To LMM Staff, Board, Volunteers, Supporting Partners,
I am grateful for this opportunity to recall the history of LMM’s genesis and some perspective on LMM’s “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God“ movement.
I hope this sharing has relevance for the present pandemic and Black Lives Matter emergence that challenge LMM as a continuing justice advocate and ministry with the hurting and oppressed.
LMM was formed as a response to the virus of racism, exposed in the Hough riots of 1966 and the vandalizing of the home of a Lutheran Black family. A group of Lutheran lay and clergy, spurred by these events, took action to form, through an agency, a means for Lutherans of Northeast Ohio to collaborate in anti-racism witness and action.
Initial efforts of the fledgling ministry, led by Rev. Richard Sering and two Black staff, started an effort to mobilize support for Black business entrepreneurship and an education outreach into Lutheran congregations and schools to raise awareness of racism and its continued operative presence. Funding for LMM was endangered when Harllel Jones, Black founder and leader of The Afro Set organization, assisted in this outreach.
By 1972, an ecumenical coalition to establish an LMM ministry supporting persons returning to the community from incarceration and challenging racist patterns and practices within the criminal justice system was mobilized.
LMM’s justice advocacy and resulting services have had a significant influence on systemic injustice and personal lives. Its imprints, perhaps forgotten, including many others, are LEAP, statewide Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, Near West Theatre, and Dominion’s heating support programs for low-income residents.
Today, the tragic, needless deaths of men and women of color by police and white thuggery once again confront us with the virus of racism that still infects the life of our nation.
The present outpouring of frustration, anger, grief focuses on the culture, the actions, the roles of community policing. However, the sordid history of racism and ensuing legalized policies and practices continue to inflict people of color. They have severely faced exclusionary barriers and limits to opportunities to improve their quality of life while those opportunities have been readily available to whites.
As a nation, we have never owned up to our sordid past. In fact, we sanitized it. Lynching has still never been declared a crime by Congress! White privilege is difficult for many to comprehend and accept. Its reality is expressed in a quote by James Baldwin, “Every white person in this country, no matter what he or she says, knows one thing. They would not want to be Black here. If they know that, they know everything they need to know. And whatever else they may say is a lie.”
Those of us who are white are not called to wallow in guilt over the country’s historic racism, but rather, to responsibly challenge injustice today. If the lives of people of color do not matter substantively and authentically can we honestly affirm that all lives matter.
So keep on, LMM, as a dynamic advocate and ally with our sisters and brothers of color in making a beloved community of right-relationships a liberating, life-giving reality for all.
Keep on, all of us!
– Rev. George Hrbek