On 5.14.22: An Open Letter to White Clergy

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

On Saturday, May 14, 2022, driving home from the ‘sun-down’ town of Orchard Park, New York, I started to receive texts, calls and Facebook messages from family and friends asking me if I was safe. There had been a shooting in Buffalo. Firstly, there had recently been an increase in gun violence in Buffalo, and I assumed this incident was more of the same. Secondly, I was currently on a highway that takes me in a literal circle around the city of Buffalo to a second ‘sun-down’ town called Kenmore, New York, where I live on a quiet, tree-lined street with my dog. Yes, those of us who live, work, and pray in the suburbs surrounding Buffalo, marked ourselves as ‘safe’ from gun violence on that day.

On Saturday, May 14th, eighteen-year-old Payton S. Gendron from Conklin, New York traveled over three hours to the Tops Friendly Markets grocery store on Jefferson Avenue on the East Side of Buffalo, New York to kill African American people. Gendron chose the community based on the zip code and had carried out reconnaissance to learn the busiest time of the week to inflict the greatest harm. Gendron killed ten African American people and injured many others. His act of terror was premeditated, unflinchingly targeted and racist; and he live-streamed his violence.

On Wednesday, May 18th , I participated in a prayer vigil held by the historically black Episcopal Church in Buffalo, St. Philip’s down near the site of the mass violence. This would be the first of many trips I would make to the area in the past two weeks. There was an eerie hush like being in a war zone or the aftermath of a natural disaster. The streets around the grocery store had been blocked off to traffic and there was heavy police presence everywhere. Various organizations lined the streets with (sometimes makeshift) donation stations to hand out free food. Tops was an oasis in a food desert, there was a push to get food to people in the area.

A team of comfort dogs and handlers roamed the area. There were news anchors conducting interviews, politicians and several members of the Buffalo Bills taking selfies with people – and an occasional outburst of anguish or laughter. Staff persons from Starbucks handed out free coffee from a card table. This was a crazy mixture of a military zone, a defiant, celebratory, street-fair and a mass, black church funeral. 

The parking area around Tops Friendly Markets was lined with police tape, and surrounded by tributes of stuffed animals, flowers, cards, and candles. Someone left a note printed on yellow paper, which simply said “stop racism”. We sang “Amazing Grace” and read the names of the people who had been killed. I comforted a young man who wept openly. I felt so small and helpless.

Those who spoke at the vigil seem to understand the deep roots of this tragedy beyond the loss of life. East Side neighborhoods of Buffalo are choked off from resources, jobs, adequate public transportation, fresh air, and fresh food. White supremacy is the mechanism through which segregation is maintained and black suffering is permitted. Segregation allowed a young white man to find victims by zip code. Segregation is violence; segregation is sin.

In Luke 23, Jesus, flanked by two criminals, is hanging on the cross and being ridiculed by those passing by. One of the criminals joins in with the mockery. The other stands up for Jesus and holds himself accountable for his own wrongdoing. By asking Jesus to remember him, the second man acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah while also asking for forgiveness. Jesus then welcomes the criminal into the Kingdom.

What we learn through Jesus’s interaction with the penitent thief is that it is never too late to repent. Repentance involves turning away from sin. If the events of the past few years or even this past week, have helped you to understand white privilege for the first time, then this is your opportunity to turn things around. It is not too late. We need you in the struggle. There is no need for perfection. The situation simply calls for a commitment to doing what is right even when it is hard.

Begin where you are. And start with yourself. With the deepest compassion, find those spaces within yourself where you believe that white life is more valuable or see whiteness as the standard or the norm. Segregation is sin, but so is apathy. See if there are ways that you disregard or dismiss the pain of others. By working on yourself first, you will be better equipped to help others get there. Next, white clergy and all white people of faith must flood predominately white communities with messages of love and redemption. Why are white supremacists better able to reach young adults like Payton S. Gendron than we are? Gendron is not a monster; he is another victim of white supremacy. And we are as responsible to him as we are to black victims. This young man is not alone in his conviction that you condone his behavior and agree with his beliefs.

Now is the time for all of us to be bold and courageous witnesses for Jesus Christ. We all must commit to the challenging and uncomfortable work of excavating white supremacy from hearts and minds, our communities, our streets, our churches, our government, and our nation.  

With love,

Gabrie’l J. Atchison

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Note: The placard reads “The heartfelt mementos and gifts left in honor of the victims of May 14th have been respectfully removed to prepare for Buffalo’s inclement weather. The mementos will be taken to the Buffalo Historical Museum for preservation as part of a community wide collection initiative.

A permanent memorial will be built at the site in the summer of 2023.


Anticipation involves eagerly awaiting that which promises to be remarkable. The last few weeks have been filled with nail-biting anticipation as election results were being revealed. This year of Covid-19, economic uncertainty and racial tensions has been a rollercoaster we never signed up to ride. Many of us are looking with anticipation to a new year, desperate to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. 

