Celebrating My Unsung Rich Black Heritage Legacy and Future

Like many across this country I’ll joining the voices and libations celebrating Black Heritage Month acknowledging those ancestors and my contemporaries who have and are contributing to our heritage. That heritage doesn’t begin post Civil War or the Civil Rights era. It begins before many Africans from various tribes across the continent of Africa were chained and sailed across the waters to Europe, the Caribbean, and the US. It is the celebration of those black men and women who were strong enough to stand chattle slavery, family separations, and rebellions that ended in the deaths of many for the cause of freedom and liberty.

I take this moment for the celebration of my personal history. My paternal and maternal families have a wonderfully diverse history rooted in the oppression that they endured that empowered them to build families in the midst of it. My maternal and paternal family history is a combination of former slaves and sharecroppers and biracial freedmen. I am a reflection of their beautifully unique relationships. They created the legacy upon which I am standing and building on. My ancestors were not the best educated but they were masters of the world around them which empowered them to build entire communities that continue to this day. 

Black Heritage needs to be more than a few popular talking heads that the majority approves of. It needs to reflect the authentic reality of our history and people who made it. This includes those unsung heros who will never have schools, streets, buildings, or anything else named for them. It is these who bore the burdens of oppression that gave hope and power to the eventual liberation and freedoms we now have and don’t fully appreciate. I choose to speak and honor that history that is the present and future.

Everybody Plays the Fool: What the election results say about our nation

There’s an old folktale about an elephant, a rabbit, and a whale. The whale and the elephant met together and both proclaimed their rule as the strongest animals on land and in the sea. While they were talking, a rabbit was nearby and decided to listen in. Once he heard their plan to rule all the animals in their particular domains, he declared that he would not be ruled by them, he devised a simple but brilliant plan to prove them both wrong.

The rabbit approaches the elephant and tells him that his cow is stuck in the sea. He asks the elephant to help him retrieve him by tying a rope around his trunk to pull him out. The rabbit goes to the whale and says his cow is stuck in the mud and needs his assistance to get him out. The whale agrees and the rabbit ties a rope around the whale’s tail. At the signal of rabbit’s drum beating, both massive animals begin to pull on an object in an attempt to free it. They later discover that they have not been pulling on a cow, but they have been pulling on each other to no avail. They realize that while they may be the strongest, they have been outsmarted by the rabbit. The rabbit proves he may not be the strongest physically, but he is the strongest intellectually.

This fable sums up the recent presidential election. The two major party candidates did not expect the outcome. Americans across demographic and political lines spoke loudly by electing to overthrow a political system. While the US Congress will remain red for at least the next two years, the system that supported both Democrats and Republicans has been radically changed. The idea of a post-racial, post-gender, and post-religious America has been tossed asunder. What was clear is that the back and forth tugging for political strength has given way to the smaller but smarter rabbit. The moral of the story is that those who believe themselves to be the strongest will eventually fall because of their own pride.

What does this mean for Christians in America? What does it mean for the 100 or more Black pastors who supported Donald Trump and faced so much criticism for doing so? What does it mean for those who expressed racial supremacist overtones during the campaign season?

It is very clear that many evangelical Christians cast their vote for a POTUS who has expressed little to no consistent religious belief system. They may have bought into the fear of a far-left progressive agenda that neglects the lives of those in the womb in favor of exalting the gender-bending lives of celebrities. They may have felt marginalized in a ever changing multi-cultural country where more of their rights seemed infringed upon for the sake of civil liberties. This of course is speculation that will likely go on for decades to follow, but what is certain is that they made their choice for change known even if it was at the expense of their private faith.

For those Black preachers, well it can definitely mean profit. They are now on the willing team. They will gain more credibility among the gullible hoping for trickle down blessings from Trump’s anointed heralds. They will reap the benefits and profits of being on the Trump bandwagon. The question becomes will they be engaged any further towards issues of social action and justice that will be on the forefront of the black church agenda for the next two to four years? This is highly doubtful since they have no history of doing anything other than exploiting the gospel for their benefit.

