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“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.
1.to withstand, strive against, or oppose:
2. to withstand the action or effect of:
3.to refrain or abstain from, especially with difficulty or reluctance:
4. to make a stand or make efforts in opposition; act in opposition; offer resistance.
5. a substance that prevents or inhibits some effect from taking place
History is the oldest form of storytelling. What is more perfect than a story that every once can agree on especially if told by the winner? There are things that are happening now that it would be horror not to report or record. There are things that are happening that I cannot ignore…and refuse to become complicit to. #RESIST
I know that’s a catch phrase now, but that indeed is what I do.
I question. I re-ask. I critically think. I act.
The fact that I exist and intersect in that existence, is in itself, resistance.
This resistance, this activism, this work, indeed is important. It’s important because it’s ongoing. It is ever-present and is daunting, and without some type of support group or coping skills, will incinerate your compassion and sense of self. It will encompass all that you believe you can achieve within it.
Every day, I make a conscious choice to make a difference, as cliche as that is, everyday. I decided that whether it be through motherhood, ministry or general humanity, to be a voice, equipped to be the hands and feet of those that no longer can use them or require strength to be carried. That strength is beyond a hashtags, tee shirts and photo ops. It is beyond safety pins, and Twitter rants, and even blog posts.
It is the element, this #RESIST nature, that compels us to act beyond words. It puts heat to them, feet to them, fire to them, and from that, this irrepressible need and press towards change. Towards the stoppage of all things seen to obstruct the basic nature of what it is to be alive.
It is from that place, that power, that forms this #RESISTANCE. This indignation that pushes to act instead of lulls to sleep. My husband, a United Methodist minister by trade, and training, gave this quote, that reminds me the importance of not just feeling but doing:
“Your compassion should compel you to action.”
(Pastor Phillip A. Harris, Lead Pastor of Spirit Of Life Church-Ferguson, MO (2016))
It was compassion, this compassion, which is a component of my faith–a tenet of it—that is the reminder that I am an agent of change. I am sentient, I am capable, and I am more than that–available and responsible. Alice Walker is quoted to have said, “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” I believe it is more than that.
Activism is faith activated.
My activism is rooted in the ability to see the better the worst according to (Hebrews 11:1), and not be afraid to be dirty in fixing it. Not being afraid of nay-sayers, and the complacent and the complicit.
My activism is based in the hope that if I can’t see the sun just yet on the matter, I’ll bust a hole in the wall so big it’ll be a window.
*”If you can’t get in the front door, try the back. If the back door is locked, buss a window and jump in.”
*-This quote is from my father, Dr. Richard L. Bush (1948-1998). This is what he told us to remind us never to give up: it’s always a way to do something. Thank you, Daddy.
I consider myself a word alchemist. I love the written word, and the power that it brings. So when I was told about The Awakenings Project, I thought it was the dopest thing that I could participate in. I was humbled to even be asked. I thought the premise was genius and in the cultural tempest that we are in, I thought it was needed. I had to add my magic to it.
My word: ORACLE.
To me, this word carried so much power. So much history, and so much weight. I adore words, so I had to look up what it is the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an ‘oracle’ as I found there were 7 definitions. The ones that I thought were most applicable to me are:
- a person who delivers authoritative, wise, or highly regarded and influential pronouncements.
- divine communication or revelation.
- any person or thing serving as an agency of divine communication.
Oracles in folklore are secret keepers, storytellers and always are presented with this degree of mystery and mystique.
They are these mystical, metaphysical creatures that touch natural and divine and there is something about them that is indescribable.
That ‘certain something’…that aire, or charm.
Being a writer, I believe that this word encompasses everything that I felt growing up and daydreaming; being able to ‘pull’ these imaginary, real people into paper and ink, conjure what is not to what is.
Being able to tie together nows and thens into the could be’s and futures yet. I think that word wraps up all that I am as an artist.
Since participating in the project, I have been more active in exercising my gifts and talents in my pursuit of being a writer. I have become more confident in my talent and gifts, and sharing that with people and venturing out in different arenas that those of my kind are found.
I have embraced that portion of myself, and honor it.
The Awakenings Project has helped me accept that of myself which I was unsure about, and was not confident in.
I’m an Oracle. And that is badass.
Subject: Jennifer Harris
Date of Session: 12/2016
*The Awakenings Project is the brainchild of a dear friend of mine, Marissa Southards. She asked me to be a part of this project (now known as Awakenings I or A1) in 2016 and I agreed. With the launch of her blog of the same name (The Awakenings Project), she asked those subjects to write a reflection of the involvement in that process. Any questions about the project can be answered there.
Y’all should hop over to her blog and follow her awesome.
- The moral obligation of those of high birth, powerful social position, etc., to act with honor, kindliness, generosity, etc.
In the offense of man, there will always be one that remains to be honorable and share memories–then known as history. Of this, here now, is no difference. It is of a curious deft and straddle by which we confront race and sex in this country. Even in confronting it, there is confrontation. It is an odd thing to be a part of something by which you have no ownership of–even when your blood have flowed into the soil to yield those self same roses.
Melissa Harris-Perry said race is our “thing” in this country, that definitive thing–strange and normal. Yet, in that normality, the normalcy of racism and bigotry cannot be ever seen normal. It can never be normal to see those that indeed reflect humanity to have it stripped from them. In that stripping, it must be done, has been done, in such as way that those effected do indeed notice. People notice the slights, the political prestidigitation and the non-personification of fellow human beings due to ideology of convenience. That convenience granted the right to those in power to kill and execute with impunity.
To the face of that, the voice of that I ask the same thing my foremothers asked, “Ain’t I a woman?” I ask if I indeed am worthy of being both black and woman, as defined by the intersection of my humanity or does my blackness negate, conflate or disparage everything about me which follows? In the world by which I navigate, that answer waxes and wanes to leave wanting.
In this age of ‘white allyship’, we find ourselves still confronting what it means to be classified as the ‘good white folk’ colloquialism my grandmother would use. What indeed needs to happen lies beyond conversation. What needs to happen now is beyond protests and other demonstrable agreement shows. What needs to happen now is the process of dismantling. We must examine what it is to believe what we believe and whom told you that it was correct. There must be a dedicated addition to the knowledge pool by which we draw back truth consistently. The good thing must be the right thing so the right thing is always the good thing.
We must confront what it means to be an ally and ascribe duty to it, rather than implied convenience. We have to be at a maturity to maintain allyship beyond fad and valleying trends. The cause for freedom, justice, independence are of unlimited importance to those oppression effects. It goes beyond feeling, or convenience, or echelon. However, it is with earnest I implore allyship to consider what they have agreed to support. They must understand that allyship is service not opportunistic and deceptive. There is no room for an imposter allyship in a forward progression. It is the antithesis of such movement.
Understand that there are lives and causes to dedicate ones life to, however, there are those than cannot handle such a swift divorce. These causes are dear to us because they are the taken portions of us that others have taken to never return. Most notably: self. When I am no longer seen as all that I am, in the face and image of God by the fellow creation, that is not a fate I am willing to incorporate into my being. I shall not, will not, nor ever be denied of my humanity by those whom think it sport to disperse it in times where my silence is needed more for a common goal: my compliance to silence.
Now, this time, no that is not what is needed. Here ally means alliance, allegiance: which is necessary. It is needed because in order to succeed, not just fight, we must have a common goal, not an assimilated agenda. No longer can we be silenced, be-swayed, dismayed or ignored. We resist because we will not longer assist in the murder of our futures…and our present selves.
We will live to not die in order to show man is redeemable, and it is that compassion to redemption which leads us to act. So, act we must.