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Archive for the tag “reconciliation”

Why, This Sunday, I Need the Black Church More Than Ever

Justice requires those who suffer the least to speak up the most. –Steve L. Robbins

In mere hours, people across the country will be sitting in pews. I’ve been debating if I will also attend church today– wake up as the sun warms my room, find a nice Sunday dress and go to a service to hear something that will comfort my soul.

If I had to go, I’d likely go out and find a church full of folks who look like me to worship with. Because it is at another A.M.E. church, or among some COGIC congregants or maybe some Southern Black Baptist folk that I would find some healing for my heartache after this week’s tragic events.  I don’t think there will be a Black clergyperson in America who won’t enter her/his church without pangs in their chests, lumps in their throats and a weight on their shoulders.  I believe that, this morning, all sermons that will be preached from pastors of those aforementioned pulpits will be anguish-laden battle-cries in sanctuaries full of folks who are already just as weary and fed up with fighting as they are.  And, in the end, the solution will be—as it always is—to watch and to pray.

And as much as I believe that racial reconciliation should begin among the righteous first; that the integration of our churches would be a real testament to moving towards a post-racial society; that conversations about racism, inequity and injustice should start with people of faith—I, frankly, don’t believe that there will be enough non-Black church leaders who will properly address what happened at a Bible study in an A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C. on Wednesday night. Sure, there will be moments of silence.  Of course folks are going to offer up some prayers for the families of the nine innocent lives that were slain. Yes, they will utter petitions for God to heal our land and our hearts.

But not enough non-Black church leaders will apologize for not promptly talking about why Ferguson, New York and Baltimore went up in smoke after the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Not enough non-Black church leaders will be sorry about not inviting open dialogue about why, for months now, African-Americans have been angrily protesting for all Americans to acknowledge that #BlackLivesMatter.  Not enough non-Black church leaders will stand in front of their congregation with their heads hanging low, a crackle in their voices and admit that, they too, struggle with racism, white supremacist values  or, perhaps, more simply, just understanding the plight of their darker-skinned brothers and sisters.  Not enough non-Black church leaders will admit that they have a hard time grappling with the idea of “Solidarity” with communities of color around issues that negatively affect our ways of life and/or obstruct our paths to achieving the American dream. Not enough non-Black church leaders will admit that they are in need of God’s love to soften their hearts towards us, their browner counterparts, in order to move past our darkness and into the Light.

In the June 19th Gleanings Section of Christianity Today, the magazine shared some words from Austin Channing Brown’s, “The Only Logical Conclusion” that were especially moving and resonated deeply for me. Here, I have shared what I’ve gleaned from CT’s snippets:

“…The level of terror that black people feel in America at this moment cannot be underestimated…Because when the driving force of such a massacre [sits] in the pews unchallenged every Sunday morning in white churches- there is no reason why black Americans should feel safe.

The sin of white supremacy is thriving in this country because white Christians refuse to name it and uproot it, refuse to confess it and dismantle it, refuse to acknowledge it and repent of it, refuse to say the words, ‘It’s in my family,’ ‘It’s in my church,’ ‘It’s in my soul.’ ” 

What will you preach about today? How will you challenge/inspire/encourage your church leaders and fellow congregants to really talk about racism in America and the church’s responsibility to address it? How can we seek to reach across the thresholds of our racially homogenous churches and create dialogue and form real relationships with other Christians who look and live differently from us?

Because it is time.

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No Makeups for BFF Breakups?

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known. Love is…something that we nurture and grow.  Shame, blame, disrespect [and] betrayal…damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.  –Brene’ Brown

In high school, like most teens, I had a best friend. We were both dark-skinned, pretty and popular. She was my ace. But one day at school, after we spent the weekend together at my house, I heard a rumor that my BFF was talking smack about my little sister. Although it was merely high school hearsay, I was still upset with this and went to confront her. Emotions ran high, we said things we didn’t mean and, in an instant, our glorious friendship disintegrated. For months thereafter, everybody (and I do mean everybody) asked what happened to me and my friend and no response given was enough to satisfy the interviewer. The feedback was almost always the same: “Yo, y’all need to squash that.”

But we never did.

Over the years, I often thought about my friend, asked about her when I ran into my former classmates, and frequently replayed the events in my head, wondering what I could have, should have done differently to resolve the situation. Our “break-up” never seemed right in my spirit. It wasn’t until many years later– 2009, to be exact– when we ran into each other at a mutual friend’s 30th birthday party that we acknowledged each other with hugs and catch-ups and then partied the rest of the night as if we’d never missed a beat. We left things unsaid, and that was okay because it seemed as if time had healed the wounds.  However, when I look back over the time we lost, I wish I would have reconciled earlier instead of suffering that loss while waiting for her to make the first move.

