Deacon Miller brings Mississippi connection to MLK celebration

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Deacon Art Miller of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., is the homilist for this year’s diocesan Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial celebration and Mass, sponsored by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, set for Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.
miller-art-staff106Deacon Miller believes in thoughtful action, not just words. “The whole idea of celebrating Dr. King’s birthday is celebrating peace and justice and righteousness,” said Deacon Miller. “The prophet Micah said ‘do justice,’ he didn’t say form a committee,” he added.
He is a nationally known revivalist, preacher and radio host. He calls on people to embrace what he calls radical love. He has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement and is the former head of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries in his home diocese.
“Deacon Art is an everyday kind of guy who leverages his life experiences to make the Gospel relevant and impactful to all, regardless of their knowledge of scripture. Considering the times we are living in, his message will leave you wanting to improve your relationship with God,” said Will Jemison, coordinator for the Office of Black Catholic Ministry.
Deacon Miller said most Catholics need a reminder to take what they get out of Mass and put it into practice in their daily lives. “Do you know what I wish we said at the end of Mass? ‘The Mass has ended, now the work begins,’” he said. He calls Mass just the start of the conversation with God.  “We need to apply what we do Sunday morning to the rest of the week,” he explained.
“Deacon Art Miller is not only an engaging speaker, he is also an effective motivator. He genuinely has walked the walk, not just talked the talk,” said Fran Lavelle, director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson. “He gently calls us to our most noble calling, that of Catholic Christian disciple and does in an affirming way,” she continued.
Deacon Miller has a long-standing connection to Mississippi. He was a friend of Emmitt Till, the 14-year-old Chicago native who was beaten and lynched in Mississippi 50 years ago. Deacon Miller wrote a book, “The Journey to Chatham,” about the impact the killing had on his community hundreds of miles away. He said it woke him up to what the Civil Rights Movement was all about. “It was personal. It no longer became a faded black and white picture in a history book,” he said.
Deacon Miller went on to become an activist for justice and racial reconciliation. Mississippi plays an important role in that effort. “The borders of Mississippi are the U.S. borders in terms of who we are as a people,” he said. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Deacon Miller spent time in Bay St. Louis helping people clean out and repair their homes. “When someone you love dies, you have a kind of joyous sorrow. That’s my relationship with Mississippi.”
In addition to speaking at the MLK celebration, Deacon Miller plans to visit several schools in the diocese.
All are welcome at the event, but larger groups should notify the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, 601- 949-6935.

Civil rights attorney to speak at MLK event

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney famous for representing both the families of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, will headline this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial event at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, Sunday, Jan. 11, at 3 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Diocese of Jackson and organized by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry.



Crump is a partner at Parks and Crump, LLC, based in Tallahassee, Fl., and a graduate of Florida State University School of Law. He gained national attention representing Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford Florida, but Crump has been involved in civil rights cases for many years. Many of his cases involve violent altercations with police.
Crump represented a college graduate who was shot in the back during a traffic stop and the family of a boy who was killed after being restrained and suffocated at a Florida boot camp. He is currently representing the family of Michael Brown, a teenager shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury recently declined to charge the officers involved in the case. Both the shooting and the grand jury decision sparked widespread protests, some of them violent.
“During the 1960s Civil Rights movement the religious leaders and the attorneys led the fight for equal rights. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We must unite and be the drum majors for justice,’” said Crump.
The Catholic Church in Mississippi was particularly active during the Civil Rights Movement, operating schools and learning centers and speaking out against violence such as the assassination of Medgar Evers.
“I invited Ben because I think his experience translates in to the sort of call for our faith communities, large and small, to continue the fight for social and economic justice in our communities in Mississippi,” said Will Jemison, head of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry. “The Catholic Church in Mississippi has consistently shown its willingness to stand up for what’s right and just and having someone on the national scene share his experiences in fighting against institutional injustices and prejudice seems right for our time,” said Jemison.
Jemison is planning an interfaith event and would welcome groups from any other faith traditions. For more information contact Jemison at 601-949-6935.