The Prophetess Huldah & The Call to Let Idolatry Go! 💕

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


Note I doubt Huldah looked like this but the book is still pretty cool! 😉

Here is a more accurate depiction of the Prophetess Huldah. 👆🏿 

Be Blessed! 💕 

🌬Proverbs 31 & The Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman🙌🏿👑 

                      Slide by Minister Stella Payton

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! 💕

Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman Part 1

Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman Part 2

Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman Part 3 

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! 

Black Women & The Death Penalty

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.

Death-Penalty-GettyImages-984627-001-584-x-380-445x290

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:

Sandra Bland

Kindra Chapman

Joyce Curnell

Ralkina Jones

Raynette Turner

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.

Onleilove Alston, M.Div., MSW, is a native New Yorker and Executive Director of Faith in NY, an affiliate of the PICO National Network, where she leads A Women’s Theology of Liberation, training women of faith to organize through a gender lens rooted in their faith. She tweets@Wholeness4ALL

Also In
The Discussion

Capital Crime Calls for Capital Punishment

By J. Daryl Charles

The United States Should Abolish the Death Penalty, as Pope Francis Implores

By Joseph A. Fiorenza

For Mormons, a Contested Legacy on Capital Punishment

By Patrick Q. Mason

– See more at: http://religionandpolitics.org/2016/01/19/lets-reform-our-broken-criminal-justice-system/#sthash.tjxLcEFr.dpuf

My Testimony @ The Hope Gathering

In June I was blessed to be invited to share my story at the Hope Gathering Conference which was one of the most diverse Christian conferences I have ever attended. The organizer Suzy Silk did a great job of finding women from diverse backgrounds to speak when other conference organizers claim they cannot find people of color or women to speak. To hear my testimony and the testimonies of all speakers click on the photo below:

Hope Gathering June 2014 Talks

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Women of Virtue Blogtalk Radio Series: Organizing, Black Biblical Destiny & Women of Valor

This morning my cousin Author and Women of Virtue Host Day “Dream” Alston interviewed me for her Women of Virtue Series on Blogtalk Radio. We discuss Prophetic Whirlwind: The Black Biblical Destiny, community organizing and who the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31 really was and what this means for us as women today.

Check out the interview here: Women of Virtue Series

Day's BookCheck out Day “Dream” Alston’s insightful book on relationships: The Not-so-Patiently Waiting Handbook.

 

 

For more information on the true meaning of the Proverbs 31 Virtuous Woman visit: http://www.unveiling.org/Articles/women.html.

                                                                  Be Blessed! 

A Caution In Pursuing the Common Good

I hope all is well as we attempt to settle into spring, I wanted to share a reflection I wrote about the notion of the “Common Good”. Be Blessed!

In the Summer of 2008 I interned in Washington, D.C. at Sojourners a progressive Christian advocacy organization that focuses on economic justice, creation care and immigration issues. The founder of Sojourners Rev. Jim Wallis recently released a book on the notion of a “Common Good” and I was invited to read and respond to it earlier this week at the New York City launch. As I was thinking about the notion of a “Common Good” I started to examine if the “common good” would be good for non-white people or if we were taking the common standards, beliefs and customs of white America and making them good for all. In the post below I give a caution for pursuing the “Common Good” which was shared on Huffington Post and Sojourners: Common Good Forum. See the post below:

Social speech bubble,  Cienpies Design / Shutterstock.com

Social speech bubble, Cienpies Design / Shutterstock.com

Whenever I hear the term “common good” I think of Thomas Paine’s infamous pamphlet Common Sense, which challenged the British government and the royal monarchy, but did not challenge the institution of slavery. As an African-American woman I enter the common good conversation cautiously because I know that in our society we have a habit of taking what is good for Western hegemony and making it the standard for everyone else.

As we pursue the common good, let us remember what was once considered common and good during earlier points in American history: chattel slavery, indigenous genocide, and institutionalized sexism. To truly come to a common good, we need to honor a diversity of voices and challenge our assumptions about what is common and what is good. Our default is to take what is good for our culture, gender, or community and make it the common standard for all. I have experienced being invited into organizations that were aiming to do good in the world, but an expectation existed that I would be silent about my unique concerns as an African woman. I know that denying my reality can never be good for my spiritual, physical, or social well being. Read the entire post here

Black Entrepreneur Spotlight: Tammy Williams, MSW Founder & Owner of Imena Salon

Imena38Tammy Williams, MSW is the Founder & Owner of Imena Salon in East Harlem. Trained in Social Work & Cosmetology Tammy and her staff  provide holistic haircare to their clients. Imena Salon specializes in natural hair but the staff can do a variety of styles for all textures of hair. Other Imena services include eyebrow shaping, make-up, workshops and events.

While studying at Hunter School of Social Work Tammy researched hair, mental health and Black women, the result of this research is the documentary Beautiful which she produced and directed.

Listen to the interview below for Tammy’s words of wisdom on building a business, natural hair, beauty and mental health. For more information visit: http://www.imenainc.com.

