As protests broke out across the nation in the wake of the Nov. 24 decision by a grand jury to not prosecute the Ferguson, Mo., police officer responsible for the killing of an unarmed Black teen, Black clergy launched their own response to the ongoing issues of police brutality and an unjust justice system that they said unfairly affects the Black community.
The Rev. Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, pastor and founder of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple Church and president of the Empowerment Movement, is spearheading a new national economic mobilization effort, “#HandsUpDon’tSpend,” which was launched this week.
“Police brutality has no place in modern law enforcement. However, American history continues to repeat itself,” Bryant said in a statement. “Exactly one year after the death of Trayvon Martin, Black America is once again pleading for the justice system to uphold the principles of justice and equality for countless victims including Michael Brown, Eric Garner and John Crawford.”
The #HandsUpDon’tSpend initiative is meant to harness the $1.2 trillion spending power of the African-American community as a prod to policymakers to finally effect real change, Bryant said in an interview with the AFRO.
“We’ve been marching for 104 days in Ferguson and it has not done anything,” the activist-minister said.
“We have come to recognize that petitions and marching have not changed the landscape of our justice system,” Bryant elaborated in a statement. “Neither has it changed the alarming rate of police brutality cases against African Americans in America. Therefore, we have decided to shift the impact of our power to what the government understands – the almighty dollar.”
The approach has precedent and proven success, he said.
“The most significant moment in the Civil Rights Movement was the Montgomery Bus Boycott” when hundreds of African Americans refused to use city transit buses for a year, causing significant economic distress, Bryant told the AFRO.
Through social media and other means, the campaign is urging supporters to refrain from spending during the most high-volume shopping time of the year: Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, through Cyber Monday. In support of the #HandsUpDon’tSpend campaign, the Empowerment Movement will also support the Wal-Mart workers protest on Black Friday.
“Nationwide, people are looking for ways to participate [in protest against the outcome of the Brown killing],” Bryant said. “This is a way everybody can respond.”
The campaign and The Empowerment Movement are supported by faith-based denominations from across the country, including the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the AME Zion Church, Church Of God In Christ, Progressive, Bible Way Churches, Full Gospel, Gospel Music Workshop of America, Christian Methodist Episcopal, United Covenant Churches, Harvest Churches, Fellowship of International Word of Faith, Church of God, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Congressional Black Caucus.