For those who expressed racial supremacist overtones, this is certainly a time of jubilation for them. They have a President who articulated their rhetoric to the rest of America and the rest of America seemed to agree with them. They are becoming emboldened to act out the rhetoric without consideration of consequence. Yes they understand there are laws that protect speech, religion, and assembly, and they now have that opportunity to do what they have been unable to do in nearly a half a century, they can talk their talk of supremacy because it will “Make America Great Again.”

The reality is that America has been down this road many times before. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says in 3:1-8:

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep and a time to throw away;

a time to tear and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, amd a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.”

This is just another time for America to do what America does best-Be the shining light on a hill, a city that cannot be hidden.

Will You Remember the Last Days of September?

 September 2015 has is considered as a month to go down in history. There are those who are making deep connections to end time events such as the Rapture of Christians, an asteroid/comet collision with Earth, the rolling out of a global currency, empire, and New World Order, the rise of the Anti-Christ, and at the very least, the destruction of the United States of America as we know it. I have literally watched dozens of hours of videos all seeming to collaborate that between September 21-30, 2015 and early October 2015 that the world as we know it will no longer exist. I must admit some provided some very good arguments, and others were just plain old good fashioned entertainment. I have been amazed at the depth of creativity and research that has gone into many of those YouTube videos. The creators ranged from Evangelical Christian to agnostic anarchistic conspiracy theorists. What they all shared was a common thread of both fear and vigilance.

I will be the first to admit that I am a skeptic. I grew up watching the left behind movies of the 70’s and early 80’s that showed how the world would be in a post-Christian church society. I read the books of Hal Lindsey and others that predicted the great fate of the planet earth.  I later followed a pre-millennialist view of end time prophecy that was always dating and naming said events getting every Christian who subscribed to their view rapture ready. I reveled in watching shows like John Van Impe, Perry Stone, and just about any Church of God Prophecy broadcast on television. These persons were clear experts and authorities on all things end times. They marked every new invention, world leader, world event, and anything else as being another sign of the times (with the exception of Prince’s album of the same name). Some had set dates like the infamous October 1988 rapture date. Others simply warned against the use of credit cards with the readable stripes on the back or purchasing groceries from stores that used bar codes. It literally drove many people crazy.

One would think that with all the failed predictions and inaccurate interpretations of scriptures that people would give up trying to predict the end of the world, the rapture, or the return of Christ, but they haven’t. The 2000’s brought the bestselling Left Behind series of books and movies and made some people very wealthy while promoting a misguided sense of urgency for rapture preparation. I witnessed churches showing the movies to youth at lock-ins and conferences. While it brought many people into the church, it also created a warped sense of Christian faith and end time events. It may have also created more problems regarding sinful behaviors among youth and young adults believing that they could sin and still be rapture ready perhaps even without suffering the consequences of that behavior (I’ll sin today and be raptured tomorrow! LOL). The reality has been that The Lord has yet delayed His coming and we must still live with the consequences of our sin and must be in a consistent state of repentance regarding them.

What if September 2015 is the game changing event that leads to a dramatic change in the world, as we know it? Scripture is clear that as believers, we should be prepared as a bride prepared for her bridegroom. We’ve read the story of the 10 virgins, five wise and five foolish, but are we prepared as we need to be? Is there enough controlled chaos in the world that God is ready to end it all just as He did during the days of Noah? Is He ready to create such massive destruction that only He can restore? That has yet to be known, but what is clear is that there is no better time to align oneself with God than at present. There is no better time than now to, as we African Methodists solicit at the call of our sacrament of Holy Communion, “truly and earnestly repent of your sins, walk in love and charity with your neighbor, and intend to lead new life following the commandments of God and walking from henceforth in His holy ways.”

The dates and scenarios may be different, but the message is an unchanging one. There will be an end. It may come with a raptured church. It may come with a one-world government. It may come with a massive extinction level event. It may come with no global disaster at all. It remains that if it does come, will you be ready. It doesn’t matter to me where you are a Christian following end-time prophecy or an agnostic/atheist simply hoping to escape mass extinction, are you prepared for the end?

Do Black Intellectuals Matter to the Master?

