June 7, 2020
By Hasan James, Editor-In-Chief- Root Magazine
Photographers: Wendell Sisnett, Henry Danner and Kennedy James
The murder of George Floyd was seen across the world and for many people it was heartbreaking, but strangely enough there is a remnant of people and entities who appeared unequivocally unaffected by the protests, marches and looting heard across the world. Ironically, many evangelicals up until now, were relatively silent when it came to race relations in the church and beyond. Add the number of white evangelicals to that list and the silence of race relations dialogue amongst the church ironically speaks volumes.
Protests over the death of George Floyd in not only Minneapolis, but across the world, have quickly given climb to an immense American reckoning with racism. Pastor Brandon Watts, a four year pastor of Epiphany Church Brooklyn, knows all to well the plight of being a black man in America and wanted to be another voice in the pond of protest, thus the Pray and Protest movement was birthed in less than a week. “By God’s grace, we were able to gather pastors across denominational and ethnic lines in order to shine the spotlight on the evil injustice against black and brown people in America,” says Watts, 40. “I have two black boys and just because they have muscles and a big nose, that makes them a threat,” Watts went on to say.
On a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon in June, the peaceful protest began on Fulton Street and Marcy Avenue in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and made pertinent and intentional stops at the neighborhood Police Athletic League, 79th Precinct and Von King Park. As upwards of 1,000 people swarmed the streets chanting “No justice, no peace” and “What do we want….JUSTICE, when do we want it….NOW,” hundreds more followed, while on lookers from their windows displayed handmade Black Lives Matter signs and played instruments as the processional took place.
Over a half dozen pastors from various sections of Brooklyn, locked arms with Pastor Brandon to combat systemic racism and police brutality amongst African Americans across this nation.
Pastor Rodney McFarland (Mt. Ollie Baptist Church), Pastor Lawrence Aker (Corner Stone Baptist Church), Pastor Adolphus C. Lacey (Bethany Baptist Church), Pastor Derek Devine (Apostles Church Uptown), Pastor Larry Camp (Bethlehem Baptist Church), Pastor Shawn Mason (Freedom Church), Pastor Gbenga Famojuro (Christ Apostolic Church) and Pastor Courtney Bradley (Remnant Worship Center International) all saw the need for solidarity in a time where being black in America is dangerous, even if you are doing something as simple as jogging.
The peaceful protest was true to its name and calling. The almost two hours protest mixed with chants of freedom and prayer was not just another protest, it displayed voices of unity on all fronts, as all nationalities took part and made their voices heard. White evangelicals repented and apologized before a sea of black and brown faces, and although it was appreciated and forgiven, black people are clearly looking for a time where we won’t have to march and protest for basic rights and freedom. “Black people have experienced 400 years of slavery, years of segregation, mass incarceration and systemic racism and as the church, we demand that the injustice stops,” said Watts, as the protest came to an end, yet the fight seems like it just began.