An open letter to our Christian clergy

Becky Gillespie: An open letter to our Christian clergy

The times we live in echo the words of God speaking to prophet Isaiah, “Whom shall I send?” People are crying out for racial justice in our country, and Christian clergy are standing on the sidelines.

Nevada County may not have the diversity present in other areas of our country or even state, but there is racial injustice here and now is a time to speak and respond.

I am not an outsider; I grew up locally. I am a Nevada Union High School graduate. I came home to raise a family and to get involved in our community, including with one of our local churches. I write this out of my love for Nevada County and my fellow Christians.

I joined with many demonstrators for weeks this summer to bring attention to injustice. I attended the peaceful vigil for Black Lives in Nevada City. Most recently, I marched with BLM protesters in the streets of Nevada City. We encountered the rage of counter-protesters (I witnessed them shove a woman against a vehicle, rip signs from protesters’ hands, and yell at families with young children). Yet we marched on, even as the mob followed us on foot and in vehicles.

Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering that outright rejection.

With the exception of the evening vigil, where I encountered a clergyman from one church, our local clergy have been absent from standing up against racial injustice. The more I have prayed and reflected these past months, the more I understand why I feel like I am a homeless Christian in Nevada County. The Christian leaders of our community have been far too silent amidst the calls for justice. Dr. King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” specifically to his fellow clergy. He wrote it 57 years ago. The message is timeless; we need to hear it today.

Today, as in 1963, it seems that the greatest stumbling block toward freedom and justice is the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering that outright rejection.

When faced with the counter-protesters that Sunday in Nevada City, their ill will was obvious. I am completely stunned however, by the lukewarm acceptance from our own Christian clergy.

King continues: “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.”

The present tension we face is a necessary phase of transition to establish justice for all God’s children, including our sisters and brothers of color. I ask our Christian clergy; Will you hear us? Again, human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God … Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

I ask our Christian clergy; Will you act in Faith?

It is never too late to embrace positive peace. Go forth from our worship halls and into the world, actively living God’s words of love and justice for all. Courageously show us all how to set God’s words into action.

I ask our Christian clergy; Will you lead us?

Becky Gillespie is a resident of Nevada City.

Becky Gillespie: An open letter to our Christian clergy


Love Wins

by Sharon Delgado

Last night I wept. This morning I’m sick at heart. The community I love is divided like never before. Oh, but here come the quail, out from the blackberry bushes, dozens of them. When I sit out on the deck writing in the morning, they tolerate me if I move slowly. Even today, they remind me of the beauty of Nevada County, which has been my home since 1971. We raised our kids here, worked elsewhere for a while, then retired here in 2005 as we always knew we would.

As a biracial family, we have known that racism is a reality here. It’s not by accident that our community is so white. But now racial animosity seems to have come to a head, here and throughout the country.

At the march for racial justice in Nevada City on August 9, I carried a small cardboard “Black Lives Matter” sign. Why? Because I despair of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) ever being treated as if they do matter, as fully human beings. I planned to stay socially distanced at the back, but an organized group (without masks) blocked our path. They wore white nationalist and Trump insignia, used flags as weapons, yelled racist and homophobic slurs, and pursued us as we tried to walk around them. They ganged up on people (including young teens), injured several people, and destroyed property. They shoved us and yelled in our faces, “Get the f___ out of our town.”

Evidently this is a homegrown hate group. The Facebook Page Patriots Pushing Back Nevada County has over 10,000 people and is growing. After the demonstration, their posts celebrated and bragged that Law Enforcement was on their side (which is indeed how it appeared). They raised funds through Go Fund Me to support Jimmy Smith, the member of the group who was arrested for two felonies. Now it’s a private Facebook group, but make no mistake: organized hate is here, embedded in our community.

Then yesterday, Back the Blue Nevada County held a huge “Freedom Ride Parade,” ostensibly to support the police. I’m sure there were good-hearted people who participated solely to support Law Enforcement. Curious though, that the send-off speaker stated in one breath that the purpose of the parade was: “standing with Trump, standing up for our flag” and promoted “Trump gear” for sale. The “parade” included vehicles with Trump’s name and multiple flags: Trump flags, “Thin Blue Line” flags (with multiple meanings), and the US flag, like the trucks that brought disrupters to the march in Nevada City. The mixed symbols confused the event’s purpose. Was it to support the police no matter what? Glorify Trump? Claim the flag as a white nationalist symbol? Intimidate peaceful protesters? Evidently it was not to celebrate the diversity this nation represents.

Also, our local Republican Party is sponsoring a “Political Protest” fundraiser featuring “far right commentator” Katie Hopkins. According to Twitter, Hopkins was banned in June for “violations of our hateful conduct policy,” which prohibits “promoting violence against or directly attacking or threatening people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, age, disability or serious disease.”[1] Yet the Nevada County Republican Party publicized their event by stating, “To underscore how GOOD she is as a strong conservative voice, Twitter last week permanently banned her from communicating with her one million followers.” In other words, hate speech is not only acceptable—it has become popular.

