceration and slavery in the United States, and to hear about the experience of a local man who had been incarcerated. The event included dinner and a discussion following the film.
On January 21, 2018, CENJC worked with “The Power of We,” part of One Love Global, to show and discuss the film “Wounded Places” focusing on children with PTSD. The film is part of the series, “Raising of America.” Carlton Evans led the discussion.