Hey, y’all! It’s July, and my hope was to post this vlog in June, but life got cray cray busy again. Anywho, I’m posting the vlog now, and that’s all that matters. Last month was my birthday month; my DIVA month! If you know me, you know that birthdays are very important to me. I have to reflect on the blessings that God has given me, but I also have to enjoy time with family and friends. My 31st bday was definitely the highlight of the month. Along with turning older, I also went to a lot of church events. I got hype for Jesus. LOL! Check out the vlog to hear more about my church blessings!
Per usual, let me know what blessings you received in June! Before I go, I’m gonna drop this verse that I have been hearing and thinking about a lot lately. Please meditate on it and let it comfort you in your state of weariness, brokenness, heartache, etc.
“But those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will SOAR on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will WALK and not grow faint.” Isaiah 40:31
In my last blog post, I mentioned that I was affected by word offerings at my church’s Black History Month service. I will share one of the word offerings that I heard.
After the guest speaker finished his testimony, my pastor asked the other ministers if they had remarks. A minister, who happened to be White, spoke bravely to the audience. On behalf of his race, he apologized for the pain that “his people” caused Black people. He commented that “racism is America’s original sin.”
In my pew, I focused on his thoughtfulness. I hadn’t expected his apology. Instead, I thought he would make the usual remarks that most ministers made at the end of a service. Yet, he turned the service into a moment of reconciliation. He exposed racial wounds and initiated healing.
We have all had to apologize for an offense. An apology makes us ponder our own failings and admit them to another person. Hopefully after the apology, one is able to avoid making the same mistake again. When *Pastor Allen said that he was sorry, he acknowledged a history of slavery, racial epithets, and discriminatory practices.
He did not ignore that these incidents happened and still happen.
He took the microphone and allowed empathy to spill out on Black faces. In my social work program, I hear a lot about empathy. My professors explain how social workers should work vigorously to understand their clients’ lives. To me, empathy is about trading places with another person. Literally, you are shedding away your selfishness. You are crawling into someone’s skin and bones in order to feel their agony.
In America, we need more empathy. In the Church, empathy should invade us. Though, empathy can make us uncomfortable. When believers of color decide to express the impact of racism in their lives to White believers, will the dialogue get hard? If it does, I deem that it needed to land in that place.
We have to jump into the mud. Our shoes must rip apart. Our jeans should get filled with muck. Then, we are not side stepping around people’s experiences with race and racism.
In Relevant Magazine’s “Justice for Black Lives Must Begin With Us,” Propaganda, a Christian hip hop artist, echoed my yearning for empathy and dialogue. The interviewer noted that the Church has not always strived to chat about racism. He asked Propaganda how the Church should handle it.
(Every year, my church hosts a Black History Month service, and various churches in my hometown attend. At this year’s service (Sunday, February 28, 2016), I stood up as choirs sung energetically. I enjoyed watching a liturgical dance. I uttered “ummhmm” when a spoken word artist shared her pieces. I listened to the guest speaker as he revealed his testimony of contending with segregation in the South and finally opening up his own animal clinic in the North.
I was impacted by wisdom and compassion from other ministers as well. As I am still processing those moments, I will share the ministers’ word offerings in another blog post.
But today’s blog post includes what I shared at the service. I was able to write a reflection and read it to the congregation. Please see my thoughts below. Thanks for taking the time to read, y’all! -afrotasticlady)
History is bubbling inside me. My veins are thick with the stories of my parents’ childhoods. My parents were children of the South, and they had to follow the insidious rules of their homeland. Rules that dictated to them how they would be Black and where they could be Black.
Each day, my parents woke up before the sun was out. For hours, they worked. My mom remembers the large tobacco truck that she had to climb into. My dad remembers picking cotton.
History pushes my heart. I am awed by the resilience of my parents. My parents have been blessed in their own journeys. Through turmoil, they relied on God.
I am overjoyed by the accomplishments of my ancestors. Through abuse and pervasive discrimination, they created arts forms. They were the masterminds behind popular inventions.
Yet, I am surprised when I hear folks ask the following questions: why do we continue to celebrate Black history? And why is there even a Black History Month?
Learning about Black history is an uncovering of memories. It is a discovery of a people who would not be moved despite their losses.
The noise of opponents of Black History Month should be answered. My response to them: Let us look at the foundations of Black History Month.
Carter G. Woodson, a Black historian and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, created “Negro History Week” with his colleagues. In 1926, the first “Negro History Week” occurred during the second week of February, which happened to fall on the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Nationally, schools and other community organizations had their own commemorations of the week. Eventually, the “Negro History Week” transitioned into Black History Month with several colleges celebrating it in the 1960s. Later, President Gerald R. Ford “official recognized” the month. He stated that the month was “the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (Source: http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month).
Woodson was committed to showing society the worthiness of black history. He contributed to opportunities for children and even adults to realize that their brown skin is beautiful. To feel the strength within their bones. To know that there have been courageous women and men who spoke when they were supposed to be quiet. To know that we continue to be a bold people!
