ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A sign at a church has been turning heads in St. Petersburg.
The marquee message at Allendale Methodist Church reads “Justice for Ronald Greene and Jacquez Kirkland.” Reverend Andy Oliver says the two names highlight the racial problems that still exist one year after the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
“People experiencing harm, if we can be in solidarity with them and advocate for change on their behalf as well, then Black and brown people will be safer moving forward,” Rev. Oliver said.
Rev. Oliver says Greene and Kirkland are two examples of issues exposed by Floyd’s death that are still with us one year later.
“I follow Jesus Christ. Jesus was a Palestinian brown-skinned man who was murdered, lynched by the state on a cross,” Rev. Oliver said. “I have to take seriously the person I follow calls for those types of systems to be overturned, for justice to come. That is the reason and purpose we exist.”
This is not the first time a sign outside his church has been viewed as controversial. Last year, the church sign read, “George Floyd was lynched today by the police” and “White Supremacy: The most dangerous virus infecting our country since 1492.”
“[The signs I put up] make some people angry. We get phone calls, voicemails, emails and letters to my boss,” Rev. Oliver said.
We asked what he has to say to those who think his message is too controversial for a church.
“Jesus was controversial. I’m following the footsteps of Jesus who loved in a way so ardently it ended up taking his life. This is a cause I’m willing to give my life to as well,” Rev. Oliver said.
At first glance, some passerby’s don’t understand the sign. After learning more, Rev. Oliver’s message has been resonating with some.
“I’m going to keep being out here, calling for love and proclaiming justice because I believe everyone has the potential for transformation,” Rev. Oliver said.
Reverend Oliver said St. Pete police officers are moving in the right direction with their Community Assistance and Life Liaison program, sending social workers to help improve the response to mental illness, poverty and addiction.
“We need that type of imagination so that we’re not asking police to do everything to serve the variety of needs of people,” Rev. Oliver said. “We can reimagine ways that are smarter and allow police to do the work they need to do.”
As a nation, Rev. Oliver says he believes we have a long way to go.