Over the next few weeks, Christian churches all over the world will enter the Advent Season. Advent, also a time of anticipation, allows us to consider three things. First, we consider the anticipation of the birth of a child, a feeling to which many parents can relate. However, this child was also eagerly awaited by a handful of people who understood and believed the words of the prophets. For them, Jesus represented the fulfillment of God’s promise. For us, Jesus represents the light in the darkness, God’s affinity with the poor and suffering, and the end of the separation between humankind and God. Second, Advent celebrates a living God concerned with our day to day endeavors – a parent/protector, friend, and comforter. Jesus Christ in the now symbolizes an openness of love, faith and joy; and an urgency to be God’s only hands – seeking out and caring for those in need. And finally, Advent anticipates Jesus’s return, a time of peace and justice, when all pain and suffering are in the rearview mirror. 

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we will all have to celebrate Advent, Christmas, and perhaps even Easter remotely. However, with this crisis comes the opportunity for more people to participate in worship services –creating unforeseen possibility for new connections. If you are “unchurched” – one of millions of American Christians who do not regularly attend church services – you can participate online during Advent this year as a way to feel connected (or reconnected) to a community. All of us can use this time as an excuse to be less rigid about the meaning of Advent and embrace this spirit of anticipation! Ask yourself, “What makes me feel hopeful?”, “Can I clear what I don’t need – namely, regret, fear and an unforgiving spirit – from my heart?”; and, “How can I bring a little light into the lives of others?” 

As the days get shorter and the weather colder, we will spend more energy managing the darkness. Driving around, I draw inspiration from the Christmas lights that brighten our city. Jesus is the light that cannot be vanquished by darkness. Spend time anticipating the hope and promise, love, and light in the world during this Advent Season. 

Image by Jeniffer, Wai Ting Tan from Pixabay

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Be safe out there! – GA

The Folly of Hope

Trump exposed all our fault lines due to systemic racism, class exploitation and greed. His initial election and very close re-election should act as a clarion call for us to enact sweeping and lasting social change.

“We can disagree and still love each other. Unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” –James Baldwin.

Now that the election is over and it becomes more and more clear that Trump’s feigned concern about ‘voter fraud’ is simply the preview episode of his new reality show featuring nepotism, greed, grift and corruption, I vow to stop paying attention to this very small person who has occupied my blogspace for the last four years. At some point in my process, I had turned my ire away from Trump and toward his enablers.

Trump is not the all-powerful, baby-King that the media (including the Liberal media) has puffed him up to be. Is Trump racist? Perhaps, but in my opinion, Trump has no organizing principle or long-term, sustained goal. His level of extreme narcissism makes him only concerned with himself. Case in point, his brother died while he was in office and nothing. His wife and two of his sons have Covid-19, no response. The lyrics of one Arrested Development song put it this way,

Most of the persons follow the serpent
Cause the serpent preaches all for self
But why follow someone in search of something
When you’ll get nothing
Serpent’s all for self

Trump is all for himself. One of his lasting legacies is our willingness to lean into this selfishness and lack of concern for others at the time when beating Covid-19 involves a collective sense of responsibility.

Trump has no agenda, but his Puppet Masters do. And even when he is gone, they will still be around. This election exposed in a raw and unrelenting way, how many people in positions of power feel like people of color simply do not have the right to vote. Old-timey voter suppression was subversive and coded in flowery language; this year, the GOP pulled out every trick in the book and at the end of the day just blatantly advocated for throwing out all of the votes in largely minority counties (or at least remained quiet while others said the quiet part out loud).

Trump exposed all our fault lines due to systemic racism, class exploitation and greed. His initial election and very close re-election should act as a clarion call for us to enact sweeping and lasting social change.

As a Progressive, I find Joe Biden significantly inadequate for the task at hand – so I’m going to be hard on him for a moment. [Before you get at me understand this – Whereas, Republicans are a party of lockstep; Democrats are and have always been a ne’er-do-well, rag-tag collective of street fighters. Joe knows that.] I do not like this stance of ‘forgive and forget’ – aka “bringing the country back together.” Nor do I think we should have spent so much energy trying to win back the hearts and minds of those who held their noses through all of Trump’s rhetoric, policies, law-bending actions and broken promises. The Democratic Party walked past so many better qualified presidential candidates, with creative ideas – who were inspiring to our base – to elect a man whose platform is centrist and apologetic. At the end of the day, I may be wrong. Maybe something palatable enough for rogue Republicans was the only path to victory. Time will tell where all of this compromise and acquiescence will lead us.

As far as I am concerned, Trump-ism needs to be destroyed at the root so it won’t have a chance to regroup and come back stronger in 2024.

