The Hamer Blessing

FannieLouHamer

The Hamer Blessing

The following is a prayer of blessing inspired by the life, words, & witness of  the revolutionary Jesus disciple & freedom fighter, Fannie Lou Hamer:

May God bless you with the gift of being “sick & tired of being sick & tired.” 

May your sick & tiredness of the way things are, move your body to practice the way things should be.

May God transfigure your frustrations into a beautiful struggle for liberation.
 
May God bless you to know that whether you “have a PHD, or no D”, your voice, your light, & your place in this struggle matters!
 
May God bless you with bone deep knowledge that “nobody’s free, til everybody’s free.”
 
May God bless you with holy discontentment for visions of change that leave any of our kinfolk out!
 
May God bless you with healing from trauma, and hope in the New Jerusalem promise!
 
May God bless you to call the Reign of Heaven down to earth with your praying, your singing, your protesting, your giving, & your preaching!
 
May God bless you with goodness in the face of evil, courage in the face of fear, joy in the face of sorrow, & revolutionary love in the face of injustice!
 
Above all, may you be blessed with an overwhelming sense of the Almighty’s nearness on this freedom journey!!
 
And by the grace of Jesus, may even your “falls push your forward in the fight for freedom.”
 
Àṣẹ
 
 
-Terrance Hawkins 
 
 
 

 

Infection Anywhere Is a Threat to Public Health Everywhere: COVID-19 and the Forsyth County Detention Center

IMG_8840.jpg

Terrance Hawkins speaks in front of Forsyth County Detention in Winston-Salem, NC.

This past Saturday, Drum Majors Alliance co-founder, Terrance Hawkins, delivered a speech at a protest calling for humane treatment, COVID-19 testing, and release of inmates from our local detention center, starting with the most vulnerable. (Read the demands HERE.) The following is the written adaptation of that speech:

I’ve said this at least 100 times over the last few months, but it must be said again: Covid-19 is apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word. Apocalypse means to “unveil, unmask, or uncover something” and this pandemic has unveiled & unmasked the injustice and isolation that plagues our city, state, nation, and world.

As Reverend Osagyefo Sekou recently said, “[Racial] capitalism is Coronavirus’s preexisting condition.”

And what a deadly pre-existing condition it is!

From the days of Jim Crow Sr to our Jim Crow Jr moment, Winston-Salem has for or all intensive purposes, been an Apartheid City.  We practice apartheid economics, medical apartheid, and educational apartheid. There are literally TWO Winston Salem’s. One marked by a history of power & privilege and another marred by a history of disinvestment & dispossession.

As others have  put it:

“Yes, we are all on the same “ocean”, attempting to ride out the same storm of COVID-19. But we are not all on the same boats.”

Due to this city’s history of apartheid, some communities are riding out this storm on boats that are far less seaworthy.

Black Winston-Salem is uniquely vulnerable.

Brown/Latinx Winston-Salem is uniquely vulnerable.

Our elderly and immunocompromised loved ones are uniquely vulnerable.

Our unhoused neighbors have been uniquely vulnerable.

And those imprisoned in our detention center are uniquely vulnerable!

But we believe that our freedom and flourishing and future is bound up with the freedom, flourishing, & futures of the most vulnerable.  Yes, as a son of the radical Black church tradition, let me put a little scripture on it. The writer of Hebrews wrote:

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  (Hebrews 13:3)

Fannie Lou Hamer, another child of this tradition, taught us that “nobody is free, til everybody is free”

Or as Martin Luther King Jr. put it:

“We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Or we could say that infection in the detention center is a threat to public health outside of the detention center.

The lack of response to the crisis in our local detention center demonstrates that the forces of UNFREEDOM are strong in the city of Winston-Salem. Don’t let the power structure of this city fool you when they “cosplay” as freedom fighters! We know better.
When COVID hit, many of us forcefully said that the city must break pre-existing patterns to save lives in the present AND to chart a new path for the future.

But what did they do? Well as I put it a couple months back:
“Winston-Salem’s response to COVID-19 has been SO “Winston-Salem.”

This was the pattern we saw:

1) Winston-Salem/Forsyth County put forth unsatisfactory COVID-19 response plans that funneled the money into our city’s bloated non-profit industrial complex.  The wealthy got to play the hero through philanthrocapitalist endeavors.

2) Grassroots organizations, advocacy groups, & activists pushed back, protested, & put forth demands.

3) In the wake of sustained pressure, City/County officials implement a diluted “great value” version of the demands that emerged from grassroots groups.

4) With the help of the local media apparatus, city & county officials announced updated plans as if they were entirely a result of their own thoughtfulness & commitment to justice.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Now they are holding town halls to “dialogue about injustice” with panel lineups that consist primarily of folks who hold power. But this way of getting to the bottom of a city’s commitment to justice ain’t in alignment with the tradition I come from.

Brother James Baldwin taught us:

“Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! —and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any Black [person], any poor person—ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” 

This tradition teaches us that we must let the lion tell her part of the story so that history can no longer exonerate & glorify the hunter–while denigrating & dehumanizing the hunted.

Rooted in this tradition, we can see that what’s happening in our local detention center is not unprecedented. We can see a clear thread from the conditions forced upon enslaved Africans in the hold of slave ships to the inhumane conditions so common in our jails & prisons (disproportionately occupied by Black bodies). We can see a clear thread from slave patrols of the antebellum south to 21 century policing. We can see a clear thread from the “post-emancipation” system of convict leasing to the present evil of mass incarceration. We can see a clear thread from the stories of Johanne & Maria Samuel—the First enslaved Africans baptized into the Moravian church. After their emancipation, they never got any justice or reparations, only patchwork charity. As a result of their economic instability, they engaged in “petty theft” & were in and out of jail. This local history echoes & rhymes with the stories of so many in our community today. There has been very little healing justice & hand-ups for the oppressed, just handcuffs & stiff arms.

Black, Brown, Indigenous people have always been viewed as cage-able, enslavable, killable, & discardable.  But in this moment we are calling for a radical turn, not a neoliberal tweak.  We don’t want the thread of enslavement to get more “colorful.” We don’t want the thread “painted” or tied in a pretty bow of “diversity.” In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “we are sick of symbolism we are fighting  for our lives.”

What do we want? We want this oppressive thread broken, dismantled, and abolished! We want a city and a world rooted in the understanding that you can’t cage, handcuff, & court case your way to peace. Peace is the offspring of revolutionary love & transformative justice. Peace is rooted in acts of care, restoration, healing, & the pursuit of liberation! Peace is a mighty river flowing from the throne of the Holy One! Our city will never live into its name (Salem/Peace) til it lets this river wash away the stains of apartheid.

I leave you with the words of martyred BPP chairman Fred Hampton:

“Peace to you, if you’re willing to fight for it!”

COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance

COVID-19 Covenant of ResistanceIMG_7602.JPG

Beloved,

Times of great challenge are upon us, and as we have in times past, the community of faith is demonstrating an ethic of love rooted in our belief that we are called to love God and our neighbors. Christians, churches, and faith-based nonprofits are springing into action through prayer and relief efforts to support the most vulnerable in our cities and communities. The Drum Majors Alliance and Sanctuary Consulting, LLC applaud and affirm these efforts. We thank God for every individual and institution that is at work in these ways. Still, we must say that while these efforts are necessary and important, they are incomplete. The fullness of our calling in this time is rooted in the spiritual principle of resistance. As we continue our journey through this Lenten season, we must recall Jesus’ love-rooted resistance of Satan while fasting in the wilderness. We must recall the holy resistance of the prophets against the evil of their own people and the powers of their time. We must recall Jesus’ own prophetic resistance to the empire in proclaiming the in-breaking reign of God, not Caesar. We must recall his resistance to the religious legitimation of economic exploitation as seen in his cleansing of the temple. We then, in the tradition of our faith, must resist the forces that make charity toxic, that leave stories unheard, and that erases our prophetic calling to do justice, as we engage in acts of mercy/relief, and walk humbly with our God. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word.  The word apocalypse means to “unmask or unveil.” This pandemic unmasks and lays bare the pre-existing conditions that have diseased the body politic of the U.S. for decades, even centuries. Now is not the time for “political quietism”, neutrality,  or for the mouthing of “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.” This is a moment that calls us to live into the holistic nature of our call to love God and neighbor. The biblical notion that “love conquers all” is not about the power of abstract feelings to save the world. It does not stop at the noble act of food distribution when ignoble forces ensure communities remain in situations of deprivation.  Rather, authentic love concretely faces, and seeks to overcome every barrier to liberation, community, and human flourishing. The pre-existing barriers to flourishing created by systemic injustices like racism, health care inequity, and poverty have only been further exasperated in this moment. 

We will not be able to “charity” our way out of this crisis. Our church budgets cannot fill in the gap left by an ever-sagging social safety net. The demands of resistance move us beyond charity, and towards ministries of solidarity! We are in a moment that will almost certainly set the direction of this nation for years, and perhaps even decades to come. The city of Winston-Salem was already in deep crisis. As we boasted of being one of the best places for the economic mobile to relocate, we were simultaneously amongst the 3rd worst nationally in economic mobility for children born in poverty and 20th worst in eviction rates. Bolstered by over a billion dollars in investment, our very attractional downtown has experienced a renewal that has skipped over those that Jesus called “the least” and “the last.” From the top to the bottom, our city is in need of a revolution of values. The Church should be a harbinger of this revolutionary transformation. Yet, too often churches, the preacher class, and others in the faith community have not stood firm in their position as the conscious of the city, and have instead colluded with forces that trample the poor, the disabled, the sick, the outcast, the imprisoned, and the immigrant.  

Now, more than ever, it seems we must make a radical turn. At our best, the Church brings unique gifts to this work. Think about it: we are a community of people who have been called into a life-long practice of repentance and transformation that demands that we face our frailties and faults while holding on to a sense of our belovedness. What would it look like for the church to be a leavening presence, aiding this work of transformation to take place on the personal, communal, AND political levels of our city.

We, The Drum Majors Alliance and Sanctuary Consulting, LLC, along with other organizations and individuals, ask that you prayerfully consider joining with us in what we are calling the COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance. The aim of this covenant is to spur the Body of Christ on to a holistic response in this moment of turmoil and uncertainty, and to provide resources and a concrete blueprint of what that might look like. Below you’ll find six (6) points of resistance along with six (6) actionable alternatives. The accompanying COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance Resource Toolkit (available via Google Docs) will be updated constantly with tools needed to flesh out these actions. May God empower us all by the Spirit to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus’ Kin’dom in this critical moment!

Covenant of Resistance-3

Read the detailed description of the covenant below & let us know that you or your organization is committing to the covenant by clicking [HERE]

Signed,

LOCAL:

Drum Majors Alliance 

Sanctuary Consulting, LLC                                                                                                              

Freedom Tree (IDR)

Housing Justice Now

Terrance Hawkins (Drum Majors Alliance, co-founder)

Allonda Hawkins (Drum Majors Alliance, co-founder)

Reverend Kenneth Pettigrew, M.Div (Sanctuary Consulting, LLC, principle)

Minister Vennekia Williams, M.Div (Sanctuary Consulting, LLC,  principle/project director | Drum Majors Alliance)              

Thomas Lees (Drum Majors Alliance)

Ricky Johnson (Political Action Chair of Education Chair for YAC, WS-NAACP | Drum Majors Alliance)

Reverend Dr. Melva Sampson (Curator, Pink Robe Chronicles)

Darrick Young (Global Citizen, Comrade) 

Reverend John Mendez (retired pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church W-S)

Dalia Antunez (Siembra) 

Phillip Carter (Housing Justice Now) 

Miranda Jones (Hate Out Of Winston) 

Reverend Willard Bass (Freedom Tree, IDR) 

Jennifer Bibb

Reverend Byron Williams (Author) 

Sarah Avery 

Reverend Chaz Snider

Walter Author (The Twenty-Faith Committee)

Dr. Clay Cooke (School of Love, Co-Executive Director) 

Pastor Chris Jones

Chuck Byrd (The Twenty Faith Committee, Ebonites Treasure) 

Dr. Sharee Fowler 

Kenny Williams 

Bishop Tejado Hanchell (Mt Calvary Holy Church)

Ejay Chandler (Lit City, Youth Engagement Director)

BROADER TRIAD, NC SIGNEES:

Good Neighbor Movement (Greensboro, NC)

Reverend Brandon Wrencher (Good Neighbor Movement)

Reverend Dee Stokes (Dee Stokes Ministries)

Reverend CJ Brinson (Genesis Baptist Church, The Movement Consulting)

NATIONAL:

Reverend Starsky Wilson (President/CEO of Deaconess Foundation – St Louis, MO)

Reverend Bethany Rivera Molinar (Co-Pastor, Church in the Park Cuidad Nueva Community Outreach | Board Chair Pres of the Texas CCCDA)

Reverend Delonte J Gholston (Peace Fellowship Church, Peace Walks DC/Live Free DC)

Reverend Derrick Rice, M. Div (Senior Pastor Sankofa UCC, Atlanta, GA)

Pastor Stephanie Answer (Co-pastor of New Community Church, Kansas City, MO)

Pastor Daryl Answer  (Co-pastor of New Community Church, Kansas City, MO)

Pastor Shannon E. Jones (Founding Pastor, The Gathering Church, Atlanta, GA & Liberia)

Reverend Dr. Reginald Williams, Jr. (First Baptist Church of University Park, IL – a suburb of Chicago) 

Reverend Ronnie Galvin (VP for Racial Equity & the Democratic Economy, The Democracy Collaborative) 

Read the detailed description of the covenant below & let us know that you or your organization is committing to the covenant by clicking [HERE]


 

COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance (access resource tool kit to take specific actions HERE.)

