New Faces in the Pantheon of Black Martyrs

With the recent shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, another face added to the pantheon of black martyrs. At one time this pantheon included icons such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Emmit Till, Medgar Evers, and even John and Robert Kennedy. The aforementioned individuals were assassinated for the cause racial inequality and injustice that was prevalent during the superficial age of American exceptionalism of the 20th century. While America was showing strength on the world stage, it was allowing its own citizens to be egregiously desecrated, beaten, and even lynch under the guise of national and ethnic pride.

For generations, the pantheon of black martyrs was on display in frames on the walls of many homes in the black community. Black civic and religious leaders would routinely speak the praises of those men and women we held in high esteem. We would see their likeness portrayed in dramatic expression throughout the year as we yearned for more like them to rise from the churches, ghettos, and streets and speak words of empowerment and liberation to us once more.
As the 21st century has entered its second decade, the faces of the pantheon of black martyrs have changed. We now see the faces of Tupac Shakur, Christopher “Notorious BIG” Simmons, Adamou Diallo, James “Jam Master Jay”Mizell, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant III, Trayvon Martin¸ Eric Garner, and now Michael Brown. These individuals were not on the front lines of civil rights protests or movements. They were not aligned with forces of evil intent on destroying white American privilege or power. These individuals were simple human beings who happen to have darker hued skin. Some of their deaths were the results of lifestyles that although on the edge, brought them notoriety and celebrity. Others were simply ordinary men, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, their faces have been added to the pantheon of black martyrs.

What makes the latter’s addition so significant? Perhaps it is the fact that those men were all martyred for a cause other than equality, justice, and peace. Perhaps it is because their faces reflect the myriad of justice disparities faced by people of color in these great United States. It is more likely that these men represent a hope for change that has not come. They represent the continual saga for freedom that has yet to be fully ascertained. These new faces bring to light the darkness of the past when some felt justified in taking the life of black men and women. Their deaths though deemed justifiable by some in law enforcement, are not justifiable for the cause of advancing humanity.

Their violent deaths reflect a deeper oppression beyond that of a supposed post-racial America. It reflects a generation of identity and leadership voids begging to be acknowledged and attended. It reflects a generational gap that has been largely ignored by our elders who have found success after their marches and protests of the 50’s and 60’s. It is the fury of a generation feeling slighted civically, socially, economically, and educationally. It is the pantheon that reflects the withdrawal of courageous men and women standing against oppression of disenfranchised blacks in urban areas once populated by soul businesses happily catering to their patrons with the knowledge that they were not only in business for themselves, but also for their people. It is the pantheon reflecting the age of the “race hustlers” gains fame and fortune at the expense of another black person’s violent demise at the hands of white and black people, with little to no regard for the value of human life.

So what then should be done in lieu of this knowledge? How do we honor the new faces in the pantheon without discrediting the sacrificial foundation of the founding ones? My suggestion is to empower our people to see beyond the temporary bliss of media hype on the plight of Blacks in America. We must rise as a phoenix from the ashes of self-contempt and victimization and become the sacred masters of our present and future. We must empower this new generation to see this pantheon of black martyrs as icons of a royal priesthood, a chosen race, children, and heirs of the Most Benevolent and Merciful Creator. We must present to them the pantheon as faces of humanity blessed of God. It is only when they see the faces in this pantheon of martyrs from that perspective that they will be emboldened to change the cycle of death into one of life, liberation, and love.

