We Have All Come Over a Way that with Tears Has Been Watered: Reflections at the end of Black History Month

February 24, 2012 @ 12:51 pm by Jacqui Lewis

On this rainy Friday, it is my sabbath. I am not good at sabbath, but am trying to get comfortable having a day to just be, with God, with John, with me. A day to just let thoughts drift in and out of my mind, feelings in and out of my heart, in a mindful kind of way. I am trying to get comfortable resting, not doing, just being.

And so, last night, on the eve of my sabbath, John and I tuned in to watch Episodes 1 and 2 of Alex Haley's Roots. We reacquainted ourselves with Kunta Kinte and his passage across the ocean to this land that would bear strange fruit on southern trees, this land where Kunta Kinte and his progeny would bear fruit like Alex Haley. And then we fell asleep pondering what feels like the permanence of racism in America. My husband, he who is Eastern European and German on one side and Scotch-Irish on the other, and I, who am African American by way of Mississippi and (what I like to claim, though I can't be sure) Ethiopia--we talk often about race and racism, and try to point ourselves in the direction of doing the work of reconciliation – personally and systemically.

We do not wait for February and Black History month to have these conversations; we have them all year round. But our talks are particularly acute in this month each year, because I am often asked to preach, teach, or write something about Blacks in America during February, and we celebrate the history of African Americans at Middle Church during February each year as well.

Trish and I preached together last Sunday about racism and the opportunity for Blacks and Whites to do our work on healing the scars that are still thick, furious, and red. We also said that while the conversation on race is NOT just about Black and White, there is a particular permanent stain around the slavery issue that needs to be shouted out, a stain that affects all of us in these United States. And we said, as I always do, that Black History is all of our history.

I make that claim always. But Chad's sermon on February 12 embodied that fact. He so beautifully connected his story to my story, to the particular story of Africans in America, that I think we all got it. And one of our members, Anurag, wrote the most lovely testimony to the power of Chad's words to claim Black history as his own that I must share them with you.

Thank you, Trish, for going there with me about race. That was very brave and lovely. Thank you, Chad, for doing such a great job of making us see the connections, that all of our narratives are interwoven. And thank you, Anurag, for singing this song of praise about Chad's sermon, about Middle Church's work in the world, and about how all of us are inextricably connected, one to the other.

Dear Chad,
I just wanted to thank you from the deepest of my being for blessing us with your beautifully crafted and heartfelt sermon today. I joined Middle for precisely its bold vision and leadership on racial justice you expounded today. I am so grateful to be among faith leaders who can transcend the artificial, divisive, hierarchical, and dichotomous racial binary that has inflicted so much physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and intergenerational trauma on all of us. I am so proud to be part of a Ministry where our faith leaders do not trivialize the experiences of America's people, especially her peoples of color, as a thing of the past AND they honor our spirits and ancestors with grace, acceptance, and love. And what I am most proud of is the way the incredibly sensitive territory of racial justice and injustice is handled, presented, and accepted by our community. I have so much to learn and so much to heal, and I am grateful I have you on this journey with me.

I cannot speak for others, but just hearing you speak today unlocked so many knots in my own body and mind and this is truly magical. Yes, Black History is My History. This is what I have always felt and known. But this feeling has never been validated by anyone until today.

There is some radical healing work happening on Second and 7th. And I am so excited to be a part of it. Thank you again for sharing with us your light and your message of our shared humanity and our interconnected and interdependent destiny.

With gratitude and blessings,

About This Blog

Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.

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