1.) Resist: Prayerlessness, fear, & paralyzation 

     Action: Embrace daily rhythms of prayer, silence, & meditation

Embrace and create rhythms of prayer, worship, lament, silence, scripture meditation, and other practices of love-rooting, courage-building, joy-making, and self-care. It is okay to sit with your grief. It is okay to feel disoriented. Our worlds have changed abruptly. We are all trying to catch our bearings. Those of us with pre-existing mental health struggles are finding ourselves all the more challenged. It is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to cry. It is okay to lament. It is okay to be afraid. To experience fear is to be human. 

Yet, the Spirit calls us to taste, see, know, and experience a deep abiding love that has the power to cast out fear. Our birthright as followers of Jesus is not paralyzing terror. Rather, it is courageous compassion in the face of fear. As many have said, “courage is not the absence of fear.” It is the willingness to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God even as we battle fear. 

The Drum Majors Alliance will be curating prayer resources in our COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance Resource Document over the next few weeks. We invite you to make use of these resources and we encourage you to find ways to experience joy and peace in the days ahead. Experience the wonder of creation around you by taking a walk. Practice being still and silent. Get up and dance to your favorite tunes. Sing, write, draw, create something lovely. 

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” Luke 18:1 

 

2.) Resist: Gathering

    Action: Engage in social solidarity, not just physical distancing.

We implore all church leaders to halt all in-person gatherings like bible studies and Sunday services while exploring and implementing creative alternatives. It has been well-documented around the globe that churches who do not follow these guidelines put vulnerable congregational members at risk, as well as the broader community. We understand the financial strain and stress that this time will put on many churches. We also trust that God will provide and honor your church’s commitment to care for souls and bodies, because truly, “lives matter more than tithes matter.” Shutting down services is the most compassionate, wise, and therefore Jesus-like thing to do. This is not an “Acts 4:19” civil disobedience moment. It’s a moment that calls for faith-rooted sensibility, hope-soaked realism, creativity in caring for your congregants, and for the least of these.  

Against the urgent counsel of almost every medical professional in our nation, President Donald Trump has recently suggested that Resurrection Sunday should be the day that things “reopen” around the country. If the president continues to push this ill-advised idea forward, we strongly urge you to resist. We must not allow our holy desires to gather on this sacred day to be exploited by the Powers. It would be tragic to set in motion more death and sickness on a day that we celebrate resurrection life and healing. To do so is not an act of faith rooted in the belief of the miraculous. As people of the resurrection, it is, in our estimation, an act of bad faith, rooted in a lack of compassionate wisdom. 

Having said all of that, the call of the Church cannot be reduced to “social distancing.” In fact, the term social distancing may present us with an unhelpful understanding of the nature of what this moment demands from us. As this article effectively demonstrates, a solely individualistic focus on keeping oneself safe will be catastrophic for the most vulnerable–like the elderly, the disabled, women in situations of domestic abuse, and LGBTQ youth estranged from their families. Instead, we must fiercely advocate for *physical distancing and a moratorium on religious gatherings as one act of care among many. To holistically work for the well-being of our communities, churches, individuals, and nonprofits must think of creative, dignity-affirming, acts of care and mutual aid. “Mutual aid” gives us a different frame for community engagement. It calls us to solidarity, not charity. It calls us to work in a spirit of mutuality, not superiority. It moves us away from our tendency to show up as “saviors,” and roots us in our true calling to be good neighbors. As you engage in whatever relief work you may do, think of ways to do it with your community as a partner and an equal. As you strategically meet immediate needs, dialogue and dream together about how we can cultivate a world of shared flourishing. (For more resources on mutual aid please engage the Resource Document.)

“…there is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” Ecclesiastes 3:5 

3.) Resist: Racialized, ageist, ableist narratives-                                                       

     Action: Call out racist, ageist, or ableist language & behaviors. 

The triplet evils of idolatry, injustice, and isolation are upheld by social narratives that over-affirm the belovedness of some, while under-affirming the belovedness of others. Generally speaking, there is a direct correlation between dehumanizing rhetoric against minoritized groups and the interpersonal or systemic brutalization of said groups. Currently, Asian-Americans are being attacked in our city streets and online. This uptick in hate can be traced directly to the white house & 45’s xenophobic choice to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”  In 2015, the World Health Organization issued new guidelines that infectious diseases should not be named after nations, ethnic groups, or even animals, in an effort to “minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies, and people.” We must disrupt these narratives online and beyond when we see them. Don’t look away. Silence is ungodly. Speak up with humility and urgency. Over and over in the Gospels, we see Jesus subverting narratives and practices that demean and demonize the vulnerable. In the Spirit and name of Jesus may we do the same. Lastly, there has been a tendency to downplay the impact of the COVID-19 because the groups that it most fatally impacts are people over 65 and people who are immunocompromised. Ageism and ableism are not congruent with the Gospel. A redemptive imagination that is willing to sacrifice the 2.5% as “economic liabilities” is in no way congruent with the kin-dom ethics of a Jesus who would leave the 99 to save the 1 who was in jeopardy of being lost. Our elders are not disposable and should not be placed on the altar as sacrifices to secure the economy. The truth is that the nation can both protect and preserve the lives of the most vulnerable while also building a just economy. The two aims go hand-in-hand.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” 2 Corinthians 5:16

4.) Resist: houselessness, inhumane conditions in jails/prisons, & deportations.

Action: Contact local officials and courts on behalf of those who are vulnerable. 

During this time of crisis–and beyond– it is important that we come to see housing as a human right! We must refuse to allow neighbors to be put out into the streets and for those already without housing to be left uncared for. Thankfully, as a result of the work of various groups of activists our state and local officials have mandated a freeze on rent, a hold on evictions, and a moratorium on foreclosures. We must still remain vigilant in making sure that landlords, leasing companies, banks, etc are abiding by this. We must make sure that residents are aware of these mandates so they are not needlessly burdened with fear and anxiety about the possibilities of being put out of their homes as so many are falling into unemployment. City With Dwellings–an initiative that works to end the crisis of homelessness in our city–is working hard to ensure the best possible actions are made to protect and care for those who are chronically homeless. Please join them and others in calling for the city to fund and embrace the most humane measures possible for their well-being.  We must also continue to show up in solidarity with our undocumented neighbors who have in other states been preyed upon & arrested by ICE even in the midst of this tragedy. Due to the ongoing climate of fear, language barriers, and lack of resources, far too many of our Latino/a/x neighbors are foregoing medical care and testing. Additionally, as an absolutely indispensable portion of the U.S. labor force, the Latinx community will be hit hard by the massive layoffs that are occurring.  However, unlike others, they will not be recipients of stimulus checks due to their citizenship status. We invite you to keep track with and support the ongoing efforts of Siembra, a Latinx organization on the front lines of this struggle on the local and state level as they work to secure needed resources for their community. Lastly, prisons and jails are high-risk spaces for the spread of the virus. We are admonished by the writer of Hebrews to “remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them.” A coalition of local activists are calling for the immediate release of everyone being held pre-trial….unless the person poses the immediate threat of specific physical injury to a specific person.” Read more on this here & sign the petition calling city leadership to respond. 


