In an epic and poignant reaction to the gruesome killing of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man who was shot dead on Tuesday by Baton Rouge police officers, Savanna Hartman, a pastor, mother and spoken word poet challenged white Christians to stand with her against deadly force and racism.
"As white people you could say this is not a color thing. You could say it's a sin thing. You could say it's not one versus the other. But the fact of the matter is that we as white people we've got to accept our actions, we have to accept our role in this. We have to accept where we have let them down. We have to apologize and we have to do better. We have to do better," Hartman said in a 10-minute video posted on her Facebook page titled "my very honest thoughts on #AltonSterling and what's happening to the black community right now."
"Black lives do matter. And it does not make me a bad person to just say black lives matter. They all do. They all do. They all do. Don't change it to all lives matter. Say their lives matter. Their lives matter," Hartman said.
Her comments came just days after a graphic video surfaced online showing the brutal manner in which Sterling died. According to local news station Fox 59, the U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI will conduct an independent investigation in Sterling's death. Several videos show that he was pinned down and restrained by police before he was shot several times at point-blank range. They have since sparked public outrage and renewed a national debate about police and deadly force.
In sharing her thoughts on Sterling's death and the use of deadly force, particularly against black people, Hartman explained at the top of the video that she was inspired to speak after being deeply troubled by what she saw in the recordings of Sterling's death.
"I'm trying to figure out how to start this. There's been a lot of tears in my morning. A lot of frustration and a lot of hurt and confusion. And my heart is beating so fast because I feel like no matter what is said (my arms are shaking) someone will be hurt. But I just feel like something just has to be said. And so I'm just gonna say it and I hope you understand that no matter what color you are, I love you very, very much and I hope that this is received the way that it's intended," Hartman said.
She then launched into a poetic discussion of race and policing in America and apologized for not speaking out sooner.
"You're right the majority of cops aren't corrupt, we must speak for the voices who don't have their own. Who went out one day and then never came home. Like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or Ms. Sandra Bland. Not a single one of them held a weapon in hand and still they were killed and no justice was served," she said.
"They won't get to speak their voices they will not be heard, because they are dead. They are buried in dirt. Their families are broken, their deaths are absurd. Say that I'm wrong and I don't know their stories. Do you want more names? I can name at least 40. I don't want your excuses or religious bicker. It wasn't Satan that pulled the cop's trigger," Hartman said.
"I'm not against cops so don't make this about that. These aren't opinions, these are black and white facts. This isn't about black men or white women or cops. This is about senseless behavior that on all sides must stop," she continued.
"Whites aren't all racist and blacks aren't all thugs. All lives matter we were all bought with love. To move forward from here we all need to change behaviors accepted and futures rearrange.
"Stop blaming them like their deaths were deserved. We all deserve death but our lives were preserved by Christ's work on the cross. He paid for our sins so we don't have to make mistakes again and again. Don't scream and don't fight, start walking in love. Take the masks off your eyes and remove your kid gloves. We can't change the past but we can change what's ahead," she added.
Hartman intimated that it wasn't just enough anymore to blame racial inequities on sin without taking a stand against the perpetuation of these iniquities.
"We have to accept that something is wrong. That the system is broken. That people are hurt. We have to accept that and we have to change. We have to change 'cause this is not time anymore to be silent. This is not a time anymore to sweep it under the rug and this is not a time to blame them when they are behaving poorly because they are confused and they're hurt," said Hartman.
READ PASTOR SAVANNA HARTMAN'S COMPLETE SPOKEN WORD PIECE BELOW: