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Archive for June, 2015

The following article by Joshua DuBois says it all, and I ask you to read it. For years I have urged those of us who identify as White to do some serious introspection. I have urged us all to enter the Black community, to make friends, attend their churches and become familiar with their culture.

I have asked that we do our best to understand what it means to be an African American in this country and I have asked us to become aware of our own prejudiced, judgmental thinking and beliefs (conscious and unconscious) that create separation and contribute to festering the fear that spills over to others around us, our police, our politicians and ourselves.

Until WE heal our own racist beliefs, then anger, hatred and judgment toward our brothers and sisters of color, in all its ugliness will continue to grow in this country. Until WE stop pointing the finger at the Black community telling them what they need to change, and start to realize how our own framework of thinking is a major part of the problem…

Until WE stop pretending racism no longer exists and understand the power of institutionalized racism (or even know what it is)… Until WE realize that flying the Confederate flag above the State Capitol (a blatant symbol of rebellion and racism) is an insidious painful reminder of slavery and separation, then WE continue to create a racist society.

Until WE realize our own thoughts, words, actions, reactions and inactions directly affect the culture of prejudice in this country, then more people will be unjustly incarcerated, attacked, demeaned and… yes… killed…

white culture pic

We Need To Talk About White Culture

By Joshua DuBois

African Americans will continue soldiering on to the pews in the wake of the Charleston massacre. But if we’re serious about preventing future tragedies, we must confront some very old demons.

“Clementa was a very, very, very good friend. Joshua, I just don’t have the words…”

My dad’s voice broke open when I spoke with him yesterday. And my father, a strong African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) preacher, doesn’t tend to crack. He knew Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the murdered pastor of Emanuel A.M.E., well. They were friends.

I grew up sitting in A.M.E. pews, a proud preacher’s kid. We had choir rehearsal, Sunday school, vacation Bible School. Quarterly, Annual and General Conferences. Sunday service and, of course, Wednesday night bible study, much like the one in Charleston that was attacked this week.

Like many Black folks, and surely like many of the deceased at Emanuel, our lives were anchored in our congregations.  It didn’t matter what we were dealing with at school or work, whether the bank account was stable or declining. When we had nothing else – when the outer world was confusing or even seemed aligned against us – we always had the sanctuary that was our church. In my case, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

That sanctuary has been violated in Charleston in the most brutal of ways. Black folks are mourning, and angry. And you have to know the history to fully understand why.

The A.M.E. Church is a denomination built on a foundation of holy defiance. In 1787, its founder, Richard Allen, grew tired of the segregated services at St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia and marched his fellow Black members out to form a church of their own, one that became the African Methodist Episcopal Church. From the very beginning, A.M.E.’s have had Jesus and justice running through their bones. And Mother Emanuel A.M.E., the site of Wednesday’s carnage, was founded by Denmark Vessey. He led “The Rising,” a great slave revolt plot that nearly set Blacks in Charleston free.

This is a church that was already burnt to the ground by white supremacists once, in that revolt’s aftermath. And now it has been attacked by perhaps the same forces again. As Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the first woman Bishop of the A.M.E. church said to me yesterday, “If we can’t be safe in the church – then where can we be safe?”

It would be disproportionate to the magnitude of this tragedy to reach pat conclusions and then move along.  We need to mourn first. We need to sit with the rage and pain, and mourn.

But then we have to come back to this…sickness. That’s what it feels like to me: a sickness. Not just the one-off malady of an insane individual. But a pervasive, gnawing illness that affects him and others in our country in varying, curious ways.

It’s a sickness that clouds the eyes of a police officer in McKinney, Texas – a fearful mania that causes him to see visions of children as armed criminals requiring disproportionate force.

A sickness that choked the life out of a man screaming that he couldn’t breathe – Eric Garner – because that man’s blackness and bigness and humanity were just too threatening to treat gently.

A sickness that allowed a police officer to see a 12-year-old child in Cleveland – Tamir Rice – and assume the pellet gun this kid was holding was a deadly weapon, and then shoot him dead.

This sickness is the cancer of unacknowledged bias and supremacy.  It has been with us since our founding, and civil rights laws, personal achievements and trappings of success for a fortunate few African Americans have not made us well.

That same illness very likely affected the man who killed the nine A.M.E. souls at Emanuel Church. Yes, the killer was deranged; but he simply had a more extreme version of a common malady. That malady threatens to kill many more – either directly, as in Charleston, or indirectly from the attendant hate and pain.

