Dark AND Lovely: The Call to Love the Black Woman’s Body

This sermon was preached at St. Lydia’s Dinner Church for the “This is My Body Series”

  

Prayer for Black Women Who Have Died in Police Custody

Divine creator thank you for this day and this meal, bless all the hands that prepared it from field to plate. Bless each person here and give each woman present a divine revelation that she is fearfully and wonderfully made and that her body as it stands now is a gift from you. God of Sarah, Rebecca and Leah we confess to you that we have been silent when the lives of Black woman have been abused by the systems of racism and sexism. We confess that we have diminished the mothers of creation, while worshipping an idol constructed by our biases. Forgive us for not standing up when in July 2015 five Black woman died in Police Custody, we call out their names now:

  • Sandra Bland
  • Kindra Chapman
  • Joyce Curnell
  • Ralkina Jones
  • Raynette Turner

God please comfort the friends and family they left behind and help us as the church to take a bold stance against the societal sins that caused their deaths. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight oh Lord my rock and my redeemer. May your Holy Spirit enter this place. Amen

Scripture Song of Songs 1: 5-6

I am black but beautiful, 
    O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
    like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
    because the sun has gazed on me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
    they made me keeper of the vineyards,
    but my own vineyard I have not kept!
Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
    where you pasture your flock,
    where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who is veiled
    beside the flocks of your companions?

When we think about the Black woman’s body we see even within our scripture translations that there has been an attempt to diminish it’s beauty because most English translations of Song of Songs 1:5-6 will read I am black BUT Beautiful while in the Hebrew the verse can read I am black AND beautiful, the Hebrew word can be translated BUT or AND yet Bible translators due to the implicit bias of racism choose BUT beautiful which is an apology for Black beauty as opposed to I am Black AND Beautiful which is an unapologetic celebration of Blackness. So the scripture should read: 

I am Black AND Lovely
    O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
    like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
    because the sun has gazed on me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
    they made me keeper of the vineyards,
    but my own vineyard I have not kept!
Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
    where you pasture your flock,
    where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who is veiled

    beside the flocks of your companions? 

 

Since encountering colonial powers the Black woman’s body has not been afforded the respect or curtesy that the White woman’s body has been afforded.   

Pregnant African Women Brenda Hardaway Woman Beaten by Cops in Rochester, NY

http://youtu.be/kFRTNHA5mbg

 What does it mean that according to research the average Christian in the world today is a woman of African descent and yet in America the average person entering prison for the first time is a Black woman of child bearing age? What does it mean to have prolife Christian activist who are silent when Black pregnant women are beaten by cops? To date there have been multiple incidents of visibly pregnant Black and Latina women who were beaten by cops the most recent being a 8 month pregnant woman who while being hit by the cop was told you better be happy I didn’t make you lose your baby! 

The dark woman’s body is deemed sinful even in our criminal justice system. Villanova University researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones were sentenced to 12% less time behind bars than women with darker skin tones. The study took into account the type of crimes the women committed and each woman’s criminal history to generate apples-to-apples comparisons. 

Data from the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Education show that from 2011-2012 , black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12% compared with a rate of just 2% for white girls and more than girls of any race or ethnicity. Researchers say that within minority groups darker-skinned girls are disciplined more harshly than light-skinned ones.


The dark woman’s body is deemed sinful, yet the oldest human remains were of an African woman named Lucy by anthropologist, the mother of humanity is dishonored yet our sacred text tell us to honor our mother that our days maybe long in Exodus. This dishonor and disregard is indeed sinful and yet throughout history Black woman have risen up and declared their beauty and power, the most recent example of this were the three black women that started the Black Lives Matter Movement and Bree Newsome who didn’t just talk about the confederate flag but removed it while reciting scripture and declaring her faith in God! My body and the body of my sisters is indeed beautiful, holy and whole, made in the image of God and as my ancestor Sojourner Truth declared:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them. Amen!

Questions for Reflection: 

  • Is Dark skin a sin?
  • In what ways do the sins of racism and sexism intersect in our faith communities?
  • How can men be allies to women facing sexism? 

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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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.

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.

Southern Baptist Elect First African-American President

                                   By Gerald Herbert, AP

On Tuesday June 19th the Southern Baptist Convention made history when 7,700 ministers unanimously supported the vote for Rev. Fred Luter, Jr. to become the first Black president of the predominately White denomination. The Southern Baptist Convention is the world’s largest protestant denomination and some would say the whitest. The vote is extremely historic in light of church history, because the Southern Baptist denomination became a separate denomination in 1845 after a regional split with northern Baptist over the issues of slavery. After the Civil War a second split occurred when most Black Baptists in the South separated from white churches and set up their own congregations.

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