So around 2009/2010 I lost the desire to celebrate Christmas though I loved the gospel accounts of the Holy Family running into Egypt to escape the genocide of King Herod against Hebrew babies (how could a white Messiah hide out in an African nation?) and though I loved decorating and buying as well as receiving gifts (my love language is gifts) I didn’t want to celebrate this day anymore. Something seemed off as I didn’t feel closer to The Most High though I went to services and kept an Advent journal Christmas always seemed to make many feel unworthy and rushed. Additionally, I didn’t see this celebration in the scriptures but for a few years I went along with the flow, but around 2012 after praying and fasting around Easter/Passover I received confirmation to start observing the Sabbath and the Feast of the Scriptures. I also decided that I would examine the practices I learned as a Christian: were these practices what Yahshua calls the “traditions of man that nullify the word of The Most High” (Mark 7:8)? Additionally as a Black woman I struggle with being pressured into other people’s agendas verses following my spirit’s calling and so in light of this last year I incorporated Hanukkah into my spiritual life loving the story of the Maccabees who resisted Roman domination as I struggle to resist the domination of white supremacy that encroaches on my temple (my body) and tries to change my hair, my features, my spirituality, my joys and my community. See the story of the Maccabees rebelling against Rome is the story of oppressed people practicing agency against their oppressors and the miracle of The Most High keeping their oil burning confirms for me that Abba does not want his children living under oppression. I also love the Hanukkah story because it’s a celebration of survival and as I reflect on my recent visit to the Slave Castles of Ghana I realized that the fact that I am still alive means my ancestors survived: Roman domination and escape into Africa, the Slave Castles, the Middle Passage, Old Jim Crow, the New Jim and continue to survive. Now in the memory of my ancestors and in praise to The Most High I don’t want to just survive but I want to thrive knowing that no one can curse what Yah has blessed and no one can destroy my people. This is why I celebrate Hanukkah not as an alternative to Christmas but as a praise to The Most High that my people are still here, that after homelessness and foster care I am still here and that my generations will be blessed! This post isn’t to judge anyone who observes Christmas it is just my reflection and celebration. The leader of my Congregation Jonathan Mickens said “everyone can be a Maccabee” and so how are we resisting the defilement of our temples and the destruction of our culture? To learn more about Hanukkah read the Book of Maccabees which was originally included in the King James Bible, to learn about the Feast of Dedication (which is the scriptural name for Hanukkah as the Maccabees rededicated the temple after the A Romans defiled it read: Psalm 30 and John 10:22. Happy Hanukkah and A Joyous Feast of Dedication. Now I am off to celebrate with the youth of my temple hopefully this old lady can keep up😁😂!
It’s been a little over a week since I returned from a life changing trip to Ghana and Benin. In my spirit I felt like I needed to take a trip to Israel first, Ghana and then Nigeria (where my ancestors hailed from but Ghana was the last place they were before being removed from the African continent during the trans-atlanti slave trade). The Most High is faithful to give us the desires of our heart because over the past two years I have been able to go on life changing tours to Israel, Ghana and Togo.
Each tour was intentionally designed for and led by Black people to ensure we connected with our culture in a way that was accurate and dignified. For more information on my trip to Israel read Marching to Zion: #BlackLivesMatterEverywhere which was published on this blog.
Going to Ghana meant so much to me as it is a place of much history for Africans throughout the diaspora as the last place many were held before being shipped to the New World in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade but Ghana was also a place that many Hebrew refugees from Israel settled throughout history when fleeing Israel after the first and second temples were destroyed. Now these groups didn’t leave Israel and walk to Ghana in a few days but over the course of hundreds of years they migrated usually starting in Egypt and ending in Ghana with some Hebrews ending their migration in Nigeria, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and other places in Africa. Some groups in Ghana that migrated from Israel are: the Ewe, Ashanti, Sefwi (who currently have a vibrant Torah practicing community and Synangue) and the Ga Dagme. While in Ghana my local Tour Guides and drivers Kodjo, Derrick and David were Ewe and they were men of deep faith and showed us a good time. Our American Tour Guide was Peter a Guyanese-American who ensured that while in Ghana we saw as much of the country as possible while also ensuring that we patronized the businesses of local Ghanians.
