REFLECTIONS

Here is a beautiful witness to an uncommon friendship formed from a Vigil. Please watch Somebody in your Corner

Listen to Joslin’s Story

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Reflection on Prayer Vigil
By Laurie Maberry
August 2010

I will never forget the day that I went to my first ever prayer vigil in the fall of 2008. There were probably 20 or so people there. The people there seemed to be people gathered for a common purpose to grieve this life and honor the person who was murdered, but probably wouldn’t be found hanging out together on the weekends. I was struck by all of our differences in race, dress, speech, socio-economic status, and occupations, yet amongst our differences there was so much commonality—in our humanity, our grief, our desire for peace, our pain, and our love. After the prayer vigil service, people from the neighborhood where this homicide happened were able to speak up about this injustice. It was a rare opportunity for them to have a voice, and never in my life had I felt such horror for what they have experienced in their life that I have never have. . . a violent intentional death. The trauma they experienced seemed to just flow from everyone’s lips “when my sister was shot, when my father was shot and killed, when my nephew . . .” I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had never lost anyone violently in my life; everyone in my life whom I have loved has died from cancer, a rare disease, old age, or a car accident. I truly had NO IDEA what that felt like to not only grieve but to have the anger and injustice boil within you. I left the vigil crying for them, crying for myself and my ignorance, crying for peace, crying for all those loved and lost violently. I was changed. I was moved. I will never be the same.



Listen to Travis’ Story

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Ron Landfried on Reconciliation and Reentry Ministry

Delivered at November 2010 meeting of Peace and Reconciliation Mission Group, Watts Street Baptist Church, Durham, NC.

I have tried to collect some of my thoughts and lessons learned from the Reconciliation and Reentry Ministry.

Years ago, Marcia was staying in touch with the local media, as a good nonprofit director should. That is how I first heard about this unique post-prison ministry. It is also how I met a wonderful friend!

I was soon captivated with the idea of Reconciliation and Reentry Ministry as an opportunity to grab the near edge of a great problem, as Mel says. [Rev. Mel Williams, pastor of Watts Street Baptist Church] Put simply, the great problem is the huge number of black males who are incarcerated, and all the other problems that shoot out from it. The near edge of the problem is getting involved to help one person at a time break that cycle.

I’ve worked with three partners on faith teams from this church. The members of the team have changed each time. Each partner has been an African American male who was recently released from prison after spending years there.

Our new partner is a departure, a woman who has not served a long sentence. But after the team met with her recently, I see this as another chance to make a new friend, and for all involved to benefit.

As I first got involved in this ministry, I was not sure if I was learning anything. It did not seem like much was happening. But over the years, as one of our partners was murdered and others went on to succeed and stay out of prison, I realized that I was having little epiphanies along the way.

We know that God forgives sins, and that we also should forgive our brothers and sisters and ourselves. This ministry will test your capacity for forgiveness as opposed to judgment. On a faith team, my view is to forgive, forgive and forgive again. We may explain our differing viewpoint, but we forgive.

The partner has served his or her sentence as levied by society. Our faith team is like an ad hoc welcome home committee of forgiveness.

Faith teams are necessary, because in truth, society does not actually ever forgive a felony conviction, even after the sentence is long finished. One of the main ongoing penalties is that when our partners seek jobs, doors close.

I have also learned that faith team members need to be patient.
The partner will initially question our motives. He or she will wonder, why do all these white people care about me?

One attitude that will confirm the partner’s stereotype is if a faith team member comes to the table with a judgmental attitude. If you come expecting to instruct the partner in the right way to live, it is not going to work.

The partner must understand that we are here simply to help and support you in making good decisions, not to judge. Within that atmosphere, a level of trust will develop, as it does between friends.

This ministry is about creating intentional friendships. Faith team members decide, I am going to make friends with this person, whom I normally would never meet or interact with.

And in every friendship, there are hills and valleys. There will be times you will be annoyed with your friend, and other times you will be overjoyed to see him.

Members should also be prepared for a culture shock. You will learn about another Durham, mostly black and mostly poor, where drug abuse is common, where street gangs are common, where dropping out of school is common, where many families have several members in prison, where many families have had members shot or killed.

This Durham bears little resemblance to the Durham that most of us live in. And yet it exists, right across the street.

I often think, if this was the situation for our families, we would never tolerate it. We would be taking action today to turn things around.

There would be community meetings and task forces. Taxes might even be raised to do something about it.

