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IM4HI Faith and Race Timeline on Incarceration and Immigration

History— the stories we tell about the events of the past— impacts the way we interpret the events of the present, and the way we shape the events of our future.  The Faith and Race Timeline, created by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, invites us to see the threads and throughlines between the past and the present, and across different impacted communities, to help us identify the patterns of oppression and resistance.

This timeline documents key moments of racial oppression enacted in the United States that laid the tracks for our current immigration and incarceration policies, marking significant moments which criminalize the existence and strategies for survival of indigenous peoples, Black Americans and other communities of color.

This timeline is also about faith, religions, and spiritual values. In creating this timeline we recognize white supremacy’s power to use faith, specifically Christianity, as its tool.  Throughout the timeline, we highlight how religion, as practiced by people of faith, perpetuated racial oppression and racial hierarchy.  At the same time, we also document when persons inspired by their spiritual values were able to sustain life and use it to confront and dismantle racism. 

As people of faith, we recognize that each of us have different work to do towards creating a beloved community, depending on how racism, racial superiority and systemic oppression has impacted us differently.  As people of faith, we invite you to engage with this timeline to learn these histories, as a step toward liberation where all can live with dignity and wholeness.  

There is important work to be done in faith communities towards building multiracial justice and solidarity to eradicate racism and systemic oppression.  We hope this timeline can be a tool towards that end.  

Table of Contents

  • Module 1: Prisons and Detention and Their Impact on Black, Indigenous and People of Color
  • 2: Displacement and Resistance of Indigenous People
  • 3: The Slave Trade, The Creation of Race, and the Thread of Anti-Blackness Into the Present
  • 4. Citizenship and the Establishment of Whiteness
  • 5. Family Separation as National Policy (Immigration and Incarceration)
  • 6. The Use of Jails and Prisons to Address Social Issues 
  • 7.  US Expansion and the Root Causes of Forced Migration
  • 8.  The Economics of Immigration and Incarceration

Use this timeline for personal learning and reflection, in a group setting, or in education and worship contexts. Reflection questions are embedded in the timeline to reflect on faith and race.  We ask that when using any part of the timeline in public settings, please acknowledge “Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity:  Faith and Race Timeline,” and let us know what you think and how you are using it. Please fill out this brief google form to let us know how you are putting it to use.  We will stay in touch with you about additional resources.

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Study Guide: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

On February 4, 2021 IM4HI organized a faith discussion on “the Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This piece was specifically written to the religious community who were criticizing his efforts during the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century. We invite you to use this study guide to uncover the ways this piece can shape our organizing today and empower us in this political moment. Within the study guide is a video link to listen to our event speakers like Rev. Larry Foy, faith organizer Hilda Cruz, Rev. Phillip Lawson, and a prayer from Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. Also enclosed in the study guide are discussion prompts, links to the text, and access to our power point slides.

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People’s Bibliography on COVID-19 and Incarceration

Prisons and immigration detention centers have always been detrimental to healthy human life. Now, COVID-19 is exacerbating the unsafe living conditions of these facilities and exposing them for what they are. There can be no reform for a system that is designed to violently harm the health and spirit of incarcerated individuals.

IM4HI has assembled a resource list designed to give readers an introductory education on the dangers of COVID-19 in prisons and immigration detention centers and the overall inhumanity of these facilities to better inform an abolitionist mindset. You will find brief overviews on relevant topics, as well as additional reading materials for those who wish to learn more. 

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