Howard University Responds To Trayvon Martin’s Death With A “Do I Look Suspicious” Video Campaign

Well, do they look suspicious to you?

Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD

Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well. Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance. His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today. His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action. Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo. Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.

3 thoughts on “Howard University Responds To Trayvon Martin’s Death With A “Do I Look Suspicious” Video Campaign

  1. I appreciate the video, but I find it quite disingenuous that no one talks about the black on black crime which is decimating the young black male population.. no one talks openly about outrage at the 6 year old girl who was murdered by indiscriminant shooting by two rival gangs on the southside of Chicago… and statistically there are significantly MORE murders done by blacks AGAINST blacks than any other race. NO one is nationally outraged that Chicago has reached the 100 plus mark of homicides already this year. I don’t hear the POTUS speaking out about that. Please explain why this is a greater outrage than what is occurring every day in many cities around the country. It is a sad thing that happened, but I find the moral outrage aimed at perhaps the wrong direction. I’m not saying that what happened was right, but it sure seems like a potential lynching against Mr. Zimmerman…and all before a trial has occurred. Wasn’t this behavior detested by blacks years ago?

    1. Not sure where you live, but in Philly, there are a lot of black and latino christian leaders working hard to address the gun violence that goes on in our city. The reality is that when folks work to fight against gun violence, the media does not pick up on it like it does other stories, because there isn’t as much money in that story. Nonetheless, I never try to put one injustice up against another, as a reason to quiet down and redirect focus. The are both wrong, and they both equally deserve our standing up against them. The Trayvon case has been made a big deal, not only because of this particular death of this young boy, but also because it relates to larger systemic issues that the Black community faces. Issues that interconnect, race, violence, and the justice system.

      As for the comment about lynching, it has actually been the opposite. MOST of the black community have been decrying the fact that this needs to be decided in court rather than by local police offers acting as the judge and jury over Zimmerman’s guilt. There are some fringe groups who have made other comments or taken other actions, but that is not representative of most black people. Also, I do talk about the new black panthers approach in another post, which you should read. No lynching is taking place, lynching was when white american grabbed and killed (primarily) black men on whim or because of racial anxiety, with the purpose of intimidating the black community. That was the whole purpose of the KKK and the White Citizens Council. Such things are not happening now in reverse, so it is a bit insulting to take such serious history and water down and domesticate those terms, which is what happens if we say that Zimmerman is being lynched. I am hoping he is arrested and sees his day in court.

      1. I’ve recently had a similar experience with white appropriation of the word “lynching.” It was used by a prominent South Jersey politician to describe us, Rutgers-Camden constituents, who protested the takeover of our campus due to political interference. Ironically, this white senator used the term “lynch mob” to refer to a campus led by an African American Chancellor and serving a large population of students of color. Many faculty and students pointed out his offensive use of the term, which, as you say, trivialized our nation’s painful history of racial oppression. Of course, no apology was offered.

        I blogged about it here:

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