To the opponents of Black History Month: please let me inform you about some black heroes. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist who condemned lynchings. She was also one of the co-founders of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). W.E.B Du Bois, a sociologist and another co-founder of the NAACP, wrote the splendid book “The Souls of Black Folk.” Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Baldwin were creative folks who shared honestly about the black experience in their writings. As young people, Diane Nash and John Lewis worked in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) during the Civil Rights Movement. They risked arrests and even death in order to participate in sit-ins, freedom rides, and marches. Now, Lewis is a U.S. Congressman.
My response to opponents of Black History Month is that black history is an American history, an African history and a global history. This history clings to my veins and spins in my mind. Blame my parents for the passion. Yell at the college I graduated from. But do not take away the month.
And when the month ends, I will continue to read about unknown and known Black leaders. I will listen to Black orators. I will pester my parents with questions about what they endured in the South. I will take these facts and anecdotes, and I will pass along this knowledge to everyone.
(Hey y’all! I am experimenting with different kinds of short stories, and I decided to write a flash fiction story. Usually, a flash fiction story is considered to be anything under 1,000 words. And please listen to the music video after you have read the story. Thanks!)
On the second Sunday of the month, Simon preached. He married real talk with humor in his sermons. He was relatable to the young people without being too corny yet he appealed to the older folks with his Old Testament teachings. Simon preached how Daddy used to preach.
Daddy told jokes and left the pulpit so he could see the laughter. The congregation exploded at his jokes like they had watched a scene in an Eddie Murphy movie. Once, the laughter softened and left the sanctuary, Daddy asked the congregation to stand up and open their Bibles. Daddy used to preach so hard that a church nurse would have to wipe his glistening forehead.
Simon was like my Daddy. When the sweat dripped into Simon’s mouth and down into his neck, he wiped his face. The older folks said, “Lord, this boy can preach.” When I heard their words, I tried not to smile. I bit my lips, but they curved. “Miss, your boo is preaching,” the teenagers pointed at me.
As Pentecostal as I was, I liked to be at the church when it was empty. I took my mismatched socks and black Chuck Taylors off. Simon walked to me and softly tugged my nose.
“You’re always trying to hide that smile, pretty lady!”
“I’m not smiling.” I placed my hand on my mouth and watched Simon rub his goatee. I loathed this addition to his face before, but I realized that it made him extra handsome. Simon’s almond shaped eyes focused on my bare feet and then my afro. My lion’s mane was getting larger, and I needed to find a patient hairdresser to explore my dense, black curls.
Simon held the ring in front of me, and I looked at it again. I forced myself to examine the simple, golden band. The ring was as simple as my jeans and sneakers
“I’m still thinking, Simon.”
“Thinking? Have you prayed about it?” Simon squinted at me.
“Yeah, I’ve prayed and I don’t have an answer.”
“I’m just confused, Amelia. I thought you wanted to get married. You talked about how you wanted your dad to marry us. You wanted to walk down the aisle with no shoes.”
For two weeks, I ignored Simon’s texts and phone calls. Simon’s handwritten note in my mailbox made me meet with him. Simon’s persistence reminded me of Daddy. Before the divorce, Daddy bribed Mama with fish and chip dinners, so she would take her medicine. He read Bible verses to her during her times in the hospital. Daddy constantly called my Mama’s family to figure out where she was.
Daddy never wanted to divorce Mama, but the church leaders were concerned when his sermons became choppy. His light jokes transformed into snide remarks.
“Simon, you should leave me alone. Find someone who doesn’t have a crazy mama,” I walked over to the pulpit. My back was turned to Simon, but his dress shoes banged towards me. Simon pulled a strand of my hair and stared at me.
“You’d want your mom to be at the wedding too. It makes sense. She’s not crazy though. Just going through some stuff now.”
I swatted Simon’s hand. “She’s schizophrenic. You wanna marry the daughter of a schizophrenic?’
“Yeah, I wanna marry you. But don’t talk about your mom like that. I don’t think she wants to deal with all of the confusion in her head. I wouldn’t want to,” Simon shook his head.
“I know she doesn’t want to deal with it. We don’t want to deal with it either. Don’t take this mess on! It’s too stinking much,” I huffed.
“Amelia, its fine. I’ll take it on. I believe that God heals and restores. I pray for you and your family. All the time.”
“Goodness. You’re such a preacher, Simon.”
“Hope so. I’m spending a lot of money on seminary,” Simon laughed. He pulled my face towards him and kissed my cheek. Daddy used to kiss Mama when she carried on. Daddy sung to her, off key. His ragged notes covered the tears he would not allow to pour out.
Simon was a singing preacher. I joked with Simon, because he and Daddy didn’t have a lot of differences except the singing. The older folks at our church talked about Simon’s anointing. His voice directed the congregation to praise God. Our own raw voices and our spinning bodies moved into the aisles. After such services, both the teenagers and older folks saluted Simon or shook his dark, brown hand. But Simon pointed at the ceiling and stated, “It’s God.”
I didn’t want Simon to have to leave the ministry. When Daddy told me that the church leaders asked him to stop preaching, he didn’t cry or yell. He guzzled creamy coffee in the kitchen of the house that I was raised in. Then, he dipped a ginger snap in his cup and asked me if he should get something for Mama for her birthday.
Simon kissed my cheek again, and I twitched. Simon frowned, and he dropped his hands into the pockets of his wine colored slacks.