Maya Angelou described courage as “the most important of the virtues, because without it, no other virtues can be practiced consistently.”
“I realized that one isn’t born with courage. One develops it. And you develop it by doing small, courageous things, in the same way that one wouldn’t set out to pick up [a] 100-pound bag of rice. If that was one’s aim, the person would be advised to pick up a five-pound bag, and then a ten pound, and then a 20 pound, and so forth, until one builds up enough muscle to actually pick up 100 pounds. And that’s the same way with courage. You develop courage by doing courageous things, small things, but things that cost you some exertion– mental and, I suppose, spiritual exertion." - Maya Angelou
As the covid-19 global pandemic impacts Black and Brown communities in the U.S. at disproportionate rates, and anti-Black racism tries to kill Black lives through state sanctioned violence, Baby Suggs, holy, from Toni Morrison's Beloved reminds us to Love our flesh...Love it hard.
"Here...in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard...
Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it… No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them! Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again.What you say out of it they will not heed…What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give leavins instead. No they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it.
This is flesh I'm talking bout here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance. Backs that need support. Shoulders that need arms, strong arms I'm telling you. And oh my people out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck un-noosed and straight.
So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it, and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver - love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet… More than your life-holding womb and your live-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize." - Toni Morrison
Written and Compiled by Rev. Toni Belin-Ingram, D.Min
“There is trouble all over this world!” While God calls us to be revolutionary, we must remember that care for ourselves is a revolutionary act. Self-Care is an act of Courage and Resistance. In order to for others, we must be intentional about caring for ourselves. For the month of June, we are praying for ourselves with intentionality. We must attend to the care of our mind, body, soul and spirit so that we are able to hear and articulate, feel and touch, perceive and inspire, gain and share.
June 1 VISION: Aligning my life with God’s Vision
June 2 UNDERSTANDING: Interpretation and Process of Information
June 3 UNDERSTANDING: Senses – touch, taste, smell, hear, see
June 4 WONDER AND AWE: Creativity and Judgement
June 5 WONDER AND AWE: Thinking, Language, Reasoning
June 6 MINDFULNESS: I have the mind of Christ
June 7 MINDFULNESS: Emotional Stability
June 8 MINDFULNESS: Connecting Body, Mind, and Spirit
June 9 INSIDE OUT: Internal Organs
June 10 INSIDE OUT: Systems of the Body
June 11 INSIDE OUT: Movement and Mobility
June 12 FORGIVENESS: I have not treated my body well
June 13 FORGIVENESS: I have been unkind to others concerning their bodies
June 14 REPENTANCE: I will treat my body as the temple that I am
June 15 REPENTANCE: I will treat others with love and care and respect
June 16 HOLINESS: My Body is not an apology; I am who God Made Me
June 17 HOLINESS: Affections
June 18 HOLINESS: Desires
June 19 HOLINESS: Senses
June 20 INTENTIONS: I will cultivate a Sabbath’s rest weekly
June 21 INTENTIONS: I will keep silence regularly
June 22 INTENTIONS: I will set the atmosphere in my home for sleep
June 23 INTENTIONS: I will enter each day in prayer and meditation
June 24 DISCIPLINES: PRAYER
June 25 DISCIPLINES: FASTING
June 26 DISCIPLINES: MEDITATION
June 27 DISCIPLINES: STUDY
June 28 DISCIPLINES: LAMENT
June 29 DISCIPLINES: WORSHIP
June 30 DISCIPLINES: PRAISE
Written by Rev. Leslie Callahan, Ph.D.
Also available on IFYC's PsalmSeasons
The complex emotions of exilic texts mirror my own complicated relationship with the United States, the way that I am aware on a cellular level that this place is simultaneously both home and not home. I am a U.S. citizen by birth. I know the pledge of allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner. I have earned degrees from premier institutions, got jobs with benefits, and bought a house. But history and current events are replete with reminders that my people—Black and Woman— have only provisional welcome and entree in this society. We are embraced only on the terms and for the purposes of the captors’ culture.
Last year with a milestone birthday looming and a pastoral sabbatical beckoning, I made plans to travel to the continent of Africa. I had done no DNA analysis to determine from which community, nation, and people in Africa my blackness had originated. And although I associated an apocalyptic phrase from the tradition of the spirituals—“as soon as my feet strike Zion”—with the visit, I had no conscious expectation of anything earth-shattering to occur during the trip. I simply felt that I was behind schedule when it came to Africa, and it was past time to get there.
