Religious leaders launch 9-day pilgrimage for racial justice from Charlottesville to D.C.

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More than two dozen religious leaders and people started a nine-day pilgrimage from Charlottesville, Va., to Washington, D.C., on Thursday in a commitment to promote racial justice. 

Several faith-based groups organized the “Walk the Walk” faith pilgrimage, in which participants will walk a maximum of 15 miles per day on the way to D.C. to join the 2020 March on Washington on Aug. 28. 

A total of 34 started the trek to the nation’s capital after 50 people participated in a walk to sites around Charlottesville, including the Robert E. Lee statue and the site of Heather Heyer’s death during the Unite the Right rally in 2017. 

The groups Faith in Action, Red Letter Christians, Vote Common Good, Greater Things and the Truth and Conciliation Commission organized the pilgrimage to “reckon with” personal and structural racism, “resolve” to promote racial justice and “reframe the faith narrative in this nation.”

The idea for the march grew out of a declaration started in June by white clergy and faith leaders to take action, speak out against racism and atone for “personal acts of racism” and previous “silence in the face of racial injustice.”

“There’s this fun phrase in the Christianity world that sometimes people just talk the talk – and we really wanted to walk the walk,” Doug Pagitt, the executive director of Vote Common Good, said.

Pagitt, a pastor, said George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody led Black faith leaders to call on their white colleagues to speak to their white congregants about racial justice. 

“Racism in this country is a white person problem,” he said. “If every time there’s an incident where a voice needs to rise up to call for racial reckoning — if white people are being quiet, white leaders are being quiet, it’s not engaging the whole communities that need to be involved.”

“Walk the Walk” lists its demands for all levels of government on its website, including passing a new Voting Rights Act, funding reparation efforts for Black and Indigenous communities and redirecting funds from criminal justice and immigrant detention to education, transportation and health care for minority communities.

Participants in the pilgrimage also call on white congregations to “publicly repent” for the community’s participation or complicity with racism and to formulate racial justice teams and initiatives.

The organizations are also inviting people to join “Walk the Walk” for any one day, including the last leg from Alexandria to Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, or to organize marches in their hometowns.

The group plans to walk during the days and hold programming at night, which will be available online. 

Pagitt, a pastor, said hundreds of people wanted to participate in the pilgrimage but couldn’t because of their comfort levels for traveling or staying in hotels amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The pilgrimage also represents the relaunching of Vote Common Good’s campaign to get faith-based voters to vote against President Trump. The group had launched a national bus tour at the beginning of the year, but it was paused due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

“One of the things we wanted to do was to highlight that this election has deep implications across many parts of our society, including the need for racial reckoning and for people to approach it in an area of resolve and love,” Pagitt said. 

Vote Common Good plans to travel to six swing states after the pilgrimage: North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Tags Charlottesville Christianity Christians Donald Trump Faith Pilgrimage racial justice Racism Religion Washington D.C.

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