I was bent out of shape by the idea that a good portion of our country still enjoys “The Trump Show” and wants him to do this for four more years. And then we won! And, magically that thought didn’t bother me as much. I like that our political pendulum swings from Republican to Democrat and back. If everyone gets a chance to vote – I respect the outcome (even if I really don’t like it). I have been saying for four years – this situation is beyond racism and beyond political “sides” – Trump is a lunatic, who is only concerned with himself. He was a dangerous and reckless president. My only hope is that many of those who did vote for Trump again did so more out of a support for the Republican Party than for this insanity. Truly, their lives are going to be much improved in short order.

They’ll see it!

Songwriters: Todd Thomas / Todd A. ThomasWashed Away lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Be safe out there – G.A.

The Cheese Stands Alone

As Americans, we all need to be on one side – with Donald Trump standing alone.

When Donald Trump was hospitalized for COVID-19, I found myself praying for his health and wellbeing. And, it did make me feel more than a little uncomfortable. His callous disregard for life and his willingness to draw out and publicly beat “low-hanging fruit,” should make me feel compassion for his many, many victims – and (perhaps a little) for those who support him, and maybe his wife and kid, instead of having concern for him. But, I cared, in spite of myself. His soul is a bottomless pit of emptiness. And because of that, I feel sorry for him. I can’t help it.

There is also a part of me that really needs this man alive, whole and healthy for the election. I need to believe that no matter what our differences may be in this country – that only a small sliver of the people who live here want to go through four more years (four more minutes) of a Trump presidency. I want to look back at these four years as a blemish on our country and not a sign of who we really are.

I no longer believe that there are “two sides” to our predicament. We should all be one side – one country – united in our repudiation of this man and his grift, nepotism, arrogance and crass behavior. We no longer have allies in the world and our weakness is making us vulnerable. I have come to value having a difference of opinion with people – on gay rights, on abortion, on race, religion – you name it! Never have we had to be threatened with death because we do not agree. The president of the United States said in so many words that those of us who live in “blue states” – that our deaths from COVID are inconsequential. Why? Because we didn’t vote for you? What about all those folks out here who did vote for you? No, there is just one side.

Donald Trump took the Republican Party down the drain with his behavior. I hope that they take this opportunity to cut him off and reclaim their party. There is no need for the party of small government to be saddled with racism – there are (or at least there were) many Latinx and Black Republicans. The Log Cabin Republicans are an LGBTQ affinity group! I don’t agree with their views, but I guess I get it! The party had an opportunity to go with the times – embrace diversity, bring in some women leaders. Instead, there was a push to return to a fictional time when America was great – great for a few and not for us all.

I am seriously hoping that once we are out of this dark moment, we become a country where the popular vote wins, and more and more people become Independents up and down the political spectrum. Can you imagine living in a country where the strongest candidate with the most votes becomes the president? What if we made every effort to make it easier not difficult (or impossible) for people to vote? I wouldn’t mind if politically, the pendulum continues to swing left and right like it once did – the fights for women’s rights, racial equity, LGBTQ+ freedoms and the rest keep us young – I think that’s an important part of who we are as a nation.

Donald Trump is openly stealing money from the American people, wantonly causing our deaths and lying to our faces. As Americans, we all need to be on one side – with Donald Trump standing alone. This election needs to be an utter and complete rejection of Trump and all he stands for. We’ll pick up the pieces, go back to our corners, and live to fight another day.


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Stay safe!

A Vision of Love

Indeed, as a black taxpayer, I feel like I am paying wolves to hunt me.

After moving to Buffalo, I made a set of new friends. Each is an activist driven by vision. One works with men of color to relinquish patriarchy, and another is focused on strategies around food waste and sustainability. One of my friends once talked about infusing love into the prisons and the other is helping churches become a refuge for migrant families. Being with people with vision has filled me with a desire to create a social justice vision for each cause I hold dear. I admit that I can get bogged down in fighting against what is wrong now, instead of imagining a future worth fighting for.

Someone gave me the phrase “peace in every body”. And, I may hitch all my future vision-making to that one statement.

Tonight, I want to imagine what a society would be like with policing organized around creating peace. Simply rehabilitating individual “bad cops” or even lots and lots of police through training wont matter at all if the criminal justice system remains unjust and unregulated. Like pouring new wine into old wineskins, we can’t simply rehabilitate police officers, we would have to change what we are and are not willing to tolerate in terms of policing, sentencing, bail, incarceration and the whole lot.

That said, I want to take it a step back to say that the cruelty, the violence and the humiliation we are seeing on the part of police officers within the black community are not aberrations of policing. These things are what policing is designed to do. Policing in America is primarily focused on the protection of property. Specifically, police work to protect property from black people. Even when the property (a nice car, a home in a good neighborhood, the public park) is public or is owned by the black person him/herself. For example, in the 1990’s police officers tended to pull over black men in nice cars using the justification that the car was most likely stolen. In a perverted way, white womanhood is also considered property or at least as a thing that needs to be protected from black men – an idea that was born in slavery and portrayed poignantly in the film “Birth of a Nation”. This idea has been perpetuated through time. It explains why so many white women have become empowered to call the police on black people to control their behavior. And it is the reason so many police officers answer that call. Thank God for cell phone cameras.

When Americans talk about being in a “safe” or “family-oriented” neighborhood or a “good” home, they mean they live where they predominately see white people. People of color (some who live there and some who do not) are routinely harassed in an effort to control and monitor their behavior in these spaces. Keeping black and brown people “in their place” then becomes the most important goal of everyone in the community in direct ways (through police harassment or brutality) or through the use of proxies (through behaviors of civilians like following, staring, using harassment or slurs, reporting people to ICE, or calling the police).  Way across town, the racial segregation is largely maintained through violence – even if you cannot see or do not witness the violence directly. In addition to walling people in through limited opportunities, diminishing job possibilities, low-quality public transportation, food deserts, poor schools, slow emergency response, and etc.; police officers create and maintain a line – a perimeter – around these spaces. And they watch and terrorize the poor and people of color to keep them from disrupting white comfort by straying too far from home. Even though you may not be able to see the line, the people who live in these communities know where it is and what it means.

Here’s the problem. Racial profiling does not keep crime from happening. Simply collecting black people who might break into your home won’t prevent someone from breaking into your home. In many ways, the false sense of security one feels from living in segregated communities, may make certain people more vulnerable to intra-racial forms of violence and abuse.

Back to the job of vision-making. What if policing put people over property? If necessary, I suppose, wealthy people could provide protection for their own property, and not rely on the tax payer to fund these efforts. Indeed, as a black taxpayer, I feel like I am paying wolves to hunt me. What if police were here to “protect and serve”? What if they could step in and protect people in domestic violence situations or rescue children from harm? What if they worked with communities and not against them? What if they had to live among the people where they worked? What if they met up with people at church, community outings, or at the bar? What if their children went to the same schools? Could they then tell the difference between George Floyd the funny, supportive, loving father/uncle/friend and George Floyd the “thug” who needed to be snuffed out face down on the street. Would closeness help people see the humanity in others?

Forgive me for making this gross over-generalization, but it seems that when women police, they tend to be better able to connect with people. Can we find ways to make space for more women in police forces? I don’t mean to get all Judeo-Christian on the topic either, but what about the concept of being a servant-leader? Nurses, doctors, teachers and many other professions require the kind of service that Jesus discusses where you show up to the job with of a sense of sacrifice and humility. Sometimes doctors may get a big head in their careers, but for the most part they are driven by a duty to heal. Is a career as a police officer drawing young men who once felt helpless and bullied? Can we find ways to help young men in general feel empowered in ways that are not focused on domination and control?

As social services and the safety net for the poor erodes, police are called on to do things that are clearly outside their purview. Could police officers partner with mediators, clergy or community activists? Every problem cannot be solved through force and incarceration. As we become more and more scared of each other, city budgets go into police departments and the militarization of police equipment while draining the resources for drug rehabilitation, mental health resources and summer youth employment. Some cities are trying to divert nonviolent offenders, especially young ones to alternative programs; however, these efforts need to be supported by police departments in order to be effective. The lives of police officers as well as the health of society are at stake if we do not make real structural changes.

Even as I am making the argument against training away racism from individuals, I do believe that police officers like anyone else in a service position, need to be reviewed and held accountable.

When I studied the sexual abuse of male children for a book project a number of years ago, I came across a study about clergy abuse. They found that some child predators “hid beneath the cloth” – meaning that they sought out careers as clergy so they could abuse children without being held accountable. For decades, the Catholic church simply moved abusive clergy around to different churches – often in inner cities – to hide the crimes of these men. Similarly, white supremacists and hate groups recognize that police officers who kill black people are not held accountable. These groups have been actively recruiting police officers and some members are becoming police officers. How many police officers are going to work everyday itching for an excuse to abuse, terrorize and murder black people? The thought that even one of these violent deaths was about an ideology rather than an escalation of events, terrifies me the most. We must hold police officers accountable and work to root out the infiltration of hate groups in these departments.

Anyone, regardless of their career choice, who kills an unarmed person, should be convicted of murder – just like everyone else who commits murder. If we cannot as a society stomach putting police officers who kill unarmed people in jail, they should no longer receive a pay check or pension from the city – and they certainly should never be allowed to hold a gun again. Police accountability keeps us all safer. Prosecutors, DAs and others often find it difficult to convict their friends, but I also believe that juries made up of good-meaning people with implicit racial biases are also to blame. We need to establish community boards made up of people from the communities where the police serve. These boards should be responsible for holding police officers accountable. I would think that police officers themselves would want to be at the forefront of culture shift and social change in criminal justice. Justice-based policing would make their lives safer as well. Whereas, I can respect the need for solidarity among police officers, once someone acts outside of protocol and becomes a menace to the community, they should no longer be protected by a “blue wall”.