“As a business owner you have to have faith.”-Tammy Williams

 

 

 

2012 Blog of the Year Award!

It has been very encouraging to receive a few blog awards lately and thanks to Nizy over at Nizy’s Life Compendium, Eunice at Living and Loving, Rynnie at Modest is the Hottest I received five “Blog of the Year 2012 Awards”.

Below are blogs I think deserve this award because of the inspiring content:

  1. Nizy’s Life Compendium
  2. Crazy Fun Sexy Guide for Women
  3. CloudIn
  4. The Tale of My Heart
  5. Tripod Trippin’
  6. Coco J. Ginger Says

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Romney vs. Reality: A Social Worker’s Perspective

On September 17, the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street instead of hearing about the 99% we heard about the 47% who according to Mitt Romney:

“will vote for the president no matter what… are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”(Ezra Klein; Washington Post Wonkbook )

As a social worker and faith-rooted community organizer I have to say that this 47 percent is a myth. Due to arbitrary sanctions, agency errors, onerous application requirements, long waits to apply for services, failed communication systems, arduous work requirements  and punishment within the welfare system low-income people are not receiving much needed services (Guilty Until Proven Innocent Report 2012 FPWA). The myth that welfare and government assistance is easy to obtain and maintain has been pervasive since the 1980’s “welfare queen” character was created by President Ronald Reagan.  The welfare queen much like the loch ness monster is seen by a privileged few but no one can actually prove its existence. Now we have a new mythical monster the 47 percent who are an entitled class. The reality is that our entitlement system underserves many needy individuals and families. According to the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies(FPWA) Report Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

“One of the primary functions of the welfare program is to alleviate poverty by providing essential income support to families who qualify  but in 2010 the program only served 27% of families living in poverty, a 41% decrease from 1996 when the program served 68% of families living in need.”

The harsh reality is that many people who are qualified to receive government assistance such as SNAP (Food Stamps) are the working poor who do not apply because they cannot take time off of their low-wage jobs to undergo the long and confusing application process. If someone is able to find out about assistance, endure the confusing and long process of applying and is actually approved then they can look forward to the possibility of receiving a sanction which is a process in which your benefits are called into question for some transgression as petty as missing an appointment because you had to work. “According to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) from April 2006 to through April 2009, 25% of New York City family cases with at least one adult or minor teen head of household were sanctioned or in the sanction process.” (Guilty Until Proven Innocent). Sanctions usually punish the poorest who most need social services.

Though I use New York as an example these issues are prominent across the country, especially in rural areas were application centers are further away and lines to apply can stretch around the block. This reality is unknown to many who assume that it is easy to apply for assistance programs because unless you are in need or a social service provider you will not see the maze that is the American social service system. Furthermore, there is such shame around needing assistance that many keep silent about the dehumanizing process.  I know firsthand of this dehumanization not only as a social worker but as a person who grew-up poor. I can remember accompanying my mother to appointments for assistance and waiting for hours; the assumption being that poor people’s time is not important.  This approach keeps the poor person in a Catch- 22 because if you want to attend school or work to better yourself you do not have the time to do so because of the countless hours spent waiting for services you desperately need. During the application process you are shuffled with disdain from appointment to appointment by low-paid caseworkers who are usually one paycheck away from being in your position. I remember feeling ashamed and dehumanized by this process, but through the assistance of many people and programs such as grants for college I am now able to stand alongside other poor people to organize for justice.

Unless you have experienced the social services system you may believe the myth that low-income people are entitled, but as the ranks of the poor grow to include the formerly middle-class we have to let go of this myth just as a child has to let go of Santa Claus when they reach a certain age. Though myths maybe comforting to our egos ultimately they stunt our development. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “when I became a man I put away childish things.” If we are going to survive as a country in the face of growing economic uncertainty we have to put away these childish myths of the welfare queen, the 47 percent, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and rugged individualism. The fact is from the Homestead Act, to the GI Bill and legacy admissions at top colleges many Americans receive entitlements based on wealth and race privilege. We are all standing on the shoulders of someone who helped us along the way; no one is successful through their hard work alone.

I do not write this to endorse either candidate or to sway your vote but to bring a dose of reality to the way we think about poverty in America. So what does this mean for people of faith? I think that as people of faith we need to prioritize and not demonize the least of these. We cannot “conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) which is to disregard the poor.  As people of faith we should weigh every theory or political statement against the word of God; which speaks up for the poor and states that they will be leaders in the rebuilding of our society (Isaiah 61: 1-4).

For more information or to obtain a copy of the FPWA Report Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Sanctions, Agency Error and Financial Punishment within New York State’s Welfare System visit FPWA Policy, Advocacy & Research.

Onleilove Alston, M.Div, MSW was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn. When she was 10, she felt led to pray and read the Bible though she was not raised in the church. Four years later she walked into a local Baptist Church where she had a life-altering conversion experience that not only saved her soul but her life from the effects of poverty. Currently, she is the Faith Based Organizing Associate at The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, blogs at Wholeness4Love and tweets @Wholeness4ALL.

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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