Following an overnight flight, my feet touched for the first time the continent that gave birth to humanity—Africa the mother of us all. I sighed. Standing on the shores of the Atlantic and looking west, I confronted the pain, sadness, and rage of my ancestors’ displacing event. Our group had retraced our people’s steps and walked back through the “Door of No Return,” praying and singing and weeping and wailing.
In an instant, I marveled that I had taken my Disney princess-fascinated 6-year-old daughter to Africa to visit castles. But this was no Magic Kingdom. These castles were real, and nothing about them is pretty, built as they are on the enduring foundation of racist, capitalist brutality. Goree in Senegal, Elmina and Cape Coast in Ghana, and many others up and down the coastline remain as monuments and memorials. They follow a pernicious pattern. There are dungeons, dark and dank, still carrying the memory and fragrance of barbarous captivity. Dungeons for men, women, and children. And above the dungeons there are the remnants of enslavers’ quarters and trapdoors allowing access to the bodies of their captives. There, too, are churches.
Have you ever seen child-sized shackles? While you imagine, grasp not just the sadness but also the rage. This kind of rage could easily manifest as a longing like that of the conclusion of Psalm 137, a child-sized violence to avenge what were no doubt child-sized violations in the exiling events. People who can brutalize children don’t usually stop until someone or something else stronger makes them stop.
The irony and tension of exile is that we make our home in places that we know on a cellular level are not really home. But it is not just the indignities of this land that remind us that another land exists, it’s also the soul-deep refusal to forget that some place more like home exists. It is the ancestors singing in our ears of places we come from but we have not yet seen. It is life-giving determination to live in the beauty of that unseen home. Perhaps this is why at the very moment when we question how we can sing the holy song in a strange land, we do so by means of a song.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. What role does the expression of rage play in the capacity also to sing and have joy?
2. Do you experience a call that you recognize from the ancestors to return, to place your feet on the ground in places perhaps that were home to your forebears but not to you?
3. When are silence (the refusal to speak or sing) and withdrawal (the refusal to participate) worshipful and holy acts?
Written and Compiled by Rev. Sheleta E. Fomby
“You can pray until you faint, but if you don’t get up and try to do something…God is not going to put it in your lap.”
~ Fannie Lou Hamer
This month marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, ratified on August 18, 1920, which gave women the right to vote. I think it is important for us to acknowledge this milestone 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The role and import of women in politics and the democratic process is worthy of celebration. However, we must also point out that the history of women’s suffrage is complicated. Prevailing narratives of the women’s suffrage movement often overlook the key and critical contributions of Black women. History is rife with stories of determined and resilient black women who broke barriers in the fight to secure the right to vote of all women but who did not experience the benefits of the freedoms for which they tirelessly fought because of their race. As we commemorate this centennial suffrage celebration, we must elevate the contributions of Black women, namely: Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Phillis Wheatley, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamer, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Mary Church Terrell, Hallie Quinn Brown, Shirley Chisolm, and other unsung freedom fighters.
The 2020 General Election is the most critical election of our lifetime as there is much on the line this upcoming election, especially for Black and Brown people. As we continue to struggle with the physical, mental and financial fallout of the COVID 19 pandemic, swelling racial tensions as a result of the vicious brutalization and murders of black bodies by the police; unprecedented joblessness, which disproportionately impacts communities of color and suffer high death rates due to the virus - it is fair to say this election is a matter of life or death.
The lungs of democracy are on life support when voter suppression efforts are advanced every day to deliberately disenfranchise citizens of color. Historic voter suppression tactics like the poll tax and literacy tests have been replaced by modern-day obstructionist tactics, such as Voter I.D. laws, closing of voting polls, intentional mail delivery slow-downs, removal of letter mail processing machines, gerrymandering, long lines, undermining voter confidence in the integrity of the democratic process and a host of other encumbrances contrived to suppress the voting power of Black and Brown people. We must vote and vote decisively because our democracy, community, and families cannot survive another four years of governance under the current administration.
One pew research study reported that 87% of black women polled identified as being registered as a Democrat, making us one of the most party loyal demographics in the country. In the 2017 Alabama special election for Jeff Sessions' Senate seat, political analysts agree it was the collective force of Black women’s votes that gave Doug Jones a decisive victory and sent him to the United States Senate.
