Tag: Jr

We Ain’t Done. We Ain’t Finished.

Five years ago, I was in a car with my kids, husband and my cell phone. I was screaming, crying and praying in our church service. At that moment, my life, due to a young man I did not know named Michael, changed it.

In five years, I have seen people embroiled in this Ferguson movement die, be murdered under mysterious circumstances, stalked by law enforcement, move away, run for office, and be exposed as frauds! I’ve seen people stan law enforcement to and with religious zeal—and I’ve seen people beat up because of it!

In five years, I have questioned my own strength. My faith. My ability to protect my own children. I have been triggered by loud noises. Fire crackers. Too many police cars on the street. Blue Lives Matter flags. Big crowds.

My life has totally changed.

Yet, the trajectory of that night five years ago, created this space. Enabled me to write rather than cry. To view the world, and myself as James Baldwin instructs.

There will be some that will, still use the hashtags, famous names and check-ins as social clout! But those of us who saw guns pulled on people going to work; bearcats on West Florissant Boulevard; tear gas canisters breaking on streets you drive and shop on; and children that look like yours tear gassed in their own backyards; if you weren’t there, you don’t get to weigh in!

But in this, from this, I want to draw attention to the foundation set up by Michael Brown, Sr.: CHOSEN FOR CHANGE. The mission of the foundation is simple:

Saving lives one day at a time through empowering youth, strengthening families and giving back.

In this, dear ones, I have no deep resounding 5-year reflection. I have no deep, saged reflections. There are people I know personally still on the ground giving time, talent, love, money and energy to make Ferguson better. To make their local neighborhoods better like my tribe Fran Griffin (now Councilwoman Griffin!) Emily and Tony. Still feeding the homeless, like Cathy “Mama Cat” Daniels with PotBangerz!

There is more to this memorializing of August 9, 2014 than death, lies and police corruption! This is a day for some of us, where the life we lived before changed! Where we found passions, causes and careers that allowed us to flourish! Where we began to examine our lives, circumstances and social circles to change them.

It’s a long way to go.

But the adage goes:

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

In real communities, real activism occurs. And we will go farther–together.

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Dear Martin

Dear Dr. King:

How marvelous it is to know and read of you! How wonderful it is to know your compassion lead you to action and how your wife has supported you. I wish to thank you for your life and service. I’m sure those two words are rarely heard, and never heard enough. On behalf of those whom benefit from history and hindsight, once more, thank you.

In the fifty years since your passing from living to ancestry and then to legacy, there is still so much to be done, Martin. There are strides, stutter-steps and fighting for every inch of ground we as a people have. There are policies and laws in place now that weren’t fifty years ago, yet there are places in this nation where my almost seventy year old mother would still be called a ‘colored girl.’ There is still so much work laid, yet so much work to do, which at the weight of it all–sometimes threaten to crush my soul, spirit and heart.

As this new movement, this strive to be ‘woke’, has been something akin to what I am sure you, Coretta and all of SNCC and the NAACP saw. There has been a unity emerging which is needed and necessary, yet there is a thread, once pulled reveals motives, hearts, agendas and intentions. It is sometimes such lonely work, Martin. Such lonely work.

What I have decided to, Martin, perhaps what you considered:  work my niche. I have found my niche to be organizing, support, mentoring, refuge and education. I have found that the work, this work of the gospel and social justice, will always be ongoing. The mission field is too wide a swath to tackle alone! I am learning it will not be perfect, I will not be perfect in learning, but there is a restlessness in me which makes me want to keep going. I have to keep going.

Martin, Dr. King, I understand more what Margaret Mitchell meant when she said, “Respectability is the punishment for the wild.” For all the fires I caused and walked away from, I now must start and kindle to others.

I want to thank you for not giving up. I thank you for showing what a possible path to freedom looked like. I thank you for your grace, fierceness, courage and boldness. I don’t believe to change the world as a person of color you have to be ‘the good negro’–and I have always rejected that depiction of you. I know now, to change the world as a person of color you have to know the game you’re playing and play it better.

I’m deciding to play it better.

In Hope, Fight and Faith,

Pastor Jennifer P. Harris, Spirit of Life Church-St. Louis

If I Don’t Get There With You

Reproclamation.

This act is defined by the reannouncing of something public and official.

According to USA Today in January 2016, here is history as to the legislative history around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:

On Nov. 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill marking the third Monday of every January, as Martin Luther King, Jr., day, according to the center. The holiday was to begin in 1986. In January 1986, the first national Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday was observed.

Coincidentally, 1986 was when I began my elementary education. Moreover, every president since Regan signs this proclamation every year, ergo it remains a holiday. Seems redundant.