Recently, the New Republic magazine published an essay that created frenzy within the black public intellectual community. The Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson published a 10,000-word essay lambasting his former friend and mentor, Dr. Cornel West. Dr. Dyson lamented Dr. West’s descent into irrational outburst of public disdain against President Barack Obama. The essay establishes the formidable voices these two black intellectuals have forged over the last two decades of American history. Dyson writes that West’s influence has not only waned, but has run its course in the annals of black prophetic voices in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Both men rose to prominence as notable voices of the hip-hop generation, speaking against the powers that be. They became the new voices of a different timbre of black liberation theology. Both men are deeply rooted in the black religious experience. Dyson is an ordained Baptist minister who has pastored and now lectures and teaches across the country. West is the son of a preacher, and while not in ordained ministry of any capacity, has been recognized as a prophetic voice on race, gender, social, and religious matters. Both are prolific authors (I own several of their books) and are highly esteemed by the hip-hop community culture as gurus and prophets. Indeed both have contributed to the storied fables and rhetorical synopses of the hip hop culture by either the spoken word genre (West has released several spoken word albums) or the dissection of hip-hop icons (Dyson has written several articles and books icons such as Tupac Shakur). However, their biggest connection is that both esteem Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a modern day prophet and seek to fill the void of his prophetic voice that was lost after his assassination.

While both Dyson and West have created for themselves a large public sphere for their intellectual prowess and prognostication, much of what they say and write remains largely unknown to many Black Americans. West rocketed to fame with his book “Race Matters” the seminal piece of writing that has continued to generate the main thinking points for contemporary racial thought. Dyson’s articulate, incredibly rapid speech filled with the highest of eloquent words, and swift cadence captures the ears of black and white listeners alike. Both still fail to connect to the general body of black believers, the faithful churchgoers who have yet to be liberated from an over-idealized existence in the faith of the black church and its religious experience. In that sense, both seem not to matter to the Master of their souls.

It is from this perspective that the “beef” between Dyson and West as exposed in the article is an elegy to the authentic prophetic voice that the Black church and community needs. What made the voices of James and Cecil Cone, King, Gardner C. Taylor, Howard Thurman, E.V. Hill, C.A.W. Clark, Leon Sullivan, and others is that they spoke to the masses and the master under the prophetic unction of an oppressed people. They have been revered as pillars of black faith and social empowerment. Both Dyson and West’s voice have been sullied by the esteem given them by the very media that once denied those aforementioned giants seats at the table (though to be fair, the American has become a different beast since the time of some of the aforementioned preachers). Dyson and West have both been the go-to scholars for the media to help bring that tense intellectual edge to matters that affect Black America. For some, Dyson and West represent the best and brightest of minds and voices in the Black community. For others, Dyson and West represent sell-outs who no longer authentically connect to the world or the people they speak for. For this writer, Dyson and West present only a pericope of the black intellectual prophetic voices that are yearning to engage on the same platform. Dyson and West only matter to the masters of the airwaves and not the Master of the “souls of Black folks.” When the prophetic voice becomes mainstream, it can no longer be prophetic. It becomes nothing more than a minstrel show. When the prophetic voice creates dissension among those to whom it has given. It loses its authenticity and power. When one prophetic voice uses the element that helped to shape it as an attack against another, it becomes nothing more than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

We are in need of authentic prophetic voices in the black community. We are in dire need of black intellectuals who are unafraid to once again proclaim what “thus says the Lord” to the masters of this American universe. We are in need of scholars who can help reshape the black mind into the great one it once was. While both Dyson and West will still share space in the amphitheater of public intellectuals, their fates have been sealed as nothing more than media puppets whose voice is no longer prophetic but leaning more towards pathetic.

Indiana as the crossroads of faith, tolerance, and community

freedom indiana

The recent religious freedom restoration bill passed by the Indiana State legislature has created the latest uproar in a growing news cycle reporting on the infringement of rights for the LGBTQ community. Indiana’s SB 101 was created to protect the religious freedom for business owners, churches, and other religious related communities and organizations against those who threaten said freedoms. The LGBTQ community believes that it and others like it passed in several states (mostly southern states such as Arizona, Mississippi, and Arkansas) believe the bill was created to enhance discrimination against their community and causes. The reality is that it all boils down to one word: tolerance.