Racial justice demonstrations have been on hold here as people deal with trauma, injury, and threat. But this struggle is not over. I encourage everyone in despair to take heart, and those who may be possessed by the current climate of hate and authoritarianism to reconsider what it means to take a moral stand for the common good.

The quail have now moved to another spot. I probably got too excited and moved too fast while writing this article. I am thinking of going down to the Broad Street Bridge with my little BLM sign and sitting there by myself. Or it may be best to work with others who are attending online workshops on nonviolence, white supremacy, keeping each other safe, and de-escalation, to prepare to take a unified nonviolent stand for compassion, justice, peace, and environmental healing. For the sake of my community and world, for the sake of our children, I will not let go of my belief that love wins, or my commitment to helping make it so.

[1] Graeme Demianyk, Katie Hopkins Permanently Banned From Twitter, Social Media Firm Confirms: Account suspended for “violations of our hateful conduct policy”, HuffPost, June 19, 2020.




We are better than this? Are we? by Tracy Pepper

Tracy Pepper is founder and executive director of Color Me Human and a board member of Earth Justice Ministries. Her Other Voices piece, “We are better than this? Are we?”  was published in the Grass Valley Union on August 13, 2020. 

It is past time to address racial issues in this County. I have heard time and time again: “there are no racially-motivated incidents in Nevada County.”

Many of us know this to be a lie, and we’ve tried to tell you as much.

Imagine the hardest conversation you’ve ever had to begin, hoping for help, closure, understanding, or compassion. Now imagine being met with “I’ve never seen anything like you say,” or “racism is not an issue here.” The implication that we are oversensitive, overreacting, or even paranoid is both isolating and enraging. I am here now with witnesses, video evidence, and the support of my community to finally, hopefully, obliterate the doubts about the extent of racial discord in Nevada County.

It is heartbreaking and disturbing to view the violence of these men, who many recognize as friends, neighbors, and local business owners, against peaceful protesters, including elders, women, and children. Violence imposed upon these protesters, and the seemingly complicit, almost supportive behavior of local law enforcement is gross negligence of duty, and dangerous to every person in Nevada County.

Peaceful protesting is one of our Constitution’s cornerstones, a right which should not be taken lightly. While there is no expectation that everyone will support the protesters’ values and message, law-abiding protesters should be able to do so without fear of being assaulted with impunity. Law enforcement should be there to ensure everyone’s safety, not take sides one way or another. During Sunday’s protest, law enforcement failed to embrace its motto to “protect and serve” all community members.

In addition to a thorough investigation into Sunday evening’s event and holding those involved accountable, an apology from the Nevada City Police Department is warranted. However, words without action are all too common on this issue. So, I call upon City Council and Chief Ellis to formulate and share a clearly defined plan on how the department will handle future situations.

Additionally, I call on local law enforcement, Nevada City and Grass Valley councils, and Nevada County Board of Supervisors to form a Citizen’s Oversight Committee committed to enhance accountability and transparency in policing and build community trust through civilian oversight.

We are not yet better than this; this is us now.

We cannot overcome racism without a humble and dedicated inventory of both our personal bias and inequity built into the systems we serve. Based on statements from law enforcement, I will cautiously trust in the collective willingness to share this path and commit myself and Color Me Human to this effort. Now is the time!

Tracy L. Pepper, MPA, is executive director/founder of Color Me Human.

Attack by White Supremacists in Downtown Nevada City

Reflections by  Daryl Grigsby on the violence against peaceful protesters that took place at the August 9th racial justice march in downtown Nevada City.

I’m sitting here listening to Aretha Franklin sing Marvin Gaye’s lovely ‘Wholy Holy’ – along with the Southern California Community Choir; recorded 1972 at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. If you get a chance listen to that whole album – ‘Amazing Grace’. Only thing better than the CD is the video by the same name. ‘Precious Memories’; ‘Climbing Higher Mountains’

Sunday night I had the privilege of basking in the spiritual vibe and atmosphere created by Melina, Delgado (ok man i dont want to mess up your 1st name!), and Michelle. Our Sunday night zoom meeting was a spiritual banquet of deep breathing, song, prayer, meditation, poetry, reflection and sharing. A true Beloved Community, envisioned by John Lewis and Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker – radiated off the screen.

Some left the call at 6 to attend the Sunday night peaceful march for justice in downtown Nevada City. I didn’t attend, as we had out of town guests arriving at the same time.

The next day – basking in a mellow vibe in my favorite downtown Grass Valley Bookstore – the Bookseller – my friend (yes they are friends because I’m there all the time!) said, ‘Im really upset about what happened last night in Nevada City.’ I said, ‘what you talking ‘bout?’ She said, ‘look at the video.’

Burly white men with American flags and Trump shirts blocking the street; pushing, punching and shoving peaceful marchers, screaming and foaming at  people to get out of ’their town’, free use of N——, F- u, F-this, F- that, F-ing this, F-ing that. My words dont do it justice.

