This is an interview with Rev. Craig B. Mousin, an Adjunct Faculty member of the DePaul University College of Law and the Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. This podcast links the loss of homes felt by many of the freed slaves after the Civil War, including George Floyd’s great-great grandfather, with the loss of home many refugees face when forced to flee their nations due to state sanctioned violence and the consequences of the breakdown of the rule of law. We face challenges both at our borders, but also when we contribute to the conditions that force families to flee their homes. We need to address ways to provide the rule of law and justice for all. The story of George Floyd’s family history and the loss of his great-great grandfather’s 500 acres comes from Toluse Olorunnipa and Griff Witte, “Born with two strikes, How systemic racism shaped Floyd’s life and hobbled his ambition,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/george-floyd-america/systemic-racism/
Senn High School, located in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, is one of the most diverse high schools in the nation. Its students and their families speak over 80 languages and claim over 60 nations as their birth homes. Congratulate its graduates and learn more about our neighborhood high school at: https://www.sennhs.org
Frederick Douglass’ call for simple justice comes from David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom, (N.Y., 2018), 558-59.
Rev. Garrison Frazier and the black leaders’ activism in Savannah, Georgia comes from Eric Foner, Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877, (N.Y., 1988), 70.
At this moment in time, the Division of Mission and Ministry recommits to the principle of justice. For the families and communities of all those directly impacted by systemic oppression, police brutality and the plethora of mass shootings and gun violence that have cut short the lives of many, we continue to grieve, to be outraged, to pray, and to act. In living out the Vincentian question, What must be done, we recommit ourselves to never ceasing in our struggle for justice. Our work is the work of connecting contemplation and action – centering marginalized voices and ennobling the dignity of all. Our Mission and Ministry staff continues to be here to listen, to believe, to accompany, and to walk together.
As well at this moment, we share a powerful result of communally connecting prayer and action. In February of this year, DePaul’s Division of Mission and Ministry along with our Muslim student group UMMA and the local nonprofit organization IMAN hosted a Virtual Fast-a-Thon, in which people were invited to experience fasting as a spiritual practice connected to building solidarity and working for social change. Our special guest was Cariol Horne, a former Buffalo (N.Y.) police officer who had been fired from her job after intervening to stop abuse by another officer in 2006. As a result of her firing, Cariol also was prevented from collecting her pension. Cariol has never stopped struggling for justice, both in her case and in the wider cause of preventing police abuse. Her case, and her struggle received renewed attention in the wake of the George Floyd case and other prominent cases which raised questions about why police officers didn’t intervene to stop abuse by other officers. In late 2020, Cariol’s Law was passed in the city of Buffalo to obligate officers to intervene to stop abuse and protect them from retaliation after doing so as well as other systemic police reforms which can serve as a model for other jurisdictions.
During Fast-a-Thon after reflecting on her own experience of fasting for the day of the event, Cariol was asked how she was able to persevere in her struggle for justice for so long. She spoke about her children and her community. She shared how deeply it affected her when she heard of others who had given up on constructive change and lashed out in ways that were destructive to others or to their own selves. She said she wished that they had known of her own campaign and that people like her were struggling and she was moved by the solidarity of others and the attention her case was finally getting. Last week, as the sacred fasting month of Ramadan began, we received the good news that Cariol had prevailed in her court case, that she would receive formal reinstatement and back pay that would allow her to receive her pension. (For more information on Cariol’s case and Cariol’s law visit cariolslaw.com).
We are called by our Vincentian Mission to connect contemplation and action – to be in solidarity with those who are marginalized, oppressed and suffering. We recognize the limitations of our own individual experiences and perspectives and experience the great wisdom and inspiration that are gained in encounter and solidarity across social divides. We strive to take part in efforts that sustain struggles against injustice and work constructively toward nonviolent systemic change. We firmly believe that all people of goodwill joining together in such efforts is the way forward, a path that is steep and difficult at times, but filled with beautiful rewards.
This past weekend we celebrated the graduating Class of 2020. After years of hard work and perseverance, our students are ready to go out and change the world. We, as a DePaul community, have prepared them to thrive, care for others, and act justly. We have given them the tools to act upon the Vincentian question, both in their lives and in their communities, “what must be done?”
However, as we celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020, we must also recognize that our job as a Vincentian, Catholic, and urban university is not done. Our world is broken. We must look ahead to the Class of 2021 and our incoming Class of 2024 and ask how are we preparing them to change, or even heal, our broken world? What action must the DePaul community take today to ensure that future classes flourish. Perhaps in 50 years theirs will be a world that is more just, more loving, filled with students whose experience of our broken world is only to be found in history textbooks?
Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac lived in a society marred by systemic inequality. They asked and strived to answer, “what must be done?” Today, inspired by our shared mission, we seek to emulate Vincent and Louise by asking that same question. To follow in their footsteps we recognize, as Vincent did, that “having charity in our heart and words isn’t everything, it has to be put into action.”1
What is one way you can personally take action to help fix our broken world? What must we do to better teach, advise, or support the Classes of 2021, 2024, or 2070, to build a world in which all can thrive?
“There is no act of charity that is not accompanied by justice…”1
A commitment to making every effort for justice must be a pillar upon which DePaul University’s mission rests. To remind us of this, visitors to the Lincoln Park student center are welcomed by a statue of Msgr. Jack Egan, a twentieth-century priest, with the question engraved below, “What are you doing for justice?” This is not a new thread woven into an ancient tapestry. It has been an essential part of our Vincentian story since the beginning. Yes, our context today differs from that of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. However, the same basic obligation remains that binds us to uphold justice, human dignity, peace, and the common good, even in the face of great challenge.