“…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-36

5.) Resist: disaster capitalism 

     Action: Call for economic decisions that put people over profits. 

From its beginnings, US capitalism has been incubated in the womb of great disasters, intentional and unintentional. The disastrous original sins of the transatlantic trade slave trade and the genocidal dispossession of indigenous people’s land are undeniably the roots of our nation’s wealth and economy. Millions, upon millions, upon millions of image-of-God bearing people have been sacrificed at the vile altar of mammon in this nation’s history. As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr put it:

“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, here and abroad.

This nation has never repented of these unholy beginnings and as a result has continued to foster a racialized and gendered cycle of economic exploitation, disinvestment, and inequity. And as King pointed out in the above quote, poor white folks and even those who sit in an ever-increasingly fragile middle class, suffer under neoliberal capitalism. (Neoliberal capitalism is an economic philosophy that seeks the “triumph of the market over all other social values.” Portions of the city of Winston-Salem’s business sector AND swaths of our bloated non-profit sector are complicit in this triumphalism.)

“Disaster capitalism,” as defined by author  Naomi Klein, is the way that private industries seek to profit off of large-scale crises, be it war, hurricanes, or in this case, a pandemic.  From Katrina, to Hurricane Maria, to the 9/11 tragedy, we see examples of how the ruling class seizes times of tragedy as an opportunity to increase its economic power and political dominance by pushing policies that would generally be opposed. At the time of the release of this document both republicans and democrats are debating a stimulus bill that falls very short of robustly helping the people in this unprecedented moment of job loss, economic downturn, and sickness. 

It seems that now, more than ever, this nation needs to make a radical turn from its practice of giving bailouts and hand-outs to corporations, while giving stiff-arms and beatdowns to the people—especially the most vulnerable. To be clear, this practice has *always been unsustainable. We just happen to be in a moment in which this will be **forcefully demonstrated. The Church must call the nation to turn its gaze away from the stock market and to look upon Jesus in the face of the oppressed. The market is not God and neither is it an indicator of the material conditions of the masses! Ask the unhoused if a stock market rise lifts them out of their situation. Ask the uninsured if historic climbs in the market have enabled them to climb the massive barriers to health care. Ask the underpaid working class if filled coffers on Wall Street have resulted in the filling of coffers on “MLK Drive” or “Main Street.” Ask communities who have undergone decade after decade of mass disinvestment if they see trillion-dollar “hook-ups” for corporations as a sign that things are looking up for them. Ask “the least” and “the last” if a stock market jump means they’ll be able to jump to the front of the line. Finally, we must ask the Spirit if we can serve mammon AND a God who calls us to a revolutionary love ethic that puts people over profits. We must remember that “Jesus didn’t say that you “shouldn’t” serve God and mammon. He said that you CAN’T serve God and mammon.” 

For this reason, along with national groups like the Poor People’s Campaign state groups like NC United for Survival & Beyond, and local groups like Housing Justice Now, we are calling for community oversight on the disbursement of our city’s relief fund,  guaranteed monthly income, mass investments in free access to health care and testing for ALL, adequate PPE for health care workers, paid sick leave for workers that are literally keeping the country afloat, rent freezes, small business grants (not loans), student debt cancellation, and so much more. Join us in amplifying the demands of the above organizations and calling others in the household of faith to do the same! But let’s not leave it there. Let us practice the communal values of GOd’s reign on the micro-level as we call for them to be embraced on the macro level. The evil of an unjust economy is not situated “outside” of us. It runs through our veins, our families, and our institutions. Let us resist conformity to the unholy patterns of this world by refusing to hoard, by reorganizing our budgets to help the most vulnerable as best we can, and by honoring the humanity of friends, enemies, and strangers! 

“Thus says the Lord: Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, 2 and say: Hear the word of the Lord, O King of Judah sitting on the throne of David—you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:1-3 

6.) Resist Propaganda & Misinformation:

     Action: Fact check like the Bereans! 

The US is arguably the most propagandized nation in human history. None of us are immune to the ways in which our intellects, passions, and desires are prodded, poked, and influenced by the onslaught of mass media. In this hour, it is especially important that we help one another resist propaganda and misinformation, no matter what side of the political aisle it emerges from. Whether false or misleading info comes from the White House, a loved one in your own house, or a “friend” on Facebook, we must remain compassionately critical in the spirit of the Bereans.  Fact check, compare news from various outlets, and look for the sources of claims being made. Lives literally depend on it!

“4 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.”  Isaiah 59:14-15

In closing, we beg everyone to obey the holy command: “wash your hands!”  😀 Not in the “spirit of Pilate” who absolved himself of responsibility, but in the Spirit and Name of the One who gave himself for the healing of the world.

For further resources–including emails, telephone numbers, & scripts to contact government officials–please take advantage of our COVID-19 Covenant Of Resistance Resource Tool Kit HERE 

Harmonies That Make The Angels Weep: Worship, Justice, & The Crisis at Our Border

“Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”  Amos 5:23-24

Image result for concentration camps borders

Worship & justice are bound together. They are inseparably linked. As one theologian put it:

“Since God is just and the world belongs to God, worship cannot be separated from justice because worship or union with a God of justice empowers the worshipper for a life of justice.”

Yet, so often “worshippers” behave as if the Song of the Lamb inoculates them from the realities of a world plagued by injustice & abdicates their responsibility to challenge it. This morning millions upon millions will gather to sing, pray, & hear preaching that will in no way, shape, or form direct their attention to the unjust suffering at our borders, in our cities, & right up under our noses. Instead, the cries of the oppressed will be metaphorically drowned out by the sounds of guitars, drums, worship singers, choirs, & Hammond B3s. In this, we are “harmonizing” with a history that makes the angels weep & provokes the Almighty to turn a def ear to our praises. The following harrowing account of a church’s (mal)practice of worship during the holocaust is quite sobering: 

“I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars!

Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more.  Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.