The question now is: Will we convince ourselves of the delusion that this killer is the only one who is sick? Or will we examine our national conscience and finally take steps to become well?

One of those steps has to be White Americans having an honest conversation about White culture. Yes, White culture.

If that sounds shocking, think about this: how many times have we explicitly asked Black folks to address the ‘problems’ of Black culture, from fatherlessness to violent music to shootings in Chicago? African Americans engage in these conversations regularly. Now it’s time for my White brothers and sisters lead their own conversations as well.

We need dinner table conversations about how some White children grow up without a racist bone in their body, but others are predisposed to sing songs about “niggers” on a fraternity bus. How does that happen? What is the cause, and what is the solution? White Americans need to drive this dialogue.

We need conversations about how many gun owners are responsible, but others, surrounded by mortal weapons, seem ready to blow at any moment, searching desperately for an apocalypse to confront or war to fight.  What creates the type of paranoia and fear? This discussion needs to be had at the Lion’s Club, the gun range, around tables in White homes.

We need conversations about why, the moment an African American man was elected to the White house, some people wanted him to “fail” and others desperately sought to “take our country back.” Take our country back from whom? And to where? Where is it, precisely, that some folks would have us go? My brothers and sisters from the majority culture – White Americans – need to have the courage to drive this dialogue, and help us find some answers.

In the meantime, Black folks will continue to go to church. We will worship and restore ourselves and mourn. As we have done after Trayvon, Michael, Eric, Medgar, Jordan, Tarika, Martin, Emmett, Eleanor and so many, many more. We will console and pray and hope this sleeping country up wakes up. That others – self-aware, non-black folks – will see the full horror of Charleston and desire to exorcise the demons of our history and present culture.

Other than that, I don’t know what to say any more. Nine Black churchgoers were gunned down after their bible study this week, in the year 2015, in my own country. I am exhausted and angry. Like my father, I don’t have the words.

 

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Wow - What I Want To KnowRosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Mandala, three ordinary people who would not betray their own soul

 

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

 It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

 It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”

~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I want to know if you have the courage to be the person you know you are meant to be…

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She Let Go Wow pic

“Give me a moment, because I like to cry for joy. It’s so delicious… to cry for joy.”

Charles Dickens

 

She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgements.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all the memories that held her back.

She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

~ Rev. Safire Rose

 

. . .and YOU???

What are you holding on to? Afraid of? Resisting? Worrying about?

What would happen if you just simply . . . LET GO . . . ?

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Life Is The Perfect Teacher

What is Life trying to teach you and are you listening? Although a lesson can be learned from everything that happens in our lives, it’s valuable to pay particular attention to the things that are making some “noise” in our lives.

Examine any current or recent event, circumstance or situation that is particularly loud or stands out. Maybe it’s something that keeps happening over and over, or something that causes you anxiety or upset. Identify any person with whom you have had a recent interaction, especially those that have been uncomfortable or challenging. Ask yourself, what is each there to teach me? What is the lesson I need to be learning? Perhaps you need to learn to:

  • Stop talking and listen
  • Speak up and be heard
  • Prepare more thoroughly and plan ahead
  • Take a stand for yourself and take charge of your life
  • Be patient and understanding
  • Let go judgment and control and accept – it is how it is and he/she is how they are
  • Have compassion and show caring
  • Stop avoiding and confront an issue
  • Be creative and look for new possibilities
  • Establish and maintain personal boundaries
  • Take a risk and step out of the box with both feet
  • Say “No”
  • Say “Yes”
  • Admit you aren’t right
  • Stop languishing in indecision and take action

. . . or many more lessons that will help you become a more empowered person.

Life is constantly serving us opportunities to evolve spiritually (to become a centered, grounded, loving, joyful, free person) and either we learn how to become that or we don’t. Some of us learn and forget and need to be reminded. Some of us need to be hit over the head several times before we wake up and heed the lesson. Some of us never learn and frequently feel stuck, trapped, anxious, frustrated, stressed, hurt, angry, disappointed, frightened, worries, sad . . .

What I know for sure is that a lesson is taught until it is learned, even if it takes a lifetime . . . and if you don’t learn the lesson, it will be repeated again and again and get louder and louder.

The choice is ours. We can exercise some humility and learn what the guru of Life is teaching us, and grow and flourish with vitality and joy. Or we can cover our ears, shut our eyes and refuse to listen or learn and keep doing whatever we’re doing that brings us down.

If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will continue to have what you have. If that is good news, then keep doing it. If not, then you have something to learn.

 

Thank you to my good friend Chris Herrod for sharing this quote

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