We come as faith leaders, stretching ourselves from the Shattering Silence sculpture to the center of justice for Iowa, shattering the silence of many in our state committing ourselves to the work of racial justice in all communities.
We rejoice that when our state was still just a territory, two farmers stood in the path of bounty hunters who sought to trap a Black man named Ralph and return him to captivity. Ralph came to Dubuque from Missouri to work and earn his freedom.
The two farmers, Patrick Quigley and Alexander Butterworth, found a judge to intervene. The case was eventually brought to the Territorial Supreme Court where the justices upheld that “no man in this territory can be reduced to slavery.”
Today we lift up Ralph, who worked bravely to earn a freedom he should have never been denied, as well as Patrick and Alexander, who stood beside him as white allies. We give thanks for such just historical moments by the Territorial Supreme Court decision, as we also emphasize the injustices that have gone on for too long in our state.
We declare as faith leaders that we will work for freedom, standing alongside our siblings of color in their fight for their rights and liberties in this state.
We, as people whose faiths declare the dignity and worth of every human being, refuse to let oppression and injustice have the last say. We value the work of Black Lives Matter, including the Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Freedom Riders, and other groups fighting for racial justice. We rejoice in their fight for equity and justice. We stand with them stating clearly that Black lives do matter.
We hold up the mirror to our criminal justice system today and ask is it truly just? The system is broken when it perpetuates racism and racial injustices in our communities, such as:
We see what Iowa can be through Ralph’s eyes. We see the hope and the promise that emanates from our history.
Today we shatter the silence of the racial injustices in our state and ask our criminal justice system to uphold the values of our state, particularly for our Black siblings. May we uphold the dignity and worth of every person and may we be a state that works hard to prize the liberties and maintain the rights of all.