Danielle Brown, of Washington D.C., sits in her rocking chair near a casket for herself and tent she has been staying in and holding her hunger strike at Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District on Thursday, August 6, 2020.
PIIN calls on the Board and President of Duquesne University to meet with Danielle Brown and comply with her demands. Danielle Brown is a black mother who seeks justice after the death of her son Jaylen at Duquesne two years ago. She demands unfettered access to Duquesne’s investigation information and the University’s full cooperation with an independent investigation into Jaylen’s death. Additionally she demands improved protection for present and future students by equipping and training campus police at Duquesne. PIIN is in full support of these demands and calls on Duquesne to heed them.
As an organization gathered in the power of our faith traditions, PIIN must speak the truth by drawing on the deep well of the calls to justice within those traditions. Like Hagar in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, who was also a mother of African descent forced to witness her child suffering, Danielle has discovered that God is “the God who sees” her in her situation and taken that knowledge into herself, declaring at great cost that she deserves to know what happened to her son (Genesis 16:13). She has taken the violence of the unjust resistance by the powers at Duquesne into her own body, subjecting it to great struggle through a hunger strike, to reveal the truth of Duquesne’s evil choice. After 48 days of hunger, her body is now beginning to damage itself. She will soon starve to death. By denying her quest for justice, Duquesne is siding against the God who sees the suffering. Duquesne has denied the simple, just demands of a mother who, like Hagar, could not stand to see the death of her son, and who has found that God has witnessed her pain (Genesis 21:16). It is time for Duquesne to follow God’s lead and bear witness to the truth of Danielle’s just claim.
Rev Dave Swanson
Pittsburgh Mennonite Church
Rev. Dr. Vincent Kolb