It’s good to be poor!

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

Paul Tripp calls us to file for bankruptcy in day 7 of Journey to the Cross. I love this analogy, it was a realization that really spoke to me. I had a conversation this very morning where a co-worker and I were talking about someone who was just the sweetest person, seriously we could find no fault in them. Reading this Lenten Devotion I realized that I am so brutally aware of my own shortcomings and some particularly annoying individuals I have to deal that I’ve completely missed the point that not even one of us is righteous. One of my favorite CTCS teachers, Mrs. Kuhl used to do this illustration on her chalkboard where she had the kids rank sins in order of severity. Some could even be bigger than others. She marked the sins in order on the bottom left hand corner. Everyone could agree that some sins seemed bigger than others when you focused on the sins, but when you step back and look at the entire board which represents how great God is, does it really matter the order of those sins? No, they differences seem miniscule in comparison to the enormity of the board. Suddenly the sins are just a chalky blob in the corner. Since none of us can say that we are sinless, we have to acknowledge that we’re all the same. Down here in the corner, you may look like you are ahead of me, better or worse, but from an eternal perspective, we’re all down here in the chalkiness.

In reading about Malcolm X’s life and his draw to the Nation of Islam, he talked about how slaves equated Christianity with the concept that some people waited until death for glory yet they could see others had it pretty ‘heavenly’ on earth. It was the belief that blacks were to serve their master while on earth and wait for their reward in heaven, while the white master seemed to be well rewarded here on earth. The world is still filled with haves and have nots. I don’t have to look very far at all to find someone who has it better than me or someone who has it worse. BUT REALLY WE ARE ALL BANKRUPT! If you were facing financial bankruptcy, you’d be panicked — desperate for resolution. We need to quit seeing ourselves as rich, more importantly I think, we have to quit seeing others as rich and live with anticipation knowing that, blessed are, which, in fact means, blessed am I who is functioning in a broken, fallen world. But my brokenness causes me to, like the child who doesn’t know the way, reach up and take their daddy’s hand. Blessed are those who keep grasping for the hand of a loving Savior. (The beatitudes in the PSV)

Lent

I stole this image from my favorite Austin cookie maker, Hayley Cakes and Cookies. I love her cookies and creativity, but this one really struck a chord with me. Yesterday was hard. My students are stressed out! A kid in my room yesterday said, “My mom is mad at me, I can’t do anything right.” and three other kids chimed in and said, “Me, too!”. This is not a criticism of parenting but rather an indicator of the stress our families are under. Kids are struggling picking up where they left off eleven days ago. Their parents are stressed about missed work, empty shelves at the grocery store, the water supply, so much time together without the things we’ve come to rely on to release stress (music, video games, solitude) not even considering those who sustained property damage. Usually snow days in Texas are fun, make an ugly grassy “snowman”, enjoy a day off but this was not that, our faith in this creation we serve was shattered and is only compounded by what we have been through because of stinking COVID. I left fried yesterday and it was only Monday, and I didn’t go home to kids with homework, and I didn’t go home to storm damage (I did go home to a little dog damage, but that’s not unusual) and most importantly I’m not a kid!

But Lent!

Lent is an important tool in the inescapable battle that rages in all our hearts between worship and service of the Creator and worship and service of the creation. Lent calls us to remember once again that sin reduces us all to idolaters somehow, someway. It gives us a season to take time and reflect on things that have taken too strong a hold on us, things that we have come to crave too strongly and love too dearly. It reminds us that often things that we are holding tightly have actually taken an even tighter hold us (p 30).

Paul Tripp, Journey to the Cross

Lent begs us to pause and man oh man do we need a pause about now! Day six of Journey to the Cross challenges us to focus on death and all the ways that Christ calls us to die to ourselves.. “We are called to die to that life where we did what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it, and how we wanted to do it. We are called to die to setting our own rule and living however we please” (p 42). This dying to ourselves doesn’t just happen, everything in us screams for control, comfort, relief. Death is ugly but it brings mourning and mourning brings healing. Lent calls us to consider, even while we live in a time that our consideration seems to have been stripped away from us, that sin tightly grips us and we need a Savior. And in that Savior, we find healing and hope. While we’ve lost much of our illusion of control without time to psyche ourselves up to deal with it or prepare, we have a small window of 40 days to stop and consider and prepare to celebrate again our resurrected Savior! To look beyond the current state of creation, your own life and consider: What areas need to die to make room for greater, more abundant life in Christ?

Well that didn’t go as expected!!