A friend of mine who owns a shop downtown told me he’s been in marches for the last 40 years – and had never seen such hate and violence. All reports are the group came looking for a fight, ready to fight, and were all willing to commit acts of violence against a peaceful demonstration.

The images sickened me.

I immediately contrasted the faces filled with rage and the balled up fists and the American flags used as weapons – with the prayerful, spiritual, loving BIPOC meeting held just one hour earlier.

But – here are my thoughts. Racism is, and has always been, a Resilient Demon. Whenever you think it has diminished, it has only gone into hiding, adapting to new condition, contorting into a new manifestation, and ready to strike back in new and frightening ways. Every single movement toward justice and democracy and equality in America has been met with harsh repression and a counter movements of white supremacy.

A look at history and you see how black progress is ALWAYS met with white Repression. Reconstruction, where black legislators passed laws that aided poor whites more than any passed by the slave oligarchy; was overthrown with violence and massacres. Black Wall Street in Tulsa and black labor gains in East St Louis were met with murder, rape and mayhem. The progressive unifying actions of Black socialists in Harlem and Alabama were destroyed by frantic anti-communist impulses. McCarthy and the Cold War was just an excuse to destroy all black progressive movements of the 40s and 50s. Black soldiers who fought in the World Wars were met with lynch mobs to destroy any thought of equality they man have entertained after risking their lives for the country.

The great Paul Robeson, one of the most talented humans on the planet; who sought a just world for everyone, was destroyed by the white power structure – revoked passport, cancelled concerts, FBI spying. It goes on and on. Civil Rights was met with Nixon’s ’southern strategy’ – which basically turned the entire ’solid south’ from Democrat to Republican; and deliberate actions to play on the fears of white voters.

Black Power was met with the War on Drugs – which turned into the War on Black People and ballooned the US imprisoned population from 300,000 in 1980 to 2 million in 2000; 40% of those imprisoned being black Americans (who by the war are 15% of the population, and who use drugs the exact same rate as their white counterparts). In the 1990s, mass incarceration  imprisoned more black men in America than the total number of Chinese in Chinese prisons or the total Indians in India’s prisons.

The Black Panther Party was countered with Hoover’s COINTELPRO and police raids that killed people like Fred Hampton as they slept. Affirmative Action, a minimal effort to build a more just society, was overturned by cries of ‘unfairness’ and ‘colorblind.’ (my Chicago Pastor, Rev Clarence Hilliard, used to say, ‘white people talk about they dont see color, but somehow they never accidentally end up going to a black church or living in a black neighborhood or going to a black college.’

The ultimate recent example of white reactionary repression – was how this nation followed the hopeful election of Barak Obama with the hate filled visceral bullying divisive election of Donald Trump. We have gone from a President who sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at the funeral of black church goers – murdered by a confederate flag wearing racist – to a President who spews daily insults to people of color and does all he can to exploit white ignorance and fear to encourage violent backlash. It does not matter that Obama objectively helped white workers far more than Trump ever has – all that matters is you have a president who sanctions and glorifies white supremacy.

Given that history – it is no surprise we are seeing the kind of reaction we are seeing now. Frankly – I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner and more frequently. Our nation, our state, our county, holds a pent up reservoir of racial hatred – that is not just words – but is manifested by violence.

And here’s what sad. The men who violently punched, pushed, screamed and shoved – dont have political or institutional power. They dont own corporations, they dont run governments, they aren’t police chiefs, judges, or holders of economic or political clout. In a way – they are a diversion. As horrendous as their actions were – they aren’t the ones who need to change lending policies, medical policies, hiring practices, criminal justice systems, educational systems – to create a more just America.

We all need to keep our eyes on the goal. We can’t tolerate the bullying violent racists on Broad St; there should and must be a concerted effort to have a society were peaceful protests aren’t met with violence. but they aren’t the end of the struggle – at the same time we need to focus on those who make the laws, uphold the laws, make the loans, hire the people and set the policies.

And here’s one more thought I need to share – imagine if a group of black men blocked a rally; pushed and punched and shoved and screamed obscenities; and threw white women on the ground – would they have been escorted away with police escort?

John Lewis left us a marvelous legacy of  perseverance, courage, commitment for us to emulate. ‘When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state, it is an act, and each generation must to its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world at peace with itself.’

Love does overcome hate (though it dont seem like it sometimes huh?), Peace Justice and Nonviolence and Equality are possible (also seems elusive – but Lewis never gave up – nor should we.

Lets keep that spiritual strong courageous vibe that was so tangible and powerful at our sunday night BIPOC meeting.  What a contrast? who would have thought that the love emanating from our Sunday night meeting would be met with hate and violence? But the resilient demon and beast is among is – it has not gone away – and our struggle is long and difficult – and we do have the strength and the community to walk in the shoes of not only John Lewis, but Delores Huerta, Fannie Lou Hamer, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Angela Davis – and all those who struggled for a better and different world.