Their screams tormented us.  If some of their screams reached our ears we’d just sing a little louder.”

Selah.

O God,

You watch over the refugee & frustrates the plans of xenophobic powers. Teach us how impossible it is to “concentrate” on You & ignore the suffering of those in concentration camps. For you dwell with the downtrodden & oppressed. What we have done to those languishing at our borders we have done to you. May our actions reflect Your borderless love for we have not been called to conform to the patterns of the Nation-state. We choose this day to worship &  serve You, & pledge allegiance to Your reign above all others! In the Name & Spirit of Jesus we pray.

Amen.

 

Article written by T. Hawkins

The Violent Geography of Winston-Salem

written by Thomas Lees 

If you were to find yourself behind First Baptist Church on North Highland Ave. in Winston-Salem’s East Side, you could look over Highway 52 and get a good view of the brightly shining Innovation Quarter – a name intentionally taken from the slogan adopted by the city back in 2014: “The City of Arts & Innovation.” (1)

When the Winston-Salem Journal reported on the slogan’s adoption by the city council, they included a man’s reaction to the new slogan. “Otherwise it’s, you know, beer and doughnuts, and cigarettes,” he said. “So arts and innovation sounds pretty good.”

Now while that’s just one person’s off-handed response, that sentiment represents a deep and widespread lack of awareness of place, of the history and stories that surround us. This is a result of what Dr. Willie Jennings has referred to as geographic whiteness. Without getting too deep into the weeds, Jennings says that geographic whiteness is “a desire to create communities that normalize white dominance by creating communities that structure ignorance and invisibility.” (2)

The idea that Winston-Salem is just “beer, doughnuts, and cigarettes” is spoken out of the ignorance and invisibility created by geographic whiteness.

And Winston-Salem, like practically every other American city, has been designed to promote that ignorance and invisibility. Dr. Jennings points out that “place and space for us are always deeply designed” and that “racial calculations and spatial calculations have always flowed together in the history of the colonial west and we live in the powerful undertow of that history.”

Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter and Highway 52 are perfect examples of such calculations, of Geographic whiteness that is born out of racial calculations and that continue to structure ignorance and invisibility.

For example, if you are a white resident of Winston-Salem, it is unlikely that you have any idea of the communities or businesses that were uprooted or cut down to make way for Highway 52. It is also unlikely that you regularly find yourself on the other side of 52 to eat at restaurants, pay bills, or shop. This was not and is not accidental. (3)

There’s obviously a long history that has impacted this, but much of the way Winston-Salem is structured is due to the Federal Housing Authority’s red-lining policies of the 1930’s and the Interstate boom of the 1950’s. Red-lining was the creation of maps by the federal government that dictated the “risk” of investing in particular communities. If a neighborhood was marked red or “redlined” on these maps, it was nearly impossible to get loans to start businesses or buy homes or to get the city government to invest in services, infrastructure, or development.

And if you think that these neighborhoods just happened to time and time again be neighborhoods of color, let me point you an original Federal Housing Authority evaluator report about a particular community:

This is a ‘melting pot’ area and is literally honeycombed with diverse and subversive racial elements. It is seriously doubted whether there is a single block in the area which does not contain detrimental racial elements … It is hazardous residential territory and is accorded a general medial red grade.

It was not because people of color couldn’t run their own businesses or because they couldn’t take care of their own communities that their neighborhoods and businesses suffered. It was because the resources needed for the flourishing of their community were explicitly denied on the basis of race.

By way of a short theological aside, I am reminded of the story of the Passover that was celebrated just a few weeks ago. This story in book of Exodus climaxes with the red blood of a lamb marking the doorposts of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt so that God would know who his people were, so that “the destroyer” would pass over their homes, that their homes would be “spared” the final and worst plague.

But our city – like all American cities – enacts and embodies an unholy reversal of this story, where red lines marked homes and communities that the state deemed were not their people. And houses marked by these red lines were not passed over, not spared, but have had the plagues of injustice and divestment and displacement visited on them.

Map detailing redlined areas of Winston-Salem

And so, because these black and brown communities had been redlined and intentionally divested from, they economically withered, having been systematically cut off from any kind of economic lifeline. These very communities thereby became “prime real estate” in the eyes of city planners to be carved up and paved over during the 1950’s and 60’s highway expansion.

Highway 52, like pretty much every highway constructed during its time, was laid right through Winston-Salem’s black community. This was a trend so prevalent and so common that people of the time not infrequently referred to it as “white roads through black bedrooms.” (4)

This is the still-living legacy of Highway 52. But most of us, well, most of us white folk, don’t know that history – and as Dr. Jennings said, that’s not an accident. And as Winston-Salem continues to “innovate” by “renewing” urban areas, by “renovating” buildings and “refreshing” neighborhoods, it continues to expand a “violent geography” (in the words of Dr. Jennings) that we’re supposed to see as normal if not praiseworthy. But as Jennings emphatically says, “there’s nothing – NOTHING – normal about the geographic patterns of our country, cities, or towns. They are shaped by a racial past and dictate a future that divides us, that only furthers injustice and inequality.”

The hope in all this is that by confronting the ways our city is racially structured, the way race informs where our city invests and builds, who our city invests in, who it builds for, what stories it erases as it continues to “innovate,” that by confronting these truths that “white geography” seeks to make invisible, that we may better know how to move forward, who to come along side of and what to stand against, in order to (and I’m hopefully paraphrasing Dr. Jennings faithfully here) image ways of life that move beyond cultural fragmentation and segregation, but instead open up possibilities for truly sharing life with another. (5)

 

________________________________________________________________________________________

1 https://www.journalnow.com/news/local/it-s-official-city-of-arts-and-innovation/article_d5f82778-40ac-5324-be83-af8616f2af49.html

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5ZGwuwcHV0

3. This is not to say that every space has to be built for or accommodating to white people.

4 https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/21/roads-nowhere-infrastructure-american-inequality

5 https://politicaltheology.com/people-place-and-race-situating-jennings-christian-imagination-in-contemporary-context-adam-s-borneman/

Sri Lanka & The Threat of Resurrection

Image result for sri lanka bombing

Relatives of a victim of a church bombing grieve outside a morgue in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019.

written by Terrance Hawkins

If you’re like me, you woke up this Resurrection Sunday with a sense of excitement. Sometimes it’s hard to discern if this exhilaration is rooted in the central truth of resurrection or the peripheral nostalgia of “Easter Sunday” childhood memories. In any case, that “high” was quickly challenged by the news of terrorist bombings that killed hundreds of worshippers gathered in Sri Lanka. If I’m honest, I was tempted to quickly scroll past it in an effort to keep “my joy” in tact. Sometimes that is a necessary act of self-care but in this case I was convicted that a joy that needs to skip over the pain of the world is not a joy that comes from God. So, I was forced to deal with the tragic irony that violence & death reared its ugly head on a day that we celebrate the overcoming power of resurrection life!

