Social justice demands interfaith cooperation

Published 8:37 pm Saturday, April 29, 2017

By D.K. Seneca Bock and Costellar B. Ledbetter

The board of directors and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host the annual Freedom Fund Banquet at Temple Beth El today.

Every year, various civic, public and faith leaders come together to remember the great works of the founders of the oldest civil rights organization. This year, the theme is “Social Justice Through Interfaith Cooperation: A Celebration of Humanitarianism.”

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Several interfaith advocates known for their sacrifice and service will be honored and recognized for their leadership, courage and legacy. We also will lift up the names of those Suffolkians who have dedicated time, talent and treasure into the works of the local branch.

We are especially appreciative of the Boone family, which has worked tirelessly to support the efforts of the NAACP.

Why is interfaith cooperation germane and relevant to the civil rights movement and social justice?

We recognize that the great visionary leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, used prophetic wisdom to discern the importance of collaborating with a diversity of people who held similar views as himself and the freedom fighters.

Social justice, while maintaining consistent fundamental principles about how we treat mankind, is owned by a variety of faith traditions, including Christian, Judaism, Islam and many others.

Lest we forget, Dr. King worked and walked side-by-side, arm-in-arm with historical figures such as Greek Orthodox Archbishop Lakovos, and Sisters of St. Joseph nuns who marched with the members of the NAACP as part of the peaceful procession in Selma, Ala., in March 1965.

The NAACP is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. It has developed strategic alliances to move effectively and to address issues of people who are marginalized and underserved.

Because of NAACP’s stand and positions, we deal with issues that include discrimination, criminal justice, education and economic development. Taking a look at Suffolk, we can say many of the above issues have been addressed in a myriad of ways.

Those of us who have been around for a while remember when our pioneer leaders led us to protest against unfair and unjust situations here in our hometown.

We remember when Moses Riddick was on the scene and led us to get registered to vote. We remember when Dr. Rayfield Vines went to jail to help us gain dignity and respect by leading us in marches to protest the unfair, immoral acts against those least able to defend themselves in hostile situations. And let’s not forget when Dr. King visited Suffolk at Peanut Park.

Many of our pioneers got their beginnings at the NAACP.

Coming together to celebrate the tradition of working and walking together across faith traditions is not only timely, but necessary during a time such as this.

We are faced with a multitude of injustices, a lack of authentic dialogue, and a fundamental unwillingness to learn from one another. Now is the time to take pause to listen to, learn from and lean on one another, while celebrating one another’s contributions to the cause of social justice.

D.K. Seneca Bock is president of the Suffolk chapter of the NAACP. Costellar Ledbetter is the immediate past president.