Woman Seeks to Burn Down Black Church

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A woman attempted to burn down a Black church in Berkeley, Calif. The Black church has long been the cornerstone and sanctuary for African American life. Unfortunately, they have also long been a target for racists and white supremacists trying to strike blows against the Black psyche. For the second time in a year, a Black church in Berkeley was targeted in an arson attack that the pastor believes was racially motivated.

This latest attempt was Ebenezer Baptist Church on the corner of Woolsey and Martin Luther King Way. The pastor shared a video of the incident with KPIX. In a span of seven minutes, a woman came back twice to try to burn down the Black church. She was seen in the video pacing around Ebenezer Baptist Church, throwing bricks at the window and pouring lighter fluid on the grass.

Kevin Craddock, the lead pastor, said the incident has not fueled hate. He just wants to find help for the woman seen in the video and to make sure she does not attack again. After viewing video footage from the incident, the pastor said:

It was very painful to watch, very concerning in 2021 to see someone attempt to burn down an African American church.

There’s no way you don’t know what you’re doing. You know this is an African American church and you know what lighting a fire to an African American church has been through history.

By the grace of God, the lighter wouldn’t take, it wouldn’t come on full force and nothing was being lit up.

The Black church has been around since at least the late 1700s, providing a place where weary slaves could go for comfort, and fiery abolitionists and civil rights activists could call for change. Concepts of freedom, hope, leadership, education, and notions of how one creates a strategy to counter a strategy of oppression came out of the Black church.

During the post-Civil War era, attacks on Black churches were common in the South as the Ku Klux Klan rose in power. The attacks accelerated in the 1960s when Black churches were bombed and targeted in shooting sprees because they were organizing hubs for the civil rights movement.black church

This climaxed into the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls. It also became a powerful symbol of the depth of racial hatred in the South and helped build momentum for later laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

While it is not clear what motivated the woman to attempt to burn down the Black church, many remember the tragedy that struck one of the nation’s oldest Black churches – Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Since the carnage inside of Emanuel, other Black churches have gathered their faithful to process that tragedy and fortify themselves for the journey toward forgiveness while renewing their commitments to the social activism that has made them targets for hate through the ages.

An unidentified woman, dressed in all black, was seen pacing around the Baptist church before throwing bricks at the window and pouring lighter fluid on the grass in the video. It is not known whether this attack was racially motivated or not, but it does strike a deep nerve in the community. As the church seeks to manage the threat of the incident, the Berkeley Police Department is asking for help in identifying the woman behind the latest arson attempt.

By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)


KPIX News: Woman Tries to Set Berkeley African American Church On Fire
Black Enterprise: Woman Caught on Surveillance Trying to Set Black Church on Fire
NY Times: Violent History: Attacks on Black Churches

Image Credits:

Top Images Courtesy of United Nations’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Cal. Sr. – Wikipedia Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Glendale United Methodist Church – Wikipedia Creative Commons License

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