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.”
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.
Today is the last day of my 30 Day Poetry Challenge! I can’t believe I am done. Today I am in Cincinnati, Ohio for the Children’s Defense Fund National Conference
which is convening thousands of child advocates, faith leaders, Social Workers, community organizers and activist to build a movement to protect children in our country. This morning at 6:00am young leaders convened outside the convention center for a time of silent reflection on African-Americans, especially young men in the prison system. What many may not know is that the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world and it is overwhelming inhabited Black men. Author Michelle Alexander calls this phenomena the New Jim because many of these men were led to prison due to economic and racial circumstances. After getting out of prison most ex-offenders lose voting rights and can’t get jobs which means they are basically a separate class. The poem below was inspired by poems I read this morning that were written by young people in prison, their poems touched me and reminded me that I was born and raised in one of the 12 communities in NYC that sends the most people in the state to prison. To read my poetic reflection:
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.
A few months ago a grave spectacle of so-called art took place in Sweden where a cake of an African-American woman’s body (created by a biracial man) was cut by the Swedish minister of “culture”, while those in the room cheered and laughed. What is shocking about this is that the cake was created to look like a black face caricature of a Black woman and the cake was cut where the reproductive organs would be. This cake is known as the “Venus Hottentot Cake”. Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman a slave became known as “Venus Hottentot” and was taken to Europe to have her body exhibited, she was sometimes kept as an animal in a zoo and the cake looked like a caricature of her likeness. This was not art but a barbaric reenactment of female genital mutilation and yet another example of how the Black woman’s womb is under attack. I have written about the high incidents of fibroids among Black women and though diet plays a great role in this health crisis stress, psycho-social and spiritual issues also play a role in reproductive heath. Though we may feel that all is well and that we are seen as fully human a quick look around in the media, music and now contemporary art shows that the Black woman’s sexuality is still being used to sell everything and her womb is still being exploited. Sadly this art was created by an African-Swedish man who has made weak attempts to address the criticism of this art “exhibit” Dr. Claudette Carr wrote an Open Letter from African Women to the Minister of Culture: The Venus Hottentot Caketo address this travesty.
“Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself. On the one hand it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so that the soul will have a chance after it is changed.” –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There have been many reflections and comments about race in the Emergent Church movement, and as someone who has a heart for racial reconciliation I am interested in this conversation. My passion for racial unity comes out of the recognition that the sin of racism has become a stumbling block to many people of color accepting Christ.