It is hard to find a vision for policing now that the George Floyd/ Black Lives Matter protests are still happening and feelings are so raw. However, now would be a great time to use all our collective energy and creativity to make change. Otherwise we will find ourselves back here again the next time the black community does not receive justice for the killing of a black man, woman or child.


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Photo Credit –  King Walker stands in front of police officers and their supporters at the conclusion of a “Blue Lives Matter” rally in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 30, 2015. (Reuters / Jim Bourg) The Nation

#MeToo and the Tightrope of the Joe Biden Candidacy

I have said it before, and I stand on my principles. I believe all victim/survivors of sexual assault. I believe Tara Reade and all current and future people, who will emerge to tell us more that we don’t want to know about the character of Joe Biden. We are given a false choice in a #Metoo era to vilify and discard immediately anyone who is accused of being a perpetrator or accusing victim/survivors of being liars or opportunistic saboteurs. (We’re Liberals, so we won’t directly accuse her of lying, we’ll just ignore the double standards and “evaluate” Tara Reade’s claims before deciding that they are not credible. Perhaps adding that this #MeToo thing has gone too far.)

This situation with Joe Biden has made me face an ugly reality within myself. I believe that Joe Biden has sexually assaulted women, and I will vote for him anyway.

I can wiggle out of this terrible feeling by using the same ‘Whattaboutism’ of Fox News fame. I can say, well what about all the women who have accused of Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment. I can try to convince myself that Biden’s indiscretions aren’t as bad. I also really would like to blame our media and the Democratic Party for passing over all those wonderful, qualified and diverse candidates for the job; and leaving us with only one way to go. We all knew “Uncle Joe” had some issues; but so many were convinced that only a white, straight, middle-of-the-road, sort of man could win the election in a fatigued nation. And, here we are. As convenient as those arguments could be at this time, I think it would be better for me to face my truth. We’re in a desperate situation, and I am willing to swallow some ugly stuff for our survival. I’ll admit, though, I wish I felt better about the Democratic candidate.

I want you to read this excerpt  from a book Eve Ensler wrote about the importance of an apology. Men who are accused of sexual assault have to choose one of two responses –  “she is lying”, or “she is crazy (misinterpreted what I did)”, and in addition have to claim that they have never done anything wrong. Other women are usually the first in line to absolve the accused of ever being inappropriate in any way, stopping short of apologizing to them for any emotions the accusation may have brought up. In the meantime, it is estimated that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience sexual assault. Are we all lying? Or, all we all insane? The reason I like Eve Ensler’s book is that it allows victim/survivors to construct the apology they wish they had received. The process creates a space for us to say this was not my fault and to give the responsibility for the abuse back to the abuser.

How refreshing would it be for someone, anyone to say, “Yes, I did this!” “I hurt women, girls and boys.” “When I was in a position of power, I inappropriately touched, harassed and humiliated the women who worked for me.”? Maybe, with help, they could talk about the deep insecurity and unhealed pain that caused them to hurt others. But just some answer other than accusing people of lying would be a good start.

Stay well.

Surviving ‘Surviving R. Kelly’

The truth is that when you actually believe that black women and girls matter, life in America can seem pretty dark.

* According to a WebMD article published in the spring of 2019, the suicide rate for black teen girls went up 182% in the past decade.

* An organization called Black and Missing, found in 2014 that 64,000 black women and girls have gone missing.

* Black transgender women continue to be assaulted and murdered in our cities.

Black girls and women matter to me. Having watched the powerful documentary on Lifetime called Surviving R.Kelly, I realize that black girls and women do not matter to R. Kelly. They also did not matter to all the people surrounding this guy (before and after he became famous), who enabled him to hurt and abuse young girls and women. So many people interviewed admitted to following Kelly’s orders to go “get him some girls” like they were just objects that he had the right to use how he saw fit. How is he alone a monster, if the people around him brought girls and women to the slaughter, looked the other way and participated? Shame on us, too. We are also complicit as a society when we rally around someone with talent and dismiss their behavior when they abuse women and children. If we didn’t know better before, we know better now.

Those who know me know that I once conducted research on the childhood sexual abuse of black boys. At the time, it was a strange departure from my focus on women and girl issues. However, I began to see a connection between “women’s issues” like sexual assault and domestic violence and what I believed to be an emptiness within perpetrators. When you work on behalf of victims,  you often do not want to concern yourself with perpetrators. But, I started to believe that an exploration of men’s behavior might be warranted. Surviving R. Kelly did a great job of drawing a line between the childhood sexual abuse of Kelly and his abuse of victims as an adult. The filmmakers addressed the issue without taking away his culpability. Watching the documentary felt like affirmation of what I had come to believe. As an adult, Kelly seemed to on at least one occasion ask for help. Unfortunately, no one helped him. They just all participated in and covered up his crimes.

