The Breaking Point…

This week has served as a seminal moment in my life. I have arrived at a moment of clarity about my existence and journey as a Black man in America. Like many, I watched on television the 10 minute assembly that rendered Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. As my wife and I watched, I uttered two thoughts. There is still more work to do. God, now I understand why you have led me in preaching and teaching this way. In that moment, things were becoming clear. However 30 minutes later, I would recognize how significant those words would be for me.

A member of one of my churches called me. She did not sound like her normal self. She told me that she heard about a shooting in area close to her niece. Found out that it was a police involved shooting. Her niece was fine, but a teenage girl was now dead. I began to pray. I found myself once again heavy with grief. Another member text me live videos from people that were in the area. I watched in horror. My grief turned to angst. Why? I knew this young lady was not going to be able to tell her story.

Sunday morning, I completed Part II of my sermon series, God Sees Me. I talked about Simon of Cyrene. I mentioned that his story was made possible because his sons, Alexander and Rufus, talked about it constantly. Those sons made an impact by never allowing the narrative of their father to be misconstrued or taken out of context. The gospel writer made the addition of this story significant by identifying Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Mark humanized a person that would have only been addressed as an afterthought or other to the rest of the world.

My’Kyia Bryant is now suffering a great indignity that no human being should. Being repackaged.

She is now gone from this world. She died from four shots from a service revolver. She is being packaged as violent. She is being presented as an attacker. She is being used as a symbol of a trouble child. Yet, all of these narrative ascribed to her do not reflect the complete nature of the environment that led to her demise. So many people have spoken of her light, her smile, her intelligence. So many people continue to present the picture of a young woman attempt to defend herself from others. She wanted someone to intervene for her because others in the area refused to do so. She needed help.

Unlike other situations in the past, this one hit home differently. I am reminded of my time working at a youth residential center. The youth were considered to be “troubled”. I didn’t really care about that. I wanted to make a difference. We were trained in CPR, various levels of restraint, and other necessary concepts pertaining to the job. I was trained and prepared for any situation.

One night while working third shift, a young lady was having issues with someone on the floor. She was so desponded that she broke a mirror with the intention on killing herself. She waved that piece of glass to keep others away from her. I came upstairs and saw my co-worker attempting to keep her calm and trying to get the other kids back to their rooms. That young lady was in crisis. I asked to help because it would give my co-workers the opportunity to clear the halls and the room so they could find any other contraband and completely defuse the situation. My part in this process was the least of anything. They had done the hard part of making connection with the girl. That night, this child was saved. The next day she had the help needed. Going forward, she knew that she had people who cared about her.

The events of this week are a testament to what happens when compounded elements converge on a young life. I feel that it is important to state that we as a society should be to recognize that many things can be true at the same time. Why did this young lady feel the need to call the police? Why were people taking the time to observe the confrontation and intervene? Why did the last resort for peace choose deadly force as the only option?

I contend that the continued separation from the village concept plays a major role in the initial toxic environment. Before you assume I mean just a surface concept of a village raising a child, allow me to take you into deeper water. Growing I had at my disposal more than just my family. My village had attorneys, educators, entrepreneurs, preachers, etc. I could not go anywhere without seeing someone that knew me. I could not settle for mediocrity because my village was strong. It is only now that the village of my youth is beginning to age or die off. How many of our young people can say that?

We have so many people that get mad when you attempt to teach a child accountability, self-worth, and value that it can feel hopeless to instill something more in the next generation. The fact that within our community their is an equity gap for with our own children in how we treat and care for them can be challenging. We find ourselves having to constantly rise about superficial differences in order to attempt to raise one another up. We fight against one another due to constant toxicity. We feel disconnected even if we live ten feet away.

Our separation is magnified by constantly wrestling for crumbs at a table not meant for us. We have lost a sense of self-sufficiency trying to fit into a society and grouping hesitant to embrace us fully. People are willing to love the creativity, potency, and profitability of Black life, but constantly hate the packaging it resides in. Sports leagues make billions of dollars the backs of exceptional talent. The medical field built billion dollar research revenues from the genes of a black woman. The country advance due to slave labor. The media survives on the propagation constant traumatic suffering. Others promote incomplete narratives to preserve toxic lifestyles.

By the time you address all these things, you are too tired to care. You say I have no other option. When the final option comes, it comes with the same instant indifferent energy and eliminates the “problem” without hesitation. By the time we collective come to ourselves, we realize that we were lulled to sleep and cared too late. My’Khia did not have to die, but her being was set up for execution.

I want justice to be served. I want this young girl’s life not to be handled like a throwaway story. So, what do we do?

