Diocesan News

Catholics In Queens Fighting Racism With the Help of Their Church

by Emily Drooby

ROSEDALE — Matthew Campbell says the sin of racism forces him to always be on guard.

“Every time I go to the park, it’s hard knowing you might not come home that night,” he explained.

Campbell, who is a long-time parishioner of St. Clare Church in Rosedale, Queens, and his mom, Althea, are trying to stamp out that evil with the help of their community, fellow parishioners, and their church.

“This church stands for peace, equality, and justice,” Althea said, “and is against racism in any form, and we want to show that.”

Althea, who runs the church’s women’s ministry, organized a peaceful protest outside the church on June 12 as a safe space to stand up to racism and police brutality.

The protest was originally supposed to be silent, but there were moments of chanting.

“I want to be able to as I grow up or as I have kids of my own, I’m able to tell them how I fought and how my friends fought for equality when equality wasn’t a thing that was always present,” said teenager Ethan Jameer on why he felt it was important to be there.

Norma Grannumhas attended St. Clare for over 40 years and was inspired to protest for racial justice after watching footage of George Floyd’s death.

“I’ve never experienced racism until I came to the United States,” said Grannum, who is originally from Jamaica. “I’ve never seen violence like that. I’ve never seen violence, it hurts my heart to see the destruction of another human being.”

Even the church’s pastor, Father Andrew Struzzieri, joined the group outside.

“Most of my parishioners are black and they’re beautiful and I just can’t understand racism anymore,” he explained while fighting back tears. “It’s just illogical. It doesn’t make sense, so it’s important that I be here with my parishioners.”

It was an emotional day. People talked about their own experiences with racism, sharing stories about being followed while shopping in a store to being questioned about crimes they never committed.

Althea said she knows a lot of really great police officers and even has some in her family. She added that while it’s important that the police in their community know they’re appreciated, there does need to be more accountability.