For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
“Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control.”-Sabrina Fulton mother of Trayvon Martin
Saturday night as I was waiting for the subway to take me from the Upper Westside of Manhattan to Harlem I overheard an African-American cop tell his co-worker that George Zimmerman was not convicted of any charges. The face of his co-worker who was an African-American woman dropped and she silently turned towards the tracks to look for the next train. The scene was disturbing to me because I saw the powerlessness in both cops faces which is disheartening since these are “New York’s Finest” and yet with their badges and city issued authority they like many African-Americans were reminded of our powerlessness in a system that was founded on devaluing African life. As I sat on the train heading uptown I was outraged by the verdict but not surprised. When I arrived home I had to tell my African roommates from Tanzania the news and we had a long discussion about the case and one of my roommates stated “I guess we can only get justice from God.” My African roommates like myself are followers of Jesus who have had evangelical conversion experiences yet we know that our faith cannot save us from white supremacy. The Sinful fact is that though the Apostle Paul proclaimed in Galatians that: “we are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28) this oneness has not occurred in our daily realities.
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.”
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.
* First posted on Sojourners God’s Politics Blog in October 2008 as apart of a larger conversation about Christian Intentional Communities (or New Monastic Communities), race and class.
One of America’s earliest settlement houses
The settlement house movement is the foundation of public welfare in the United States. Beginning in the early 19th century within the immigrant enclaves of New York City and Chicago, this movement was led predominately by white middle class Christians who relocated to these communities to live together, serve, and evangelize the poor. During this period the immigrant enclaves of America’s major cities were the abandoned places of the empire. The settlement house movement was the foundation for the field of social work and quite possibly the earliest form of “inner-city ministry.” Out of this work of relocation and social service came the “settlement house,” which was an institution that provided for the social, physical, and spiritual needs of the immigrant poor. The “settlement house movement” became very popular during this era, and some of these institutions have endured until today. I spent many summers working for Hamilton Madison House, one of New York City’s oldest and largest settlement houses. My work at this institution gave me the opportunity to serve immigrant populations who were facing the same issues of poverty that my inner-city African-American community faced.