The Saga of Jason Collins

Jason-Collins-is-gay_-Image-via-@SInowThis week Jason Collins is being celebrated as heroic, courageous, brave, and all the like simply because he has come out of the closet as a gay man. While this may be worth celebrating for some, it has raised concerns for many others. Personally, I am not the least bit bothered by his coming out, but I question motive and timing. I am no conspiracy minded person, but let’s be realistic about this guy’s average career and the fact that career is almost over. What makes this unique is that no one, not one single person including Collins’ own twin brother or ex-fiancé was aware of his sexual orientation. That begs to question his motive also but again, that is inference only and not definite proof of his motive. Collins is certainly reaping the benefits of his announcement.
He has made the news cycle; he’s gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, and has received a personal call of thanks and adulations from President Obama and a tweet of support from First Lady Michelle Obama. I’m not sure why the need for either of them to do so when they are neglecting the other real brave, courageous, and heroic individuals that do simple things other than proclaiming their sexual orientation to the world. Maybe it’s because he’s a professional basketball player in a sport dominated by black males who often promote misogynistic ideals.
Perhaps it is because the Black community is one of the last great horizons for the breaking of same sex barriers and phobias. Whatever the case may be, I cannot say that his coming out is a reason to celebrate. I do however believe that if he encourages others in the league or any other professional sport to follow suit, it would all but turn the idea of the US being a normal country upside down. Jason Collins’ announcement is not likely to change the world as we know it.
There will be a multitude of young men and women who will come out of the closet or struggle in the closet regarding their sexual orientation. It is our responsibility as Christian believers to encourage them, love them, not judge or condemn them, and empower them with the faith of Christ.

Forty Years of Roe vs. Wade: The debate continues

Forty years has passed since the Supreme Court of the United States decided that a woman had the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment provided states balanced those rights and interests through proper regulations and protection of prenatal and the woman’s health. This decision shut out the backroom abortions many women were receiving that often resulted in physical harm to the fetus and woman and even sometimes death. Indeed while there is no desire to return to those days when abortions were performed in an unsanitary and unhealthy manner, there are still many who believe that abortion should altogether be banned in the United States. Like the pro or anti-slavery arguments of the 18th and 19th centuries, abortion presents the same ethos and pathos appeals for proponents on both sides of the issue.
Having been party to an abortion at one time, I am able to relate to the careless behavior that often leads to the decision to abort a fetus. For this writer, the issue is not so much about pro-life or pro-choice as it is about making better choices regarding sexual behavior. For many, this is as simple as being abstinent or celibate. For others, it is as serious as having a sexual addiction. For the religious zealots, abortion is about murder and breaking God’s command of not killing. For many others, it is about protecting a woman’s right to choose how and what she wishes to do with her body. Neither is a simple argument and the fallacies contained within both are dangerous enough to cause individuals to do horrible things in the name of their cause.
The debate is has been ongoing for the last 40 years and is certainly not likely to find resolution any time soon. The matter of ministering to those who have had or who are considering having an abortion is what is important to this writer. The entirety of the matter is being non-judgmental but loving and compassionate to all those affected by abortion. To God, life is precious and it should be to every human being. One cannot condone the murder of criminals and at the same time denounce the individual who has an abortion. That is unjust at the very least. If we are to be just, then we must also recognize that the religious liberties we experience today are only enhanced when we acknowledge that we live in a land where there is liberty and justice for all.

How Sweet to Hold

How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride and joy it gives. But greater still, the calm assurance this child can face uncertain days, because He lives. William Gaither

The lines above hail from one of my favorite songs/hymns of the Christian church. Bill Gaither wrote the lyrics to “Because He Lives” under some very trying circumstances. Bill was recovering from an illness, his sister was experiencing a divorce, and the country was experiencing the civil unrest of the 1960’s. After the birth of their third child, the Gaithers rediscovered the power of Christ’s resurrection and Bill penned the lyrics to what is now one of the most beloved gospel songs of all time.

It is the second stanza of the song that is the most moving to me. I hear it sang throughout the year at various churches and it was recently at a revival service that I was preaching that the lyrics of the second stanza came alive to me. Although I have yet to have any children of my own, I have had the privilege of holding newborns for the sacrament of baptism/christening. Each time I hold a child and place the oil or water on them, I am captivated by the fact that this child has a future. I pray and pronounce a blessing over the child and the family and I imagine the child’s future even before it begins. This sacred event is a foreshadowing of the glory that God has for His children. As scripture proclaims in I John 3:2, “Beloved now are we the children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is (New American Standard Bible, 1995).”

