Fall Speaker Series: Dr. Marty Nathan

13445629_10154288611543147_7745777084810082661_nThe Adult Education Fall Speaker Series is privileged to feature Dr. Marty Nathan this Sunday, October 30 after worship in Bailey Hall.  This is the second installment of a series of speakers featuring Local Heroes of Social Justice.

Dr. Nathan is a committed lifelong activist regarding issues of social justice including race, environmental justice, homophobia, economic disparity and civil rights.  She graduated from Brown University, and then Duke Medical School in 1977.  In addition to her extensive social justice efforts, Dr. Nathan is currently a Family Medicine specialist based in Western Massachusetts.

Notably, Marty Nathan’s first husband, Dr. Mike Nathan, was killed in The Greensboro Massacre in a confrontation with Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis.   All of the white gunmen were ultimately acquitted.  At the time her husband was slain, Dr. Nathan’s daughter was only six months old.   In 1985, Dr. Marty Nathan prevailed in a major civil rights lawsuit against the City of Greensboro, in which the City settled without apology on behalf of itself the KKK and American Nazis.  Together with other victims, Dr. Nathan founded the Greensboro Justice Fund which helped grassroots organizations fighting against racism, environmental injustice, union-busting, homophobic violence & civil liberties violations in the South.  She also participated in  The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the early 2000’s, which lasted more than two years.

Many original documents relative to the civil rights lawsuit and the Greensboro Massacre are available for review online as PDFs at the Civil Rights Greensboro website where you can browse by subject and date.  These documents provide a wealth of information on the struggle against the Ku Klux Klan around the Greensboro Massacre, and brings the full impact and tremendous weight of those days front & center in our consciousness.

Dr. Nathan has continued her work in social justice with her current husband, Prof. Elliott Fratkin of Smith College.  Together, they helped found the Cliniquita Fund.  This fund, based in Springfield, brings healthcare to undocumented immigrants.  Four years ago, Dr. Nathan also helped found Climate Action Now, which has formed the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She is a columnist and regular contributor on issues of climate justice to the Daily Hampshire Gazette & the Springfield Republican.

This opportunity to hear Dr. Marty Nathan – an extraordinary Local Hero of Social Justice – is not to be missed.  Her wealth of experience and commitment to social justice is inspirational.  If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the church office at 567-6287 or leave a message here.

Celebrating 300 Years

The 300th Anniversary events & celebration are underway at First Church!   Where have we come from…  where are we headed?  This is an exuberant time – filled with possibility & hopes for the future.

Recently, MassLive published an article detailing plans around this momentous event:  MassLive Article on the 300th Anniversary

 

In this, our 300th year, we are not only celebrating this great milestone but we are also looking toward our future.  We will be using the wisdom of perspectives from our history to do some visioning about the future of the church. – Deb Garrity, Director of Communications

This weekend marks a Kickoff Event on the steps of the church & green.  Town & local officials will join in this festive entryway to celebrating 300th Celebrations.

 

The entire anniversary year is expected to be filled with a range of wonderful activities & spirit.

 

Have you had a chance to check out the interactive historical timeline on the First Church website?  There is so much history – so many stories – all of which are not only important to the history of First Church, but for our entire community.

 

Remember to mark your calendars – this Saturday October 3 @ 11am

 

 

Hope to see you at the kickoff celebration!

IF YOU DON’T THINK RACISM EXISTS, YOU’RE WHITE

                             “IF YOU DON’T THINK RACISM EXISTS, YOU’RE WHITE”

 

was a button slogan handed out by the Chicago Theological Seminary at the recent UCC Synod meeting in Cleveland where Racism was the subject of two resolutions passed by the delegates.

 

One resolution called for “Dismantling Discriminatory Systems of Mass Incarceration in the United States” by identifying mass incarceration as a critical human and civil rights issue because of its disproportionate impact on people of color, youth, and limited economic resources.

 

The facts prompting this resolution are very shocking: The U.S. with 5% of the global population accounts for 25% of the world’s prison population, more than any other country in the world. More than 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails, while 5 million are on probation or parole. There are more people under “correctional supervision” in America now than there were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin. Also, this prison population is far from representative of the nation’s population as a whole. For example, while African American males comprise 6% of the U.S. population, they make up 40% of those in prison or jail.   African American males have a 32% chance of serving time at some point in their lives, Hispanic males a 17% chance, compared to white male’s 6% chance. There are more black men in the grip of the criminal system than were in slavery in the 1850’s. Also, prisons and jails have become the “new asylums” as the number of individuals with severe mental illness in prisons and jails (350,000+) exceeds the number in state psychiatric hospitals (35,000)by a factor of ten. People with mental health conditions comprise 64% of jail population nationwide.

 

A second resolution called for the Dismantling of “The New Jim Crow”, a term used by Professor Michelle Alexander in her new book of the same name. Again, the facts supporting the resolution are very disturbing. The War on Drugs has primarily targeted blacks who are disproportionately targeted for prosecution and incarceration. While drug use among Blacks is no more than Whites, in seven states, 90 % of people imprisoned for drug offenses are Black. Thus the saying,” If you White and caught doing drugs, you go to college; if you are Black, you go to jail”. To make matters worse, once people of color are caught in the criminal system, it is very difficult to fully re-enter society resulting in permanent caste of second-class citizens who, once labeled a felon, can not vote, serve on juries, and are ineligible for federal assistance. No wonder the recidivism rate for ex-felons is around 66% and why there are so relatively few Black males in many poor Black communities.

 

Racism is a factor, and probably the factor, behind the New Jim Crow and the system of Mass Incarceration. Whites tend to think about Racism only on occasion, people of color think about it every day. These resolutions are intended to mobilize members of the UCC to join the growing movement of faith and community organizations to understand modern racism, to dismantle the New Jim
Crow, and stop mass incarceration and the growth of the prison-industrial complex.

 

Here at First Church, the Adult Education Team is offering a discussion on Modern Racism by inviting the following speakers:

Thursday, September17th, co-sponsoring with Bay Path University, Boston author Debra Irving, who will discuss her new book ”Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race”.

 

Sunday, September 20, author and professor Jason Sokol from Longmeadow, who will discuss his new book “All Eyes Are Upon Us” which deals with Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn, including a chapter on the “Springfield Plan “ for combating Racism in the 1940’s.

 

Sunday , October 25th, Professor Richard Anderson from Springfield College will talk about his book, “ A Home Run for Bunny”, the inspiring story of anti-racism action demonstrated in Springfield in the 1930’s.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND PLAN TO JOIN THE DISCUSSION   Mark Pohlman, Synod Delegate

Holidays & Grief

Dealing with grief over the holidays is a real issue for so many people.  The fact that the dinner table is the center of the Thanksgiving tradition, can itself be a source of pain when one individual is not there.  First Church member & Baystate Medical Center Pastoral Care leader & educator, Ute Schmidt, shared some sage advice on local television:

 

For more information & the rest of the story from WGGB, please visit here.  Thank you Ute for sharing your wisdom with our community!