Last December, in the basement meeting room of Clarendon Road Church, the 67
Precinct Clergy Council, the self-dubbed “God Squad”, met to discuss their annual report and reminisce in their success stories of the culminating year. Local politicians Yvette Clark, Diana Richardson, representatives from then Council Member Williams’ office, the Mayors office of Criminal Justice, and brass from the 67
Precinct were in attendance for the main event. One by one they recounted to those congregated of the incredible “intervention” work being done in E. Flatbush to reduce gang related gun violence. They each rattled off statistics related to how many guns were taken off the street; reduced deaths compared to the previous year, and congratulated one another as the litany of speeches continued. During their presentations these clergymen lobbied for additional funds and the pols pledged to “do more”, naturally. Why not? Ultimately, those funds see their way back into campaign donations from non-profits they support and lead. No possible conflict of interest there, right?
As I sat through the Q & A, I wondered why there would be cause for such celebration? I asked the white Lieutenant; Of the guns confiscated how many resulted in the arrest of black boys? Suddenly the room fell silent. The black officers and sergeants scowling and cringing looked on. I continued; Were 100% of your arrest black men that can’t afford bail? One member pastor of the God Squad shouted, “They are criminals!”
The New Year brought us news of Clevins Valcin, a 21-year-old young man shot in Flatbush Gardens, and earlier this year 15 year old Haitian immigrant Samuel Joseph murdered on Flatbush Avenue. In East New York Tyquan Eversley was chased by ten gang members and ruthlessly murdered while caught on a barbed wire. The 67
Precinct Clergy Council is ubiquitously present for these post-shooting interventions. With their fearless leader, Pastor Gil Monrose of Mt. Zion Seventh Day Adventist Church, they shout nonsensical prayers out of bullhorns on street corners, offering “support” for the grieving mothers and fathers, and cheap advice to the wind.
As a Christian I am reminded of the story of Jairus, an established ruler in the Roman Jewish community. As his sick daughter edged closer to death, he pleaded with Jesus to save her. When Jesus arrived to his home the mourners greeted him weeping and shouting over the dead girl. Jesus asked, “Why the commotion, for the girl is not dead, she is asleep”. It says the mourners laughed hysterically and mocked Jesus, so he put them out of the house, but retained the girls’ parents and his disciples to perform his miracle of raising the girl from the dead.
In those days it was customary to hire professional mourners. They were not family, but rather paid actors weeping for the grieving. The “God Squad” is todays equivalent of the professional mourners. The “God Squad” works alongside the police to help arrest black men, while pretending to grieve with our community at every convenient photo op. They laugh with our oppressors, while seeking taxpayer funding to continue pimping this cycle of violence and lament among the “fatherless and the widows”.
Isaiah 9 v.16 says: “The leaders of these people cause them to err, and they that are led of them are destroyed”. We must reject the clergy in our community that call themselves leaders. They are not! How can we as Christians rationalize the spirit of G-d invested in clergy that participate in condemning our black boys, then stand back and feign sorrow. No! Like Jesus, we must put these mourners out – out of our homes, and out of business! If we are to perform the miracle of raising our children from the certain death of gang and gun violence, we must rebuke the spirit of mourning, and we must summon the promises of G-d. This is no task for the meek. It is misguided to rely on the false prophets that lead the God Squad to solve this problem. Our political and religious leaders in E. Flatbush have failed us.
Instead, let us consider, like the story of Jairus, that saving our youth is the work of parents and disciples. It is the work of our business community, and depends only on the investments and sacrifices we must make as parents and leaders to provide education alternatives, training, jobs and guidance for our youth. This is the only way to strike at the root causes of gang and gun violence. Instead of waiting to mourn for our children, let us consider that it is our responsibility and the calling of the black Christian community to leave a legacy of knowledge, values, and promise that will save our kids and our people’s future.
by Lou Cespedes