Church members take stand with 'Wear-a-Hoodie-To-Church'
People wearing hooded shirts of different colors filled the pews at several Oklahoma City churches on Sunday.
Some of the hoodies sported well-known athletic apparel logos while others were emblazoned with the names of colleges and universities.
The shirts were symbols of solidarity, a visible sign that the church members were taking a stand.
The hooded shirts at church represented more than a fashion statement, the Rev. Semaj Vanzant told his congregation.
“We wear our hoodies to say we will not tolerate external judgement,” Vanzant, wearing a hoodie from his alma mater, Princeton, told members of The Christ Experience where he is senior pastor.
“So I encourage you to wear your hoodies to say ‘Just because I wear my hoodie does not mean I’m a criminal. It doesn’t mean I’m out to do something wrong. I put my hoodie on my head just because I feel like it.”
The unusually high number of people in hoodies at the United Methodist Church was the congregation’s response to a call put out by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, pastor of East Sixth Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), along with Tulsa pastor the Rev. Michael Riggs, senior minister of First Christian Church of Tulsa (Disciples of Christ).
The two ministers encouraged their church members and other pastors and ministers across the state to stand against Senate Bill 13 proposed by state Sen. Don Barrington, R-Lawton. It is already illegal in Oklahoma to wear a robe, mask or hood during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment. Barrington's bill seeks to bar a person from wearing those items in public to conceal the person's identity.
Riggs dubbed the initiative “Wear-A-Hoodie-To-Church” with the hope that pastors and churches would wear the hooded shirts on the Sunday before the nation celebrates the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
At The Christ Experience, 1006 NE 17, Vanzant told his congregation that wearing the hoodies was a way to promote the idea of talking with a person to find out what kind of person they are instead of making assumptions about them based on what they look like.
The preacher said he and a group of church members clad in their hoodies planned to see the civil rights film “Selma” Sunday afternoon at a local movie theater.
Meanwhile, at Jackson’s church East Sixth Street, 1139 NE 6, Jackson wore a black hoodie as he preached a sermon with themes befitting the eve of the King holiday.
“If the Church is not leading the struggle for change, for justice, then that means the Church has been co-opted by society and not the other way around,” Jackson said.
“We are standing up for folks who are being targeted by some bad legislation.”
(Photos (from top to bottom) by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman)
Picture 1: The Rev. Jesse Jackson and a large group of his church members pose together wearing their hooded shirts popularly called hoodies after worship services on Sunday at East Sixth Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1139 NE 6.
Picture 2: The Rev. Jesse Jackson, center, wearing a black hooded shirt, poses after church with a few of his church members Sunday at East Sixth Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where he is senior pastor.
Picture 3: Several members of The Christ Experience wear hooded shirts during worship service Sunday as part of the “Wear-A-Hoodie-To-Church” initiative.
Picture 4: The Rev. Semaj Vanzant, senior pastor of The Christ Experience, 1006 NE 17, welcomes a church member to worship service Sunday wearing a hooded shirt emblazoned with the name of his alma mater Princeton University..