#StandwithBlackWomen&Girls Reflection

Stand with Black Women and Girls

Devotional: The First Baby Shower Unites Women on the Margins

by Onleilove Alston

This piece was originally published in the NPR’s OnBeing Blog

(http://www.onbeing.org/blog/first-baby-shower-unites-women-margins/2738)

This season I am reminded of the meeting Mary had with Elizabeth to announce she was with child. Though this could have been a time of anxiety for Mary, with Elizabeth it became a time of celebration. I playfully call the following account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth the first baby shower and in this account we an example of the deep sisterhood that maintains women on the margins especially Black woman during times of uncertainty.

“Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly, you’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed, And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!

And Mary said, I’m bursting with Good news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior Yahweh. God took one good look at me, and look what happened — I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What Yah has done for me will never be forgotten, the Yah whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.”

In America, baby showers are times for women to come together and celebrate new life; presents are exchanged, advice given, and games played. Mary and Elizabeth celebrated the new life within them by exchanging presents of joy, encouragement, song, and prophecy. Both women were carrying children of promise: one would pave the way and the other would be the way.

John the Baptist, a prophet even from the womb, jumped for joy because he knew the baby Mary carried was the Messiah. Mary and Elizabeth were both silenced and marginalized in their society, yet in the company of each other they declared prophetic words of what God was doing in their midst. Neither woman had a convenient pregnancy — Mary being a teenager and Elizabeth being an elderly woman, but each allowed herself to be inconvenienced for Yah’s purposes. Mary and Elizabeth’s celebration shows the importance of women coming together for prayer, praise, and prophecy.

When Mary sings, “He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold,” we see that in the presence of Elizabeth she could freely declare words that may have been dangerous if spoken in public. Mary’s song was more than words of celebration, it was a declaration of the inevitable breakthrough of justice.

In my tradition as a womanist Sabbath Keeping follower of Yahshua (Jesus) I am in a season of waiting for the messianic age, but this season I am not waiting for Yahshua. There is no need to wait because his grace breaks into my reality each day. As a young African-American woman, I am waiting for the justice Mary sang about to break through into my community, into the U.S. prison system, into the shacks of South Africa, into the relations we have with each other. As I think about Mary being pregnant as a Hebrew woman living under Roman domination I am reminded of the thousands of pregnant incarcerated women that give birth while chained to beds every day. They too are waiting for God’s justice to break through, will we be like Elizabeth and stand by them?

 

This passage is an encouragement to me as I wait because it reminds me that when women gather in Jesus’ name He is in our midst. I believe that if we want justice to break through into our society we cannot passively wait, but like Mary and Elizabeth we have to actively wait singing prophetic songs and taking actions of justice. Let us not grow anxious by the circumstances we see: the holiday parties, gifts to buy and return, or seasonal loneliness. But, during this season of Advent, let us remember that the Gospels included everyday people who God used in extraordinary ways.

Women can continue to come together to rejoice, celebrate, and prophesy about liberation through collective action and prayer. This season I will actively wait by organizing for justice in my community, because when we come together the course of history will be interrupted, life birthed, and justice given.

   

Prayer: God of Sarah, Hagar and Mary please be with women who are incarcerated this season, especially be with our pregnant incarcerated sisters and the children they will bring forth. Give us the courage to be like Elizabeth and standby our sisters to sing and act in ways that will cause the powerful forces of injustice to fall. Amen

In light of the #AssaultatSpringValleyHigh my colleagues and I came together to call faith communities to Stand with Black Women and Girls and we created a toolkit congregations can use. The toolkit is subdivided into four sections: 1) Liturgical Resources; 2) Policy Options & Public Actions; 3) Social Media Campaign; and 4) Video Resources. Starting Friday, December 11th, the #StandwithBWG campaign will continue until Sunday, January 17th, 2016. To join the campaign or request further information, please email standwithbwg@gmail.com

The Stand with Black Women and Girls Planning Team:

Rev. Andrew Wilkes, Convener and Policy Options/Public Actions Director, #StandwithBWG

Rev. Jennifer Bailey, Liturgical Resources Director, #StandwithBWG

Kercena Dozier, Digital Campaign Director, #StandwithBWG

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister of Justice& Witness, United Church of Christ; Senior Pastor & Teacher, Christ the King, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, Chairman, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference; Senior Pastor,Friendship West Baptist Church

Rev. Shivonne McKay, Pastor, Galilee United Methodist Church

Rev. Willie Francois III, Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church

Ifeoma Ike, Esq., Co-Creator, BlackandBrownPeopleVote.

Onleilove Alston, Executive Director, Faith in New York

Carmen Dixon, Organizer, Black Lives Matter Chapter – New York City; Faith and Policy Organizer, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies

 

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.