However, in keeping with the man and the honor expected of today, I offer the same wisdom he did half a century ago:

It’s expected to say something today to be encouraging and profound today. The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  is encouraging and profound. However, there are portions of his life and work, that don’t qualify him as ‘the good Negro’ he is sometimes classified as.

The work, social justice, civil equality, dismantling of systems of oppression, is not easy and is thankless. We see now the lust towards the power certain white people had generations ago where words and looks could, would end the lives of people of color. We see a march towards the reversal of things equitable, just and fair in favor of reestablishing what white supremacy has dictated to be the most right way. We see those using coded language for its implementation–and the silence of those whom have seen such an incarnation before, yet do nothing–because whiteness, its privilege and the profits gained or granted therein.

There is a romance to racism this country worships and imbibes  which I’m sure that my grandmother could better explain, and my mother endured as a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Being alive to see this, it is easy to be afraid, and look for the rescue from the slow march to national destruction from Washington, D.C. Even one of my writing sheroes, Roxanne Gay, in an article from the New York Times details that no one is going to save us from this administration.

She’s right.

However, there was no one to protect us in administrations prior. We as a people began to do that–creating our own schools, businesses, and edifying one another. And we still had to fight to get a cat up off you because in the words of Barack H. Obama “Folk wanna pop off…”

On today, I want to know that you are valued, you are worthy, you are entitled to all this life has to offer. Today is a celebration of the life of a man that embodied one aspect, one facet of a movement meant to uplift and encourage people, and change the face of this nation. This work, social justice, civil rights, equality for all people, dismantling of systems of oppression is on-going. Now, in this dispensation it is our turn, my turn, your turn to fight. The rescue is in your mouth and resources–and what we as a people are willing to pull together to create the better we so desperately want and know what can have.

Today, we celebrate the life of a man who dared to look this nation in the face and call it a lie:   in word, in action, and in deed. Today, we celebrate a forged path able to withstand those that walked with him, ahead of him, and us coming after. Today, remember your power is service–even when no one calls your name or sees you.  You must remember the rescue you seek, you can create.

Today, let no one tell you that you cannot. History has proven that you can, you shall, and you will. We shall overcome indeed, but sometimes, you need to first acknowledge you first must get over.

 

And We Speak

“Mike Brown saved my life.”

-A. Templeton, 2015*

 

August 9, 2014:

My husband and I were headed to our Saturday night service in South St. Louis. We were living in Ferguson, and had lived there with our kids for about a year. We were new pastors and our church plant was Spirit Of Life Church. We left home, and he was driving. There was so much traffic on West Florissant. It was backed up and we were upset about the possibility of being late. My husband, the meticulous one of the two of us, was eager to get where we were going.

I remember having this cold feeling. It wasn’t dread, but something was wrong. It’s a feeling I have had only since I have become a parent. This sense that something within me, part of me, a thread of my being was pulled and I could not catch it to cut it. I told my husband something bad must have happened. I took out my phone, and looked through what was trending. It wasn’t until I got to service, that I had found out what happened:

Officer-involved shooting. 18-year-old African-American male. Dead.

His name: Michael Brown, Jr.

 

They left him outside in the street for four hours. We had been in that traffic. We had been within the net of all that had gone on, and complained about being late for service. We had just seen people strewn along the sidewalks and streets, confused and angry, clutching one another and I had fussed about the traffic and wanted to get to service.

What followed from that day was the beginning of what has become no less than a tidal wave. We were swept into this roux of people that we would have never passed on streets, avoided in stores and never spoken to in public. Our neat bubble was broken, yet we had not died. I remembered how loud I cried, how hard I prayed, and how I cried to God not to let them kill all of us.

There is a scripture in the book of Isaiah that reads as follows, in part:

Here I am Lord, send me. (Isaiah 6:8)

This resistance, this activism is service. It is this that compels me to speak and to be a vessel for such speech. Such amazing things happen in the course of hours, and days, and it was this single event that has unlocked portions of my faith that I had only whispered about.

Part of the prayer I shouted as my biblical foremothers, in their strength, their passion, was, “Lord, you see what they are doing! Don’t let them kill all of us!”

There is something to be said for that type of endurance born from such a place. It ignites. It unlocks. It unties. And most of all, it UNITES.

Here. I. Am. Lord. Send. Me.

It is sometimes in the the face of lions, that you discover that you, too, can roar. And you must. Sometimes, your voice, hands and feet are the tools God uses and sends to be change and the answer to prayer. Indeed, He does move in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

And sometimes we are His instruments.

 

*-This a direct quote taken by a young woman I have been blessed to know that I will only identify as A. Templeton. When she first said this quote, I remarked on how open it was, and how candid it was. And as I reflect, this quote became applicable to and for the people I have encountered since this day 3 years ago. The wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. echoes through it: 

Our lives begin to end the day be become silent about things that matter.