I had a long post ready to go for Tuesday, February 16, which was Fat Tuesday, the day before we Christian’s kick off Lent. But then we had the Polar Vortex accost Texas and we were left frozen in time, literally. If you’ve spoken to me since September of 2016, you have undoubtedly heard me say that the brains of this organization have died. Some have argued, but again, February 2021, this rings true again. I did go to the store and make sure we had food and water. But alas, we have a gas grill and two empty propane tanks, who needs propane until summer? I have a fireplace, but it is filled with lovely decorative items, has never been used and of course, I have no fire wood! I don’t like candles, I hate that smoky smell when you blow them out, I think it ruins any good they may have created. While I do for some reason have one candle, the lighter is across the frozen patio on the grill and still it will have to be blown out at some point, not to even mention how would I get a shoe on my foot with three pairs of socks! I personally was without power for 107 long grueling hours only to come out of it with the stomach bug, which could have been just the good old bug, the fact that we were under a boil order or we relied on the front porch for refrigeration. It has been a shitty experience!

I like meme’s way more than news ^ that was my favorite!

I do realize it could have been much much worse. But I learned a few things about myself that are particularly poignant as we begin Lent 2021. I had read the introduction to Paul Tripp’s Journey to the Cross before Snovid/Snowpocalpyse/Snowmageddon 2021 and I thought oh yeah! I got this, I can mourn, but I learned through the 107 powerless hours, I dOn’T gOt ThIs! I’m good when things are good, I’m good when things are temporarily not good, but 107 hours come on!! Thursday morning we were done, the dogs had been confined WAY too much, we were cold, we were hungry, and long out of words. We begrudgingly got up and continued our Monopoly game despite the fact we really could have not cared less. We played until we were so cold we needed to cover up and warm up again. I lay there with my eyes closed, because why stare at the ceiling any longer. I was jealous that people around me had power. I asked why can’t we have power? I’ve submitted to your will? I’ve been patient and upbeat! Long after having been so thankful we had water through it all, that I had Paxton here, I had books to read and games to play, but that truly only sustained me for about 48ish hours, I could no longer,

my optimism gave way to full on self pity and the stupid dogs still had to eat and go out and really resented not getting to be outside longer. And then I recalled Paul Tripp’s words:

Silence your inner lawyer and all the self-defending arguments for your righteousness. Quit relieving your guilt by pointing the finger of blame at someone else. And stop telling yourself in the middle of the sermon that you know someone who really needs to hear it. (p. 14)

It does rain (or pelt) on the just and the unjust. Electricity is provided to all and evidently ERCOT gives and ERCOT takes away. I REALLY need to “stop, consider, mourn, confess, pray, and give [my] heart to thanksgiving.” I had been forced to step away and consider and when I did, it revealed, Oh! how I have sin to mourn and how desperately I need a Savior!

I’m laying there with my eyes closed feeling like I had so flunked this minor test … and then I heard a click … my eyes popped open .. my head popped up … and Paxton and I stared wide eyed at each other across the room as we realized, power had been restored!!! As soon as we processed the miracle of electricity, I jumped up and started the tea kettle. We were soon sitting wrapped in our blankets, sipping hot tea as the though our every burden had been removed. Internet was hours behind, but we didn’t care, we could drink hot beverages and eat hot food.

So now I really feel like my heart is prepared to spend these forty days sitting under the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ:

  • where sin doesn’t surprise us anymore
  • where sin doesn’t depress us anymore, and doesn’t move us to deny or defend
  • where we can remember who we are and what we are dealing with
  • where we are required to admit that the greatest enemy we face is not difficulty or maltreatment from without, but the enemy of sin within
  • where we quit pointing fingers and begin crying for help
  • where we are reminded that we are not in this battle alone; in face, there we admit we have no power whatsoever to battle on our own
  • where we get our sanity back, admitting who we are and what it is that we so desperately need
  • to a place of peace and protection that can be found nowhere else (p 18)

Sarah Sewell and I bought Journey to the Cross books for staff members, I have a few extras if anyone is interested in one. If you left your book at school or your life fell apart last week, it’s not too late to jump in. Lent gives us Sunday’s off. Monday, February 22, 2021 you should be on Day 5, you can start there, start on Day 1 and we’ll all finish at the same spot or it really is not the worst thing to not be finished by Easter. The process is powerful regardless of the calendar!

I look forward to a little normal on Monday!

