Too Close to Home: Why Charleston Matters to All of Us

On the one year anniversary of the Charleston Massacre, I had the opportunity to share my reflections with Christianity Today The Local Church alongside:

Patricia Raybon who wrote about “Charleston and the Resilience of Wednesday Night Church,”

Dawn Araujo-Hawkins who shared “What It Means to Burn Down a Black Church,” and

Derek Rishmawy who contributed “What Emanuel AME Taught Us About God’s Unrelenting Love”

My contribution, “Too Close to Home: Why Charleston Matters to All of Us” is extremely personal and I’m so glad to share it.

Charleston_Black Lives Matter3

“Who are you?” When someone asks a question about my identity, the first response that comes to mind is “I am a black girl from Orangeburg, South Carolina.” Long before I became a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, a US Marine, an author, or a minister of the gospel, I was a black woman. And the root of this knowing was in the heritage of my family, the soil of Orangeburg, South Carolina, and the waters of the Edisto River.

Orangeburg is a community filled with black people and culture, the home of two historically black colleges and universities: South Carolina State University and Claflin University. There I tailgated at college football games and enjoyed HBCU homecomings that included the “battle of the bands” and step competitions. Little girls played in the backyard with their cousins and devoured home-cooked meals made at the hands of their big bosom mothers, grandmothers, and aunts.

During the summer months, we would run through the sprinklers in our bathing suits and swim caps (because there was no way we were getting our hair wet). We would spend countless hours enjoying the sunshine on those hot summer days in June, studying the moss hanging from our trees. Sometimes we would sit inside and watch TV as we listened to the violent summer rain.

On Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, we would go to church. Sundays were for worship; Wednesdays were for Bible study, Vacation Bible School, or hanging in the back room until mom finished choir rehearsal. These precious times were filled with sacred artifacts: pews, wooden floors in old Baptist churches, the sides of brick store fronts or white slab buildings with small crosses that showed passersby who we were and to whom we belonged. We belonged to Jesus. Our simple songs clearly proclaimed this truth.

These small churches most likely had dirt or gravel parking lots and a small cemetery off to the side, the tombstones surrounded by uncut grass and ant hills, with fading names above the birth and transition dates of those who had gone on before us.

When I heard about the pain and suffering Dylann Roof inflicted on the families of Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, US Senator and Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson by murdering them in the sanctuary of God that is Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I was not shocked because of the reality of the deaths that took place on June 17, 2015. These things happen every day.

I was shocked because I have family members who knew people who died in Emanuel AME Church on that Wednesday night. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a graduate of South Carolina State University. I was stunned by the overwhelming history and mystery wrapped up in this racially motivated massacre that took place in 2015.

This was too close to home.

Continue reading at The Sanctuary.

 

 

Fight the Power

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.

Continue reading “Fight the Power”

On Violence & Living in a “Racialized” Society

Silence Sends a Clear Message When We Have an Opportunity to Act

Violence and Racialized Society

The casket was not empty. It carried the body of a 14-year-old, African American boy by the name of Emmett Till, son of Mamie. He was from Chicago visiting his family in Mississippi when the prankster took a dare and flirted with a white woman. Four days later he was dead, murdered by the woman’s husband and brother. They beat young Emmett beyond recognition, shot him in the head, and threw his lifeless body in the Tallahatchie River. The two men walked away from the circus court scot free and his mother – that grieving, respectable, Christian woman – required an open casket funeral so “the world can see what they did to my baby.” His name was Emmett. He had people who loved him. His life mattered!

During that time, people named racism but nobody did anything about the evil in their midst. Today, the violence of racism is ever present with us but many in the church refuse to acknowledge it. There is little doubt that blacks and whites identify racism or racist acts differently, and that distinction is the very barrier that paralyzes people from acting rightly. After all, no one wants to be known as racist or considered prejudiced. Christian sociologists and authors Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith believe it is best to refer to our current society as a “racialized” one “wherein race matters profoundly for differences in life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships. A racialized society can also be said to be ‘a society that allocates differential economic, political, social, and even psychological rewards to groups along racial lines; lines that are socially constructed.”

In a racialized society, it is socially acceptable by some for a white, young man with a police record to receive a gun as a birthday present. In a racialized society, a grown, white man with the authority of his police badge can abuse his power and threaten a black child while pulling her hair, focusing her to the ground, and then sitting on her back in broad day light as other adults and black children stand by paralyzed in fear. This is the black experience of domestic terrorism. This is violence and I need some white male Christian leaders who are bold enough to name this sin, denounce it, and then act.

Continue reading at Missio Alliance.