Testimony and Reflection from GA223

Against 08-03

I’m Olivia Thomas from Baton Rouge Louisiana and I’m a member of the Midsouth Presbytery. I am speaking against 08-03. 

Home is a funny thing. It took me leaving Louisiana to fall head over heels in love with her. My favorite thing to do during college was to invite friends home with me and show them the land I proudly called ‘my home’. How, year long, egrets dot the cypress trees as balls of bright white— looking like ornaments on a Christmas tree. I love that land. I love the people who live on that land.

Those are my people. In fact, until April of 2010, my cousin Kurt worked on an oil rig just off of the coast. He was the captain of the Deep water Horizon, the drilling rig involved in what’s come to be known as the BP oil disaster. A disaster that killed native species and continues to harm the shrimping and tourist communities— taking away so many jobs. 

If my liberation is, in fact, bound up with yours, then the Lord commands you to care for the life of the egret, the health of the turtle, my cousin, Kurt, the folks in Southern Louisiana who, for too long, have been taken advantage of by big oil. These corporations take away our ability to breathe, plague entire villages with cancer, and destroy God‘s creation— all to make a buck. It is time to say farewell to fossil fuel and to direct our energy and our money to life and to liberation. I ask you to vote down 08-03 and instead vote yes on an overture calling for explicit divestment from big oil. Thank you. 

In Favor of 11-14 

When I was 17, my best friend took his life with a gun that he had a disturbingly easy time acquiring. He had a broad selection from an armory, unlocked. I cried and cried and at 17 I felt part of myself die along with him. 

When he died I was SO angry. I was mad at his family, I was mad at gun dealers, I was mad at him. For months and months rage seemed to be the only feeling I could access. 

I’d imagine you, too, are angry about the state of gun violence in this country. Maybe anger is the primary reaction you have when you flip on the news and hear that 6, 17, 56 innocent people have died. Maybe it’s sadness. Both are legitimate.  Both are warranted. Both are not enough. Anger and sadness are paralyzing. They are not life giving. They are not the way to heal your hurt and they are not the way to heal this country’s gun addiction. 

I knew I was beyond anger and finally grieving Henry’s death when I found a way to act. I felt myself come back into my body only when I found a way to mobilize others. When I refused to stop talking about it. When I worked with young people in Memphis to organize a gun violence march. Do not let your anger and sadness blind you. Help others. Help yourself heal. Honor Henry and honor all for whom our anger did not protect. Please vote in approval of overture 11-14.