Malcolm & Martin

One of the many things that frustrates me about our culture is that we tend to either glamourize or villainize. Circumstances and people are rarely all good or all bad. We tend to only see the good in the dead, which is not a terrible thing, what really is accomplished in focusing on the negative of that which can no longer be changed. We tend to only see the good in our side. If you identify as Republican your candidate can do no wrong, if you consider yourself a Democrat your side is perfect. It’s not different in church when we believe you have to be baptised, or it’s not really that important, you have to be dunked or you can just be sprinkled. It’s my way or the highway!

When we went to Washington DC one of the monuments we visited was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s. It was one of my favorites, I loved how he loomed large and was surrounded by quotes that inspire us still today. Yet I knew very little about Malcolm X who was also an influential civil rights leader, except he has been villainized by history.

I started by reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X which I will admit I had a tough time getting into it until Laurence Fishburne read it on audible.com and I felt like Malcolm X himself was telling me his story and I could not get enough of it. After reading his autobiography, I realized that in addition to my lack of knowledge of Malcolm X, I really don’t know that much about Martin Luther King, Jr aside for the quotes that have become so famous and easy to access on the internet. So my current book is Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare by James H. Cone. Cone parallels the making of these two men and how they came to such different conclusions.

I hope that this will whet your appetite to read Cone’s book!

Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Raised by a Southern Baptist minister
  • His father changed their names from Michael to Martin Luther after a trip to Germany in 1934
  • Integrationist – self-respect was tied to being an American
  • Attended white college and seminary and earned a doctorate degree – felt encouraged and supported by whites in charge of his education
  • 1948 started seminary
  • Studied Gandhi and believed change was possible through peaceful means
  • Became a spokesperson for the Civil Rights movement because of his charismatic, articulate speaking style and peaceful ideologies that appealed to blacks and whites alike
  • Assassinated April 4, 1968 by a white criminal known to associate with white supremacists

Malcolm X

  • Raised by a Baptist minister that was shot when he was 6
  • Nationalist – self- respect tied to Africa and blackness. His father was a nationalist and student of Marcus Garvey
  • Dropped out of school in 8th grade, bright promising student discouraged by white people who saw his potential as limited because of his color. Ended up educating himself while in prison
  • 1946 imprisoned for burglary
  • 1948 converted by the Nation of Islam
  • Changed his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to recognize the loss of his African heritage
  • Became a spokesperson for the Nation of Islam because of his charismatic, articulate speaking style and ability to relate to the blacks in the Northern ghettos who felt left behind
  • Assassinated April 21, 1965 by a black member of the Nation of Islam because Malcolm denounced Elijah Muhammad the Nation of Islam prophet.

Both men were deeply impacted by their faith. Martin focused on how we were created by the same God as equal while Malcolm held that the white man was breed to do evil and the only way for the black man to be equal was to reestablish a pure African nation. Both men wanted blacks to better themselves and devotion to their respective faiths was how to do that. History may just show that Malcolm was more devote in his faith and moral living than Martin. It was however, “Malcolm’s fanatic commitment to the liberation of the black poor [that] alienated him not only from most whites and many black middle class, but also, as it turned out, from his own religious community…” (Cone 183). In 1964 Malcolm X denounced Elijah Muhammad and his Nation of Islam and was killed a year later. Cone speculates that this break with the Nation of Islam pulled Malcolm X into the political mainstream of the Civil Rights movement and that he and Martin may very well have ended up as powerful collaborators had their lives not been cut short.

While I don’t agree with Malcolm X’s religion, it made him want to better himself and he wanted better for his fellow black citizens. It was his faith that delivered him from drunkenness, drug addiction and crime that he claimed was destroying ‘Negro Christians’. It was his faith that lead him to be a husband and father to his children. It was his faith that lead him to speak out against the oppression of Black Americans. I admire that he spent his time in prison educating himself and reading to expand his world. He tells in his autobiography how we copied the entire dictionary to improve his penmanship and expand his vocabulary! Now that’s impressive!

So what does this all mean for you and me today? I think it’s this: How is your faith motivating you to better the planet? Why aren’t we more vocal about how our faith has changed us and speaking up for those who are still oppressed? Why are we still allowing the media to be the most powerful entity on earth? Why are we contributing to it’s power by our own hatefulness and condemnation on social media?

At the end both Martin and Malcolm had the courage to stand up and speak for equality and justice. Our voices are still needed today. How will your story end?

