The Black Presence in the Bible: Uncovering the Hidden Ones

The Last Supper from The Roman Catacombs

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while over the past few months I had a great deal of changes and additions to my life which I am grateful for. I recently started my own organization Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering The Black Biblical Destiny which is dedicated to producing Bible Study and devotional materials as well as workshops and lecturers concerning the Black presence in the Bible. I am a theology nerd but the spirit reminded me it’s not enough to collect all this info for yourself but you owe it to your ancestors to share it. Check on the Prophetic Whirlwind page on this blog for more information.

I hope all is well with each of you, remember stay connected to the Most High and you will be reminded of the truth.

Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” –Psalm 68:31

This was originally published on Sojourner’s God’s Politics Blog

Isaiah43The Bible is a multicultural book. This statement may sound controversial but archeology, history, and the text prove it to be true. In 2013 this controversy played out in the media when viewers of The Bible miniseries were upset that Samson was played by a black man. A second controversy occurred when a Fox News broadcaster confidently declared that Santa Claus and Jesus were white, yet when people researched original depictions of Saint Nicolas, they found pictures of a dark brown man. It appears that our faith has been distorted. As we celebrate Black History Month and prepare for Lent, how can uncovering the black presence in the Bible aid us in mourning against the sin of racism? One of the effects of racism is the whitewashing of history and sadly this has taken place even in our biblical studies.

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Connecting the Dots: Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change & Poverty

This article was originally published in the April 2013 Issue of Sojourners Magazine.

Image: Hurricane collage, Amir Ridhwan / Shutterstock.com

OVER THE PAST few years, we have seen tangible proof that creation is terribly off balance. Global warming is causing droughts and heat waves around the world and is making hurricanes more powerful. In my hometown of New York City, we have experienced the effects of severe weather: Hurricane Irene in 2011 and, most recently, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy was an eye-opening demonstration that climate change is a poverty issue, a race issue, and an immigration issue.

Though neighborhoods of all socioeconomic statuses were affected by Sandy, poorer communities are taking longer to recover. Many of them were without electricity, heat, and water longer than were more affluent communities. For instance, residents of Red Hook’s public housing projects in Brooklyn were without power and water for two weeks after the storm. My cousin Dabriah Alston, a Red Hook resident, told me that the city ignored residents’ repeated requests for information about when the heat would come back on: “The bottom line is, they don’t care about us. Projects are filled with poor folk, and as we all know, the poor are seldom a priority.”
Read the Entire Article Here

From Homeless to Hope: Sydia Simmons Founder of The Lost Angels Society

In the U.S. there are about 1,682,900 homeless and runaway youth-The National Coalition for the Homeless

 “25 percent of former foster youth nationwide reported that they had been homeless at least one night within two-and-a-half to four years after exiting foster care.”-The National Alliance to End Homelessness

Number of homeless youth in NYC every night – 3,800.-Shelter of Peace

Founder of the Lost Angels Society Sydia Simmons, her husband Jonathan & daughter Aniyah

Sydia Simmons, her husband Jonathan & daughter Aniyah

At 14-years old Sydia Simmons was kicked out into the streets of New York City by her alcoholic mother but today she is a wife, mother & founder of the Lost Angels Society. The purpose of the Lost Angels Society is to provide a safe space for homeless teens. Sydia knows first hand the difficulty of being homeless, especially in New York City and because she has overcome through her faith she wants to give back. On December 16, 2012 Sydia hosted the Lost Angels Society Benefit to give homeless youth a Christmas celebration. This benefit was supported by actress Uma Thurman, Superstar Singer Usher and many others. Sydia truly has a passion and compassion for homeless youth and an important message for the Church. In Isaiah 61: 3-4 it states: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord 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”, Sydia truly fits the description above because she is rebuilding the lives of teens devastated by homelessness. What is unique about the Lost Angels Society is that it is founded by someone who experienced homelessness first hand.

In the video below Sydia shares her amazing testimony with power, honesty & grace.

For more information on the Lost Angels Society, the April 2013 Youth Conference and how you can assist please contact Sydia at: mszsimmons2011@gmail.com.

Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) on Religion & Revolution

stokely-carmichael-civil-rights-activist-resigned-as-prime-minister-of-the-black-panther-partyKwame Ture aka Stokely Carmichael famous SNCC organizer, Pan-African and firebrand speaks on the role of religion in liberation. A highlight of this speech is that according to the Bible Jesus never stepped foot in Europe so he could have been any color BUT white. Additionally, Ture outlines the many contributions Africa has made to world religions in general and Christianity in particular such as monotheism and the monastery.

Many do not know that Kwame Ture seriously considered becoming a preacher as a teenager. I actually think this calling was fulfilled just outside of the church walls in struggle for African people. May this mighty warrior rest in peace!

Life of Pi Inspirational Review

Caution: Spoiler Alert 

Image credit: Peter Sorel

Today I saw Life of Pi (the movie based on Yann Martel’s best-seller) as an Sunday treat to myself. I will try not to give away too much of the movie but I felt led to reflect on the overall message. The main character named Pi (as someone with a weird name I was already on his side, LOL!), is a spiritually curious Indian boy who decides to follow Hinduism, Christianity and Islam in a search for God’s truth.As a child I also looked into many religions of my own accord and through a mandatory extra period of World Religions class required by the “gifted” program I was placed in during Junior High School. I  ordered a Book of Mormon but before it could arrive at my house I discovered what Mormons thought of Black people prior to the 1970’s and ended up throwing it away and writing a Black Power note on the reply card and promptly sending it back to the Mormons (my first Act of Black Liberation Theology). I read some of Siddhartha and found Buddhism attractive not as a religion but as a call to find my own spiritual path.