I would later spend time reading and writing about domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). In DMST, perpetrators would send out scouts – usually young adult men who were often abused or neglected themselves – to find vulnerable young people (mostly girls and lgbt teens) runaways or those who had been kicked out of the home. The perpetrator (or pimp) would provide the teen with attention, or compassion, or a ride or housing to gain their trust. The process of “grooming” or “seasoning” a person into a prostitute starts with something that for most victims feels like the honeymoon of a romantic relationship. There is a combination of increasing control, threats and actual violence with a cycle of pleas for forgiveness (not unlike what happens in domestic violence) along with sexual manipulation. Finally a girl is coerced to do a “favor” for the man she wants to please by sleeping with other people. The financial transaction in DMST is usually between the pimp and the john – with a victim being used as a piece of property being rented temporarily. The process is insidious and strips away at the soul so that the victim feels complicit in his or her own victimization. “Rescue” is often not about a physical removal of a person from a pimp, but something more psychological.

Everything that happened to R. Kelly’s estimated 47 victims followed this exact pattern – down to having them all refer to him as “Daddy”, with the exception of his selling them for money. Interestingly enough, R. Kelly seems to be convicted of similar crimes faced by pimps and traffickers. The only reason we understand anything about DMST is because whole lot of brave survivors – some of whom have started their own organizations to help victims – came forward to tell their stories. We now have the tools to prevent DMST – survivors and grassroots organizations just need our help and resources. In the case of R. Kelly, movements like Mute R. Kelly, MeToo, TimesUp and this amazing docuseries on Lifetime also created the amazing culture shift we see in the world today.

Finally, what moved me was the dedication of parents who risked their lives to get their daughters back. They never gave up! Having explored, for a brief time, the stories of young women who made it out of sex trafficking alive, I was left with the impression that – the ones we are looking for, survive! It is imperative that we form communities of care so that our young people do not fall through the cracks. It is estimated that within 72 hours of a runaway being on the street she/he is being recruited for sex work. Once a person gets caught in this violent and dark world, it is very, very difficult to get back out.

Surviving R. Kelly is a story about a society where black girls and women are not valued. However, it is also a story about the constant drumbeat of survivors, activists, lawyers and family members who would not let up for three decades until this man was finally stopped and held accountable for his actions. Surviving R. Kelly gave us a unique opportunity to sit, listen to and hold the pain in the stories of young women, survivors … without turning away. I had to breathe through it at times, but I am grateful for the project. I have been inspired to action.

The lives of black women and girls matter to me!




‘Mother and daughter.’ PIXABAY

Great resources:
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Black and Missing Foundation

Visit me at http://www.gabrieljatchison.com

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

This week, Christianity Today published an editorial supporting the impeachment and removal of Pres. Trump from office. <article>

Sitting here, at the end of the semester, with a bottle of Merlot on deck, I find myself needing to vent about all of the veiled (and not so veiled) assertions by certain members of the Republican Party that Pres. Trump is Jesus Christ!


Where to begin my rant …

In our hyper-Capitalist moment of our MAGA times, the Christmas season is centered around purchasing diamonds, Volkswagens, high tech gadgets and very expensive watches for the people in your life. Lifetime Channel has been playing romantic movies 24 hours a day since Halloween to remind us of the true meaning of the season, sex with someone you once viewed as a rival. By forcing us to say “Merry Christmas” again, we are being asked to supersede all other religious and cultural traditions celebrated during this time of year and bask in the glow of white supremacy.

Increasingly, we float further and further away from the true meaning of Christmas. Religion and education are the silly practices of “Snowflakes”, and the celebration of the birth, the arrival of this prophet/savior – Jesus Christ – is lost in a fog of vague notions of transactional gift giving and forced happiness.

Really, however, with all of that set aside, it is what Dr. William Barber would call “heresy” to compare Donald Trump to Jesus Christ, and not because of his many, many, many flaws. Well maybe a few flaws: his selfishness, his greed and his propensity for abusing vulnerable people. Donald Trump is only concerned with Donald Trump. He represents the worst of our culture’s worship of money and power. As President, he is – for the time being – directly aligned with an exorbitant amount of power. During a talk by Ibram X. Kendi, we were reminded that the U.S. has military bases in almost all of the countries of the world. Because of the military and economic position of the U.S., Trump can go on the world stage and bully everyone. Bored with those efforts, Trump can return to the U.S. and can with the help of his administration, terrorize vulnerable groups from immigrants receiving life-saving medical treatment in the U.S. to the homeless. He has left no stone unturned.

Many people are not in to reading the Bible. I get it! However, trust me when I tell you, Donald Trump is not Jesus Christ. In many ways, Donald Trump is the antithesis of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, he’s not even slick enough or savvy enough to be the devil or the anti-Christ. If we have to include him in the story, maybe he can be Herod or the Roman Empire. Sorry, I may be getting ahead of myself.