While countless believers sing this song and cherish the lyrics contained therein, few are willing to publicly stand for the life of the unborn. Because the issue of life has been politically tainted, the regard of the life of the unborn suffers. It is amazing how neglectful we are when it comes to the life of the unborn. If we believe that everyone has a purpose, and then we should give every fetus, baby, blob tissue, etc…, the right to fulfill it. We should give them the opportunity to experience the uncertainties of life.

There is a challenge we must be willing to undertake. We must have the courage to allow life for the unborn despite the circumstances that lead to unplanned pregnancies. When we as a church become more aware and compassionate for those involved in unplanned pregnancies, we will see a greater appreciation for the life of the unborn. We must acknowledge the reality of the sin of sexual immorality, embrace the shame and guilt that comes with it, and help all involved be free to live in the grace and mercy of God. Christ after all, was the individual who bore the shame and curse of dying on a cross for all to have life more abundantly. If we will continue to sing and believe that because He lives, we can face tomorrow, then we should with the same confidence allow the same for the unborn.

Discovering the Courage to Be: Your Authentic Self

Self discovery is centered in the courage to being authentic to one’s self. The greatest obstacle is the encountering of the emotional self. This includes the emotions of anger, pain, sorrow, grief, fear, and despair. There may be others that are not listed that one may encounter. These emotions are strong and rooted in the pathos of life experience. The process of self authentication should lead to those emotions. There is no way around that. However the key is expressing those emotions positively, allowing the emotions to help you become a communion within oneself, one must experience emptiness and chaos before experiencing
authentic self. To borrow from the world of aesthetics, it is what Friedrich Schiller calls the Sublime Pathos. It is embracing and acknowledging those emotions so that one becomes authentic. It is not simply acknowledging them and masking them as most do. It is engaging them and owning them leading to an empowerment like nothing else one can experience.

When a person begins the process of communion with the self for authentication, they
begin the process of what Paul Tillich writes as discovering their courage to be. It’s this courage that then is expressed in the selfless acts of love towards God and others. One is no longer bound by the cares and concerns of one’s own pathologies but is given away to the liberation of God’s Spirit and empowered to live abundantly. Faithful is the God who gives life, and so He will also be faithful to make your life a fruitful one. The courage to be
begins with the courage to live God’s life or purposeful death. It is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, the bearing of one’s cross, the suffering of the saints leading to the redemption of the soul. To become one’s authentic self means learning to die while living.

Remember to live is Christ, but to die is Gain.

The CBC and the Admission of Guilt

While speaking at a town hall meeting at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on Tuesday, US Representative Maxine Waters of California admitted that she along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are tired of defending President Obama while he continues to neglect the needs and state of Black Americans. The “For the People” Jobs Initiative Tour is being sponsored by the CBC and includes US Reps Waters, Emmanuel Cleaver, the CBC president. Waters stated “Let me tell you why. We don‘t put pressure on the president because ya’ll love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud…to have a black man [in the White House] …First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.” Her remarks were mixed with cheers and jeers from the largely black audience at the job fair and town hall meeting hosted by the CBC. Mark Hicks of the Detroit News reported that the meeting turned heated at times as some residents debated government spending, bank lending, bipartisan bickering and the disproportionate effects of the economy on minorities.  She added that she couldn’t understand why Obama’s Midwest tour does not include any black communities. The unemployment rate for Blacks is just over 16% far above the national rate of just over 9%. This is even more difficult to accept as Obama will take another 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. It is sending a clear message that President Obama is not in touch with the people no matter how much the media tries to spin it.

From this reaction in Detroit, it is clear that many Black Americans are suffering from post Obama election syndrome. They were promised change, and they are receiving the change that only liberals in government can give. These people were looking for an administration that presented itself as one that had the interest of the people at heart but are now realizing that the Obama administration is only interested in maintaining the status quo of government entitlements and keeping people in more oppression than in previous presidential administrations. What they have received however are more disaffection, higher unemployment, and a greater disenfranchisement from the very politicians they continue to elect to serve them a better deal or handout.