As a pastoral rallying call to inspire and urge our congregation to vote, I’ve developed a Black Women’s Suffrage Syllabus for our Women’s Ministry. It’s a compilation of books, articles, podcasts, and other resources in remembrance of the activism of black women whose contributions to the suffrage movement have primarily gone uncelebrated if acknowledged at all by historians. Still, nonetheless, they persisted in their pursuit to overcome the disenfranchisement of the black vote.
I hope that these rich resources will raise awareness and deepen our appreciation for the sacrifices of our foremothers in the centuries-long fight for equality and freedom. The historic nomination of Kamala Harris as the first Black and South Asian woman nominated as Vice President to a major party ticket, has engendered new enthusiasm that we hope will translate into high voter turnout at the ballot box. The goal of this resource is to educate the minds and energize the hearts of our church members, women in particular, in hopes of empowering their faith to do their part in furthering our extraordinary legacy in the struggle for freedom and democracy.
Abrams, Stacey. Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. Henry Holt and Company, 2020.
Jones, Martha S. Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. Hatchett Book Group, 2020.
Larson, Kate Clifford. Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: A Portrait of An American Hero. The Random House Publishing Group, 2004.
Parker, Alison M. Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell. (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture). Released December 2020.
White, Jenn (Host). (2020, August 17). Black Women, The Right to Vote and The 19th Amendment. NPR 1A. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/17/903237839/black-women-the-right-to-vote-and-the-19th-amendment
Edelman, Roz (Host). (2020, August 18). Women’s Suffrage and the Black Women Left Out. Post Reports. https://www.washingtonpost.com/podcasts/post-reports/womens-suffrage-and-the-black-women-left-out/?tid=aud_rsslink&utm_source=podcasts&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=post-reports
Kim, Mina (Host). (2020, August 18). Historian Carol Anderson on Voting Rights and the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. KQED. https://www.kqed.org/forum/2010101879200/historian-carol-anderson-on-voting-rights-and-the-100th-anniversary-of-womens-suffrage
Bharara, Preet (Host). (2020, August 20). No Voter Left Behind with Maria Teresa Kumar & Martha S. Jones. Stay Tuned with Preet. https://omny.fm/shows/stay-tuned-with-preet/no-voter-left-behind-with-maria-teresa-kumar-marth
Dawson, Rosario and Retta (Co-Hosts). (2020, August 19). And Nothing Less: The Untold Stories of Women’s Fight for the Vote. PRX. https://beta.prx.org/stories/331098
Faith, Justice and the Civil Rights Movement Through the Life of Fannie Lou Hamer. Legacy Disciple. (Apple Podcasts)
1964: The Democratic National Convention Credentials Committee. (2007, August 13). Say It Plain: Great African American Speeches. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/
Kaplan, Molly (Host). The Black Women Behind the Ongoing Fight for Suffrage. At Liberty: ACLU. https://soundcloud.com/aclu/the-black-women-behind-the-ongoing-fight-for-suffrage
Suffrage isn't Simple. (2020, August 17). History This Week. https://play.acast.com/s/historythisweek/suffrageisntsimple
Waxman, Olivia B. 'It's a Struggle They Will Wage Alone.' How Black Women Won the Right to Vote. (2020, August 14). https://time.com/5876456/black-women-right-to-vote/
Blain, Keisha N. 'God Is Not Going to Put It in Your Lap.' What Made Fannie Lou Hamer’s Message on Civil Rights So Radical—And So Enduring. (2019, October 4). https://time.com/5692775/fannie-lou-hamer/
Brown, DeNeen L. Civil rights crusader Fannie Lou Hamer defied men — and presidents — who tried to silence her. (2017, October 6). https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/10/06/civil-rights-crusader-fannie-lou-hamer-defied-men-and-presidents-who-tried-to-silence-her/
ZOOM Presentation. Race, Gender, Politics and History: Reconstructing Visibility of Black Women’s Activism. (July 16).
