“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” was the sentiment of the first Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Panel discussion on Race, Religion and Realities. Rev. Linda Pepe of First Baptist Church and Pastor Jonathan M. Leath of Destiny Church, co-chairpersons of the Moorestown Ministerium Anti-Racism Team, hosted the event. The discussion was held at First Baptist Church, and commemorated the life and legacy of Dr. King.
A crowd of over 50 people gathered on Monday, Jan. 18 to share of their experiences and offer solutions of how to address racism in the community. Pastor Leath facilitated the conversation while Reverend Curtis Haynes of Second Baptist Church, Pastor George Bowen of Maranatha Church and Reverend Pepe sat on the panel. They answered questions and comments from the attendees, and addressed how the churches in the community can be a catalyst to work toward racial reconciliation. Pastor Haynes talked about growing up in Moorestown; sheltered from much of the racism that existed all around him, he acknowledged that he grew to awareness know that racism is here in town.
“Moorestown has a population of over 14,000 people, 85 percent white and 8 percent black, according to 2014 Census,” Pastor Leath said. “And it’s hard for everyone to afford to live in this town therefore home prices just keep some people out.”
Much of the racial disparity in Moorestown is because of the home prices and taxes. Rev. Eric Dobson, a non-resident of Moorestown who is the outreach coordinator for Fair Share Housing Center, talked about the current conflict in Moorestown over affordable housing.
Rev. Pepe, who is a champion for anti-racism, helped to frame the conversation with a definition of racism; Racism is prejudice plus the misuse of power. Pepe shared her story of growing up as a white woman who wasn’t aware of her own racism. She talked about socialization; the process by which we are exposed and shaped by society to hold racial views about “the other” and about ourselves. Pepe explained how systemic racism is so pervasive; it invades every part of our lives- institutional, corporate, even our religious lives in America. Rev. Pepe works hard at fighting racism and leads her church in efforts to be an advocate for those on the margins.
Leath and Pepe agreed that there are many issues that need to be addressed in the community; sexism, consumerism, economic disparity, interfaith intolerance, LGBTQ issues, to name just a few. However, the Anti-Racism Team will be focused on the issue of anti-racism, at least for the present time.
“We are hopeful that change will happen in the future and that our young people will lead that change. Like Dr. King reminds us, we may not see that change in our lifetime, but events like this are important because they help to keep the ball rolling,” Leath said.
If you are interested in learning more about the Moorestown Ministerium Anti-Racism Team or want to join fight on ending racism in the community, contact Rev. Pepe at (856) 235–1180 or Pastor Leath at (609) 386–3142.