Najuma Smith-Pollard shared the following remarks at a press conference with the mayor of Los Angeles about the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the protests and civil unrest in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 30.
It was just nearly 30 years ago, May 31, 1992: I remember sitting at FAME Church as a member, choir member, usher board member, and listening to my father in ministry, Rev. Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, speak to us as we were wrestling with the ’92 Civil Unrest, the outcome of the Rodney King verdict. And his words were so powerful. He spoke to us about being asked the question to wait a minute. And he said to us, we don’t wait a minute, that a minute is too long in time like these.
So to those who are feeling the pain and grief of this season, we stand with you. It is the right thing to stand up. It is the right thing to speak up. It should not be that nearly 30 years later, we are still facing this issue. We should be speaking truth to power.
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Tomorrow represents Pentecost Sunday. And Pentecost doesn’t just represent the promise, it represents the season of protest and power. Because what we do know is that at some point shortly thereafter the moment of Pentecost, Peter gets up and begins to speak truth to power.
So it’s right to speak truth to power. It’s right to stand up for what is right. It’s right to speak, it’s right to speak now, it’s right to not wait. But we have to do it with responsibility.
Pentecost is also about power and like many of you, I am tired of hash tagging #RestInPower to black bodies—men, women, boys, girls. I’m tired of #RestInPower. My role in this season is to encourage people to live in power. We were given power, we must live in power. We must speak in power. We must stand in power. We must gather together in power. But power has a responsibility.
And so as we do that we must do it responsibly.
To all of the parents, I am one of those parents that has lost a black son in the streets. So I know your pain, I know your anger, I know your frustration. To the families, we got you. I understand, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to deal with a system that doesn’t necessarily take the victim and their family at first. I understand that.
So yes, in power, we stand. In power, we speak. In power, we rise up. But power has a responsibility.
And I’m tired of hashtagging #RestinPower. I want to live in power. I want you all to live in power.
Dr. Murray, when he spoke 30 years ago, wanted us to stand and speak and live in power.
To the protesters, protest in power. And power is not always given, sometimes you have to take it back.
So we stand in power; we speak in power; we live in power. And that’s the right thing to do.
To all of my faith leaders, my colleagues who are faith leaders, clergy of every kind, of every faith tradition, I’m just one of y’all. I’m just one but there’s many out there, many leaders out there, and we should be speaking in power, speaking truth to power, standing in power. But power has a responsibility for all of us. And we have to do that with responsibility when we take back our power. Because like you, I’m tired of #RestInPower. I want me, my children, my grandchildren to live in power.
To those that are creating mayhem, we ask you to take a step back and let those who are fighting for the power to come under injustice to take a step back and let those who are protesting in power, let those who are standing in power, speaking in power, let them do their work. We don’t need no more mayhem. We’ve been there, done that.
And so my prayer is that we all live in power, stand in power, speak in power. Because it is that time. We’re not waiting, we don’t have to wait. But we want to live in power and we can do that together. We can do that if we stand together. We can do that if we use our power responsibly. Power has a responsibility. And so some 30 years later here we are again, but this time we’re going to stand, we’re going to speak, and we’re going to live in power. But we’re going to do it responsibly.
God bless you and thank you.
The press conference was broadcast live on major news networks and social media. The conference was covered by the LA Times, NBC News, and City News Service.
Smith-Pollard also was on a special episode of KPCC’s Air Talk. She was interviewed on NBCLA:
Smith-Pollard was also part of KPCC AirTalk’s Black Local Leaders Roundtable on Wednesday, June 3:
“At this point the focus in on police brutality. … Keep the energy going on THAT conversation.
For those who have the opportunity to organize and meet with officials, it’s about staying focused. It’s too soon to talk about a kumbaya healing moment. People are staying vigilant and staying focused. For clergy, it’s the same. I have members that are protesting, I have some that are not, but it’s about staying focused on the core issue for Black America, which We must continue to push and push and push for racism to be dismantled in this country and the ways that it affects us on a day to day basis, through law enforcement, through the judicial system, through the health care system. This is a pivotal moment and what you do in a pivotal moment is that you stay focused.”
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