If you were to ask the average American if they considered themselves intolerant, bigoted, racist, or homophobic, the answer would probably be an overwhelming No. It is true that most individuals, especially those who ascribe to a religious belief system, believe that they are good and kind-hearted Americans, however when pressed with certain social issues, they discover they may not be as tolerant as they believe. In their 2005 book “The Truth about Tolerance,” Brad Stetson and Joseph Conti point out how tolerance has gotten lost in the American culture war.  This war is even more distinct in American Christianity as seen in the battles between the liberal and conservative branches of Protestant Christianity. While both branches claim the same goal of evangelizing and making disciples (as presented in Matthew 28:18-20, the conflict resides in who is more right in discipling-a fundamentalist, evangelical, conservative Christian, or an affirming, liberal, progressive Christian. This schism is affecting mainline Protestant American Christianity as Episcopal, Methodists, and more recently Presbyterian denominations wrestle with progressive ideologies and concepts such as abortion and same sex unions.  Both of these branches of Christianity grapple with the understanding and application of truth in the context of American pluralism (Stetson and Conti, 2005, pg.61).

What makes the Indiana law and others like it disturbing is that it commits the fraud of seemingly speaking for oppressed (or seemingly oppressed) people, businesses, and organizations. The very title suggests that religious freedom has been taken away from them. That is far from the truth. The greatness of living in the United States of America is wealth of religious diversity and freedom one is allowed to experience. Even within evangelical Christianity, there is no consensus on worship rituals, liturgy, music, clergy vestments, or theological training. There are evangelical pastors, business owners, and even state lawmakers who do not agree with the bill. The connecting factor for those lawmakers who designed the bill and supported the bill was perhaps the sense of fear in regards to the religious diversity that is becoming more evident in the state and America. This religious pluralism threatens their perception of truth as relayed to them through their faith. In fact, their defense of their brand of faith is associated more with intolerance and narrow-mindedness than intellectual good faith and genuine concern for the well-being of those they propose to protect with the bill (Ibid, pg.63.)

While tolerance needs truth to be coherent, truth cannot be misrepresented and legislated as absolute. When state lawmakers begin to dispel myths about their perspectives of truth, they are more likely to govern from the perspective of humanity and not faux religious authority. It is under the guise of the latter that laws like Jim Crow was institutionalized and maintained for decades. It is under the guise of the latter that the Jewish leadership during the time of Christ sought to have him killed. It is under the strain of the latter that the Civil Rights leaders marched until they ascertained the liberation desired. It is from such laws that the American public wants to distance itself and cry for the boycott of an entire state.

In the end, the governors and legislators of states who pass religious freedom laws do more harm than help to their cause. Their zeal to “save America” or “restore America” falls far short of the command of their faith to make disciples. It fails to be fully aware of the rich religious and social diversity that the United States has enjoyed over the last two centuries. While Indiana Governor Pence and his staff are doing their best to defend the law and lawmakers, there will continue to be big fallout for that state. The call is not for renunciation of beliefs or values; the call is to the recognition of the diminutive voices of the same.

 

Nostalgic Tensions

I find it interesting that 50 years after most of the pinnacle moments of the civil rights movement in American history are on the brink of destruction because of events such as the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO.  Black men have been killed either by accident or by force by white police officers for a very long time. Cities are poised for riots and black people are crying racism all across the land.

This made me wonder if Americans are suffering from some kind of racial nostalgia. Nostalgia is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the pleasure or sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again.” It is as if we want to go back in history and experience the marches protests and tensions of the civil rights movement. Young black people want to see justice but they have no idea what justice really looks like. Older black adult want to have a sense of justification for what they condemn as white racism against young black men. It is as if those who were not in the movement are getting a second chance at the movement.

Of course, this is not beneficial to the country at all. It only creates a greater sense of angst and disgust among black and white races. It is as if we want the tension to continue instead of creating an environment where it does not exist. The longer we continue to bring up the issue of race the longer we will live in an age where race matters more than being compassionate humans.

The reality is that there is more racial tension now than it was 50 years ago. We are creating an atmosphere where race is as dangerous as any nuclear device could ever be toward the destruction of this country. There is no solution as how to bring about an end to this nostalgia, but we must be vigilant to stop creating the environment for that destruction. We must target the media outlets that continue to maintain the undercurrent of racial tension. We must demand greater accountability from leader to not incur more racial tension. We must demand that both races realize that we have achieved more together than we have ever done apart.