One purpose of this trip was to gather research about the ethnic groups in Ghana who migrated from Israel for my forthcoming book Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering the Black Biblical Destiny. The Sefwi and Ashanti were clear that their people migrated from Israel and my Ewe friends are also clear about this fact and all of these ethnic groups have Torah practices as a basis of their cultures. During my time in Ghana through the wonderful organization Kulanu which is Hebrew for All of Us I was able to visit the Sefwi Jewish Village and Synagogue as apart of the first African-American delegation to visit this group. Through the generous donations to my fundraising campaign I was able to give a monetary donation to the community for their guest house and I was able to deliver 180 Hanukkah candles as they prepare to celebrate. This visit was life changing and witness of our faith to the individuals in my Tour group.
Another impactful part of my tour was going to the Cape Coast and Elmina Slave Castles where my ancestors and millions of other enslaved Africans were held while waiting to be shipped to the New World for slavery. Sadly there was a church that held services right over the slave dungeons where men and women were held in dark cramped caves with no sunlight or adequate food. This deeply enraged me but also shown how false religion has been used to enslave not only the minds but the bodies of my people. I also realized that trumendous strength of my ancestors and I know I can overcome whatever stands before me because of them. I prayed at the Door of No Return which is the door the enslaved Africans walked through to get on slave ships never to see Africa again. As I prayed for my people I felt a strength and resolve that was truly empowering.
I want to thank each and every person who donated to my fundraiser for this trip and the Sefwi Jewish community. Be Blessed and see videos and picture from my trip below!
Shalom Everyone! For my congregation’s Sukkot celebration we started with a day where everyone dressed as a Bible character and so with Esther, Ruth and Deborah taken I decided to dress as the little known Hebrew Prophetess Huldah whose prophetic words to King Josiah helped the entire Kingdom of Judah turn from Idolatry. She was also a scribe and some scholars say she scribed the words of the Shema: “Hear of Israel, The Lord Our God is One.”
I have recently been reading about Huldah and have found her to be one of the least known but critical heroines of the Hebrew people. Earlier this week my Pastor asked me to deliver a short message and I decided to speak about Huldah and the Call to Let Idolatry Go as we go into a season of many pagan celebrations but also as we all struggle with idols of the heart.
🌬Check out my message here: The Prophetess Huldah & The Call to Let Idolatry Go! 💕
🙌🏿Invitation: At the end of my message I invited everyone into a time of prayer to repent of any Idolatry in our lives and for the strength to Let Idolatry Go! I invite you to pause and do the same. 🙏🏾
For more information on the Prophetess Huldah check out: Huldah the Prophet Who Wrote Hebrew Scripture.
For Pentecost 2016 aka Shavout I was invited to speak for Women’s Day at Christ Temple Church in Harlem under the leadership of Apostle Bishop Clark. I always appreciate being able to share the Hebraic roots of our faith with Black Christian women and in this sermon I shared about what Proverbs 31 means in the original Hebrew cultural it was written in.
In Hebrew Virtuous Woman is Eschet Chayil which means Woman of Valor or Woman of War. Dr. Frank Seekins whose work centers around Hebrew word pictures and Minister Stella Payton whose work centers around how women of faith can take the knowledge of being Eschet Chayils to build strong homes and businesses have deeply informed my message.
To listen to my sermon check out these videos below, the main portion of the sermon is in part 2. Be Blessed! 💕
At the end of my message I invited my friends from the FPA Foundation forward to share about their work as women who are former foster children that now advocate for foster children and families connected to the system. As some of you may know I spent most of my childhood in foster care and in the future I will be working with the FPA Foundation to form a United Nations Committee on Foster Care. Please check out The FPA Foundation and support their cause!
My congregation Beth-El House of Yahweh observes all the Biblical Feast and it has been a blessing for me to observe these moedim or appointed times where we can take time out of our busy schedules and commune with each other and the King of the universe. This week is the Biblical feast of Sukkot aka Feast of Tabernacles, where the Hebrews remember how Yah kept them during their wilderness time after leaving bondage in Egypt.
My congregation usually goes away to a camp ground with other congregations from across the nation for Sukkot but this year we stayed in the South Bronx and each day we have activities and each evening we worshipped under our Sukkot and waved the fruit and branches as we are commanded to do in scripture.
“In Biblical times, Sukkot was considered the most important of all the holidays, referred to simply as “the Feast” (1 Kings 12:32). It was a time of many sacrifices (Num. 29:12-40) and a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read aloud to the people (Deut. 31:10-13). It is one of the three required festivals of the Yahweh (Exod. 23:14; Deut. 16:16).