In almost 20 years, I’ve either been responsible enough to not allow such heartbreaking losses or I haven’t cared so much that I’ve felt that pain. Then, this past fall, I had a major disagreement with a close friend and, just like before, I allowed my pride to cripple me from reaching out to her after the irons cooled.  Again, it wasn’t right—I could feel it in my heart and I had to conscientiously numb myself to avoid grieving the loss of this once great friendship.

Then one day, after months of agony, I just contacted my friend and asked to have a heart to heart conversation about what happened between us. She agreed and we made plans to get together.

Leading up to our meeting, though, I felt like the weaker person because I initiated contact. But, I also later thought about some of the unhealthy intimate relationships I’d been in and how easy it was to be the first to wave the white flag (sometimes over and over again) after an argument, disagreement, and/or breakup.  But with this best friend—a person who 1.) has had my back when all the other relationships have faltered 2.) has supported me in my personal endeavors 3.) has showed up for every high and low moment in my life— and one major argument, I found it hard to be the one brandishing the olive branch.

When we finally met, we had a difficult talk about our relationship. I cried. She cried. We blamed each other. We apologized. And afterwards, we hugged each other and made plans to move forward and actively work on our reconciliation.

I believe we all experience great discomfort when we know there is something profoundly wrong with a BFF breakup.  If you have to work at being angry, revisiting the argument to fuel your resentment, but at your core, you really want to share your exciting news or funny stories or some juicy gossip with your friend, you probably need to makeup.

If you see your friend around your town, in your mutual circles, or at your favorite hangouts and you give him mean looks when you really want to hug his neck, you probably need to makeup.

If you run into old friends who ask how ya’ll been and you run across pictures that make you smile, have memories that make you laugh, and reminisce on moments that make you cry, maybe it’s time you, too, be the first to throw in the towel, pick up the phone or compose an email and say, “Yo, we need to squash this.”

White Privilege at UCU

This is an Opinion article (before the published edits) that I recently submitted to Uganda Christian University’s campus paper, The Standard, and was subsequently published this week (21 October 2013).  In 2008, I studied here with BestSemester.com’s Uganda Studies Program (USP) offered through my alma mater, Eastern University and I am currently in Mukono visiting the campus often working on a personal writing project.  I welcome your (constructive) feedback, comments, and questions. 

This may be uncomfortable, but I think it’s time we talk about “white privilege” at UCU.  Although it is rarely addressed publicly, people on campus—Ugandan, white, and other—are not oblivious to it.

I am an “other” though I am often mistaken for a Ugandan.  However, I am a dark-skinned Black-American woman.  My host mom often reminds me that if I stay quiet, I can pass for a Muganda woman and move around like any other Ugandan.  Mostly, I am grateful for this, especially when I am around my fairer friends who lament about being so obviously different and the unwanted attention it regularly attracts.  Alternatively, I have also been engaged in conversations where I have heard white students (and sometimes staff), either proud or embarrassed, talk about the passes they receive or rules they are allowed to break because they are bzungus. 

For example, in a recent conversation, an instructor told me how some of her students privately expressed elation about having a white professor versus a Ugandan one.  In another conversation, where I complained about going to the library because of the mandatory bag and water bottle check, my white friends said that they were rarely stopped and asked to check their items.  And finally, in light of the heightened security checks at the gates of UCU, one USP’er reluctantly confessed that he has frequently been allowed to bypass the line and enter without scrutiny.  Whether all of this happens because of deference or indifference, it seems white visitors are able to move around with a little more freedom and favor than their darker counterparts.

As a USP’er in 2008, such occurrences paired with my own experiences of racial inequity that is ever-present in the U.S. frustrated me and somehow left me struggling with Christianity and the imagery of Jesus Christ as represented across nations.  Is it because white people so closely resemble the image of God that we are compelled to revere them?

With the help of prayer, personal revelations, and the Word of God, I eventually reconciled my issues around Jesus Christ and the color line.  The Bible speaks repeatedly to the uniqueness of us all and, yet, our still undeniable likeness to Him.  From all men and women being created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) which also means that we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), to the New Testament promise that “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2) and that Christ’s purpose was “to create in Himself one new man out of the two” (Ephesians 2:15), the Scriptures helped me understand that it is not God’s will for any of us to be treated differently—whether it is for better or for worse.  But rather, especially as Christians, that we strive to treat each other the same—with love, respect, and honor, upholding the same expectations for all peoples.  I hope that at UCU the focus will not be to please those in our world who are lighter, but to always aspire to please the One who is The Light of the world.

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