Rep. Waters’ admission sheds light on two major things. The first is that the CBC has realized that even with a person of color in office, they are still left out of the major political game. They have spent the last three decades attempting to assimilate into a government that really does not want their full participation unless they compromise their integrity and values to draw votes for a partisan agenda. I know that may come across as harsh but it is the truth. I don’t want to slight what individual CBC members are doing for their constituents but overall, it is nothing more than a shell game for the Democrats. It is an admission that the CBC is guilty of being the real “Uncle Toms” and forfeiting the needs and concerns of the people for the votes and favors of the DNC. The CBC as an entity is guilty of being the real sell outs to their communities and their people.

The second thing is that black people are more educated about what’s really happening in the country politically than the Democratic party wants to admit. The DNC and CBC can no longer spew nonsensical rhetoric through black media outlets as they once could. Blacks are actually listening to conservative black voices like Thomas Sowell, Michelle Malkin and organizations like the Frederick Douglass Foundation. The CBC is guilty of going with the spin of a pro-Obama media that neglects the authenticity of counter thoughts among Black Americans. They are guilty of being cover-ups for the reality that is plaguing Black America. This cover up and defending of progressives and liberal lies is what has Maxine Waters and others like her tired. They are running out of excuses for Obama and his policies. They can no longer hold their frustration because they realize that
their livelihood is also at stake.

What is the conclusion to the matter? It is simply this. Black Americans must once again find their voice to speak gainst the oppression this administration is continuing. While Obama and his eam of media hype men attempt to promote a message of stability and rogressive change for Americans, Blacks must read through it and see the eality of a President carrying out a progressive liberal agenda that is not ully inclusive for people of color. The real change must occur in the polls as lacks turn their frustrations into votes. These votes cannot be for the same eople they must be for authentic change for Black Americans.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110817/METRO01/108170367/Thousands-connect-with-employers-at-Detroit-fair#ixzz1VK98cn9r

Bin Laden’s Dead:Now What?

Millions of Americans watched Sunday night as President Obama addressed the nation with the news that Usama Bin Laden, the master mind of terror attacks around the world was killed during a US Special Forces covert operation at his million dollar compound in Pakistan. First, credit and congratulations are in order for President Obama’s decision as Commander in Chief, the military and CIA Intelligence leaders who spent months planning the operation. This is truly the epitome of the mourning, unity, and action following the terrorist acts of September 11, 2oo1. How Bin Laden evaded capture as long as he did while living in open secrecy for the past six years is a question that has many pundits, politiicians, and people wondering and waiting for more answers. While President George W. Bush began the action, President Obama has brought it to a close.

The question still remains-Now What?

We have been witness to civil unrest throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world for the past four months. We have watched as presumably horrible regimes have been outsted (with the exception of Libya’s Qaddafi). We are seeing countries such as Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain’s leaders recoup with violence on their own people. We are increased tension between Israel and Palestine. All of this unrest in the Middle East is pointing towards something that we must all be cognizant of. That something could be the end of the world as we know it.

The End or the Beginning?

We are witnessing a global crisis that has not been experienced since the beginning of the Second World War. Those familiar with history know that at the end of both World Wars, there was the establishment of a global united government movement. Post WWI was the League of Nations championed by President Woodrow Wilson. Post WWII was the establishment of the United Nations championed by President Franklin D Roosevelt. Neither of those men lived to see either organization to its full fruition, but the seeds they planted have deep roots in the world’s governance, military, economy, and diplomacy today. I am of the belief that in the upcoming future, we will see an even greater world government come into power that will exceed the expectations of both of its forerunners. This united world government will be something that most will rejoice to see, but could also lead to the decimation of the sovereignty of nations as we know it. It would literally be the end of the world as we know it.