The attack in Sri Lanka is a brutal reminder of the on-the-ground realities of this yet-to-be-healed world. We live in a world where both the horror of Good Friday & the glory of Resurrection Sunday live side-by-side. Or perhaps a better way of saying it is that resurrection cuts through the endless cycle of “Good Fridays” in our world, reframing our understanding & transforming our interaction with them.

Yes, we still lament.
Yes, we still agonize.
Yes, we still mourn.

But we do not lament, agonize, or mourn like those with no hope. We endure & even embrace the tearful nights of Good Friday for the joyous mornings of Resurrection Sunday set before us.

In Jesus we have seen & tasted the first fruit of resurrection. We have seen that sin, death, sickness, violence, injustice, hate, & lies will not have the last word. We have seen that Love never fails. We have seen that “truth crushed to earth will rise again”.

This sight has not come by the mere reading of words. This sight is the result of a power that is coursing through our veins. Resurrection life flows in & around us even as the death-dealing forces of evil swirl above & beneath us. The wounded, battered, & lynched “love warrior” who rose from the grave has in like manner risen within our bodies.

For this reason we echo the ancient psalmist who said,

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”

For this reason we join the chorus of the civil rights movement that looked the deadly machinery of white supremacy in the face & sang,

“We are not afraid! We are not afraid today!”

Or as Martin King said the day before his “good friday”,

“I’d rather be dead than afraid.”

To live bound by fear is to live in direct contradiction to resurrection. To live under the grips of islamophobia, xenophobia, or any other fear of the “other” is to quench The Spirit that gives new life. A new life that can’t be taken out by the old order of things. A Life that says “you may kill members of God’s revolutionary family, but you can’t kill God’s revolution!”

The resurrection confirms the reality that Caesar—and all his historical manifestations—is NOT Lord. Christ IS!

The Herods, Pontious Pilates, Sanheidrens, & zealots of the world continue to conspire against the peaceable reign of Jesus but the reality of Resurrection calls us to pray with the early Church: “Look upon their threats and enable us to preach & embody your healing & liberating word with holy confidence.” (paraphrase of Acts 4:29-31)

For in the words of poet & theologian Julia Esquivel, “they have [unwittingly] threatened us with [the hope] of resurrection!”:

“What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!
Because at each nightfall,
though exhausted from the endless inventory
of killings since 1954,
yet we continue to love life,
and do not accept their death!
They have threatened us with Resurrection
Because we have felt their inert bodies
And their souls penetrated ours
doubly fortified.
Because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
in bearing the courage necessary
to arrive at the goal which lies beyond death.
They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they do not know life (poor things!).
That is the whirlwind which does not let us sleep,
the reason why asleep, we keep watch,
and awake, we dream…
Accompany us then on this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
You will then know how marvellous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep
to live while dying
and to already know oneself Resurrected!”                                                                   (excerpt from They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection by Julia Esquivel)

Image result for oldest painting of jesus

Oldest known painting of Jesus

Holy Wednesday Prayer & Mediation: HerStory & The Poor

herstory & the poor header

-Terrance Hawkins

Start this time off with a few moments of complete silence. As you sense that the clutter in your heart & the noise in your mind has dissipated offer up words of gratitude to God. Once your heart has settled itself in God’s presence offer up the following brief prayer: 

OPENING PRAYER-

We believe the Way of Jesus is a cycle of death and resurrection

Help our unbelief 

We believe  the Way of Jesus calls us to vulnerability and childlikeness

Help our unbelief 

We believe the Way of Jesus clashes with the ways of idolatry and injustice

Help our unbelief

We believe the Way of Jesus is beautiful and costly

Help our unbelief

We believe the Way of Jesus is love and truth 

Help our unbelief

Silent Confession of Unbelief- silent confession of the ways we have “missed the mark” of faithfully following after Jesus. 

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION –Read the following verses two times. After the first reading pause and meditate on its context and meaning. What word or phrase does the Holy Spirit seem to be impressing on your heart from it? Meditate on that. After the second reading pause and meditate again. What might God be inviting you to personally and the Church to corporately from these verses? Write it down. 

Holy Wednesday According to Mark  (Mark 14:1-11)

“Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

REFLECTION: “HerStory & The Poor” 

Truths, surprises, twists, turns, and socio-political commentary burst through the pages of Mark’s account of Holy Wednesday. With a conspiracy afoot amongst the religious elites of Palestine, Jesus continues to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The mis-leadership class at the top of the religiopolitical structure cannot afford to allow his movement to grow any larger than it has. Their unholy power and prestige—upheld by a Faustian bargain with imperial Rome—is under threat by his prophetic campaign. Jesus, in the tradition of the prophets before him, has brought the silenced wails of the margins to mainstream Jerusalem. His articulation and embodiment of God’s heart for “the least” & “the last” has pulled on the heartstrings of the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. The powers know that if they publicly arrest Jesus it will incite a riot amongst those who hang on his every word and long for the Kin’dom he is inaugurating.  (Mark 14:1-2) Through Jesus’s ministry they have felt seen, honored,  heard, & called higher. To see Jesus arrested in broad daylight would only re-induce their painful sense of invisibility, dishonor, & lack of voice in society. To quote Martin Luther King Jr, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Days earlier, Jesus alluded to this reality when he lamented that the power structure of Jerusalem was unwilling to “embrace the things that make for peace.” 

The scene of Holy Wednesday says a lot about Jesus’s habit of communing with the despised and rejected. He is in the house of Simon the leper. In addition to the physical pain, to be a leper in the 1st century is to endure social shame, isolation, and exclusion. In verse 3 an unnamed woman emerges as what some have described as “the first Christian.” This may seem like a stretch but there a few reasons for this assertion. First & foremost, her special place in the Gospel narrative and in church history is given by Jesus himself:

“Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

To the backdrop of failing male disciples and a soon-to-be-revealed betrayer, Jesus lifts the acts of this woman as a model of faithful discipleship. This pushes against patriarchal norms and assumptions both in Jesus’s day AND ours. Our faith is still deeply infected with the false notion that women are second-class citizens in God’s beloved community. Yet, this narrative puts a woman at the center of what it means to be a disciple in a way only rivaled by Mary of Nazareth, mother of Jesus.  Secondly,  her act of anointing Jesus with expensive perfume shows that she took Jesus’s prediction of his execution and resurrection seriously. She concretely acted on what she heard. This is embodied faith! The death of Jesus was not an “abstract idea” to ponder. It was a truth to encounter.  Lastly, she demonstrates to us that true solidarity with the poor is sustained by deep intimacy with Jesus. What she did was not a “waste” as Judas described it. It was an act of faith In God expressing itself through love. The love of God sustains and empowers the love of neighbor. Gustavo Gutierrez’s words are helpful:

“There is no easy triumphal road for the life of faith. There are those who, when they become absorbed by the political demands of the liberation commitment begin to live the tensions of solidarity with the exploited, then find themselves belonging to a church many of whose members are staunch advocates of the prevailing social order. They then lose their dynamic faith, and suffer the anguish of a dichotomy between being a Christian and being committed to political action.