We must remember the past and acknowledge the very bad things that happened. We must move forward and not live in the nostalgia that keeps us in bondage. The Ferguson fiasco only brings to light a false reality that media and others are creating with the hope of maintaining a strong delusion of progress through protests. We err on the side of nostalgia when we continue to attempt to recreate actions and passions of our ancestors and mother’s when we should be putting our hands to the plow and not looking back.

I grew up hearing the rhetoric of the coming race war and from what I am seeing now, I believe we are not far from one. I love my country and I love my race, but the nostalgia must go. There is absolutely nothing that can be done to change the past. If we learned anything from the Reconstruction Period in American history, it is this: Blacks and whites in the country learned that to be a great country, we had to be a great people. We had to be Americans first. This state of nostalgic tension could possibly leave this country in a very desolate place that it may not recover from.

Elections, Violence and Church Responsibility on Zera Today

Coming back off break, Pastor Lorenzo Neal returns with discussions on current topics including domestic violence, breast cancer awareness month and how the black church leadership can handle incidents of violence among church leadership and celebrities. Pastor Neal also discusses how the November midterm elections could affect the black church and black community. Tune in and be blessed
http://tobtr.com/s/7050771

Ray Rice and the Prestige of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is a very serious offense. We hear stories of tragedy and triumph and the will to survive from both men and women who have been victims of domestic violence. The recent news of a professional athlete abusing his spouse is nothing new. What makes this different is the fact that the leadership in professional sports are finally starting to speak up against their players. The release of a horrific video depicting a black professional athlete knocking his fiancé out cold only adds to the concern of black athletes and the prestige of domestic violence.

Twenty years ago, America witnessed O. J. Simpson, one of its athletic heroes become the primary person of interest in a double homicide. Simpson went from being a beloved athlete and actor to the spark that ignited debates about black athlete’s prestige. This prestige was not only one of wealth accumulated but of a disconnect from the common vestiges of the regular black man. This prestige is one of alienation from the consequences the average black man endures resulting from decisions made out of anger or frustration. This prestige drew a big line of distinction between those who were the investments of billionaires and those black men who were the discarded and dejected of society. The prestige allowed professional football athletes to all but get away with murder. We saw it with, Adam “Pac Man” Jones, Ray Carruth, and even the legendary Jim Brown. These men succeeded in the game on the field, but failed in the game of life.

We have made professional athletes into role models for our young black children. Parents put their hopes in dreams of a talented player making it to the big leagues. Some parents only lightly address some of the aggressions their boys manifest while playing sports. While it is true that this aggression is good on the football field, the basketball court, the baseball field, or the wrestling mat, it is not good for interaction with others outside of those arenas. Young black men develop this aggression early and when not properly assessed and treated, it carries over into the relationships with females. This often ends in acts of domestic violence that destroys the lives of all involved.

Not even a century ago, it was the intent of professional sports promoters and team owners did all they could to keep black men off their teams. We had leagues of our own where we were able to manage and control our players with dignity. Players carried the pride of all Blacks on their shoulders. They were afraid to do anything that would bring shame to not only them but also the entire black race. They mastered the art of concealment and discretion better than some politicians did. Black team leaders and owners understood the value of the player’s integrity, skill, and talent. There is a great disconnect today. Today’s black players are nothing more than expensive investments beginning as young as Pops Warner and AAU leagues.

As long as this exploitation continues, we will likely see black athletes excel on the playing field while exploiting the privilege they have as celebrities and investments. To counter this, we must be vigilant in helping young black find means to address their aggression. Just as we educate them about the perils of street and thug life, we must do so with them regarding the value of the female life. We must educate them of how the smallest incident of aggression against a female can do enough damage and follow them throughout their lives. While we do not want parents to dissuade their children from pursuing professional sports careers, but in the process, help them understand the pitfalls of achieving that goal. Our black male children are seeing what they have been told are role models fall into the pit of diminished life because of their acts of violence and aggression. We must be vigilant if we want to see the patterns of privileged domestic violence stop so that we can create a new pattern of privileged love and honor from our black men.