“O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!”
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 117
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript. In this prophetic work, which has been unavailable for more than ten years, he lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America's future, including the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, and quality education. With a universal message of hope that continues to resonate, King demanded an end to global suffering, asserting that humankind-for the first time-has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty.
Fifty years after Dr. King’s assassination in this Black History Month we find ourselves echoing his prophetic question:“Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Automation and globalization is replacing human beings in the marketplace. Technology makes our antiquated methods of making a living the “good ole American way” inefficient, antiquated and obsolete.
Gentrification (the process of renovation or improving a district so that it conform to middle class taste) of urban cores in major cities and paramount communities have forced seniors and generations into short sales or foreclosure. The changing the complexion of predominately black neighborhoods based on the rising economic resources available to the affluent have left these marginal communities in need of decent affordable housing, quality education with focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) to ensure better jobs, higher wages and a chance to rise above the median income for those living in poverty. Fifty years later, we still demand, like King “an end to global suffering, and the eradication of poverty.” Fifty years later, we notably can point to more black elected officials in our community but not enough to make a majority for transformational change in our communities. We can celebrate more of our children have college and advanced degrees than their parents who struggled to ensure their future gave them opportunities, here to fore, denied to their parents and grand and great grand parents. We have an educated community living with their parents because of a gross lack of employment opportunities in their respective communities. Our credo nationalism which promotes the idea of American purposefulness has been replace with a blood and soil nationalism that doesn't represent the best of our immigrant built country. Celebrity has been replaced for legitimacy.
Income inequality of women, black women, minorities and immigrants is a brutal reality faced by heads of households on a daily bases. Racial and political violence continues to rise with varied outcomes of justice. Van Jones, a CNN commentator said,“if you’re an immigrant committing the crime, we have weak policies, if you’re Mexican, we need to build a wall, if you're African American, we need more prisons and draconian laws, if you’re white we extend our hopes and prayers.”
The social justice agenda must be the focus of Black History moving forward.
Diversifying boardrooms with people of color and gender is social window dressing to
appease the socially exasperated while continuing the latent polices of racial
exceptionalism, nativism, isolationism, xenophobic practices and hoodless“new market racism.”
The challenge to this generation for Black History Month is to gain strength from the
tenacity of our iconic patriots while forging a new trail of justice and equality for our peers. Our celebrated upward mobility has created internal rifts within Martin’s beloved community
because everyone does not feel the weight of freedom or success. Today's challenge to our church is from the New Testament account of St. Matthew 17:1-5,
8-10. Make our mountain revelations of spiritual revelation and empowerment our current valley realities. As we endeavor to #BeWithHim, it is so we can be with them! Our heavenly revelations and deep meditations of God, like in the text must see Christ transfigured and his church empowered to heal the community that is vexed with a historic, cultural and systemic diseases. Let's end our annual trips to our past for 28 days in February. Reflections on past accomplishments without having ground breaking modern accomplishments in the areas our forefathers trod is a glaring example that we may not be as free as we think we are. Our world, not the black world, our entire world is sick. Suffering from the diseases of greed, power and hatred which are symptoms of godlessness. Twenty years of massacring children from Columbine to Sandy Hook to just a week ago, 17 students and adults at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Guns and gangs have been killing inner city youth for more than fifty-years and we still have not provided credible leadership or practical solutions to these tragedies. Our ministry, today, is not on the mountain top of transfiguration, it lives in the valley realities of cellophane congregation beleaguered communities who struggle with life on life’s terms! We are mandated to make better communities than King, Ghandi, Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, Stokely Carmichael, Benjamin Mays, Ralph Abernathy, Medgar Evers, Dorothy Height, Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Dubois, Thurgood Marshall and A.Phillip Randolph, Fannie Lou Hamer and President Barack Obama!
After Jesus had a mountain top experience, he went to the valley to deal with those
whose reality was different then His revelation. Like Jesus, the church cannot stay on
the mountain top, ascend to greater revelations of God without having that revelation
serve as the healing balm for our people’s valley realities.
So let’s reflect on the iconography of our past luminaries with great admiration and celebration. But like the fertile land of the imaginary kingdom of Wakanda, in the movie Black Panther; lets externalize our internal value and show the world our better selves! We must celebrate modern Black History makers like: Dr. Wayne Glasker for more than 20 years, Glasker has taught African American History at Rutgers University in Camden. Barbara Wallace is the town's current mayor and her husband John E. Wallace is a former associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Brandon Byrd, Founder of Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats, Ayanna Howard, Ph.D, Founder and CTO of Zyrobotics, Ray Coogler; director of the power movie Black Panther, Dr. Charles Moore, Bernard Worthy, CEO of Loanables, JR Reynolds and Natalie Davis emerging playwrights.
I summarized, the looming contemplation of the movie Black Panther was crystallized in the last line of the last scene. The little boy playing pickup basketball in Oakland after seeing the Bugatti space ship ask T’Chella who are you? The premise of the film wrestled with the idea of what might Africa had been if it wasn’t stripped and raped of its natural rich largess by the East and West.
These provocative questions must be answered by today’s emerging servant-leaders in our, faith, community and political arenas! Black people should ask ‘who are you and what might we be if we would move forward, stay focus and avoid distractions! Our faith gives us one-third of the answer, the other two-thirds is found in our individual fortitude to make history and not just reflect on it. Who are we and what might we become if not for self-sabotage, error, culture and fear of our unrealized possibilities.
The Black Panther movie is a well produced epic feature in the DC Marvel franchise; celebrate its accomplishments but demand more of ourselves to make our communities non-fictitious thriving communities. Attaching our heritage and the realities of a Fannie Lou Hamer to characters in a comic book shames our ancestors and belittle’s their sacrifice in the struggle and ultimately relegates our historic experience to comic book. Rightly so, King T’Challa facilitates economic development, exchanging hopeless Oakland ghetto pick up basketball playing kids to potential heroes of their generation by using modern technology. Celebrate the accomplishment of the film, admire their record breaking global incomes but remember, not one dime of the $400 million dollars made in its 4 day opening repairs roads, rehabs housing or improves our feeble educational system or provides needed health care. Distinctively thinking? It’s the digital world of Wakanda not the reality of segregated Mississippi.