The Torah explicitly commands three things regarding the festival of Sukkot:
To gather the “four species” (Lev. 23:40)
To rejoice before Yahweh (Deut. 16:13-14; Lev. 23:40)
To live in a sukkah (Lev. 23:42)”.
Our Theme for this Sukkot is: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb from Revelation 19: 6-9 and each night different groups from my congregation worked together as neighborhood based groups to lead the service based on various themes. My group was the Brooklyn/Harlem group and our theme was Jubilee. As a faith-based organizer working on economic justice or what some of my colleagues call the Moral Economy I LOVE Jubilee. Across the country clergy are using the Biblical Jubilee model to end economic injustices such as payday lending. For more information on this work check out: Pay Day Lending is a Biblical Issue.
I invite you to read my reflection below and offer your feedback.
Since this week’s theme is The Marriage Supper of the Lamb I wanted to share briefly on the connection between the traditional Hebrew engagement and marriage ceremony, the West African traditional engagement and marriage ceremony and how both point to our Messiah. When we look at the traditional Hebrew Marriage ceremony we see many practices that point to our Messiah’s return and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. For instance, in The Book of Revelation 3:20 Yahshua says:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Well did you know that when a Hebrew man wanted to marry a Hebrew woman he would go to her home and do a “knocking Ceremony” and if the sister wanted to accept his proposal she would open the door and the groom to be would be invited into a festive meal but if she didn’t want to accept it her dad would open the door to break the news to brother proposing, bringing a new meaning to the phrase “what’s behind door number 2.”
In West African countries such as Nigeria where many Hebrews migrated after the temple was destroyed traditional engagements to this day include a knocking ceremony where the groom to be knocks on the Bride to be’s door. When we read in Revelation 3:20 that Yahshua is knocking this is an invite for us as his Bride to accept him into our hearts. In knocking ceremonies if the knocking groom is let in the Bride, her family and the groom have a meal together to celebrate, like Yahshua mentions in Revelation 3:20. For more information on the Yoruba of Nigeria’s migration from Israel read Origin of the Yoruba and The Lost Tribes of Israel.
A wedding is a time of celebration, but in Hebrew culture our traditional engagement and marriage ceremonies point to more than just romance but they point to a divine love story between Israel and Yah. No matter how many times Yah knocked on Israel’s door and got no answer in return he keeps loving us and pursuing us as his bride.
Aren’t you grateful that Yah keeps pursuing us?
Though Jubilee was an awesome way to honor Yah, our Hebrew ancestors didn’t fulfill it and yet STILL Yah has a final Jubilee, a divine Marriage Supper for his wayward Bride and all who join her.
According to minister and author Jack Wellman, the word Jubilee in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “Yobel” or “Yovel” meaning Ram’s horn, trumpet or Coronet. To announce the Jubilee year, the Shofar would be blown and this would happen on the Day of Atonement, which shows an important connection between Atonement, having our sins forgiven and being able to celebrate the Jubilee. When you heard the Shofar blown on the Day of ATONEMENT on the 50th year you knew that not only were your sins forgiven but that your debts were forgiven and if you were a slave you would be set free.
The Septuagint translation of the Bible renders the word Jubilee in Hebrew as a blast of liberty! Jubilee meant that those who had to sell themselves into slavery due to poverty would be freed and indeed don’t we sell ourselves into bondage when we sin?
But the Good News, the Great News, the Gospel News is Yahshua came to give us Jubilee Freedom and we know this because he began his earthly ministry by reading Isaiah 61: 1-4 in the Temple:
The Spirit of YAH is on me,
because Yah has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of Yah’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our Yah,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of Yah
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
The Year of Yah’s favor that we read about in Isaiah 61: 2 is the Jubilee year so by reading this scripture to start his earthly ministry Yahshua is letting us know that he is beginning a Jubilee!
Jubilee was more than a year of celebration but it was a year of liberation. Jubilee was the 50th year in the Hebrew calendar after the 7th Shabbat year or what some call the shmita year where the land laid fallow and was allowed to rest. Sadly, though Jubilee was an awesome gift to Yah’s people like my sister Shanay reminded me the Hebrews never fully kept the Jubilee which is one of the reasons we went into captivity. Instead of fully keeping the Jubilee the Hebrews would try to play Yah by doing things like not giving out loans in the 49th year. Have you ever tried to play Yah, by finding a loop hole not to completely follow his commandments? For instance, some Hebrews would try to get out of taking care of their parents by saying “I need to pay my offerings.” See one aspect of a religious spirit is trying to play Yah aka having a form of being Yah like while denying Yah’s power.
