After a weekend of protests and riots sparked by the killing of George Floyd, hundreds of Christians and hip-hop artist Lecrae gathered in Atlanta to call on churches and government leaders to ensure fair treatment and an end to racially-motivated crimes.
Additionally, leaders also announced plans for a “March on Atlanta” that will take place in just over two weeks.
The OneRace Movement, a Christian coalition that exists to “displace the spirit of racism and release a movement of racial reconciliation across Atlanta, the Southeast, and the nation,” held a news conference at Liberty Plaza outside the state capitol building in downtown Atlanta Monday.
“Today, we are not here to talk about the protests," OneRace co-director Josh Clemons told the crowd. "We are not here to talk about the riots. We are not here to talk about the looting. What we are here to talk about today is the injustice in our land."
Thousands demonstrated in the streets after the death of Floyd, 46, who was filmed with a white police officer’s knee on his neck as he died on a Minneapolis, Minnesota street on Memorial Day.
“I think this is a moment for the Church, for you, for me to cry out: Enough is enough! It’s time for a change. It’s time for reform and it's time for the Church to lead the way.”
Led by several Christian leaders and pastors, the coalition released “The OneRace Statement on Righteousness and Justice: A call to end Racial Violence.”
“The Christian Community must engage this issue spiritually & civically,” the document reads. “This engagement must begin with understanding the deep history of racism in our nation, then owning that history as our collective spiritual responsibility, and then engaging in our spheres of influence constructively to change the story for future generations.”
Lecrae, a 40-year-old Christian hip-hop recording artist who resides in Atlanta, also spoke at the news conference.
“My burden [is] my mother marched in the ‘60s and ‘70s and protested these issues of systemic racism and injustice,” he said. “She took me to my first march after Rodney King was unjustly beaten. I marched and protested in Ferguson for Mike Brown, … for Sandra Bland. Here we are four years later in the same situation doing the same thing. Something different has got to happen. There has to be a change.”
“I am all for the idea that the Gospel is what changes hearts. But the Gospel is both explicit and implicit,” Lecrae said. “The Gospel is in the form of the cross. The cross is vertical but it is also horizontal. So there has got to be some horizontal implications in what you believe, taking action in your churches, in your communities and in your jobs.”
The new OneRace statement calls on Christians to “work to end racially-motivated acts of violence” by “voting in local elections for candidates that uphold our values of equity and dignity toward all races” and serving “in our communities across racial lines.”
The statement also encourages believers to “speak up and participate in nonviolent protest whenever we see the injustice that demands our attention.”
“We all have varying degrees of power, position, and privilege,” the statement reads. “In following the example of our Savior as described in Philippians 2:3, we must count others as more important than ourselves, exercising our power, position, and privilege for the betterment of those not like us.”
The statement calls on elected officials to make changes to ensure that "laws are written and enforced in ways that are equitable towards all."
"When legislation and enforcement enables one segment of the population to feel safe and another segment of the population to feel endangered, changes are necessary," the statement adds.
Area pastors who spoke at the Monday event included: Crawford Loritts of the Fellowship Bible Church, Jeff Norris of Perimeter Church, Lee Jenkins of Eagle’s Nest Church, Dennis Rouse of Victory Church, and Arthur Breland of Woodland Hills Church.
The OneRace Movement, which released the Atlanta Covenant signed by thousands of faith leaders in August 2018, also announced that tens of thousands of people will be invited to participate in a march in Atlanta on June 19 to call for changes that will ensure that there will be no more Arberys, Taylors or Floyds.
In the news conference, Lecrae said the country needs to see “prayer,” “policy,” “programs,” “publicity” and “protest.”
“We need all of those pieces to that puzzle,” Lecrae said. “This is a system that has been set up from the inception for black people to fail. Black people can’t tear down a system that we didn’t build. So it is important for my brothers and sisters in Christ to use their power and privilege to help tear down these evil infrastructures that hold us back.”
Lecrae continued by calling for there to be more leaders of color within churches.
“It is one thing to have black friends. But do you have black leaders in your life who can guide you and lead you and inform you on how this should go?” Lecrae asked. “When you look around your Facebook pages or your jobs, who are your hiring? Are you hiring friends that look like you? Or are you hiring people that are qualified but do not come from the community that you come from?”
“That is how you tear down the infrastructure of systemic justice,” he continued. “Those are the implications of the Gospel. If we truly believe that, it is going to make us uncomfortable. The Gospel makes us uncomfortable. If we are truly living out our faith, it should make us uncomfortable. We should look strange to people.”