Words Matter

“We can speak with passion, yet talk in a tempered, measured and graceful way. “

Since coming to Santa Cruz I have come to know and appreciate people like Rev. Darling.  He wrote this editorial. I asked for his permission to publish it here. Rev Darling’s type kindness and humanity are desperately needed. How we speak to one another matters greatly. People on the fringe use extreme words as justification for wrong behavior.

This past week a man in Chicago was violently assaulted for being black and gay. My daughter’s colleagues discussed the assault and many told their own stories of verbal beratings, physical assaults, and slurs for being black, gay, Hispanic or transgender.

As a police chief, I encourage those who have been assaulted to report it. Come and talk about your assault with us even if you don’t want to make an official report. It might be helpful to you and allows us to be pro-active in our efforts to prevent additional occurrences.

Rev. Darlings Editorial


“Stride Toward Freedom”

“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me round, turn me round…

Ain’t gonna let Bull Connor turn me round…

Ain’t gonna let no Jim Clark turn me round…

Keep on a’walkin’, keep on a’talkin’, walkin’ down to freedom land!”

Jim Clark was the brutal Sheriff of Dallas County in Selma, Alabama, more than a half century ago when I sang those words with marchers in the face of probable beating, fire hoses or arrest. There were no degrees of separation between the White Citizens’ Council, Ku Klux Klan, Selma Police, Sheriff of Dallas County and the Alabama office of the FBI.

I spent a day just before the march from Selma to Montgomery in the drug store on the unoccupied town square of Marion, Alabama, the county seat where Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot with the cooperation of the Marion police. That murder was an immediate catalyst for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s S.C.L.C. call to march for equality and the right to vote. Every Tuesday all the shops in town were closed and there was a relentless rain storm.

I had driven from New Haven, Connecticut with my wife, Karen, and our two children in response to Brother Martin’s call.  Rev. C.T. Vivian had asked for a volunteer to accompany a carload of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] workers to a voting rights rally at the AME Zion Church later that night. Since I had no assignment prior to the rally I went across the square toward the awning over the entrance to the closed pharmacy.

A couple of local farmers were leaning against the wall waiting for a break in the storm. After about a quarter of an hour with them staring at the church I ventured something like “Looks like nobody’s coming to town in this rain.”

No response.

I waited, our gaze fixed on the church.

After at least another quarter hour one of them said, “You ain’t from around here.”


“You here to stir up trouble with our [delete]s?”

“For voter registration.”

The druggist unlocked the door from inside and said, “You fellows might as well come inside out of the rain and talk.”

In about 5 minutes the pickup trucks began arriving. And I was soon engaged in the most intense, candid 2-hour “conversation” of my life with 20-25 men including the policeman and the town doctor. Not one of them suggested there was any possibility that their “special way” among the Confederate states would ever be changed nor should it be. I acknowledged that many of the racial abuses existed in the North but that their insistence “their [black people]” in the South prefer things to remain as they were was simply not true, which was the reason we were there.  All of them made it crystal clear they knew who killed Jimmy Lee Jackson and where he was buried.

Last week I marched with NAACP and the Santa Cruz police as well as over 30 organizations to honor and seek to integrate into our lives and work the nonviolent principles for which Brother Martin gave up his life.  We spoke and listened while we openly shared acknowledgment of both the unjust laws and gross abuses of the law by many courts and police agencies across the nation, as well as spurious abuse of faith as a facade for hateful division.

I deeply appreciate Chief Andy Mills for initiating that dialogue and a fresh, more effective and less punitive way of policing and relating to the community immediately upon arrival in Santa Cruz. And I am proud to be a life-time member of NAACP, as well as many assertive, focused associations and organizations. I am by faith and chosen vocation committed to nonviolence. But I also respect other good faith vocational choices. We have a long way to go in these United States but Santa Cruz has taken long strides in repairing the many breaches that persist in our hometown.

Recognizing that the burden for creating economic fairness and justice belongs first to the whole community not the police, Council Member, Drew Glover with the Resource Center for Nonviolence has shouldered leadership in renewing Brother Martin’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Together we can and we must resolve the intractable economic disparities, political dysfunction, drug abuse, inaccessibility to food, shelter, and health services for every person in our city.  And I am confident that we shall overcome, we will walk hand in hand at the very least one day without weapons or defenses in our stride toward true freedom.


Darrell Darling, Pastor

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