Opening remarks from Bill Wylie-Kellermann at a November 4 demonstration and march begun outside Detroit Election Offices.
Good afternoon. Great gratitude for the invitation to speak to you today.
You welcome me as 71-year-old, white cis male (he/him) Christian pastor.
Given that most of those intersections are aligned with power or privilege from which I am working to be liberated, your welcome is generous
About this time five years ago Marian Kramer of Michigan Welfare Rights and I stood trial in 36th district court for blocking, with seven others [including Baba Baxter here today], the Homrich company’s water shut off trucks at the beginning of what has become some 120k shut offs. They were ordered by Detroit’s Emergency Manager who had assumed all the powers of government in one person, replacing every elected official in the city. It seemed important to us to get those charges in front of a jury – under emergency management a jury was the last vestige of official democracy in Detroit.
It’s important to understand the extent to which emergency management was a tactic of voter suppression – replacing public officials who had been elected by Detroiters. Emergency management was targeted to Black majority cities. Virtually every African American city in Michigan was placed under emergency mangement. Fifty percent of Michigan’s Black population lived under non-elected governments and ¾ the state’s Black elected officials had been replaced. When a state wide ballot measure repeals the EM law and it’s simply repassed by the lame-duck legislature, when the people you vote for are summarily replaced, you think that doesn’t suppress voting?
The utter white supremacy of the Trump administration, and the attack on the voices of Black and Brown voters is nothing new to Michigan, to Detroit. In fact, simply the turnout in this election is a repudiation of the spiritual pall cast over us by the urban fascism of emergency management. The breaking that spell can be substantially credited to the young and lifegiving movement represented here.
I have been asked to speak a word as a person of faith. And I do so. I know there a many traditions of faith and spirit, and those of no tradition gathered here. That is a great strength. I do bring my own as a disciple of the Jesus tradition – and so I come with a radical commitment to militant, even revolutionary non-violence. You can count on me for that.
I want to let you know that earlier this afternoon a march down Woodward also defending the vote was held lead by religious leaders – Imams, rabbis, women religious, pastors and priests. We are in this together.
I’m here to say this is, in part, a spiritual struggle. And I urge us to practice the disciplines of faith and spirit in the fight before us: drumming and chant and dance, prayer and breathing meditation and grounded centering, ceremony and ritual and liturgy, mourning grieving and celebration, conscience and discernment, art and song, healing and the care of community – all of these are disciplines of spirit and movement.
I am one who prays. And with your permission, I would offer a prayer for this day and the days to come.
Spirit who gathered the waters in creation
who fills all creatures and each of us here with life and breath,
Breathe with us and in us
In you we summon the ancestors and saints,
Especially all who have struggled against the giant triplets
of white supremacy, war, and the economic theft of land and labor,
who have given their lives for the sake of justice and peace.
May they walk with us now and in the days to come, the long haul set before us.
With our feet, let us pray that all votes be counted and all voices heard.
May we continue to grow this movement in revolutionary love
For all people and even Earth itself,
Working in great respect, honoring each other
with listening truth-speaking,
Caring for and watching one another’s backs.
Let movement and beloved community be one and the same.
All this I pray mindful of Jesus
Who joins those who resist even unto death,
Those Who are executed by authorities
And who in you and in us, yet live nonetheless and always. Amen.