Truth Be Told: Stories of Black Women's Fight for the Vote. https://www.evoke.org/truthbetold
Jones, Martha S. Black Women’s 200 Year Fight for the Vote. (2020, June 3). PBS. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/vote-black-women-200-year-fight-for-vote/
Written by Rev. Pamela LIghtsey, Ph.D
One of my friends on a recent phone call for a potential city appointment was asked to describe her work. She began by saying, “Well for my W-2 job, I do…” and ended with, “And for my W-9 jobs, I do…” How apt for the lives of so many who are doing the work of trying to dismantle bigotry, to bring peace to our global worlds and to protect this Earth from toxic damages. We are constantly juggling projects and responsibilities while at the same time trying to make sure we don’t neglect something or someone(s). In comes the idea of self-care.
Self-care as a process has its radical roots among activist ranks spanning back to the time of the 60s civil rights movement. Self-care was “a claiming [of] autonomy over the body as a political act against institutional, technocratic, very racist, and sexist medicine,” according to The New School professor Natalia Mehlman Petrzela. These days, along with making claims for our bodies, we must stake claims for the time to care for our bodies.
While I respect the idea of self-care, in light of the actual truth of my day-to-day world, I wish we spent more time talking about what strategies we take to actually carve out the time for self-care. To practice self-care as it is often advocated, you need time! Yet, the frequent assumption as it is translated in the listener’s ear is that you just decide on some practice and do it. Pick a spiritual practice and commit to it. When? Figure out what feeds your spirit and do it. When? You really need to take time to care for yourself. When? How? If your W-2 consists of several jobs in order to have a combined livable wage and you are a single parent, how do you have time to practice self-care? Many people in our nation are moving from hour to hour to care for their families and self-care feels like a privilege that is far from their grasp. As an activist with long W-2 and W-9 hours, self-care sometimes makes me feel guilty. How dare I when so many don’t even have a moment to spare on themselves?
“Take it!” was a lesson my mother taught me, that has become a saving mantra when it comes to carving out time for self-care. The space that I practice self-care in doesn’t need to be cute or luxurious. The time needn’t be planned in advance. In fact, I think this way of thinking about space and time for self-care is counterproductive. My mother, while working as a maid in Palm Beach would often “take it” – that is, when the owners of the mansion were away and since she too was away - from all seven of her children - she would grab a nice cold Coke and a bag of chips and lounge by the pool. Sure, she was technically supposed to be working but that ethical perspective meant nothing when she weighed it against the long hours she worked and the poor pay with no benefits. Instead, my mom knowing they would not be in the city but instead living up north during the hottest part of the summer months, planned her workday to complete all her tasks in order to have time just for herself. She took time for self-care and that practice has been a life-long lesson for me.
This matter of taking time for self-care is a subversive practice in our “hourly-wage, 9-5” nation. It requires perhaps more courage to take time for self-care as it does to protest on the streets because it really takes courage to say, I matter, knowing that some people will hear that as arrogance or lack of concern for others. So then, the Black Lives Matter stance must also become a question we ask ourselves: Do I matter to myself? If so, how will we reclaim our time (thank you Representative Waters) for the sake of our Black lives?
Poem by Alice Walker, the 2012 Election version.
You ask me why I smile
when you tell me you intend
in the coming national elections
to hold your nose
and vote for the lesser of two evils.
There are more than two evils out there,
is one reason I smile.
Another is that our old buddy Nostradamus
comes to mind, with his fearful
400 year old prophecy: that our world
and theirs too
(our “enemies” – lots of kids included there)
will end (by nuclear nakba or holocaust)
in our lifetime. Which makes the idea of elections
and the billions of dollars wasted on them
A Southerner of Color,
my people held the vote
while others, for centuries,
merely appeared to play
One thing I can assure
you of is this:
I will never betray such pure hearts
by voting for evil
even if it were microscopic
which, as you can see in any newscast
no matter the slant,
it is not.
I want something else;
a different system
One not seen
on this earth
for thousands of years. If ever.
Notice how this word has “man” right in the middle of it?
That’s one reason I like it. He is right there, front and center. But he is surrounded.
I want to vote and work for a way of life
that honors the feminine;
a way that acknowledges
the theft of the wisdom
female and dark Mother leadership
might have provided our spaceship
I am not thinking
of a talking head
kind of gal:
happy to be mixing
with the baddest
on the planet
her eyes a slit
her mouth a zipper.
No, I am speaking of true
Where women rise
to take their place
at the helm
of earth’s frail and failing ship;
where each thousand years
of our silence
and the cruel manner in which our values
of compassion and kindness
have been ridiculed
brought to bear on the disaster
of the present time.
