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First AME minister on Dallas attack: ‘Division and separation have never brought healing’

The First AME church on April 4, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
The First AME church on April 4, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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The killing of five officers in Dallas caps a polarizing week of bloodshed and frustration in the country. 

Questions of race and the value of a single life have taken center stage after two black men were fatally shot by police, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. 

For thoughts and reflections, Take Two spoke to J Edgar Boyd, senior minister at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. 


Race and violence is a subject that really hits close to home for you. In June of last year, Dylan Roof shot and killed nine black parishioners at a sister church in South Carolina. Could you have ever imagined decades ago that we would still be having the same conversations? 

I would hope that that would never happen. I don't believe anybody ever foresaw that. Now this brings us together to realize that we can't be drawn away. We have to be courageous enough to continue to live and confront injustice, confront the will of those who have no respect for life. We have to do that with boldness and courage and we have to also work with governmental officials.

There is no place now for the whole conversation of homophobia, there's no place for the whole conversation of race and gender exclusion that proliferates across the political lines now. It's a time for coming together, for coalescing and for healing. And we must, in the religious circle, reach out to those who are outside of the circle, inviting them into the conversation because as Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Unless and until all of us come together and begin to live as brothers, we shall all perish as fools.' 

People are angry. They're angry over what has happened and everything that happened all week long. I'm wondering from your perspective, do families in communities both white and black have the right to be angry? 

You can be angry, you can be filled with anger, but how you manage that anger, what you do with that anger, how you use and channel that anger in a positive direction, that's really what we need to do now. We can't accept things as being just a reality or a sign of the times. The unity that we find will reach out to each other and bring us into a point where we can begin discussions that help us to realize the anguish inside of individuals, anguish inside particular groups and sit down genuinely with halls of government so we can help to begin, not just to craft laws, but to be able to change cultures that embrace the principles that we all want to see brought into the discussion so we can make situations better. 

Tonight, tomorrow and Sunday, there's going to be millions of people all around this country gathered in places of worship to get together and try to make sense of everything that has happened this week. What kind of conversations do you hope people have, regardless of denomination? 

I'm hoping that everybody can step back, read the newspaper, watch the television, read the Tweets and read the messages of communication on Facebook. Whatever it takes, inform yourself as much as you possibly can and then take a very deep breath and ask yourself a personal question: what is it that I can do to make this better? And once you make those decision and realize what it is you can do, reach out and see who else you can find. Who of common concern and common appreciation, as I am, let's reach out and coalesce them together. Let's begin to build those kind of mechanisms that brings us together and not separate further and not push us further and further apart. 

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview. 

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.)