Lenten Reflection: The Most High is Doing Something in the Ruins (Isaiah 61 :1-4)

I know this is late but I still wanted to share this reflection I wrote to encourage anyone who feels like their life, family, dreams or community is in ruins. This reflection was apart of the 40 Days of Prayer Lenten Series that Restoration Church and Metro Hope Church developed, be blessed!

- Public Art in East Harlem Photo by Onleilove Alston

– The Sistas in East Harlem

Sit in silence and read each version of the passage opening your heart to what the spirit wants to communicate to you.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] [a]and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. – Amplified Bible

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Prayers for Children

Sandy HookMy heart was saddened when I learned of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but I was also reminded that in the inner-city children are shot and killed everyday. Growing up in East New York, Brooklyn I was accustomed to hearing gun shots and hitting the floor for cover at an early age, this is a tragedy as well. In Chicago for 6-months in 2012 on average 50 people were killed by gun violence a month (many children and teens), this is higher than the death rate in war torn countries. Trauma research has shown that youth in inner-city communities in California have higher trauma rates than youth in Iraq-this is a tragedy as well. I do not like to compare pain because pain is pain but what we must overstand is that when we allow the poor to die for years without concern we open ourselves up for tragedies like Sandy Hook. ALL life is sacred! Black, white, rich, poor, children, teens and elderly. What is done to one affects all because you can not build a gated community to keep out the violence and pain of the rejected. Yes we need access to mental health and gun control but what we also need are villages that will shepherd youth with love and justice.

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Walmart in East NY: Desperation Exploitation

The piece was first posted on A New & Unsettling Force Blog

With my Walmart job I have been able to get off of welfare and buy my home.”-Walmart Radio Ad

This morning while listening to the radio I heard the above quote in a commercial placed by Walmart. I have been paying close attention to the proposed East New York Walmart, because I was born and raised in this community. I do not think this ad was placed haphazardly, because corporations spend millions on marketing, and psychology is a VERY important aspect of advertising. To place this commercial on New York City’s first and only African-American-owned radio station shows that Walmart knows who it needs to reach to come to East New York, and this commercial hit a couple of targets. East New York is one of the twelve communities in New York City that sends the most people to prison; the community has very high poverty and violence rates. Walmart is very familiar with these statistics and the desperation that residents face, and it is exploiting this desperation.

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Why I am attending the Young Democrats of America Faith & Values Summit

I am a pro-life evangelical and a recent seminary graduate. I am also an Black formerly homeless woman, who grew-up in 1 of the 12 communities in New York City that sends the highest number of people to New York state prisons and a community organizer at one of city’s oldest non-profit agencies, for all of the above reasons I am attending the Young Democrats of America Faith & Values Summit this weekend in Washington, D.C.

Yesterday, I learned that the Paul Ryan budget had been released. I know that many of the proposed budget cuts from funding to AmeriCorps (which I am an alumni of) to social service funding will directly affect me, my community, my family and friends. As a Christian I know that Christ launched his earthly ministry by quoting the Hebrew text Isaiah 61 which states that the Gospel is: “good news to the poor”, yet when I look around my faith community I see my Christian brothers and sisters supporting policies and legislators that have nothing good to say to or about the poor. The YDA Faith & Values Summit gives me an opportunity to meet like minded people of faith, who are inspired by their faith to be politically engaged in progressive politics.

The YDA Summit is focused on equipping young Democrats to connect with people and communities of faith. Top Democratic leaders will train participants in communications and campaign strategies aimed at showing the deep connection shared between religious Americans and the Democratic Party that are values focused- values like loving our neighbor, justice and opportunity for all, and a belief that we’re greater together when we pursue the common good through our public policy. 

The Summit is bringing together 100 young leaders from around the country who are committed to connecting with religious Millennials, a demographic group that is increasingly progressive. Through the Summit and other efforts of its Faith and Values Initiative, YDA is developing a strong Democratic faith contingent that speaks confidently about Democratic common good values. YDA is certainly entering new territory with this effort, but the timing and political environment could not be more ripe. Young people of faith are leaving the Republican Party in large numbers and looking for a new political home that is more in line with their values, and YDA is well-positioned to fill the void.

While there’s much work to do on the Democratic side when it comes to faith outreach, the Faith and Values Leadership Summit is an exciting first-step in what promises to be a worthwhile conversation about which Party best represents the values of people of faith. As I observe this season of Lent instead of fasting from certain foods like chocolate, I will travel to DC to keep the fast spoken of in another Hebrew text from the prophet Isaiah which states: “the kind of fasting God wants is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice…share your food with the hungry and give clothes to those who have nothing to wear” this has to be the fast I keep because my community desperately needs justice.