  1. Rebuild the Village: How about we start with being human again. I don’t want to wait when we are mourning the death of someone to have to bring your butt out of hiding. I don’t want to commiserate about replayed trauma all the time. Every now and then, we should be talking about so much more. I want us to talk about building businesses, improving the working spirituality of our people, and securing the future of our children. We need to connect with our elders to understand our past. We need to have more time on the stoop, patio, park, etc. We need to teach care and respect for self not respectability politics. We must cultivate a safe haven for all of us. We must be able to workout our collective strategies and possibilities in humility and full respect of our sacredness as created in the image of God. We must dismantle and purge the commitment to slavery to unjust ideas that harm us, the disenfranchised, the least, the last, and the lost (Thank you Rev. Henry O. Leftridge, may you continue to rest in power).
  2. Dismantle the Toxic: I am tired of being a target first and a human second. I am tired of watching our Black children being a target first and a human second. I am tired of Black women being seen as a target first and a human second. I am tired of voices crying and yelling for freedom being seen as overexaggerating. I’m tired of excuses by people attempting to maintain the status quo in the name of their comfort and convenience. The Bible teaches that you can’t put new wine in old wineskins. Why? Doesn’t the old wineskin have the capacity? Capacity is not the issue. Is the structure faulty? Yes. New wine’s potency will reveal that the old wineskin cannot effectively hold the wine. The reaction is so bad that the skin will burst open at the contact. We have to agree and move forward by understanding that the current structures are not capable of handling greater. We must remove the old and create all things new for greater possibilities.
  3. Normalize the Desire for Better: We cannot continue to settle for a “crumb” mentality. We cannot continue to believe that we only deserve or strive for crumbs when God said we can have the whole loaf (Life and life more abundantly). We must begin to demand justice so that peace might truly reign. We must normalize respecting our brothers and sisters that achieve, grow, and accomplish greatness. We must not allow any entity to dictate our paths, value, or joy. Being treated as a human being is the bare minimum, but it is not the ultimate goal. Respect my worth everyday, because doing so will enhance your life and environment. Respect the fact that God made a table for me. Don’t try to steal from it, because it has my name on it. Honor the reality that I will not have my name or life placed in your hands to change my narrative. My real story is great without editing.

My’Khia did not have to die. I have reached my breaking point attempting to make sense of what does not. No more babble. No more justification for death. No more. No. More.

Microwave Meals vs. Crafted Dinners: The Process of Using Thought, Intelligence, and Discernment…

Many people that follow me on my social media platforms know me for two things. They know I am in ministry and that I enjoy cooking. Honestly, my cooking displays get more attention than posting about ministry. (Go figure..) My closest friends and family know that cooking is a type of therapy for me. It is the opportunity to work out my creativity, frustrations, and difficulties while focusing on the process of meal preparation. The process is my way making sure I stay accountable to the details. Cooking is not a burden. It is a joy that produces extreme gratification when the meal hits the high notes.

The problem that lies within cooking these days is the idea of the instant. Don’t get me wrong. Every once in a while, we must be grateful that instant and microwave exist for our moving existence. Yet, it is noticeable when one full prepares a meal from a microwave. Advertisers constantly present microwavable options to the masses as a suitable substitute for well prepared, crafted meals. The idea of the tv dinner was to be timely substitution for the meal accompanied by significant kitchen labor. No difference should have existed between the two methods except for time of preparation. The problem is that the desire for home cooked is so great that settling for less is nearly a crime.

The same mentality translates to our society regarding environmental and communal problems. People are constantly looking for information and narrative that have home cooked flavor, but they are settling for microwavable substitutes instead. Social media, the internet, and other resources have a place in the movement of information. They can be very valuable tools in gaining interest and attention on important matters of the day. However, people have become so reliant on their presentations that they no longer take the time to work through information, perspectives, and personal introspection. People arrive at microwaved conclusions and partake in lightly seasoned ideas. It is an amazing phenomenon.

Imagine this. A time existed when young people had to write out/type research paper, go to the library and pick out the references by hand, use 3×5 notecards to itemize bibliographical information on print resources and quotes from the book, place the research paper, bibliography, and notecards together in a folder for turn in order to prove the integrity of their study, research, and work. My generation is probably the last one that dealt with that mandate. The process was to make certain that we did the work necessary to establish our viewpoint and defend our position with credible information that we wrestled with for understanding.

Now, I can go online and know for a fact that their are many people who never had to deal with the rigor at all and it shows. It is like going and seeing someone post their plate of macaroni and cheese on Facebook. You can tell it has elements, but you know that it is Kraft. Ashy macaroni and cheese is evidence that nobody ever taught you how to go through the process of boiling your noodles, shredding your cheese, seasoning your pasta water, etc. Really good macaroni and cheese takes time. Good mac and cheese has evidence that you have taken time with it.

