The Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty held their 10th Interfaith Poverty Conference at Rhode Island College Wednesday morning, featuring Reverend Traci Blackmon as the keynote speaker. Blackmon, a powerful and moving speaker, is the executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries for the United Church of Christ.
Reverend Blackmon was introduced by Pastor Chantell Washington of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, who referred to Blackmon as one of the most sought after speakers in the nation, a distinction Blackmon modestly denied.
“I refuse to stand by and see children who are unhoused and children who are hungry because your behavior is unacceptable,” said Blackmon, rousing the crowd. “I refuse to stand by and watch children assassinated in the street because your love for guns is greater than your love for God. I refuse to stand by and watch black and brown people marginalized in this country because you have created a God of Whiteness instead of a God of Justice.
“Not on my watch!”
You can watch the full video below:
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During a question and answer period toward the end of the event, Blackmon spoke about how to deal with family divisions over controversial topics such as President Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter. Her wide ranging answer even took on the question of Christian privilege:
“I am privileged as a Christian in the United States of America,” said Blackmon. “The whole country bows to my religious calendar. The entire country acknowledges my way of thinking about God and God-talk. It is a privilege to be a Christian in the United States. And it’s often overlooked because it is the water in which we swim.”
Maxine Richman, from the steering committee of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, began the conference and provided the opening words.
The opening prayer was courtesy of Mufti Ikram ul Haq from Masjid Al-Islam in North Smithfield.
The opening song was led by Delbert Leon Collins, music director of RPM Voices Rhode Island. RPM stands for “Reaching People through Music.”
Rabbi Alan Flam took a moment to talk about ending housing discrimination based on source of income. Senate bill 2301 and House bill 7528 would prevent landlords from rejecting tenants because they would use government vouchers to pay rent.
After Blackmon’s keynote speech those in attendance were broken into four workshops: Housing is a Human Right, Caring for Children, Race and Poverty, and Fair Pay – Fair Employment.
After the workshops the entire body reconvened for Blackmon’s Q & A (above) and the conference was closed out. (see below)
Victoria Strang, director and lead organizer of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty.
Reverend Betsy Aldrich Garland led the closing prayer.
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