Yah can’t be played or mocked.
We will reap what we sow, unless we come under the banner of Yahshua’s love and grace by answering when he knocks on the door of our hearts.
Who would agree that most of our people are in economic bondage?
How many articles and documentaries do we see on Black economics and yet Yah created a plan for our economic liberation and it’s called Jubilee.
Jubilee means slaves are set free and debts are forgiven and land was returned to those who lost their land to debt.
How many people need to be set free?
Well the Apostle Paul lets us know in Galatians 5:1:
It is for freedom that Yahshua has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
This scripture is also alluding to the Jubilee and making a connection between Yahshua and Jubilee like Isaiah 61.
Jubilee in the Natural
Do you know why items are removed from your credit reports after 7 years? This is because the credit industry on a small level is following Torah Jubilee. If you have items that are older than 7-years on your credit report seek credit clean up services because it’s illegal for those items to remain on your report.
Yes, even the banks prosper by taking from our culture.
Bankruptcy only last 7-years because even our sinful financial system has enough sense to at least half way follow Jubilee. Remember every 7 years is a Shabbat year where the land was to allowed to rest and after 7 Sabbath Years which is 49 years the next year, the 50th year is the Jubilee year.
Did you know that different Christian denominations had a campaign called Jubilee 2000 to ask world governments to forgive African countries of their debt (which is weird to me because the sin was committed against Africa not the other way around).
2015-2016 was a Jubilee Year and during this time the United Nations urged America to pay reparations due to slavery. This is why it’s important to keep up with current events in light of the Bible because Yah is moving and we don’t want to be left behind.
I participated in the United Nations fact finding mission as a testifier on the impact of Mass Incarceration on Black Women and Girls, you can read my testimony here. After these fact finding missions the UN decided ancestors of the slave trade deserve reparations.
I mention these natural examples of Jubilee because we as Yah’s people left this practice on the floor and now others are attempting to use it but with Yah we his people still have a chance to practice Jubilee and get it right even though we have been dead wrong.
I also share these natural examples of Jubilee because first the natural and then the spiritual so let’s talk about the Spiritual Jubilee which is that time when we will be with Yahshua united as all 12 Tribes of Israel and those who join Israel.
Revelation 19:6-9 tell us that:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For Yah the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of Yah.”
On that Great Day all of our debts natural and spiritual will be no more. Who is looking forward to that eternal jubilee of Joy?
So as my Pastor Jonathan reminds us these Feast Days or moedim are dress rehearsals for that wonderful time when we are with Yah and living in that millennial period, BUT how can we practice Jubilee now?
Well maybe you aren’t a big multi-national bank but almost everyone in this sanctuary has someone in their life that owes you a debt, the debt that is owed to some of us is money and for others the debt is emotional but guess what right now we have a divine choice-we can be like our Hebrew ancestors and not fully keep Jubilee or we can answer the call to set those who have hurt and offended us free.
Or maybe you don’t need to set someone free but due to sin that has you bound you need Yah to set you free. Are there sins that have you in slavery? Well guess what Yahshua came to set you free and give you an eternal Jubilee!
So I want to invite you to a time of personal prayer where you ask Yah to help you forgive someone who wronged you that you need to set free or if a sin has you in bondage take the time to pray and ask Yah to set you free from the sin that has you in bondage.
So take a few minutes to silently pray.
Remember we can practice Jubilee everyday by walking in liberation and extending liberation to our brothers and sisters through the power of forgiveness. In this way we can begin the Joy of our Eternal Jubilee today! 💕
On November 11, 2016 I head to Ghana, Benin and Togo to visit West Africa for the first time. While there I will visit the House of Israel Community of Sefwi Hebrews who live and farm according to Torah Law. I am developing a relationship to work as a Community Development Coordinator for the House of Israel Ghana and help connect them to Black Hebrew, Black Christian and Jewish communities. This tribe migrated from Israel generations ago. Visiting this community will help me gather research for my book Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering the Black Biblical Destiny!