If a lesson is taught from the past year of a pandemic and uprising in the continued pursuit of justice, equality, and equity, we must get back to process and time to produce quality. How do we begin this process? We must enlist three important elements–thought, intelligence, and discernment.

  1. Thought–We must come back consider how we fuel our thoughts and ideas. Many of the perspective that are presented today are devoid of key ideas of critical thinking. Most people go into subject matter believing that their perspective is the end of the story. The truth is that we are probably in need of reevaluating our ideas regularly. We need to take the time to investigate how good information really is. We need to see if this is prime or processed. Our thoughts are governed by personal leanings. If we are not compelled to examine a whole matter, then we will find ourselves constantly recycling ideas without solid merit or work. When our thoughts are fed properly, we will be able to possess proper lead ins to substantial conversations that will take us beyond argumentative mess.
  2. Intelligence–We must have a filter that gives us the ability to use our thoughts and information effectively. I recognize that many people are full of information. Yet, they are devoid of the ability to use it to positively influence their environment. Intelligence is not the ability to make others feel small. Intelligence is not the capacity to hold information. Intelligence is the intellectual strategy of making information and work for all who can and will receive it. Whenever we gain information we have to find effective ways for the masses to consume solid, quality meat without skipping steps or trimming for convenience sake. We must present the whole platter where it is accessible, compelling, and intriguing.
  3. Discernment–Without discernment, all the previous steps become an exercise in futility. We must have the ability to recognize where our skillset, information, and intelligence will be most useful. The Bible teaches us that we must be careful not to cast pearls to the pigs. We must be careful not to give useful knowledge to those who will consume with no plan to enhance their surroundings. Knowledge and information in the right hands will empower the powerless and disenfranchised. It will lift them beyond the elements of today into the prosperity of tomorrow. However, sharing with consumers can cause a burial under the dung heap of denial. We must know our role in the process and execute accordingly. We will continue to perpetuate cycles that can continue to cause harm.

I implore us all to continue to learning the importance of process. Recognize the value in cooking properly in the kitchen, society, and life. It will help you avoid food poisoning that will destroy your life…

God Hears a N****r’s Prayer Too (A Response to a White Supremacist Gospel)

I know it is difficult to see such a controversial statement. I mean I would be so appalled as well. But it is true! God still answers prayer. I know for a fact that God still hears and answers. No matter the time of day, season of life, or circumstances, God answers prayer. Oh, you saw a different word in that initial statement. Oh we can deal with that here in a moment. I just wanted to re-emphasize that the God of the universe hears the lamentations of humanity daily.

I recognize how challenging it can be to see such bold statements come from the mouth of an African American pastor. With so much debate about using the N-word, why would I decide to use such an inflammatory word to bring light to this statement? The truth is, I realize that this statement is the antithesis of a theology rooted in white supremacy. Yet it highlights the sentiment of a gospel bastardized by people who would never follow the historic Jesus who doesn’t look anything like them.

The current state of society constantly wants to get back to normalcy. Pandemic, social unrest, and isolation have brought to the forefront concerns that have been buried for way too long. Those infirmities of society and humanity could no longer stay covered. These fractures could no longer remain hidden. The time has come to address the incomplete and destructive nature of a false process regarding Christianity as a whole and the religious practices of a melanized Christ.

I am constantly amazed by the manner in which people have accepted this unseasoned presentation of the Christian ethic. The so-called socially accepted presentation eliminates the very nature of God in so many ways. How can you follow a process of faith that eliminates creativity, uniqueness, justice, kindness, grace, and mercy? How is it possible that the only love that is demonstrated is predicated upon if people fit in your circle? How do we continue to believe that we can compel people when we don’t even love the very nature of their presentation?

Literally, Jesus approached every single type of person to offer them an encounter with heaven. He quelled social norms and defied the status quo in order that humanity would understand its original worth. He made institutions question their own message and ideology in order to present it with the reality of what humanity should be. Human beings are not metrics or statistics. Human beings are individuals with varied stories that craft the manner in which they are presented. That recognition of flavor should bring a renewed understanding of the importance of uniqueness in this world.

Yet, I still feel the weight of being an outcast in a system never meant for me. It is difficult for me to recognize the work and the worth of what Jesus did in the first century and see how his practices in teachings are not applied properly. I still have to read the thoughts of white pastors and theologians who categorically deny the necessity for active social gospel practice. They reduce the very nature and thought of it to being a leftist political ploy. They only see it as a threat to the life of the “church”.

They are unwilling to see the destructive nature of bad exegesis. They refuse to except the reality that people of color are totally loved by God without extra human conditions. We are not seen as equal socially, religiously, economically, or within any other construct. This type of personal identification gives us the label of being whiners, complainers, soft, and weak. I beg to differ!

