Throughout American history, faith-based communities and leaders have been at the forefront of many civil and political movements. This is especially true for the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, which had religious leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X being driving forces in history.
The incentive to lead and support the communities they live in continues for many religious leaders. However, since the killing of George Floyd on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer, protests have erupted throughout the nation during a global health pandemic.
During such unprecedented times, some Charlotte religious leaders are using untraditional methods to show their support for the protest.
Both Imam John Ederer of the Muslim Community Center (MCC) of Charlotte and Pastor Abdue Knox of Greater Bethel AME Church said they both feel like protesting is not safe due to COVID-19. Ederer said that he is advising his congregation and others not to participate.
Ederer is an activist at heart. It has been hard for him not to march along with others, but says he has to think of his congregation and family.
"If you read scripture then you know that social justice and activism is a divine ordainment of someone who believes in God,” he said. “Once the welfare of society and the compassion, the love, and care are the fundamental divine traits, that brought us into existence. That is why we're here. So when people are living in oppression, we have to eradicate that, we have to work, not just talk but work."
Ederer has friends who are pastors and imams who tell him that as long as they have their masks on and try to avoid close contact that they are going out to protest.
"Our mosque, in all of the research that we've done with the medical community here in Charlotte, they are advising that these protests are not careful or healthy to engage or integrate into,” said Ederer. “So, I'm personally not taking part, and I'm advising our community not to take part."
Knox also feels he has a responsibility as a husband, father and pastor to not participate in the protest. “If I was a single man and I didn't have a family—If I didn't come in contact with members of my church, that would not matter to me.” Knox stated that even though his church has not participated in face to face worship, members still visit him from time to time.
Because of the current climate, both men have joined and created a continuous discussion, such as a WhatsApp where hundreds of clergy members in Charlotte are communicating in real-time talking about priorities and policy and joining Zoom meetings with other religious figures and members in the community.
Knox said he knows that a few of his congregation members have participated in the protest. His church members said they were deeply disheartened from what they witnessed.
"It's gotten crazy. They were in the Beatties Ford Road area, and I think they broke out some windows at Food Lion,” said Knox. “It was disheartening for some of our members that live in that area because the Food Line is the only grocery store. It is considered a food desert."
Even though both men do not agree with the looting and violence that is taking place in Charlotte and beyond, they understand from where the hurt and frustration are coming – years of racism and classism within the country.
"I'm frustrated, and we're frustrated as a people this continues to happen. I understand why they did it. I don't agree with what they did. It's kind of like the poem by Langston Hughes, 'A Dream Deferred' what happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun, does it fester like a sore then run, or does it explode,” said Knox. “And I think what we're dealing with is that explosion."
Dante Miller joined WFAE as a Report for America Corps Member in 2020 in the unique partnership using radio and Wikipedia to fill news deserts.