More cruel still is the case of those who suffer the loss of the love of God in favor of the very thing that that love arouses and sustains—love for their fellow human beings. A love like that, unable to maintain itself in the oneness demanded by the gospel, never comes to know the fullness locked up inside itself.”

In closing, we must deal with the ways that empire religion has misinterpreted Jesus’s rebuke of Judas. 

“The poor you will always have with you.”

Time and time again this verse has been quoted to legitimize exploitative systems & to minimize the responsibility of The Church to alleviate human suffering. Read properly, “this is a statement about the social location of the church, not about the social necessity of poverty.” Tragically most western Christians have gotten it backwards because “the sight from which we read it is insulated from, rather than in solidarity with the poor.” Lastly, if we spent enough time in the 1st Testament we would know that Jesus was alluding to & quoting from the Jubilee tradition. (Deuteronomy 15) An every 50-year social tradition of debt release, slavery emancipation, & return of lost land that God set in place for the nation Israel to avoid wealth stratification, inequity, generational poverty, & cycles of injustice. 

Closing Prayer-

Guide us, O God, closer to the Cross. Keep us from betraying you on the Way. Keep us in Your love. Help us remember, honor, & imitate women who bear Your name & embody your reign.

In the Name & Spirit of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Closing Blessing-

Now unto The One who is able to forgive sins, heal bodies, liberate the oppressed, & create beloved communities out of the ashes of injustice & division; to the only wise Lord who came not to dominate, but to serve & give His life as a ransom. May His love cover, carry, & keep you til’ we meet again. Amen.

The Monument Is Down, But We Must Keep Up The Fight

 

Confederate statue

City workers take down confederate statue in downtown Winston-Salem. (via WXII 12)

Minus a few lines the following is a voice-to-text “freestyle” (flaws & all) I recorded on my way to work this morning in the car:

I had a dream last night. 

In my dream I woke up in my house on Patterson Ave & walked outside on the porch to behold a beautiful, thriving, flourishing neighborhood marked by peace, justice, & beloved community. I did my morning run from one end of Patterson to the other & somehow the intersection at Martin Luther King Jr Drive was no longer a marker by which we distinguish the haves & the have nots. Innovation wasn’t for a select & mostly white few, but it was for everybody and the city had even found the moral courage to center our economic development on the needs of the most vulnerable. In my dream Highway 52 was no longer the symbol of racial apartheid because a huge tidal wave of healing justice had swept over to the east, northeast, & southside of Winston-Salem bringing with it deep transformation. Though I could tell I was in the mostly black & brown side of town, it no longer told the tragic story of the unaddressed wounds of chattel slavery, Jim & Jane Crow. In this dream our children were going to public schools that were nurturing, life-giving, dignity affirming, non-punitive, & well-funded springboards to a life calling & not a pipeline to prison or jobs with non-livable wages. My dream was beyond some neoliberal notion of “progress”. In this dream we had dismantled the enduring & always morphing social constructs of the slave/master relationship. In this dream politicians were servants of the people & not capital. There were no more accommodationist “black faces in high faces” willing to sell their people up the river. The leaders of the people were lovers of the people. 

But I woke up from that dream and did my morning run from one end of Patterson to the other. There were still two Patterson Avenues symbolic of the reality of “two Winston-Salems”, and “two Americas”. Shortly after I got home from my run I hopped on Facebook (as is my custom) & saw that I had been tagged in a post by my sister in the struggle Miranda Jones saying that the confederate statue was indeed coming down. Not long after that I got a text from one of my white accomplices in the struggle saying that the monument was coming down & that we were going to celebrate.

If I’m being honest, down deep in my soul I felt an immediate TENSION.  On one hand there was gladness & on the other hand there was a kind of sadness. I do believe that “we the people” (not the politicians who will use the symbolism as a smokescreen) have a right to celebrate, BUT I also believe it is our duty to remain sober & vigilant in this fight for freedom, and to even create space for lament.

This idea of celebration & lamentation might sound paradoxical, but I come from a Jesus worshiping, sun-kissed, peculiar people who taught the world a lil bit about havin’ “joy in sorrow” & how to cling to a hope-soaked realism about the possibilities for a brighter tomorrow. So yes, taking down this monument to white supremacy was the right thing to do. Its presence in downtown Winston-Salem was a proverbial spit in the face of locally enslaved ancestors like Abraham, the Mandingo warrior. After each of several escape attempts Abraham was brutally flogged. The confederate statue was a spit in the face of my great great aunt Betty Lyons who was born the year that slavery was “abolished”. It was a spit in the face of the black women who organized unions in the face of RJ Reynolds racist, classist, & sexist work conditions. That monument was a spit in the face to the 100s of black women in Winston-Salem who suffered sterilization at the hands of a racist & classist eugenics movement. It was a spit in the face of living elders like Norma Corley who as little girls desegregated our school system as confederate flag waving white folks hurled bigoted insults at them. It was a slap in the face of Darryl Hunt, who was unjustly imprisoned for 20 years for a rape & murder he did not commit. It was a slap in the face of Kalvin Michael Smith. It was a slap in the face of Carl Wesley Matthews, the black man who started the local sit-in movement on the very same street it stood some 50 years ago. So yes, it had to go. 

But, as I said at a previous rally:

“We don’t just want the symbolism of a removed statue. We want the substance of eradicating systemic injustice in Winston-Salem. ITs very possible to remove the statue while the ideology that it represents is still running amuck in our hearts, homes, houses of worship, & halls of power.”

Mother Fannie Lou Hamer once said “we are tired of symbolic things, don’t yall realize we are fighting for our lives.” And we are fighting for our lives, for the lives of our children, & our children’s children. I don’t want them to look at me & say, “Grandad, you mean to tell me y’all just settled for the monument being removed without a push for monumental & radical social, spiritual, & cultural change?” Nah, I can’t have that on my conscious. If the city removes, breaks, & bends the statue without bending our city’s structures towards LOVE & JUSTICE this was only “a renovation project” to keep the so-called “downtown renaissance” going on as scheduled. We don’t just want renovation. We want REPAIR-ation. We need healing justice to repair the wounds of racism in this city! I’m willing to fight for fight it. I hope you are willing to fight for it? Our fight is in the name of love & for me personally I fight in the name of Jesus. 