Whenever people create their own structure, they do so in order to compensate for their own weaknesses and maintain their own comfort. It is easy to see why so many would lash back at the very notion of individuals who would protest, speak boldly, speak truth to power, and question any system of injustice. These people project the statements of weak-minded souls who can no longer stand boldly on the sandy foundation of a well perpetuated lie.

For many years, Black people have been internally wrestling with the idea of whether to grab a seat at a confused table or allow God to provide a table uniquely designed for them. We go back-and-forth because of the thought patterns that all of us have adopted based upon the information and environments in which we dwell. Some of my brothers and sisters believe that full acceptance within the current culture will finally permit us the freedom we so desperately seek. Others believe that full embracing of one’s self and full investment in one’s uniqueness will cause us to finally be free.

I believe our freedom will begin when we fully embrace that God never intended for us to be on the outside looking in. This thought means that we must embrace the desire to break down any obstruction to embracing and recognizing the full nature of our God. That means we must never embrace or accept any limitation placed by an individual based on their bias or discriminating viewpoint.

When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, he said something significant within the prayer. Solomon asked for many things, but one of the requests was that anyone could come to the temple and pray. When the request was made, Solomon added that he wanted God to hear their prayers and answer. By doing so, those who did not know Yahweh would be able to fully embrace the nature of the God of all. The response of God in Second Chronicles 7 demonstrated the willingness and desire of God to fulfill every request. The glory of God filled the temple and God has never relented and fulfilling that promise.

Why do we teach a different premise in word or deed? If God was willing to hear all in the Old Testament, why have we created a different gospel? We continue to keep people away intentionally to make our small groups feel more comfortable. We deny the very nature of people connecting with the Creator so that we do not have to deal with anything regarding who they are. We continue to perpetuate a supremacist ideology by telling the world that God is off-limits, and that transformation can only come through us not Jesus.

This society has followed the Nazi Germany blueprint to a T. You use organized religion to filter and perpetuate the ideas of an incomplete theology and spread it like a virus through all areas of society. By doing so, we infect the thought process and interactions of people. We then watch the seeds grow to bring about distinctions between superior and inferior. Ultimately, we embrace these constructs as fact rather than diagnose them as mental, emotional, and spiritual disease.

This methodology has allowed for so-called Christians to tell other believers get in line or get run over. It has permitted so-called people of faith to align themselves with government over God. It has allowed weak minded people to control narratives in order to not to face the truth. It has emboldened White “Christians” to call Black People Nigger. It has permitted so-called people of faith to enter positions of authority and perpetuate this ideology through legislation. It has defaced the true nature of God in the face of the Creator’s greatest creation.

I understand some people want to embrace unity and multicultural fellowship However, I have concluded that until we truly recognize the walls that have been created and destroy those walls, we cannot truly have worthwhile fellowship that is transformative. Until it looks like Christ in word and deed, we cannot expect the utopian idea of the beloved community in its fullness. What can be gained from continuing to pursue a seat at a table of injustice and inequality? What can be gained by continuing to pursue justice within an ideology of injustice? What can be gained from trying to find hope in the midst of a diseased Theology?

I believe that it is necessary to begin the project of reclaiming our identity is true believers in Jesus Christ. We can no longer place labels on aspects of the platform that Jesus of Nazareth established for us. Either we finally follow the principles of Jesus or we forfeit our identity all together and admit defeat. I refuse to allow inappropriate thoughts about my existence and my divine nature to be placed under the microscope of mediocrity. I no longer subscribe to the terrible teachings that have played our society for thousands of years. I stand to reaffirm my faith and devotion to the principles of God‘s Word unedited by white supremacy and oppression. Consider me to be like Howard Thurman—a follower of the religion of Jesus.

I will not unite with anyone who desires to keep people oppressed. I will not subscribe to harming God‘s creation by using bad tactics backed by incomplete study of the gospel. I stand committed to living out the teachings of Christ to the best of my ability daily. I commit myself to speaking out against injustice and inequality. I stand to be used as a vessel of transformation and change that leads towards the day when all God’s children will constantly feel the embrace of heaven and joy will never end.

Let it be known that I will never rest until the people of God know the true nature of their divinity. I will not rest until every person encounters the true and living God without hindrance. I will tear the roof off that others will no longer be denied an encounter with Jesus Christ. I will break down walls. I will study until my understanding grows about who I am and whose I am. You no longer define me, or others like me.

Just so we’re clear, the faulty nature of your thinking left out a particularly important element. God hears a n****r’s prayers. Thank God that I’m not one. Thank God your viewpoint is invalid. Thank God at your ideology has failed.