My point is that you don’t have to read the whole Bible or go to seminary, but I think it is important to understand a handful of very important basic things about Jesus.

In the Gospels, Jesus’s arrival meant “good news for the poor”. Jesus was not part of the power structure. He was aligned with the poor and the oppressed. His message encourages us to serve “the least of these” not to spend our lives figuring out ways to beat at low hanging fruit, to steal and to cheat.

Jesus’s arrival was a sacrifice. From divine to human, Jesus arrived to experience compassion for us (to …”passion” = suffer, “com“= with … us). And his death, was the ultimate sacrifice, to take with him all the sins of the world. The resurrection symbolizes victory over death. (I know that’s Easter, but still.) Jesus Christ arrived to as hope in a time of darkness, as a fulfillment of God’s promises and to reconcile any divisions that remained between humankind and God, so we wouldn’t need an intermediary to access God’s love.

In the Gospels, there are two of the disciples, brothers, who want to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus. Jesus tells them, “you do not know what you are asking”. In order to be first, they would have to be last. You win by serving and helping others. And The One with the crown – had to sacrifice it all!

Does any of that sound like Donald Trump to you? Do YOU think there is any part of this very flawed man capable of even being concerned about others? Shame on the so-called Evangelical Christians for allowing this comparison. They, of all people, know better. And Christianity Today Editorial Board – quoting the 70’s love song by Deniece Williams and Johnny Mathis “too much, too little, too late”. How can you wait over three years to proclaim that Donald Trump is “grossly immoral” and should be removed from office. Seriously!

So damage has already been done!

Everything is relative right now, in the time of Pres. Donald Trump. The truth and a lie can be the same thing and victories won by cheating still count. Now more than ever, if you are Christian, there is a need to wrestle our religion back from these lunatics who have co-opted our Jesus to bully religious and racial minorities and to lift a white Nationalist, megalomaniac into a position of great power. It’s cheesy, but, now might be the right time to “put Christ back into Christmas”. We need the love, compassion and mercy of Jesus’s message … Now more than ever!

Visit me at http://www.gabrieljatchison.com and follow me @gabrielatchison.


It seems as if Michael Bloomberg is throwing his hat into the ring to become the 2020 Democratic candidate. This is coming after a lot of hang wringing about the candidacy of Joe Biden and this idea about ‘electability’ that just will not die. The Liberal media is concerned that even in the face of poll after poll showing that all of the top five candidates can beat Donald Trump in a general election – that Democrats should choose someone whose heterosexual, white, older, maleness will be more palatable to mythical ‘swing’ voters. There is a lot that bugs me about this idea, but I want to start with my observation of the race so far.

In the beginning, there were 20+ candidates, and the new regulations on how to get to the debate stages were a combination of the number of individual donors and each candidate holding a certain percentage of points across a number of polls. Joe Biden entered the race and remains in most polls as the front runner – not because of his policies or his performance or even (I would argue) because of his white, maleness, but because of the African American support for his connection to the first African American president. Name recognition and Obama-recognition. Bernie and Warren are wild, leftist progressives. They are older, but they have the strongest social media game, and their policy proposals and politics are attractive to those of us in the Twitter-sphere set.

Then, numbers four and five are a BLACK woman and an openly gay, young, white man. Kamala Harris was edged out by Pete Buttigieg only recently. I want us to take a deep breath and recognize that a Black woman held the number four spot for months and is still going strong.  As people drop out, the rest of the top ten include – a black man (Booker), an Asian man (Yang), a Latinx man (Castro), and two more women (Gabbard & Klobuchar)! This is a diverse, qualified and articulate collection of people.

The diversity of identity as well as ideology makes me wonder why we keep panicking and thinking the answer is to throw in a “moderate” white man with whom everyone can feel comfortable into the mix. To me, the diversity means that we are ready for something that reflects the Democratic party.  Many white, male and/or moderates enter the race with a focus on winning over or winning back Donald Trump’s base. Almost all of them have dropped out of the race and the rest have not made the top ten. We need to rethink this idea of electability.

We may not win working-class white votes in swing states or win over the Trump base, with someone who represents diversity and/or progressive politics; however, I know we will lose the election, if we don’t excite and energize our own base – a broad coalition primarily made up of young adults, working class people, women of color, suburban moms who are tired of gun violence and Betsy DeVos and the rest of Trump’s out-of-touch administration.

Joe Biden is fine. His set up as the presumptive best candidate is shifting as people get to know the others. And, that is okay. People are becoming undecided as they move beyond name recognition and into substance. This does not denote a crisis or mean that we need to beat back the bushes looking for other, more suitable candidates to get in the race at the 11th hour. That idea seems insulting and ever so racist/sexist/homophobic (i.e. – of course no one besides Biden can beat Trump) – and ever so offensive to “Uncle Joe”.