Advent Reflection: Your Timing vs. Divine Timing

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Luke 1:5-25

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home.

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.”The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Reflection by Onleilove

“And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time” – Luke 1:20

Like Zechariah most of us struggle with believing God’s words and promises. For many of us our unbelief is fueled by the media, news reports and the “common sense” of our day. During our holiday season we sing “joy to the world” while struggling with depression. We marvel at manger scenes with Three Kings of diverse races coming together to worship baby Jesus and yet struggle to believe diversity can exist in our churches. We praise Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” while living in a country that spends more on war than on education for children.

Though we know the promises of God, we falter in our faith. From today’s passage we see that even the zealous Zechariah struggled with believing. We can’t condemn Zechariah’s actions because it is difficult to wait years for a situation to change. Emotions, criticism and doubt will cause even the most faithful to murmur. This passage has a great deal to teach us about God’s appointed timing versus our timing. God’s appointed timing is based on eternity and our timing is based on finality.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were chosen as the parents for John the Baptist. God had to delay John’s birth so that he would be on time to lead the way for his cousin – Jesus. Looking back, we can see that John’s birth was right on-time and by delaying the birth of John, God was not punishing Zechariah and Elizabeth but was actually choosing this couple to assist in preparing the way for the Christ.

At times, what appears to be a delay or denial from God may actually be divine timing that will lead to the birth of a new ministry, business or relationship that will impact our world in a powerful way. Though we may be tempted to murmur about our current circumstances let us remember that God can see the entire picture and is working situations out for a divine purpose and appointed time. When the world provides negative reports and you are tempted to murmur, remember the words from this gospel song: “Whose report will you believe? I shall believe the report of the Lord!”

Prayer

God, when we are discouraged by the reality we see, give us new eyes to see your reality. When we are tempted to murmur, give us the faith to know that you are working for our good and the good of humanity. In our times of doubt, comfort us and remind us of your love. Amen.

Advent: The First Baby Shower Unites Women on the Margins

Polish Black Madonna & Child

Polish Black Madonna & Jesus

On Christmas 2010 I received a great surprise, my reflection on Mary & Elizabeth (in the Gospel of Luke) was posted on NPR’s On Being Blog-this blog is for Krista Trippet’s wonderful Radio show on faith, spirituality and culture. On Being was formerly know as “Speaking of Faith”.  Read the blog below and don’t allow the myths of this season to distract you, take this time to center, reflect on 2012 and prepare for the New Year!

This Advent I am reminded of the meeting Mary had with Elizabeth to announce she was with child. Though this could have been a time of anxiety for Mary, with Elizabeth it became a time of celebration. I playfully call the following account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth the first baby shower:

“Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly, You’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed, And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!

And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened — I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.”
Click to read the entire post

 

 

Proud Black Mary

The Black Madonna can be found thoughout the world especially in Europe, but also in India, America and of course Africa. The Black Madonna represents motherhood, Mother Earth, Life, Death and Lady Wisdom(referred to in the Biblical book of Proverbs). The Black Madonna’s lap represents nurturing which is why many of her depictions show Jesus on her lap. Furthermore, she is a mother to the oppressed, marginalized and the poor which is best shown in the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Sadly many of these Black Momas were buried, hidden in the basements of churches and cathedrals or even “whitened”- ironically when they were whitened many European Christians would demand that she be painted black again. Some say Black Madonnas were blackened by candles burning nearby but some religious scholars attribute this theory to racism. There is proof that many Black Madonnas were created to be Black, but as the transatlantic slave trade picked up the Black Madonna was made in a white image so that European Christians could enslave, rape and dehumanize the Black woman without guilt. Today an interest in the Black Madonna has reemerged and my hope is that this will inspire Black women to look to the Black Madonna as a divine mirror reflecting the dignity, natural beauty, wisdom, love and power that we should display as Black women.

For more information on the Black Madonna read:

Return of the Black Madonna by Rev. Matthew Fox, Ph. D

Interfaith Marian Pilgrimages- The Black Madonna

The Magnificat or Song of Mary Luke 1: 46-55

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Devotional:“And your daughters will prophesy”: Reflection on the Role of Women in the Jesus Movement

Black Madonna & Child at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Scripture Reading: John 12:1-11

If asked to name who were the first followers of Jesus or the first leaders of Christianity most would name: Peter (the rock), John (the disciple that Jesus loved), or even the Apostle Paul (who spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire). Though all of these men played important roles in establishing the church the first person to actually figure out the full capacity of who Jesus was and act on this knowledge was a woman named Mary by anointing Jesus with her alabaster jar of perfume that was worth a year’s salary this woman was not just serving Jesus with a random act of kindness but she was acknowledging who he was and what he was about to undergo.

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