Freedom Summer was a voting registration drive in Mississippi in 1964 which brought over a 1,000 volunteers to the state to fight racially charged abuses and harassment against black people. Systemic injustices and violent attacks escalated in the murders of two white students and a local African American male. History.com reports that, “The events of Freedom Summer deepened the division between those in the civil rights movement who still believed in integration and nonviolence and others, especially young Afro-Americans, who now doubted whether racial equality was achievable by peaceful means. The civil rights movement continued to be active, but after 1964, it began to lose the hopeful solidarity that had infused its earlier years.”
…lose the hopeful solidarity.
This summer I’ve seen the evil, manipulative, and deceptive attempts to cause otherwise peaceful and loving people to lose hope. Many people of color are not now, nor have we ever been, blind to the atrocities against racial and ethnic minorities in this country. We have learned to survive and persevere, and some are privileged to thrive, in spite of these realities. And yet the past few years have been somewhat physiologically traumatizing when we consider the levels of systemic injustices, abuse, and murders that have received nation-wide attention. What happened at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston could not be ignored.
Throughout the summer, I watched and listened as people of color grew angrier. Their anger, and my anger on occasion, is rightfully placed because we must not forget that God is indeed angry when people who are created in his image as not valued, loved, dignified, or free. I understand that God is all powerful. He is the God of justice. He will do what is right, has overcome the evil of darkness, and will get what he wants in the end. And yet we live…
We live in a fallen world that is dark and evil. We live in a world where lives matter to some only when they look like us, think like us, vote like us, or have something to offer. The power of our choosing whose life has value, and who is worthy of love, puts us in a prideful and dangerous position of playing God. But the one and only, true and living God has revealed himself to us in the suffering servant Jesus. This Jesus who came to the world and walked in the midst of darkness, has prayed for us and he intercedes for us still. His words to our Father:
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they [his disciples] may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:13-18 NIV).
“Don’t lose the hope of solidarity. Grab hold to the joy and promise of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that he has placed within you.” Today, I write these words of encouragement to myself and to all my sisters and brothers on the journey for justice—for all you advocates, writers, speakers, protesters, community organizers, pastors, educators, and politicians—who care about the marginalized, oppressed, immigrant, unprotected or uneducated child, slave, or woman. I know you love Jesus. I know you love his Word. I know you love people. I know you care about issues of injustice and you will take a stand—thank God!
As we stand together against the powers of evil at work in this world, I pray the same words of Jesus, “Father God, protect us from the evil one…Sanctify us in your truth. Your Word is truth.” I’m learning that my fight is not just an outward action, but also an integral one. So I might continue to stand and fight for justice, there are some intentional choices I must make. I know this from watching the rise and fall of my ancestors.
For example: I watched the summer release of the Netflix documentary, “What happened Nina Simone?” Ms. Simone was a gifted African American pianist and vocalist. By the time of Freedom Summer, Ms. Simone was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement and writing songs like “Mississippi Goddam.” She was rightfully angry, and that anger ate at her. As her personal and political struggled continued, she became more violent and depressed. In one interview she said, “I think that the artists who don’t get involved in preaching messages probably are happier – but you see, I have to live with Nina, and that is very difficult.” While I admired her willingness to fight and to take a stand against the powers that be, I found the documentary quite depressing. My observation is not a slight to Ms. Simone or her life’s choices because Nina had to live with Nina, and I have to live with Natasha, and you have you live with you.
What I know for sure is that when Jesus returns, he is going to answer in a mighty and powerful way to injustice when all is said and done. I am not Him, though I will stand with him against the evil powers and principalities at work in the world. I will lay my anger at his feet, and choose to love even when I am hated. I will not die an angry, bitter Black woman. I will not lose the hopeful solidarity. I will receive the full measure of Christ’s joy within me. I so desperately need it. Oh my, what a summer…
One of my favorites from Nina Simone.
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2015