Black Inventors

I started following Daily Black History Facts on Facebook a while back. Last week a post popped up about Alfred Cralle (1866-1919) inventor of the predecessor of the modern ice cream scoop. He patented the Ice Cream Mold and Disher in 1897. Mr. Cralle worked as a porter at a drugstore and noticed it took several tools and both hands to get ice cream on a cone. He came up with one tool that used one hand. Sadly, despite the device’s wide use, he never profited from his invention. Who doesn’t love an ice cream cone? Thank you Mr. Cralle for this piece of ingeniuty!

This got me to wondering about Black Inventors so I did a little research and found these notable inventors:

  • Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999) a nurse who was concerned about the crime in her neighborhood in 1966, rigged a camera that would record her entryway and project the image on a TV monitor. The predecessor of the modern home security system.
  • Madam CJ Walker (1867-1919) one of America’s first self-made millionaires invented hair products for black women because she suffered from hair loss. Great movie about her life — Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.
  • Thomas L. Jennings (1791-1856) First African American to receive a patent in 1821 for a dry cleaning process.
  • Alexander Miles (1838-1918) received a patent in 1867 to automate the doors on elevators. Before his invention riders had to manually open two sets of doors upon entering and exiting elevators.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019) first female African American to obtain a medical patent in 1986 for the Laserphaco Probe to treat cataracts.
  • Percy Julian (1899-1975) chemist who pioneered a chemical process to synthesize medicinal drugs like cortisone, steroids and birth control pills.
  • Elijah McCoy (1844-1929) received 57 patents in his lifetime, known for inventing the ironing board. He came up with idea because his wife complained about having an uneven surface to iron on. What greater motivation to invent something great than an unhappy wife!! He is also credited for inventing the lawn sprinkler. I love a man who looks around and finds ways to make our life easier!
  • Sarah Boone (1832-1904) in 1892 improved on Elijah’s ironing board invention to make it easier to iron sleeves and women’s bodices.
  • Alice Parker (1895-1920) patented the central natural gas heater for the home. She came up with idea because she was unhappy with the efficiency of the fireplace to heat her home in the cold New Jersey winters.
  • Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961) developed automated refrigeration equipment for long haul trucks which greatly impacted the expansion of food markets for grocery stores. It also was used to transport blood starting in WWII.
  • Garrett Morgan (1877-1963) prolific inventor that came up with products like hair straightening, the gas mask, revamped sewing machine and improved traffic signal.
  • Granville T. Woods (1856-1910) known as the “Black Edison” made key contributions to the telephone, streetcars and more.
  • Sarah E. Goode (1850-1905) first female African American to receive a patent. Sarah moved to Chicago after the Civil War and worked at a furniture store. She invented a folding cabinet bed because their apartment was so small. We know her invention as the Murphy Bed.

These people and so many others have blazed a trail to make our lives better. I’m so grateful for their perseverance and use of the gifts God gave them, especially when many of them were discriminated against and unvalued. We value them today, and look back on them, with gratitude, as great contributors to our way of life today

Expanding My Horizons

I finally reached a point in my evolution that I realized the issue of racism is an area that where I was HUGELY ignorant. I’ve worked with my friend Lexxi McBride and others to develop a reading list to broaden my horizons on the issue of racism and how to increase my understanding and knowledge of other cultures in general. Reading about racism has made me realize how ignorant I am in multi-ethnic reading and am trying to read more from authors that are not white men! Disclaimer: This is NOT a reading list for young readers, these books are not necessarily certified G or PG-12.

I’ve talked to several people that were interest in this list so here it is. I’d love for you to drop your recommendations in the comments.

*Books I’ve actually read – the others are on my list!

