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Jamaican bishop stirs Black Lives Matter protest – with a touch of Marley

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2020 | 12:09 AMDave Rodney/Gleaner Writer
Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin rallying Black Lives Matter protesters in Canterbury, England, last Saturday.
Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin rallying Black Lives Matter protesters in Canterbury, England, last Saturday.

JAMAICA-BORN BISHOP of Dover, the Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, riveted crowds at a Black Lives Matter protest march in Canterbury, England, last Saturday after she delivered a stirring address to Afro-descended people to stand up for justice.

With the help of a bullhorn and dressed in purple vestments, Hudson-Wilkin told the gathering she was devastated by the footage of a Minneapolis cop fatally pressing his knee on the neck of American George Floyd.

Floyd’s death on May 25 has unleashed a wave of protests globally and sparked a groundswell of opposition against police brutality. In some jurisdictions, policymakers are mulling over defunding police forces and installing public-safety organisations.

“He pleaded that he could not breathe, but they did not care because he’s black, and that is why we’re saying black lives matter,” she said to thunderous applause outside Canterbury Cathedral.

The passionate preacher, holding her pectoral cross handcrafted from Jamaica’s national tree, the Blue Mahoe, whipped the mostly white crowd into a frenzy when she chanted a few lines from Bob Marley’s hit Redemption Song.

“We have got to free our minds, but we have to do it together, and we’ve got to treat each other with respect,” the bishop said.

“Making a change is our responsibility, so don’t leave it to the politicians, let’s do it for ourselves,” she said, calling for action.

The Bishop of Dover said that she had endured the pain of rejection but was “damn lucky” to have been born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She credited her formative years in the north Caribbean country for offering “images of myself in all walks of life” and spurring self-belief that she could achieve her dreams.

Hudson-Wilkin, who was installed last November as the first black woman bishop in the Church of England, urged the protesters to repel negative societal forces.

Citing references to racism as a pandemic – amid a deadly outbreak of the new coronavirus – Hudson-Wilkin said that blacks had been unfairly targeted.

“It is a pandemic and we have been dying in many ways. We can put a stop to it,” said the bishop.

“Go peacefully, and when you go from here, go with the commitment that you are going to be the change that you want to see.”