But we do not feel the urgency, we do not feel the misery of our neighbors as if it were our own, because we are not close enough.

Just as in the days before civil rights, there are still divisions, racial and economic, that keep us separate.

This ministry is one way to start to mend those divisions, one person at a time.

What happens is really not very complicated. We get together, we share our problems and challenges, we try to help when we can. We have a meal, we pray. We go to a ballgame. Sometimes we help get a driver’s license or go to a court appointment for moral support. We celebrate victories and milestones and we sympathize with setbacks.

The best part was that whenever I was spending time with a partner, even if it was a frustrating time, I always felt a strong and sure sense that I was where God wanted me to be.

Thank you!

Todd Maberry – Reflection on Reconciliation and Reentry Ministry
August 2010

The faith teams are an interesting experiment where two separate worlds collide. Nothing could have prepared the Refuge for its encounter with its partner. The Refuge is made up of mainly white middle-class educated Americans. Our partner, along with her mother, were two people who had been cast aside and deemed worthless by society. Before they were even born, their lives were shaped by the evils of racism and generational poverty. Bringing these two worlds together is not something that is supposed to happen in our society that would rather keep everyone separate.
After attending our partner’s court hearing and covenanting to be present in her life, the members of Refuge entered a new world that they did not have the eyes to see previously. Immediately it became clear that there was much to do. Our partner was no longer attending school and needed to be tutored to continue her education. She was a pregnant teenager who needed support and supplies. Involvement in their lives soon revealed other problems such as addictions and patterns of irresponsibility. The Refuge quickly become overwhelmed in realizing the effort it would take to make this family more like us.

The year of relationship was filled with many highs and lows, joys and sorrows. A baby shower was thrown to celebrate and prepare for the new life. One member of Refuge stayed right by our partner’s side throughout the many hours of labor and provided for her every need. On the other hand, new difficulties and problems seemed to pop up almost weekly. Differences in age and culture quickly revealed that the relationship would not come naturally or easily.

After a year, the experiment ended in failure, at least from one perspective. On the surface, not much has changed. The Refuge is still middle class, educated and white. Our partner and her mother are still struggling to survive, trapped in the same patterns. And yet, maybe the point of the whole experiment was not that it would end in success. Maybe there is something incredible and profound in simply knowing one another; that the two worlds did collide. At the very least, the Refuge learned that the answers to the problems in our world will not be solved by simply remaking others into our own image. The experience taught us the importance of seeing the image of God in everyone. The seeds for transformation have been planted, and in time those seeds may bear fruit. But the meantime, this failure became a new kind of success, a kind of success that can only understood by those who have encountered God in the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.

Video about RCND executive director Marcia Owen

Our current executive director is Marcia Owen. She is a Durham native, graduate of Duke University, former sales and marketing manager, member of United Methodist Church, and in addition to her contracted duties continues to be an active volunteer with the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham since joining the Coalition in 1993.

A Letter from Glenda Fowler in honor of her son Kareem Fowler. April 9, 2013

Hi. My name is Glenda Fowler, the mother of Kareem Fowler who was murdered April16, 2010 folowing his 33rd birthday. Unless this has happened to you then you can’t imagine the impact this has had on my life, Kareem’s family and his two children.

He was a wonderful son, father, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend. Kareem was also a scholar at Strayer University. Kareem was not here to receive his degree so they presented it to me posthumously and named a place in their library in his honor. I donated his books for students in need. What an honor!

During my time of grieving, and it still continues even today, I met a wonderful woman, Marcia Owen, director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. She and the organization have been a blessing to me – crying with me and being with me during the court meetings and trial. Her love and all those in the coalition’s love is just outstanding.

Just recently she joined me to honor my son’s birthday on 4/2/13 with a very personal gesture that I would have done alone. But as busy as she is she insisted that she go with me so I wouldn’t be alone. I put red silk flowers in the ground where my son was shot to death 5 times.

Marcia has become a significant person in my life. Just her phone calls and “I love you, Honey,” concern for my grandchildren and family is outstanding. This organization not only nurtures me but hundreds of others in the Durham Community as witnessed at the first Annual Vigil I attended in February. The people were loving and compassionate toward those of us who have lost loved ones to violence. I am so happy that this organization has taken me and my family under their wings and continue to encourage us and most of all Love and show Love.

What a great organization! I’d love to write more but this is just a short view of their good deeds.

Sincerely,
Glenda T. Fowler