Heber Brown, III
From Prayer To Protest At Baltimore City Hall
On Monday, April 3, 2023 I offered the invocation at the weekly session of the Baltimore City Council. I was asked by Councilman Mark Conway if I would do so. It was my pleasure to participate and pray.
What made this experience extra special was that my sons accompanied me. I'm not always sure that they truly understand what I do or even see its significance all the time. (I'm sure that many parents can relate to this!). I can only pray that as we continue to grow together as father and sons, one day things will become clearer to them and to me. As the old folks in church would sing: "they'll understand it better by and by."
After offering the prayer and observing the meeting with my sons, we walked out of City Hall and before returning to the truck, noticed that there was a rally going on outside its front door. While sitting inside the chamber with city council members, we heard chanting and speeches going on outside, but couldn't quite make out what was being said. Now outside of the building, the message was clear.
A few dozen people had gathered to rally against food apartheid. It seems that the effort was co-organized by a number of grassroots and student organizations including the People's Assembly of Baltimore. I was particularly pleased to see student activist groups from Towson University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
My sons and I stayed in support of the protest; joining the crowd, talking with others, receiving information and even being interviewed by Alexis Taylor of The Baltimore Afro American Newspaper.
I thought about how aligned it was for me to just have been invited to offer prayer inside City Hall and then join a protest outside City Hall...during Holy Week! While perhaps a paradox for some, this actually summarizes so much of the character of my 23 years in ministry. Countless church elders, ministers, scholars, and activists have helped to show me that one need not choose one or the other - prayer and protest can (and many would argue *should*) go together. It reminds me of that quote by Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer that says, "You can pray until you faint, but if you don't get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap." This is partly why it felt right to me to go from invocation to agitation!
Various media outlets were there covering the protest at City Hall including Baltimore's WMAR TV. Here's their take on the event.
If the topic of food apartheid is one that calls you, I invite you connect with the work of The Black Church Food Security Network. We're taking matters into our own hands and being the solution to the injustices that we face.