The good news is that our broad coalition makes up a majority of the country. The reason Republicans work so hard to suppress our votes is because they know when there is a large Democratic turnout, we win! We will vote and we will decide who we want as our candidate. Then, whoever wins, we need to put all of our energy into getting our folks behind that person.

I am scared … and you should be too!

I feel unsafe, because in my efforts to be in community with white liberals there is a silence when I try to voice my pain.

The morning after Donald Trump’s election was extremely dark and terrifying for me. I’d come to terms with identifying what I fear the most, and that is losing my freedom. And, because I believed Trump at his word, when he made his white nationalist promises, I believed I would eventually have to lose my freedom or even my life fighting what was about to come. On top of my short list were two things: military rule in inner cities and any “rounding up”, extrajudicial watching or mass detention of Muslims. I imaged myself chained together with other Christians outside of a mosque. I didn’t like the idea of pain being caused to others in my name.

What took me for a loop, and looking back now I am ashamed to admit I did not take seriously enough, was Trump’s constant rage and vitriol against members of the Latinx community. Those of us on ‘Trump Watch’ were being emotionally drained day after day by Trump’s gaffs and weird behavior, his constant lying and name calling, the rolling back of decades-long progress and the erosion of our democracy. So by the time my heart was broken by the audio recording of a little girl separated from her mother, I didn’t realize my resolve had already been crushed. And wasn’t that the point? Then, someone – feeling emboldened by Trump – decided to travel to El Paso and enact the largest mass killing of Latinx people in our time. And, we fear, this is only the beginning.

I’ve found myself frustrated with white liberals who have to say, “we are all immigrants” in order to feel anything about the situation. I am not an immigrant and I am not Latinx, but I do know what it is like to be hated by someone you haven’t met, just because of the color of your skin. I remember how crushed I felt when I was five years old, and the man from the Korean fruit market thought I was going to steal the orange I was holding. He didn’t know me, but he should have. This was my neighborhood and my mother and I shopped there all the time. I was a good girl, and everyone knew that. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see it. That pain stuck with me, and more than forty years later, I am still suspicious looking in any store – or really any time I am standing still in public.

I know what it’s like to feel hunted by authorities. After hearing the stories of Sandra Bland and India Cummings (a young woman with a similar story here in Buffalo), I am gripped with terror whenever I see a cop car. Black women are not shot like Black men, they are beaten and maimed and left to die in their cells because of a lack of medical attention. Then their deaths are called “suicides”. What matters most to Black women is our dignity, and so, that’s the first thing authorities will attack. For better or worse, Black women see attacks on other Black women as Russian Roulette. This time it was not me, but it could be my turn next. God help me, if I am ever the victim of violence. I will probably not call the police.

Listening to the testimony of Latinx people this week (those who are citizens of the U.S. and those who are not), they have been afraid to go out of their homes. Their stories made me reflect on my new desire to stay close to home. I don’t think I am afraid of being abused or killed. I don’t feel safe, because I don’t know which one of my neighbors, colleagues and friends support this madman and his agenda. The media would have us believe that Trump is only supported by uneducated, poor, white men; but building a 45% base is not possible with that group alone. We are told that people who want more conservative judges on the bench or other things, “hold their noses” and support Trump in spite of his racism. I no longer believe that. I’ve had to come to a harsh reality that most white people on some level must agree with Trump and that some would rather not have me – on their street, in their neighborhood or in my workplace. 

I feel unsafe, because in my efforts to be in community with white liberals there is a silence when I try to voice my pain. When we are at a table having a discussion, even my closest friends don’t seem to have my back. They are, in part, empathizing with the perpetrators in a way that makes them tone-deaf. It is silly to think that white anti-racist allies who are unreliable in conversations about race, will be helpful in our fight against white supremacy. The betrayal and the disappointment have made me want to walk alone.

Finally, the young white men who are being manipulated by Donald Trump, really are in a lot of pain. Our culture sets unrealistic standards for manhood and then prevents them from participation. The same economically depressed white communities where there are no jobs and few future prospects are the places with the highest rates of opioid addiction, mass incarceration and gun related suicide deaths. And yet, instead of hope, Donald Trump gave them hate. Love is natural and grows on its own; but hate has to be stoked constantly. Like the followers of Dr. Martin Luther King sat in churches together and sang spirituals to gain the courage to fight for justice; people who are working up the courage to turn hate speech into action are riled up at Trump rallies. Excitedly leading chants of “Build the Wall”, Trump puts a brown face on to their pain. Trump’s rise has been accompanied by an uptick in bullying and hate crimes, bomb threats, murders … and now, mass murder.

Black and Brown people are living in terror. I am afraid and I think we all should be. Silence and apathy won’t protect any of us from a mass murderer’s bullet. The time has come for us to resist the white nationalism of Donald Trump even if we are afraid. The key is that we fight as one.