Book List

  • A Dream Called Home, Reyna Grande*
  • A House of Broken Angels, Luis Alberto Urrea
  • A Human Being Died That Night: Confronting Apartheid’s Chief Killer, Gobodo-Madikizela
  • A Lucky Man, Jamel Brinkley
  • A Raisin in the Sun, Loraine Hansberry
  • Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, Ibarro Hermania
  • After Life: A Novel, Julia Alvarez
  • Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America, Gregory Pardio
  • Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor
  • Americanah, Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
  • An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, LaTasha Morrison*
  • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think and Do, Jennifer Eberhardt
  • Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, Raquel Cepeda
  • Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
  • Casi Una Mujer, Esmerelda Santiago
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay
  • Charcoal Joe, Walter Mosley
  • Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi
  • City of Beasts, Isabell Allende
  • Clap When You Land, Elizabeth ACevedo
  • Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of the Law, Preet Bharara
  • Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama
  • Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less, Tiffany Dufu
  • Five Carat Soul, James McBride
  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow was Enuf, Ntozake Shange
  • Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras
  • Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Ben Carson, MD
  • Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evarista
  • Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys Into Race, Motherhood. and History, Camille T. Dungy
  • Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon
  • Heros in Black History, Dave and Neta Jackson (Recommended by Chase Bowers)
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez
  • How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi*
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. Auston Channing Brown
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Autobiography #1, Maya Angelo*. (Anything written by Maya Angelo!!) This is the first of her five autobiographies — I’m on 3 of 5, they are wonderful!!
  • Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All, Bryan Loritts*
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson
  • Kindred, Octavia Butler
  • Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou*
  • Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, James Forman, Jr.
  • Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
  • Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli
  • Lovesong: Becoming a Jew, Julius Lester
  • Malcom and Me, Ismael Reed (only on Audible.com)*
  • Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare
  • Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Change, Stacey Abrams
  • My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass
  • Off the Reservation, Paula Gunn Allen
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Oneness Embraced, Tony Evans (recommended by Chase Bowers)
  • Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler
  • Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams
  • Reading with Patrick, Michelle Kuo*
  • Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson
  • Right Color, Wrong Culture: The Type of Leader Your Organization Needs to Become Multiethnic, Bryan Loritts
  • Running, Natalia Sylvester
  • Same Kind of Different as Me, Ron Hall and Denver Moore* This book started my journey to realizing how white-washed my worldview is.
  • Saving the Saved: How Jesus Saves Us from Try-Harder Christianity into Performance-Free Love, Bryan Loritts
  • Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi
  • Silver Sparrow, Tajari Jones
  • Spirit Run, Noe Alvarez
  • Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi
  • Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid
  • Take This Stallion, Anais Duplan
  • The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X*
  • The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
  • The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, Jemar Tisby
  • The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  • The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James Cone
  • The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande
  • The Fifth Season, NK Jemison
  • The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, Jesmyn Ward
  • The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Wamriya Clementine*
  • The Girl With the Louding Voice, Abi Dare
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  • The House of Mango Charlie, Sandra Cisneros
  • The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander
  • The Measure of a Man, Sidney Poiter
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson (recommended by Eric Mason)
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
  • The Race Whisper: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race, Melanye Price
  • The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson
  • The Watson’s go to Birmingham, Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  • Unbowed, Wangari Maathai
  • Under Our Skin, Benjamin Watson*
  • Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, Emmanuel Acho*
  • When I was Puerto Rican, Esmerelda Santiago
  • White Awake: An Honest Look at What it Means to be White, Daniel Hill
  • White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo*
  • White Lies: Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems that Divide Us, Daniel Hill
  • Wild Seed, Octavia Butler
  • Woke Church: An Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice, Eric Mason*
  • Workin’ Our Way Home, Ron Hall*
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD

I’ve also read some great articles listed as references in the back of several books I’ve read!

Podcasts

I struggle with podcasts, but these have been recommended to me

  • White Lies, NPR
  • 1619

The Origin and Impact of Black History Month

I’m not going to spend the entire month on Black History Month, although I easily could, I hope that these little tidbits I’ve learned will peak your curiosity and get you to want to learn more.

I’m so ignorant and arrogant that I thought “Black History Month was developed as a token gesture by the white establishment”2 and since I actually read that in an article, I must not be the only one who thinks that. I did not know that Black History Month traces its roots back to 1926 and one man, Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950). Woodson was a self educated son of slave that got to attend high school at the age of 20. He finished high school in two years, earned a degree in literature and was the second African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard University.2 He went on to be a teacher, principal and supervisor of schools where he realized that that the history of African Americans was not a part of school curriculum so he founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1915. He would then start Negro History Week that evolved into Black History Month during the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1960’s. Woodson’s goal was to “reinvigorate the self-esteem, sense of power and hunger for justice of a long-oppressed people.”2 Woodson’s second goal for Negro History Week was racial reconciliation, if whites learned about the contributions of Blacks to American History “this awareness would engender respect.”2 I am ashamed to admit that it’s 2021, almost one hundred years later and many of us have yet to get the memo!

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History(the same organization Mr. Woodson started in 1915) establishes a theme for Black History month every year. This year’s theme is: The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity. The flyer this year states, “Not only are individual black families diasporic, but Africa and the diaspora itself have been long portrayed as the black family at large.” I know about the diaspora of the Jews, I never thought about how what happened to those sold into slavery was also a diaspora and the impact it has on the community and family.