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A Great Blessing & A Great Responsibility: Sojourners Emerging Voices Project!

I am humbled and blessed to be apart of Sojourners Emerging Voices Project which is a  initiative that aims to raise the voices of new leaders for faithful justice. I found out about this in the spring but the project was officially launched yesterday. God is hilarious because a few years ago I  complained to friends and God about the lack of women and people of color speaking, leading and writing in the faith-based social justice world. Often when we complain about something that needs to get done God will point back at you and say “why don’t you do it?” In 2007 I was discouraged about the lack of concern for justice I observed in the church, had recently left a really bad church situation and was praying and crying about the gap between my reality and the church. During that time after a fast I learned about Sojourners from a email to Union students inviting us to apply for a scholarship to the Pentecost 2007 Conference (which I thought was a Black Pentecostal Social Justice Conference, one of my girlfriends even thought I was going to meet somebody there, LOL). I attended the conference and found a community of Christians striving for justice nationally but more importantly in NYC. At the conference I met Lisa Sharon Harper (a fellow Emerging Voices member), Rev. Peter Heltzel and Anna Lee Winans all founders of NY Faith & Justice. I returned home fired up to organize people of faith for social justice. A year later I was able to intern at Sojourners as a Beatitudes Society Fellow and began writing for the magazine and blog. I never expected to have these opportunities but God does hear our spoken and unspoken prayers. Those who know me know that I come from very humble circumstances and I was not raised in church, all I have to qualify me for this work is God’s grace and the words of my testimony.

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Why the Church is the Best Place for A “Pussy Riot”

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Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova makes herself heard before a hearing in Moscow on August 8. Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages

On August 17th the punk band Pussy Riot will receive their verdict for the case against them. The members of this band have been in jail since March for protestfying against Russian political conditions in a Moscow’s largest Orthodox Church. According to Slate:

“The trial for three members of Pussy Riot, a Russian punk band that got in a lot of trouble for a prank/protest event where they crashed the altar of Moscow’s largest Orthodox Church to play a single anti-Putin song, concluded this week. The members gave closing statements, which they used to reassert their objections to the authoritarian state and the way that religious faith is being hijacked to garner support for government oppression. Business Insider ran a video and a translation of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s closing statement, where she clearly laid out the case for breaking the back of all oppressive institutions and linked her ordeal with that of many historical figures who have faced similar censorship efforts from social and governmental authorities.”
Pussy Riot’s Closing Statement

As a faith based community organizer I spend a great majority of my time trying to get political issues into the church so that the gospel can be relevant to the reality of those on and off the pews. I believe the best place for a “pussy riot” is the church and though this may seem sacrilegious here’s why I feel this way:

1. When the church ignores social and political issues it silently blesses injustice; see slavery, the holocaust, lynching and child sexual abuse. Testimony Time is a set time in many Black Churches in which congregants can speak of their pains and triumphs and how God brought them through. Testimony time is democratic and a time of raw honesty. I call what Pussy Riot did Protestifying because they protested by testifying about the political conditions of their country.

2. Though Jesus came to earth via a pussy the divine feminine has been dishonored and dismissed in the church. Ironically women make up the majority of the church and without pussy the church could not survive.

3. When we read the Biblical Psalms (which were mostly songs) we read of sadness, joy, justice, injustice, fear, courage and a host of other conditions and emotions. In Church we don’t only need songs of joy and devotion but honest songs where we tell God our frustrations and express our anger. Sadly, in many of today’s churches we are only allowed to sing polite hymns or sugary sweet “power point songs” (a term I coined for Evangelical Praise & Worship Songs), many a Sunday I feel like I am lying to God when I am asked to sing these false platitudes and I don’t think God is pleased with our “false sacrifices of praise”. Everything is not ok in our world and yet the church does not want us to bring our pain into the church. I believe God longs to have a transparent relationship with us in which we are honest about the full spectrum of our emotions.

4. Lastly according to Mary’s Song, Isaiah 61 and countless other Biblical scriptures God cares about the oppressed, so why wouldn’t the church be the place to speak about social issues? I do not believe in the separation of spirit from body or in compartmentalizing our lives. our politics, spiritually and physical realities all matter to God and should be brought to the altar of our churches.
Ironically when Mary Mother of Jesus sang her song (also known as the Magnificat) of Justice she had to do so with another woman outside of the temple.Mary’s Song was a pussy riot of her own because she sang these revolutionary words:

He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

This song is not from a secret lost book of the Bible but can be found in the Gospel of Luke and gives support for being honest with God about our social conditions. I will be praying for the members of Pussy Riot but more importantly for the awakening of the global Church so that we will open our doors and invite reality and justice in.

Take Action and Sign the petition Free Pussy Riot!

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Russia is one of the many countries where the Black Madonna is honored.