May 03, 2011 Ken Jackson Uncategorized
It happens every year at Mountain Goat Race time: ability to access a cluster of churches is impossible on race day. Streets have been closed in some cases, dead-end streets blocked with barricades and yet no one is in sight to provide guidance to those who may just happen to live there. When detours had been arranged, they were detours to nowhere, just leading to another set of barricades.
Streets miles away from the beginning of the race were completely closed even before the runners left downtown last Sunday. Benedict and Moore avenues were just a few dead-end streets that were boxed in by DPW gates that prevented cars from entering Colvin Street. (Did I mention that runners hadn’t left the starting gate, which was 7 miles away from this intersection?)
Since this was paper delivery Sunday for me with Urban CNY, I tried to navigate the race route while still making it to church. This year I didn’t make it to May 1st worship service at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church on Oakwood Avenue, despite knowing the route and using my best efforts. I became stuck behind barricade after barricade in an effort to make it to church.
By the time I was able to get there church service was over.
What adds insult to injury is that, year after year, I get reports of nasty attitudes from some of the volunteers as they quickly run through the black community. The inconvenience has caused many in the black community to “skip” Mountain Goat Sunday by not attending church that day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “hater” — I’m a former runner myself, participating in the Mountain Goat event twice. It’s a great race and fun time but 95 percent of the African-American churches are located within the area that is blocked to all traffic just as hundreds of African-Americans make their way to Sunday worship.
“Relax, this event only happens once a year!” was the retort from a race staff volunteer manning the barricades. These unofficial traffic deputies have effectively denied people in the African-American community access to our places of worship one day each year without any question from the African-American clergy or political leadership. (Insert yawn here)
Churches, check your collection baskets ’cause I’d bet dollars to donuts that church receipts were down this May 1, 2011. Not because people didn’t want to tithe, this was simply a denial of the right to worship. Detours to nowhere, from race organizers, whose collective attitude was basically “figure it out for yourself… we’re busy running a race.”
While the City of Syracuse may not be violating the Constitution of the United States by establishing no government sanctioned religion, by allowing the Mountain Goat on Sunday the city is denying African-Americans access to our neighborhood churches. In a sense, they were denying us the right to practice our religion.
Perhaps if we wore ill-fitting spandex, Nike shoes and Emerald City (our new nick-name) T-shirts, we’d get more attention.
Next year, let’s just cancel church in the black community on Mountain Goat Sunday. I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t mind. Just make him a corporate sponsor.