The past must be examined closely, I believe, before we can leave
I am thinking of Democratic, and, perhaps
For who else knows so deeply
how to share but Mothers
and Grandmothers? Big sisters
both female and male?
Not to mention those in between.
To work at keeping
the entire community
would have as its icons
such fierce warriors
for good as
Aung San Suu Kyi,
& Barbara Lee:
With new ones always rising, wherever you look.
You are also on this list, but it is so long (Isis would appear midway) that I must stop or be unable to finish the poem! So just know I’ve stood you in a circle that includes Marian Wright Edelman, Amy Goodman, Sojourner Truth, Gloria Steinem and Mary McLeod Bethune. John Brown, Frederick Douglass, John Lennon and Howard Zinn are there. Happy to be surrounded!
There is no system
There is no system
now in place
that can change
the disastrous course
the Earth is on.
Who can doubt this?
The male leaders
appear to have abandoned
their very senses
though most appear
to live now
in their heads.
They murder humans and other
forests and rivers and mountains
they are in office
and never seem
to notice it.
They eat and drink devastation.
Women of the world,
Women of the world,
Is this devastation Us?
Would we kill whole continents for oil
(or anything else)
rather than limit
the number of consumer offspring we produce
and learn how to make our own fire?
Democratic Socialist Womanism.
A system of governance
we can dream and imagine and build together. One that recognizes
at least six thousand years
of brutally enforced complicity
in the assassination
of Mother Earth, but foresees six thousand years
ahead of us when we will not submit.
What will we need? A hundred years
at least to plan: (five hundred will be handed us gladly when the planet is scared enough)
in which circles of women meet,
organize ourselves, and,
allied with men
brave enough to stand with women,
men brave enough to stand with women,
nurture our planet to a degree of health.
And without apology —-
(impossible to make a bigger mess than has been made already) -—
devote ourselves, heedless of opposition,
to tirelessly serving and resuscitating Our Mother ship and with gratitude
for Her care of us
worshipfully commit to
By Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman
Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
I begin with the simple things of my days:
Fresh air to breathe,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!
I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:
My mother’s arms,
The strength of my father
The playmates of my childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to me from the lives
Of many who talked of days gone by when fairies
And giants and all kinds of magic held sway;
The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the
Eye with its reminder that life is good.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day
I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:
The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of my security;
The tightening of the grip in a simple handshake when I
Feared the step before me in darkness;
The whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest
And the claims of appetite were not to be denied;
The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open
Page when my decision hung in the balance.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.
I pass before me the main springs of my heritage:
The fruits of labors of countless generations who lived before me,
Without whom my own life would have no meaning;
The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp
And whose words would only find fulfillment
In the years which they would never see;
The workers whose sweat has watered the trees,
The leaves of which are for the healing of the nations;
The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons,
Whose courage made paths into new worlds and far off places;
The saviors whose blood was shed with a recklessness that only a dream
Could inspire and God could command.
For all this I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.
I linger over the meaning of my own life and the commitment
To which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
The little purposes in which I have shared my loves,
My desires, my gifts;
The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence
That I have never done my best, I have never dared
To reach for the highest;
The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind
Will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the
inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the
children of God as the waters cover the sea.
All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel,
I make as my sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,
Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.
Song by Dr. Kevin Johnson and Sarah Stephens
We Are Christmas
We are God's hands
To care for one another in these war torn lands
We are Christmas
The love that we share
To carry one another til we understand
We are Christmas
Preaching resources for addressing racism, white supremacy, and more - Pentecost 2020.
In the ongoing reality of racism, anti-blackness, white supremacy, transphobia, and more we stand in the theological truth that Black Lives Matter. If you need helpful resources to address Racism in America from the pulpit, these Biblical scholars provide helpful exegetical tools.
During times when you may not be able to meet in person, the work and ministry of the church continues to go on. Using learning science theory and an understanding of churches, Dr. Lindsay Hayes offers these resources for this moment and as a way of sustaining connectivity in the future.
June 20, 2020 | Join the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
June 25, 2020 | Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Grants Event - Teacher-Scholar Grantee Presentation of CCR Project
The Courageous Resisters Cohort is a small group of Women of Color pastors, professors, and justice practitioners who were selected to work collaboratively in broad and specific areas of social justice.
The next cohort is scheduled to begin in 2021. If you are interested in participating, send us a message through our Contact information.