The statue may be down, but we must keep the fight up!

by T. Hawkins

 

 

The Prophet & The Evangelist

mlkbg2

“The gifts He gave were that some would be…..prophets & some evangelists….to equip the saints for the work of ministry…..”  

-Paul of Tarsus (Ephesians 4:11-12)

“Billy Graham [and Norman Peale], the high priests of Middle America, the word of God came to Martin King in the wilderness of America.

-Gardner C. Taylor, “The Strange Ways of God

What does the interplay between the evangelist & the prophet look like? Is there a rhythm, a harmonic symphony, a divinely  choreographed dance they are called to perfect with each other? What happens when the evangelist steps on the toes of the prophet in this dance of redemption? Should the beautiful feet of those who carry the Good News be permitted to scar & bruise the feet of the ones who call us to “do right, seek justice, & defend the oppressed”? What does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart in a society that disciples you to not let “the other” into your home, your business, your economy, & your church, even? Can the evangelist tell us to walk down the aisle & receive salvation but be apathetic, indifferent, hesitant, or outright resistant to the prophet who marches & calls a nation to “let JUSTICE roll down like a river”? Is preaching the “pure Gospel message” a call to duck our heads in the sand & ignore socio-political corruption? Did not Jesus-the holy & pure One-in His life-acts clash with the power structures of 1st Century Palestine? Is not salvation from a hebraic perspective grounded in the anti-imperial narrative of the Exodus story? 

Can the evangelist seek the safe & status quo upholding middle ground  in situations of oppression & be worthy of the cross they preach? Who will settle the score when the evangelist—full of “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism”—tells the prophet that he is “too extreme” in his call that a nation’s structures must be born anew? Is the Great Reversal that Mary sung of subordinate to the so-called Great Commission? Is the prophet’s radical  dream of the last becoming first, the enslaved become free, the dehumanized being dignified, & hungry being filled with good things too lofty a vision for the evangelist to concern himself with? (1) Can the evangelist’s mission of “saving souls” be honored without dishonoring the prophet’s mission of “saving the soul of a nation”? What does it mean when the evangelist who preaches “that God is Love” willingly shares the platform with those who hate, dominate, & segregate? How can the evangelist co-sign pharaoh but malign Moses? What does it mean when the evangelist invites the prophet to the crusade to pray but does not give the prophet space to prophecy? Is the evangelist quenching the disruptive Spirit of Christ? The Spirit that turns over tables & drives out empire religion? Can the evangelist have his feet fitted with the readiness of the Gospel of Peace & coach the empire towards war & violence? Did he not hear the prophet say in the Name & Spirit of Jesus “we must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means“?

Yes, the evangelist & the prophet can love one another & speak kindly of each other. But public praise & niceties do not interrupt the atrocities of idol worship & injustice. Yes, the evangelist can pay for the prophet’s bail, but does that mean he can “bail” on the call to embody peace & justice? The evangelist can nobly desegregate his crusades but is that enough? Must he not join the holy crusade against social oppression? 

The evangelist can be pushed. The evangelist can repent. The evangelist can clumsily learn how to dance with the prophet.  The evangelist can years later lament his historic missteps; wishing he had marched, wishing he had raised his voice, regretting that he slept through a great revolution. Grace is vast enough for that. But don’t leave it there. We must learn from the evangelist’s mistakes. We must refuse to join him in the post-mortem domestication of the prophet. We must ask ourselves the question: What would have happened if the evangelist truly listened to the prophet? How might the evangelist’s proclamation have been shaped to give voice to a more WHOLE Gospel.  A gospel that confronts, challenges, & heals the sinfulness of souls & the sinfulness of systems. A gospel that frees us from both spiritual & physical poverty. 

A Gospel like Martin’s, like Fannie’s, & like Corretta’s. 

A Gospel like Jesus’s.

 

written by T. Hawkins

 

1.) Michael G Long, Billy Graham and the Beloved Community: America’s Evangelist and the Dream of Martin Luther King Jr. (Palgrave Macmillan; 2006 edition)

 

New Year, Same Me: Resisting Naive Optimism & Embracing Hope-Soaked Realism in 2019

2019 New year greeting card with fireworks

You can take the people out of 2018, but you can’t take the 2018 out of the people.

Both individually & corporately we carry the good, the bad, & the ugly of 2018 with us into 2019.
Minus the observance of  “Freedom’s Eve” for the descendants of enslaved Africans in the US, there is nothing particularly sacred on God’s timeline or “magical”  about the turn of the dial to a new year on the Gregorian calendar we have inherited. 

New year, same me.

New year, same you.

New year, same man in the White House.

New year, same ole unjust America.

Of course, we can repent & resolve to be better & do better in the new year. Yes, there are experiences in God’s presence that radically change our life’s trajectory in a moment!

Holding space for all the above, it seems to me that a hope-soaked realism about the possibilities of 2019 serves us better than a naive optimism. Let’s be honest—many of our grandiose declarations of new year change quickly devolve back to the mediocre status quo.

I wonder if somewhere hidden in all of our “new year, new me” announcements is a misplaced desire for value & significance. Are we seeking to cover our insecurities, shame, & guilt with the fig leaves of “sick-cess & achievement”? To be clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve goals.

My concern here is two fold:

First, most of our resolutions are not “radical”; meaning they do not “get at the root”. True personal & social transformation does not come via surface level “redecoration” it comes through a deep reorientation. To quote one philosopher:

“Moving a few rocks around on the surface, but not the riverbed itself isn’t change. The river still runs the same way.”

New endeavors in 2019 may appear to be taking us in a “new direction” but in many cases our souls & societies remain bent towards the same toxicity.

My second point of concern is how the cultural winds of the new year often carries with it an unhealthy pressure to pull off amazing feats. Even when its couched in “for the glory of God” language, the feverish demand to PRODUCE, PRODUCE, PRODUCE in the new year fosters a crippling anxiety in some of us & it further enslaves others into an identity centered on “what they do” versus “who they are”. Unfortunately, too many of our faith leaders exasperate this pressure with sermons animated by hyper individualistic “wish fulfillment” theology that re-images Jesus as a “life coach” who helps us accomplish our will, not His.

But what if we went at this thing another way? What if we took a LONG deep breath & said to ourselves:

It’s ok to be unimpressive.
It’s ok to be broken.
It’s ok to lament.
It’s ok to rest.
It’s ok.
Rest in the Grace of Jesus.

At the end of the day (and this new year), your worth is not be rooted in what you produce or achieve. Your worth comes from being made in God’s image. You are loved with an everlasting love by a God who through Christ & by The Spirit is already at work in our world, bending it towards healing justice.

May the “unforced rhythms of grace” propel us into every good work God has prepared  for us in 2019.

Happy New Year!

 

 

blog written by Terrance Hawkins