How then should we prepare for this? Scripture shares much of what should be expected in the last days. Paul, addressing first century believers about the imminent return of Christ writes: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5: 1-5) [NKJV] It is clear that he as others expected universal turmoil as a sign of preparation for Christ’s return. It is no different for believers today. We are witnessing a great shifting in the world-economically, governmentally, militarily, and in many other ways. We should be preparing to hear the words of peace that will beckon all to celebrate. It is when we hear these words or discern these signs that we should know that the time is drawing near and that Christ’s return is at hand.

Two millenia have passed since the world last saw the remnants of Christ’s promised return. The words of Jesus entreating his disciples of the last days are even more pertinent to those of us who are believers today: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into”. (Matthew 24:42-43) [NKJV]

DC Mayor Protests to Keep Money to Kill Babies

DC Mayor protests to keep money to kill babies
Washington DC is not short of a lively political atmosphere. It’s the seat of our nation’s government. It’s where all the movers and shakers gather to decide policy for we the people. It’s also a city that reeked with high crime and low educational performance. On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, DC’s mayor Vincent Gray and councilmen along with 41 others took to the streets to protest in from of the US Capitol. The city’s mayor and fellow protestors were all arrested for the protest but released later that day. Even though it may appear that they were protesting against continued infringment on city government, the reality is that it is all about the power to determine who should and should not live.

The major argument according to  Mayor Gray and others regards the recent budget proposal approved by Congress, in which DC would lose more of its autonomy but more particularly, lose funds used to pay for abortions for low income women, needle exchange program for drug addicts, and a school voucher program to assist students attend schools of their choice. According to an Associated Press article on Tuesday, “the city’s ability to spend money on abortions for low-income women has seesawed over the last two decades. When Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2009 and 2010, the city has been able to spend its own money to pay for abortions for women on Medicaid.”  The average abortion in the DC area can cost between $300 and $500. While there is a hot debate in Congress regarding defunding programs like Planned Parenthood, DC’s city leaders are more concerned about keeping money to kill babies, than focusing on creating and supporting programs to empower women and all of its citizens to live an abundant and fulfilling life. They are showing what happens when values are displaced and replaced with shallow ideals and fiscal desires that continue to promote a sense of dependency on discretionary spending on unnecessary things.

While the group’s protest was noble, it also presents what’s wrong with our government. I am a strong pro-life advocate but even if I were not, I would not support any effort to use government funds for abortions of any kind. The fact that they are targeting low income women (mostly minorities) says that the DC city government has little to no concern for the life of the unborn. It is the belief that this very insistence on funding for abortions helps ensure that a woman’s right to an abortion is being upheld. That’s a lie from the pit of hell! Women should feel empowered when they give birth (despite how it was conceived) and should be able to choose to allow that life to continue and prosper. Throughout all of this, many also expressed great disappointment that President Obama is not stepping in and supporting their cause but is continuing to remain unengaged in their struggle.
Churches and Pastors in DC should stand up in protest. They should take the lead in demanding that DC’s leadership not seek any funds for abortion assistance. The citizens of Washington, DC should rise up in protest against their city leadership. The city’s leadership is demonstrating the very thing that is keeping its citizens in a bondage that is worse than slavery, Jim Crow, or any other system that oppressed people.

Louisiana Last in Peace Rankings

Recently, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released a study that showed Maine as being the most peaceful state in the US and Louisiana as being the least peaceful state in the US.  The group based their research study on data compiled from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focusing primarily on several factors including homicide rates, jailed population percentage, and the availability of small arms. The IEP’s peace ranking comes on the tail of a study released in 2010 by Businessweek.com listing Louisiana as the laziest state (not work-related lazy, but laid back relaxed lazy). I’ll be the first to admit this ranking was somewhat disappointing. I didn’t want to seem ignorant so I did my research. I discovered that there is some truth to the IEP’s ranking. In 2010, Louisiana ranked third on the most violent states list. This was worse than California and Michigan which combined, have five of 2010’s  most dangerous cities. I don’t want to give the impression that Louisiana is the Eden of the US, but it is sure much better than many other states with multiple metropolitan cities.

