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!
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.
This Sunday was the last night of Hanukkah and though I know I am super late I wanted to share how blessed I was to end it at one of the @faithinnewyork Congregations I am blessed to work with, their Leader had the vision in 2009 to teach a class on how to mix oils the way in which The Most High instructed Moses to in Exodus 30:22-33, this then became a service and they held it this year on the last day of The Feastofdedication aka Hanukkah and the miracle of the oil lasting longer than expected is central to this day. Being in an atmosphere where my people made and blessed oils as instructed in Exodus was beautiful and reminded me that though we are going through a great deal of injustice Yahweh will ensure that we have enough of his oil and anointing to fight for our liberation like the Maccabees.