Committee to End the New Jim Crow – Ending Mass Incarceration
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, usually 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 and contribute to or lead worship services periodically. 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.
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 last 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), Safe and Just Michigan (formerly called CAPPS), Citizens for Prison Reform (CPS), and several faith-based communities. UU Lansing provides space for these groups and their meetings, and we send members to their meetings. CENJC has annual, paid, memberships in Safe and Just Michigan and Citizens for Prison Reform, funded by the Social Justice Committee of UU Lansing.
Donations of books to jails and prisons: CENJC coordinates book collections several times each year and delivers 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. CENJC and other anti-racist groups at UU Lansing continue to facilitate educational experiences for the community throughout the year.
Resource material: Members of CENJC developed a resource compilation that is available on the committee’s table.
Public Presentations at UU Lansing: Several times each year, CENJC partners with local organizations such as Lansing Black Lives Matter, Action of Greater Lansing, and One Love Global to show documentary films and host panels and community discussions.