All white clergy apologizes ‘to the African American community for slavery and its aftermath’ at Lansing event

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“As white Christians, we repent of our complicity in the belief in white supremacy: the belief that people of European descent are superior in intelligence, skills, imagination, and perseverance.” This statement was made in unison by an all-white group of Lansing clergy to fellow clergy of color.

In his welcome speech and opening prayer, Reachout Christian Center’s Pastor David Foreman introduced a gathering of an all-white clergy who were present to “apologize for the sins of slavery and its aftermath,” as well as a presentation on a reparations model pledged by majority white houses of worship in Lansing.

Hosted by the Justice League of Greater Lansing, the Jan. 28 event was held to “repair the breach caused by centuries of slavery, inequality of wealth accumulation, and the failure to live into God’s Plan of equality for all of humanity,” said a public flyer from the JLGLM released to attendees of the ceremony. 

The group was founded in June 2021 by JLGLM’s vice president Willye Bryan. According to the organization’s website, the Justice League is a faith-based organization that makes “the connection between faith and racial justice in the form of reparations.”

Prince Solace initiating the service and introducing each member of the organization who will speak to the audience.
Prince Solace began the service and introduced each member of the organization who spoke to the audience. Photo: Emily Eiges.

Prince Solace, President of the JLGLM, thanked the crowd for their presence in such a pivotal moment for the community. 

“Thank you, everyone, for showing up on your Saturday afternoon to acknowledge such a wonderful and necessary occasion,” Solace said. 

He introduced the JLGLM and share its mission with the audience before Bryan made her appearance on stage. 

Willye Bryan speaks at the Reachout Christian Center and Church during the apology for slavery.
Photo: Emily Eiges
Willye Bryan spoke at the Reachout Christian Center and Church during the apology for slavery.
Photo: Emily Eiges

“African Americans have never had an apology for slavery,” Bryan said, adding that the majority forgets the African American community is hurting to this day. As an example, Bryan addresses COVID-19

“We acted on a resolution to racism as a public health crisis,” said Bryan. 

With a population over 112,000 people (2021), Lansing, MI is a predominantly white city, with only about 27,000 people who identify as Black in comparison to the estimated 66,000 people who identify as white.

COVID-19 was a dangerous time for the African American population due to hardships affecting their access to resources during the pandemic while being neglected socially and fiscally. 

Following Bryan, the Rev. Stanley Jenkins said the audience was there for the same reason and to let it be what unifies them; they all share the same faith and values. 

“There is no white church or black church, there is just church,” said Jenkins. “This is an amazing thing.” 

The Rev. Stanley Jenkins led the white clergy in the apology to the African American community in the audience. Photo: Emily Eiges

“We acknowledge that this belief in white supremacy has been the foundation of, and an excuse for, atrocities against people of African descent in the United States and in the world. We repent of our failure to recognize and take responsibility for the legacy of slavery,” the group said.

They apologized for failing the community, not acknowledging the potential for a loving relationship, and turning a blind eye to racial injustice. 

After Jenkins and the surrounding clergy members finished reading their apology, applause rang through the church as people stood and clapped, showing support for the group’s effort to confront the matter of reparations and discrimination.

“It was a very emotional and spiritual moment for me,” said Terrence King, a pastor at Kingdom Ministries and advisory council member of JLGLM. “The legacy of slavery continues to impact U.S. history… this is a great start, but we must endeavor to live out the words of the apology.”

Michigan State Democratic Senator Sarah Anthony hugged Prince Solace after being introduced to speak.
Photo by: Katie Finkbeiner

Michigan state Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) spoke about her experience as an audience member to the ceremony, “to sit and absorb an apology was special.” Anthony, who was elected in November, congratulated the group of clergy, “you’ve done today what people in the hallways don’t have the power to.”

Toward the end of the service, members of the church spoke in open discussion about what the apology meant to them and the impact it holds. 

“I see you [the white clergy] as those who helped the Harriet Tubmans in the world,” said Annie Foreman, wife of Pastor David Foreman. 

As members bonded over shared experiences, the atmosphere in the church became very intimate while people in the audience nodded and made comments in agreement. 

Leola (Lee) Taylor, spoke of her family moving to the North after seeing a police officer kill a young Black man who suffered a seizure and fell on a white man. 

“For people who say there is no need for reparations, or events like this, I would say ‘listen to more stories’,” King said in response. 

These experiences serve as a reminder of how recent these events are and how they will continue without acknowledgment, Jenkins said. 

“To be able to give back to the city, specifically to my community, is an honor,” said Solace, closing the ceremony.

Kingdom Ministries will host a conference Feb. 25, Solace said. The conference will have faith leaders “assist in leading, ‘an intergenerational dialogue on the legacy of slavery, it’s the aftermath and the role of the church’.”

To learn more about the Justice League of Greater Lansing, additional information can be found on the organization’s website