For or more information on the House of Israel Ghana visit: http://www.scatteredamongthenations.org/ghana/
Half the proceeds of this fundraiser will go directly to the House of Israel community to help them develop their Guest House is and meet general community needs. The rest of the proceeds will help me cover expenses for my trip.
To donate visit: https://www.youcaring.com/onleilove-house-of-israel-ghana-613544#
Thank You and Be Blessed!
Earlier this year I was apart of a dialogue on the death penalty for Religion & Politics The Table Dialogue where various faith leaders write responses on a pressing social issue from the perspective of their faith tradition.
Never Murder. –Exodus 20:13 (God’s Word Translation)
As an African American woman who identifies with the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith and who has found a theological home in womanist theology, my religious tradition informs my views of the death penalty in general and as it affects Black women in particular. As a follower of Yahshua (Jesus), the Ten Commandments are still very relevant to my life and shape my ethics. I do not separate the message of the Gospel from the cultural context that Yahshua was born into. In light of this I still observe the Sabbath and when I read in Exodus 20:13 that “we should not murder,” that applies to my brothers and sisters who are incarcerated as well. As a practical womanist theologian who works against mass incarceration’s impact on Black women and girls through the PICO National Network’s Live Free Campaign, which works to end mass incarceration and police brutality, I am grieved by how the intersections of racism, sexism and classism collide to send my sisters to death row. Do we see these women?
As a woman I am inspired by the account of the Egyptian enslaved woman Hagar, who after being unjustly cast out of the home of Abraham and Sarah with her son, encounters the “God who sees her” (Genesis 16:13). Like Hagar, African American women in the criminal justice system are usually unseen and unheard, especially those who are on death row. According to academics Harry and Sheila P. Greenlee, “The percentage of women of every race receiving death sentences is less than their percentage in the female population, except for African American and Native American women. The percentage of African American and Native American females receiving death sentences is more than double their percentage of the U.S. female population. Interestingly, this finding is not true for the other women of color.” It should also be noted that Native American women face disparities in the criminal justice system as well, and this reflects the ongoing injustice faced by the general Native American population since the inception of the United States, which prospered due to the stolen land of Native Americans and stolen bodies of Africa. Theologically I believe that sin is not only individual but also social and is embedded into the very fabric of American society. The United States’ original sin is racism, and the death penalty is just another reflection of this sin. Theologically we mustsee the millions of Black women and girls who are abused by the criminal justice system, whose lives end not only in murder on death row but also while in police custody. In July 2015 five Black women died in police custody and their names are:
I would challenge advocates against the death penalty to expand their work to include advocacy concerning those who die in police custody, because in my opinion this goes hand-in-hand with the death penalty: One is formal, another is informal, but both are murder by our criminal justice system.
As a faith-based organizer I know that what must be done about the death penalty in general, and its impact on Black women in particular, is that we need to get organized. But this organization should be led by African Americans because we are the ones most affected by the injustice of mass incarceration. Ending the death penalty has to be a part of a holistic campaign to reform our broken, profit-driven mass incarceration system. African American women must organize against the death penalty in all its forms—whether it’s a sister sitting on death row for ten years or Sandra Bland who died in police custody. We have to organize with prophetic public actions, standing not for but withwomen on death row, because the most powerful movements are led by those closest to the pain.
We also must organize by withholding our money and our votes. According to the Nielsen Company study entitled “African American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing in 2015,” African American buying power is 1.1 trillion. According to the “Buying Power of Black America” report by Target Market News, “the purchases made by Black women are the single biggest influence on the growth of African American spending.” With this buying power we can begin to boycott those companies that utilize prison labor and those companies that invest in private prisons. According to my colleague Margarida Jorge, national director of the Women’s Equality Center, African American women are the most consistent voters for the Democratic Party. With this voting power, we should demand of all political parties, but especially the Democratic Party, that our support be tied to candidates willing to stand against the death penalty. According to research from Wesley Granberg-Michaelson in his book From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church, the average Christian in the world today is a woman of African ancestry. Black women not only have buck and ballot power; we have the power to influence the Christian church to take on the issue of ending the death penalty. For non-Black women allies the death penalty affects all of us and your voice as an ally is extremely important in supporting a movement to end this sinful practice in our criminal justice system. We all must get organized to build a groundswell that says the death penalty is unacceptable in our society. We all must see those who are on death row because they are our brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, friends, and neighbors. It is only when we see the tragedy of a criminal justice system that murders rather than reforms that we will create a society that honors the lives of all.