“The breakdown of the black community, in order to maintain slavery, began with the breakdown of the black family. Men and women were not legally allowed to get married because you couldn’t have that kind of love. It might get in the way of the economics of slavery. Your children could be taken from you and literally sold down the river.” 1 When you consider this reality of the family of slaves, the poverty many of them were thrust in to with “freedom”, you can see the impact on the family would last for generations. I’ve worked with a couple of kids who were trying to start out with nothing and it’s so overwhelming. We take so for granted the advantage of our support system. It seems so hopeless, but these are just a few examples give me hope:

“…A son of my late father, who was a pastor, a veteran, and a small businessman, and my mother who was a teenager growing up in Waycross, Georgia, used to pick somebody else’s cotton.  But the other day, because this is America, the 82 year old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator.” January 6, 2021 Raphael Warnock upon his election to the US Senate.
“Shed some tears just now when I saw they were thinking about speeding up the process of putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. I have 4 daughters who in their lifetime have seen a president and vice president who looks like them. And soon they will could see a face like theirs on a $20 bill. I could not have imagined any of this in my childhood. Their dreams and goals are amplified to a level I could never have imagined when I was a kid. My dad always said if you put your mind to it you could do anything but I would never have dared to dream such things. Does not seem real.” Stolen from our own Chris Stephens Facebook post January 25, 2021, 10:48 p.m. (used without permission)

It has to leave you wondering, “How can I make a difference and continue to support and encourage our black brothers and sisters?” You have to continually educate yourself, continually step out of what you know, spend time with people who don’t look like you, who don’t think like you, who don’t believe like you, read, read, read! I am constantly amazed by how little I actually know, I think you may be amazed too! I end with my favorite quote:

1 Washington, K. (2021). Picking Up the Pieces: The Black Family Struggle. In Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man (p. 129). S.l.: FLATIRON BOOKS.

2Novelli, J. (2009, July 7). The History Behind Black History Month. Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/the-history-behind-black-history-month

Black History Month — It’s for White People too!!

If I’m being honest, I never really cared that there was Black History Month. I didn’t think it applied to me. Then I began reading voraciously about the topic of racism and learned I am exactly why we need Black History Month. I attended public school in the 1970’s and my education was definitely white washed! President Reagan signed the bill establishing Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday as a national holiday in 1983, it wasn’t actually commemorated until 1986. The addition of this national holiday added a school holiday and opportunity for educators to talk about at least one important black man in history. My concern is that we’ve gone from an openly racist system to a generation that believes we live in a post-racist society and have completely missed a huge chunk of our history.

Why Black History Month is Important for White People:

  • There is a sentiment that we live in a post-racist society, yet in 2016-17;
    • Ten richest Americans: 100 percent white (seven of whom are among the richest in the world)
    • US Congress: 90 percent white
    • US governors: 96 percent white
    • Top military advisers: 100 percent white
    • President and Vice President – 100 percent white
    • US House Freedom Caucus: 99 percent white
    • US presidential cabinet: 91 percent white
    • People who decide which TV shows we see: 93 percent white
    • People who decide which books we read: 90 percent white
    • People who decide which news is covered: 85 percent white
    • People who decide which music is produced: 95 percent white
    • People who directed the on hundred top-grossing films of all time, worldwide: 95 percent white
    • Teachers: 82 percent white
    • Full-time college professors: 84 percent white
    • Owners of men’s professional football teams: 97 percent white1
  • As Christians we should be the leaders in the fight for equality. Eric Mason in his book Woke Church blames the church for the radical turn of the Black Lives Matter movement because the church should have been the first to champion the cause of Black Lives. Yet here we sit in 2021 and still the most segregated hour is Sunday Morning Worship. Not a new issue folks. James Cone wrote about Martin Luther King Jr’s (Jan 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) view of the church ,

Despite his disappointment with the white church, King did not abandon his faith commitment and its link with the universal church. King was a universalist who believed that the gospel of Jesus demanded freedom for all. The white church’s failure to follow the mandates of the gospel did not invalidate it. Rather the white church’s failure, King believed, obligated him and other Christians to bear witness more than ever to the universal message of the gospel so that the world might know that true Christianity is not only concerned with heaven over yonder but also with the quality of life here on earth.2

So, if therefore, you consider yourself a Christian, a person on the planet, or a decent human being, Black History Month should be important to you. Take a moment, get out of your bubble and look at things from a different perspective. Challenge your thinking, look at someone else’s perspective, use the Google for good!

1 DiAngelo, R. J. (2020). White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (p. 31). Boston: Beacon Press.

2 Cone, J. H. (1991). Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (p. 141). London: Fount.