Racial Unity Now has built a base for sustainability

LYNDEN ­— The group Racial Unity Now plans to host an interactive online event with Black pastor Charles Presley on the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.

Local retired pastor Allen Likkel will lead the discussion with Presley, a Seattle native who is also an author, motivational speaker, church planter and missional leader.

People can tune in by going to the RUN Lynden Facebook page and clicking on the link to the discussion.

This will be a first public effort since the Lynden-based group was formed and had an initial call-in webinar on race relations  last summer. It all followed the July 5 scene in Lynden that saw gun-toting citizens defending public places and confronting youth and others on a 3-mile March for Black Lives procession across town.

Task force member Ron Polinder said the group has been laying a base of its beliefs and purpose in order to be strong long-term. 

Racial Unity Now takes its principles from the Bible, especially in Genesis that all people are created in the image of God and that God requires social and racial justice in human relations.

Yet it is not exclusively Christian.

“We believe these values are held by other faith traditions, thus we include them in our effort to advance racial equality, respect and love in our diverse community,” according to a mission statement.

Both Polinder and Likkel are members of a 14-person intentionally diverse local task force planning next steps.

RUN has a Facebook page and also a related one as Lynden Community Forum, which contains the recording of a 103-minute Zoom webinar of several speakers held on July 21, to which more than 100 were tuned in.

As steps of forming, Racial Unity Now has also designed a logo, pursued official nonprofit status and looked into having a website. 

Possible action items are to: have a speaker series, work with schools on curriculum, promote book clubs, encourage more ethnically diverse friendships in the community, and begin an annual or biennial event.

This is one goal statement on a list: “In our attempt to come to the center as a community, rather than argue from the fringes on the left or the right, try to become friends with someone who we may quite disagree with, but with a spirit of civility and openness learn to talk with each other.”

Roger Burke and Marlin Hendricks of Lynden are also on the task force. Hendricks said RUN wants to create “bridge-building” and “safe space” opportunities for discussion of different viewpoints. “What are fears? Because fear is such a driver of this,” he said.

Burke said American society is increasingly “moving into our enclaves” of conflicting belief, and it’s necessary somehow to “hear each other’s stories and learn from each other” in order to “possibly close the gap” and restore some hope and healing.

The Hispanic and the Native American experience also needs to be heard as well as the African American, the group says.

Christians are tending to fall into nationalist theology rather than the New Testament theology that overcomes and breaks down other barriers, Burke said.

The task force hopes the Jan. 18 conversation with Presley and Likkel can bring issues into focus.