Lee McNeil of Shorter AME Church and Caitlin Trussell
Together Colorado Annual Meeting and Celebration, May 23, 2019
I went first. Lee’s comments brought it all home. She and I spent the last year presenting together to committees in the Colorado Legislature as well as the Amendment A campaign launch. We were invited to present together again this evening.
I’m Pastor Caitlin Trussell and I bring you greetings from the sinner/saints of Augustana Lutheran Church. I’m also a Faith Leader on Together Colorado’s Transforming Justice Team working to transform the criminal justice system. Mostly I’m happy to be standing here with Lee McNeil. She and I have been on quite the circuit together over the last year – standing together to share our stories so that something new can be born. It’s in that spirit that I share the following…
When my first child was born a little after 3:00 in the morning, the doctor spent eternity telling me that it wasn’t time to push when I was sure my body was telling it was definitely time to push. In the weeks before my second child was born, I spent time practicing how I was going to respond if that happened again. Again, it was a little after 3:00 in the morning. I quietly let anyone who was nearby know that the baby was coming and was again it wasn’t time. I’d finally had it, rolled over and shouted, “I am pushing NOW!” My husband loves to regale people with the ensuing chaos of doctors reaching for gloves and nurses running every which way. My point is, the people who thought they had the power to put the pushing on hold, didn’t have the power to stop new life. Something new is being born, my friends, and we’re laboring to bring that new life into the world.
Racism was born into the very air we breathe in this country when the very first white toe stepped onto this land over 400 years ago. By self-proclaimed white supremacy armed with guns and disease, indigenous people were either killed or relocated and black Africans were imported and enslaved to work the newly claimed land. I am the great-great-great granddaughter of a family who bought, worked, and sold slaves in South Carolina in the mid-to-late 1800s. Abolishing slavery and indentured servitude as punishment for a crime from the Colorado constitution, by passing Amendment A in the ballot box last November, was deeply personal, redemptive, and way past due.
Passing Amendment A took many people from many different groups, including Together Colorado, working together in a coalition to educate state legislators and voters. Passing Amendment A took digging deep into our particular faith traditions to sustain the intensity of the campaign and encourage each other in the work. Passing Amendment A took each of us in the coalition becoming clear about where our personal story fit into our country’s story of slavery and racism to love people into freedom by taking action, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Passing Amendment A was one important push in dismantling racism.
People we love are dying. We can neither wait for permission nor a more convenient time to push through racism into the new life that takes its place. It’s way past time for new life to be born, for something new in the air we breathe. It’s time to push…
Testimony for Together Colorado Annual Celebration (433)
AMENDEMENT A – May 23, 2019
My name is Lee McNeil, a Board Member with Together Colorado, a Community Leader and member of Shorter Community AME Church.
I am, ALSO, the Great granddaughter of a slave. Both, My maternal Great grandmother and Great grandfather, came out of slavery, which places me very close to Slavery…Very close to the Pain. I often reflect on some of my mother’s stories, the history of SLAVERY, and I am reminded of the cruelty, pain, the inhumane treatment of many and the suffering that so many families lived through and witnessed and continue living through today. Slavery really wasn’t that long ago, because my Mother who is 106 years young is still with us.
Many families are still in bondage. It isn’t as simple as “Just get over it” or “Why don’t they just move on; Racism is a thing of the past”. The Pain is REAL. A Space should be available for our communities, families, schools and places of worship to focus on the common good of the people so that they are able to thrive.
Removing “the exception” in the language that allowed for “Slavery and Involuntary Servitude” from the Colorado Constitution has been an important step for the State and Most Important to me, Personally. It is just one step in moving forward with a process of healing and reconciliation among our families, our communities.
Pastor Caitlin and I share our testimony with legislators and throughout the state. Our testimonies come from different perspectives, different life struggles. The Dialogue, the Conversations are also a much-needed step in moving forward with the healing process and Dismantling Racism.
At such a time as this, with so much Racism, Hate, and White Supremacy in our midst, it is a struggle to feel that there is real and true freedom & equality for all: The Dialogue and the Conversations must be had, they must continue.
We, at Together Colorado are making a conscious effort and have begun a process to dismantle racism, come out of that place of darkness, and be at the forefront of change for our communities, where we no longer living in FEAR, Isolation, and to work toward Liberation and Life and a Beloved Community for “WE the People”………………This is a work in progress!
We must continue to build relationships and work together, in hopes that you will take part in moving with us on this Moral Decision/Moral Journey to Liberate our Communities. STAND with US!
Let us continue on this Journey of Hope for the future of “WE the People”, begin/continue this journey of Healing for the many hurting communities. Let us lay out a path, a journey together towards Liberation, Life, and a Beloved Community.