The horrific killing of George Floyd and the protests and unrest that have followed reflect the deep pain caused by a history of racism and systemic injustice in our country. We may be searching our hearts and minds to know how best to respond. Several days ago, Fr. Memo Campuzano advised Mission & Ministry staff: “It is good to stop, identify, and name the pain, anxiety, and fear. Then find the purpose in our pain and fear…then embrace that purpose and ACT.”2
Our various actions may be different. They could include protesting in the streets or simply posting on social media. Some may donate money; some may try to educate themselves and others. We may find ourselves having difficult conversations. Hopefully, we will engage in political processes. All are called to rethink what we have been doing individually and collectively, as well as what the future can and should look like.
Doubtless there are many ways to work for justice and to try to make better a broken world. Yet, whatever these ways are they must be both personal and systemic. They must, as difficult as it may seem for some, come from a place of love. And, justice must be the pursuit. To do less would be to fail our Vincentian mission.
The brutal treatment of George Floyd by a police officer, and the protests that have followed throughout the United States, are tragic and wrenching events in and of themselves. But they are also part of a long and painful history of racial injustice in our nation. What thoughts and feelings emerge within you as you pause to reflect on these events in our history? As you identify and name them, are you able to discern a deeper purpose and are you compelled to take steps toward concrete action? How can you take these steps together with others?
1) 452,To Francois du Coudray, In Toul, 17 June 1640, CCD, 2:68.
2) Internal Mission & Ministry email, 2 June 2020.
Tom Judge, Chaplain, Division of Mission and Ministry
Throughout history, prophets across many faith traditions shook their fists at God and people in positions of power, angry at injustice in the world. It is with devastation, heartache, and outrage, that we in the Division of Mission and Ministry share their lament.
It is an indisputable truth that Black lives matter. The generations-long oppression of the Black community in the United States is an affront to the human dignity our Vincentian mission demands that we uphold. As a Division, we stand firm in opposition to white supremacy, anti-blackness, and the inequitable status quo.
To our Black students and colleagues, we mourn with you. The brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery,Tony McDade, and far too many others tear open deep wounds inflicted by police brutality and systemic racism; wounds that have been opened too many times before. We hear the dirges and see your stress, fear, and anxiety as COVID-19 continues to unveil the systemic racial violence in our healthcare and economic systems, disproportionately marginalizing communities of color. We see you torn between the urgency to join protests and the fear of leaving your homes. We hear you when you say that you are tired, you are aching, you are empty in the midst of a world on fire.
We also see your strength. Your power.
In times such as these, our instinct is to be out in the world, responding to the needs of our communities. We welcome our students, faculty, and staff to pray with us, to grieve together, to be together, to use our shared pain as a catalyst for change. Although we cannot be together in physical space, we stand in solidarity with you in prayer and in action. We understand with clarity and conviction that the struggle for racial justice is lifelong, and we are committed to standing with you.
The Division of Mission and Ministry deepens our commitment to:
Root ourselves in faith and prayer that drive us to action
Defend the inherent dignity of every human person
Educate ourselves and each other regularly in theories that shed light on systemic racism and the forces of power, privilege, and oppression
Prioritize this same education in our work with students
Facilitate restorative justice training with our staff and student leaders
Foster mutual, long-standing relationships with community partners whose work promotes the wellness of Black lives and dismantles systems of oppression
Create direct service opportunities that allow students, faculty, and staff to build community, grow in awareness, engage in meaningful dialogue, and strive toward systemic change and solidarity
The way of solidarity is vast. It ranges from education to dialogue that centers Black voices to direct action that brings about structural change. We call the DePaul community to action. If you are unsure where to begin, we have included with this statement a non-exhaustive list of resources, community partner organizations, and avenues for systemic change.
As an educational institution, a Vincentian institution, dialogue during a time of crisis is essential. There is an incredible wealth of resources and expertise within our institution. Now is the time to be sharing those resources and engaging in dialogue about the underlying causes of what we are witnessing right now. This is a non-exhaustive list compiled from suggestions by DMM staff and student leaders.
Documentary: 13th Documentary: Agents of Change
Historical Drama: Just Mercy Historical Drama: The Hate U Give Historical Drama: Fruitvale Station Historical Drama: I Am Not Your Negro
Historical Drama Mini Series: When They See Us Digital Mini-film Series: 26 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias, and Identity with Students, The New York Times
The 1619 Project: New York Times 6 part podcast
RadioCode Switch: NPR news viewed through the lens of race and identity
Non-Fiction: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Non-Fiction: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Non-Fiction: How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Non-Fiction: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Non-Fiction: Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Fr. Bryan N. Massingale
Non-Fiction: Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
Letter/Essay: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Fiction: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Poetry: Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith
Essay: “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Cone, James H. The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013.
Douglas, Kelly Brown. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2015.
Massingale, Bryan N. Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2010.
The following organizations and nonprofits are long-standing community partners of the Division of Mission and Ministry who dedicate their work to service, racial justice, and equality. Visit their websites to learn more about their work and how you can get involved. If you are able, consider making a donation.
Make your voice heard in these times by writing to your political representatives. We have included the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice step-by-step email advocacy guide at this link.
Write, sign and share petitions that resonate with your values and beliefs. You can start by visiting https://www.change.org/.
Register to vote at https://vote.gov/, and cast your ballot in local and federal elections. Get involved with your local city counsel office. If you are dissatisfied with their leadership, run for office and make the change you want to see.