Yevette Christy (center on sidewalk), pastor at Community United Methodist Church, and Black Lives Matters Protestors march through a pro-Trump counter protest on June 6, 2020 in Westcliffe Colo,. (Courtesy Photo)
‘We are not enemies. We are allies.’ Rev. Yevette Christy on Black Lives Matter to Westcliffe, Colorado
Publisher’s note: We are taking the extraordinary step of following the tradition of when newspapers used to run the full text of major civil rights speeches. No, this speech wasn’t given in the sixties, it was delivered June 6, 2020, to marchers in Westcliffe, Colorado by Rev. Yevette Christy.
Christy’s speech was delivered after a group of Black Lives Matter marchers walked through a counter-protest where they were mocked with chants of “I can’t breathe.” Christy, in tears, after walking through the counter-protesters, then spoke to BLM marchers.
On these far-off main streets, there is pride in these quaint but so often overlooked towns. To just think of small town and rural Colorado as blue or red as either ideologically conservative or socially liberal is to not understand these places.
To remember the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “Perhaps remember – even if only for a time – that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek – as we do – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”
Being in the wrong clique, whether based on race, politics, family, or identity, is a daily part of small-town life even though you “know everyone.” Being black, brown, Indigenous, LBGTQ, even being the wrong kind of white – feeling marginalized brings a different kind of isolation.
Speaking out in these communities can mean being ostricized, retaliated against, or bring threats of violence. And then there’s the fear of who will fight for justice when the community doesn’t want to hear unpleasant truths?
In Westcliffe and other small towns across Colorado, there are no street takeovers and no mass rallies. Just because the streets aren’t filled with people clashing with police doesn’t mean what happens here is no less important. One life impacted, whether that is a person or color or a police officer can tear a small community apart just as it does in big cities.
I would encourage you to “hear” the words written and spoken by Rev. Christy as they go beyond a speech to a declaration – to listen, to understand, to join heal as allies for “justice for all.”
-John Rodriguez, Publisher of PULP Colorado
Originally posted online. Used with permission from Rev. Christy.
Rev. Yevette Christy, pastor of Community United Methodist Church, addressed the Black Lives Matter marchers last Saturday at the conclusion of the march, in the west parking lot of Custer County Schools. Pastor Vette’s remarks follow:
Good Morning, I’m so grateful that you showed up today, each of you. I want you to know that in showing up to march, to protest, we have taken the first step towards acknowledging the sins of our nation, the abuse and misuse of brown bodies, the cultural trauma and residual impact that we are continually witnessing, whether it’s a white woman in the park or a white officer with his knee on a black man’s neck. It is time to stop saying “there is no problem.”
We are here today to declare that we are committed to undoing our national, historical narrative of dissonance, hatred and violence. We are here to ask, to consider, “How can we heal? How can you, my white brothers, and sisters, acknowledge that being white in America has advantages and being black in America has its disadvantages, and begin doing the work of justice and advocacy?”
My friends we have been in a civil war for over 500 years and today we are crying out, “No more. No more violence, no more death, no more fear, no more hate. We will do the work of dismantling the lies. We will do the work of tearing down antiquated systems that serve only to divide us, to keep us squabbling among ourselves while the powers that be continually map out battle fields that never truly existed. Stop fighting for a minute and look up, you’ll see we are battling within an illusion of hate, of superiority and inferiority that doesn’t belong to us.” This is a difficult work, a complex work, but today we have been called, today is the day of reckoning.
Today, we stand here, prepared to acknowledge that black people are dying violent deaths at the hand of law enforcement officers gone rogue. Today, we stand here, prepared to acknowledge that black people endure a level of psychological warfare, racism that you in your whiteness cannot understand. But, that doesn’t excuse you from trying.
Today, we stand here, prepared to acknowledge that if we are criminalizing Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd or Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner or Sandra Bland, you’re probably racist. If you’re offended by “Black Lives Matter,” you’re probably racist. If you’re more outraged about the “lawlessness” of property damage than the black men and women who have been struck down, unarmed, by fatal force, you are probably racist. If your idea of patriotism excludes or minimizes the sacrifices of brown and black bodies, and idealizes an anthem and a flag over and against the real pursuit of liberty and justice for all, you’re racist.
So, do the symbols mean anything if we aren’t living into what they represent? Does this nation not value the virtue of integrity? Does this nation not value being whole and undivided? Are we okay with just spouting iconic messages with no desire to live into them?
I don’t ask these hard questions in order to be hateful, to be mean; I ask them because until we call it, until we admit it, until we say it out loud, then there can be no recovery, no healing. When we are honest, then we can do the work of addressing who we are, individually, communally, and nationally. If we are sincere, if we are deliberate, the veils that cover our hearts and the scales that dim our sight can be systematically deconstructed. This is why we are here today, to begin the work of confession, release, healing and reconciliation.
To be an ally you must know the story, you must study the history, you must know the cases, and then you can discern the lies and actively engage your black and brown brothers and sisters with understanding, and empathy. So, let’s stop being immature, and being offended by someone else saying that their life matters.
We must stop ignoring racism in American, we must stop being selfish, only looking at current events from our side of the fence. Come over here, where I am.
Let’s do the work, stop being lazy, seeing the world, and each other, from lenses we did not craft, nor challenge. We have accepted a narrative of fear, distrust, and hate. It’s time to reject it and rebuild, rebuild with love, a love that goes beyond sweet sentiments and calls us into radical change. Let us rebuild with honesty, moral and ethical accountability, and advocacy. Not an emotional advocacy that comes and goes with the most recent tragedy, but advocacy that keeps the conversation going, and the unifying work of equity as a constant priority.
We are not enemies.
We are allies.
Come over here, where I am; let’s do the work of understanding our collective trauma and aggressively pursue a way that leads to peace and justice for all.