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Bishop’s Weekly Message – June 25, 2021

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A Call for the Establishment of a Reparations Task Force in the State of New Jersey
Opening Remarks and Invocation

Bishop Stokes delivered this invocation to begin the “Say the Word: Reparations” rally on the steps of Newark City Hall on June 19—Juneteenth. Watch the video here.
video still of bishop invocation
Bishop Stokes offers the invocation at the “Say the Word: Reparations” rally on the steps of Newark City Hall on Juneteenth 2021

ECS Briefing – NJISJ Slide Deck W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote, “Nations reel and stagger on their way; they make hideous mistakes; they commit frightful wrongs; they do great and beautiful things. And shall we not best guide humanity by telling the truth about all this, so far as the truth is ascertainable?” (W. E. B. Du Bois – Black Reconstruction in America—1935).

After more than 400 years of brutal history and oppression, it is time for us as a state and a nation to face the enduring, deep and living scars of slavery and take meaningful steps toward reparative justice recognizing that, in truth, the wrongs of our history can never be made fully right. However, the challenge for us as a nation and a state today is to acknowledge that the legacy and effects of slavery continue to live on in the structures and systems of our present society benefiting one segment of our society while continuing to debilitate another and so we pray, lament, protest, and cry out for justice.

Let us pray:

Gracious God, source and creator of all life; you made us in your image, yet too often we have violated your intentions for us and for your creation. As we commemorate Juneteenth today, we recall the original American sins of White Supremacy and slavery that not only marked and marred this nation and this state at inception, but also birthed ongoing violence and injustice against the human dignity of Black Americans and other persons of color.

With deep sadness and remorse, we acknowledge that these have corrupted and infected all the institutions, systems, and structures of our nation. And so on this first commemoration of Juneteenth as a State and Federal holiday, we gather today to lament and to demand as citizens that the state of New Jersey, a state which has too often been on the wrong side of history, commit itself to a long-overdue process of reckoning with its painful past, knowing that we cannot be made well as a people until we engage in this difficult yet necessary work of truth-telling and confession.

Toward this end, gracious God, we implore you to turn the hearts of Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin, the members of the Legislature, and Governor Murphy to not only say the word “reparations,” which they have thus far been unable to say, but also to take the necessary steps they have thus far been unwilling to take, to form a Reparations Task Force for the State of New Jersey that through such a task force we may begin to realize as a people the cry and demand of Amos that “. . . justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an ever-rolling stream” (5:24). Amen.

Bishop Stokes and the marchers who left from the Diocese of Newark to march in the “Say the Word: Reparations” rally on Juneteenth 2021