May 20, 2021 | by Merrie Bunt
Part of art installation at Epworth United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins Street in Berkeley
As the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd nears, an art installation honoring the lives of African American persons killed during their interactions with police has been unveiled at Epworth United Methodist Church, located at 1953 Hopkins Street in Berkeley, CA.
Spurred by nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, Epworth United Methodist Church has embarked on a year-long commitment to intentional prayer, study, and action towards systemic change for racial justice.
“The installation’s title ‘Beyond February’ is in reference to extending our observance of Black History Month,” said Rev. Dr. Kristin Stoneking, Epworth’s pastor. “Too often white spaces confine engagement with the reality of Black lives to the month of February. ‘Beyond February’ underscores our commitment to truth and racial reckoning every day in a year-round and ongoing commitment to racial justice and anti-racist work.”
The art on display is the culmination of church members’ deep dive and research into the lives of 18 individuals killed in their interactions with police. In creating these pieces of art, collage, poetry and sculpture, church members drew inspiration from words and tributes from parents, pastors, children, and friends to depict and address the life, the love, the community and the family of the fallen.
This installation is on display to the public in the windows of the church lobby and will remain in place throughout the summer. By utilizing the church windows as frames for these art pieces, project facilitator Dianne Rush Woods, Ph.D. explains that the installation reflects the commitment and soul of the church: “Like a patchwork quilt, these frames engage our sense of these individuals in a different context. Not in the context of tragedy and death, but that of community and life. It is important that the windows of this church bear witness to the interaction between the police and the policed. The Right to Live is what this installation addresses.”
According to Stoneking, “The United Methodist Church’s social principles call on members to ‘recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons…[and] commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access.’ Yet, Epworth, like many organizations in the United States which are connected to structures that go back hundreds of years, has a mixed record on racial justice. Through uncovering history, truth telling, study, grief, ritual and prayer, we are reckoning with our past to forge an anti-racist future.”