JaNaé Bates works in Minneapolis USA as a minister in the United Methodist Church. She is a member of Isaiah, a grouping of religious organisations from Christian, Muslim, and other faith backgrounds working for racial and economic justice for everyone in the state of Minnesota. She is also a close friend and former colleague of Dr Kevin Hargaden, Social Justice Theologian with the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Ireland.
In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, JaNaé talks about her work with Isaiah. She describes the “the joy of being just”, not just of “doing justice”, even against the background of racial violence recently highlighted by the killing of George Floyd in her own city.
JaNaé herself is no stranger to violence against the black community. She was born in Cleveland Ohio, and she worked there accompanying and advocating for the families of unarmed young black people who were murdered by white policemen. These officers were rarely charged for their crimes, she says, and those who did always got acquitted.
JaNaé is a former journalist from the Associated Press who went on to become a Fulbright scholar. She did her doctorate at Aberdeen University in Scotland before moving on to work in a L’Arche community there. Both experiences had a profound experience on her life and ministry, as she explains to Pat at the beginning of the interview.
Despite the challenging nature of her work with Isaiah, JaNaé says he is optimistic about the future as she sees a qualitative difference in the level of protest and action for justice that is now sweeping the States.
It is, according to JaNaé, a fight for justice for all oppressed people, especially for the Native American population who had their land, their livelihood, and their culture stolen from them. “Now is not the time for peace – (shalom) in its fullest sense,” she says, adding that political agitation and hard grafting for justice must be the order of the day.
As a Christian, JaNaé is not just optimistic but full of hope for the future. For her, that hope lies in being part of the ongoing ministry of Christ.
Listen to the full interview on Zoom audio above.