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Monday, April 4, 2016

Allan Boesak, not banned any longer, thank God, and in Denver. Racial Justice

My heart is so full -- overflowing. Life comes round. LAST NIGHT ... 30 years after Allan Boesak was arrested and kept in house arrest for his courageous, brilliant Anti-Apartheid activism in South Africa, 30 years after we had spent two entire years corresponding, speaking on the phone, and planning for his visit to Chicago, 30 years after Allan was to be the featured speaker for thousands -- who knew him at that time, by reputation, as well as they knew of Tutu and Mandela, at the Illinois Conference of Churches' "Interfaith Peace Event" (IPE), and I was coordinating the entire thing with fantastic volunteer committees and a terrific board, 30 years after we were all stunned and devastated - not for ourselves most, but for Allan and his family, and for the movement, life rolled around and...
LAST NIGHT -- 31 years later -- we met. It felt like such an emotional 'reunion' among all-but-strangers. He knew my name immediately and there was a lot of hugging, as in "WOW, then, and now... I can't believe it... That was such a terrible, fraught time, such a crisis. His life, among others was in danger.
I thought, last night, also of Bishop Munib Younan, who has a similar place in his 'country,' and, like Boesak, Bishop Younan and his family, Margaret Younan, and others are in our prayers now daily. I also thought of Mitri Raheb and Rana Khoury, (Beth Nelson Chase), and of our vigils for their safety and freedom. The parallels are chilling.
(As an aside, Allan said that when he and other South Africans visit Palestine, they are so "deeply disturbed, for the Palestinians it is even far worse than it was for us under apartheid." And the prognosis is, frankly, worse, more daunting. Thanks America.)
Back 30 years ago, I and others then had spent long tense hours praying for his safety, his well-being, the movement, for his family, it was an all-consuming 90 hour a week, altogether,( the peace event project, putting the conference together,) and then another 90 hours just praying for Allan. He was 'banned,' if you remember that hideous practice. Forbidden to be quoted in public, even mentioned, phone calls monitored, etc. House arrest.
And so he sent a very worthy ambassador to deliver his remarks, his brother, the Rev. Dr. Willa Boesak, a delightful guest, for whom his own personal highlight was our 30 minute private meeting in Jesse Jackson's office at PUSH, with Rev. Jackson, of course. And also a very powerful preacher/speaker.
Just before we went 'on,' Allan called me somehow at the UIC office we had for the day and dictated another 20 minute speech for ME to deliver, in part in introduction of Willa. I'll never forget those moments, scribbling from the phone, And his power, his voice.
Well, there was no way this Swedish-American calm mild woman could ever get up and preach it like the Brother did. Not a Baptist preacher, then or ever. But what a privilege to share that message. And then, thank God, Willa cleaned up! Wow! Not a dry eye. We were ready to get on the next flights to Capetown.
I do know that our weekly protests at the SA Consulate quickly picked up attendance and urgency. And they continued. For years.
Last night. 31 years later. Fjedur is still singing, this time for the Palestinians... "We will not give up the fight..." "We are marching in the light of God!" Still. Forever. Come, joinI think you were there),Susan Steinhaus,Sherman Gregory HicksArnie Pierson, the unstoppable Barbara Gazzolo, Theresa Molgren, Beverly Lucille Conway, and others (forgive me) who walked the circle, Kaia learning early some critical words and lessons, "Free Mandela." Susan Brooks, Dave McGowen, Bishop Frank Griswold joined us, as did Paul Erickson, and the hosts of wonderful ecumenical colleagues.
Now, Boesak, unsentimental and very clear-eyed in his analysis, is very concerned about the "Imperial" life of the world. We must change. If the church will not allow itself to be an effective agent of righteousness and justice, not sappy (how good to know you) piety, but REAL JUSTICE -- AN END TO THE IMPERIAL ORDER, of white privilege. "The Spirit is so determined, she will find a way, even it that is outside the church."
Some of us, including Pastor Louise Westfall of Central Pres, Brother Jeff of Five Points, and other local pastors are going to get something stirred up around here.
Because it matters not one whit that I finally met Dr. Boesak, if this encounter does not lead to ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE. JUSTICE. We will not stop until... Thank you, Louise, for your gracious hosting and words, and Brother Jeff for coming soon to Bethany! And Beverly, at MoBetta, we're ON!
David Erickson-Pearson and I rejoiced in sober reflection and commitment. Grace and Burt Nelson, we are in your debt, and Gordon Jack Schultz, you were part of this, too. Even from Princeton. And Paul LindmanPaul Wee, J.Martin Bailey, Lydia Talbot, Paul Sherry, and Paul Hedberg, we did make a difference at NPTS, Bill Marilyn Sandin Ross, you did it. And Roger Willer and Carole Willer, Stewart Herman, and the crew at LSTC.... WOW! And my Princeton University comrades, including Tim Callard, you changed lives!
Last night. And now, this morning, 31 years later. Fjedur is still singing, this time for the Palestinians... "We will not give up the fight..." "We are marching in the light of God!" Still. Forever. Come, join us!
Joan PearsonAnnika Erickson-Pearson, I thought of how Grandma and Grandpa made a point of being there, that day, October 5, 1985. That meant the world to me. And Jims Erickson, you were all in!
(Both Dave and I left our PHONES AT HOME, so no photos from us but Louise and Jeff and a press photog are sending some.)
My heart is so full! The struggle just goes on. I'm in. Are you?
Public Figure
Allan Boesak

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