As a person who was born and raised in Louisiana, I’m not sure what to make of this ranking by the IEP.  I’m sure that there are plenty who can and would argue that in some Louisiana metro areas, there is quite a bit of violence, but that can be said of any state with multiple major metropolitan areas. There are a number of correlating reasons why Louisiana received the lowest ranking including political, socioeconomic, and educational factors.

It can be shown that Louisiana has a large disparity in many of those areas that may contribute to our peace ranking. This however does not take away from the many good things Louisiana has to offer to its citizens and visitors. Louisiana is a shining example of recovery and resilience in the face of terrible circumstances. Unlike most states in the Union, Louisiana is experiencing economic growth and development despite losing a lot after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustav, and the horrible BP oil spill. We still produce some of the best culinary treats in the world, have the biggest party every year during Carnival and Mardi Gras season; and we can boast of having a Super Bowl Championship team in the New Orleans Saints.

In all honesty, Louisiana may fall short in many areas, but one thing is sure for those of us who live here. Louisiana is truly a great place to live and work and no peace ranking from any organization can take that away.

Rediscover the art of rhetorical criticism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the day, we encounter signs, symbols, and sounds that engage us and cause us take actions and communicate our thoughts and opinions on certain matters. Each time we participate in this process, we are participating in a skill that has all but gone extinct. It is the ancient skill of understanding and effectively communicating the symbols, signs, and sounds
around us.  This skill is called rhetorical criticism. When the average person hears the word rhetoric, most automatically assume that it means, talking in pompous, bombastic, and seemingly irrelevant words to evade answering questions or just simply sound like a know it all. In reality, rhetoric is simply communication and has been used for centuries as a means of persuasion. In the philosophical world, rhetoric is a way of teaching through communicating. In politics, rhetoric is the persuasion of potential voters to a particular point of view. In religion,
rhetoric is the symbolic actions of believers as they profess their religious beliefs through sacraments, liturgies, and devotions. Every living human being is engaged in rhetoric and as a result, also engaged in rhetorical criticism.

We live in a world where information is transmitted so quickly through 60 second sound bites that there is little to no chance of fully understanding authentic knowledge as it presented. Symbols and signs that once meant something positive are being usurped and their meaning and message changed to convey new thoughts and messages that may directly or indirectly
counter the original meaning or message. The question then becomes why should we be aware of this rhetorical criticism thing and how can we use it to better communicate? The answer is because our world is more interconnected than before and understanding how and what is being communicated empowers the person to control the knowledge they receive and share. This is a much needed powerful skill to have because more individuals have access to the means of delivering and sharing rhetoric (blogs, twitter, social networks, news media, and cell phones) and it is almost impossible to control the content of that rhetoric (unless you live in China or other places where the government controls content).  When we use rhetorical criticism, we become better at investigating, understanding, and explaining our responses to the symbols around us.

Rhetorical criticism isn’t a hard skill to learn and master. It involves two main processes: 1) asking a question, and 2) analyzing something that relates to the question we have asked. Each time we ask a question about anything, we have begun the process of rhetorical criticism. The
question does not have to be anything deep or fantastical, it can be something as simple as why did a band choose a particular logo design, or why a certain color of lipstick looks better than another color. This sets in motion the second process. It is the action (either actual or symbolic or a combination) that we do following the question we ask. It is here that we examine something related to the question we asked. We formulate hypotheses around it and attempt
to understand it better. There are several ways to accomplish this, but the most common is through the written form (email, text message, academic writing, blog, etc). Once we have completed this, we communicate it with those around us. This is done in several ways also. The entire act results in the full communication of our response to the initial symbol that led to the rhetorical criticism.

When practiced regularly, rhetorical criticism can be a way of empowering people to influence in their world. It can be a way of countering what a person believes to be the wrong messages sent out by the wrong people. It can be a way of helping others to be proactive and engaged in all the symbols, signs, and sounds around them.