The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Power of Words

I have slow to say anything about the controversy regarding soundbites from Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright's sermons over the last decade. I really have been thinking a lot and conversing with other people to hear what they're thinking as I formulate my response. But eventually one just has to say something, so here goes.

As so many have pointed out, there is a difference between a prophet/pastor and a president. Jeremiah Wright is one and Barack Obama wants to be the other. The president has to inspire us as a nation to be all that we should be, in its most moderate form. That means telling us enough truth about what we actually are so that she/he is trustworthy, but saying it in a way that makes it clear that we are not so bad and that we are loved. A prophet too tells us what we should be, but in its most radical form. The prophet shines a light on and emphasizes the parts of us that are far from what we should be, to the extent that we wonder whether we are or even should be loved. But the prophet loves us too. Jeremiah Wright is a prophet in a long tradition of prophets whose outrageousness is most apparent in the Old Testament.

Some people have objected that there is no difference then between my justification of Jeremiah Wright and the justifications of hate-filled religious figures both in Christianity and other traditions. I disagree. Whether a moral or political position is righteous or not depends on its explicit and implicit ends. Jeremiah Wright's ideal world includes people of all kinds, colors, and cultures. He has remained a part of the mostly white United Church of Christ and communes with other members of that church as brothers and sisters in Christ. He stands against oppression anywhere and everywhere and does not justify violence or hatred on the basis of nationalism, either American or Black. Wright is not hate-filled. There is a difference between anger and hatred. And by the way, his anger is by no means outdated.

I don't agree with everything Dr. Wright said/says or the way in which he said it. (Since I am an American, I pray that God never damns us despite the ways in which we damn ourselves.) But I do know that because he said what he said and said it the radical way he said it, we are having a conversation as nation that we have not had in a long time, if ever. Wright's work is not perfect, but he is not a kook. And his prophetic role is vindicated by the conversation itself.

I'll close now, but I also commend to you the discussion of these issues on Rev. Dr. Renita Weems's blog

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Open Letter to Sharpton

Rev. Sharpton,

I have been following the story of the brutal rape that occurred at Dunbar Village. I am aware that organizers on behalf of the victim repeatedly made efforts to engage you in speaking out on her behalf and on behalf of the residents of that under-served, under-policed, under-resourced community. I know that those efforts fell on deaf ears. For you to appear with the perpetrators' families and the NAACP to decry the "injustice" of keeping them in jail until trial is the height and depth of betrayal to the cause of justice.

I too believe in fairness as it relates to the treatment of prisoners. But I am clear, as you should be, that there are some crimes so heinous and some defendants so lacking in conscience that the public interest is best served by their being held without bail until their trial. Every rape case is not the same. Whether the white teens accused in Boca Raton should be out on bail or not is, therefore, immaterial. Advocate for a speedy trial, but don't insult the victims, the women of that community ,and Black women generally by standing up for young people who in all likelihood have committed an unspeakable and brutal act and calling that a call for justice.

Let me say that for me the final insult was your half-hearted, cast off remark about not supporting the brutality of that crime or any crime against women. The issue of the violence, humiliation, perversion, and torture that the victims endured should not be treated as an after thought, incidental to the larger and more important point. Their injury is really the whole point here. Your callousness contributes to that injury.

Rev. Leslie D. Callahan, PhD

Kwame (and Others) Grow Up

Let's talk about the need for Black so-called leaders to get real and be responsible. Kwame Kilpatrick's State of the City Address earlier this week demonstrated once again that he doesn't know the meaning of accountability. Painting his political critics and the purported nutcases who are sending his family hate mail with the same broad brush and continuing to deny his own fundamental culpability for the degeneration of the (already terrible) reputation of the city and of his administration, Kilpatrick attributed all his troubles to the difficulty of being a Black man in America. But considering the fact that he persistently demonstrates the character and tendencies of a prepubescent child, always blaming other people for actions that are singularly his, I don't know how he can even claim to know what it's like to be a grown up, an adult of any color.

Today I asked a black boy who is just beginning the difficult transition that is puberty what it means to him that his voice is changing. He said that it means he is maturing and growing up. Unfortunately, for some people the physical changes that happen as a result of glands and hormones never translate into the emotional, mental, and spiritual transformation that equate to true maturity. I find myself as a minister and a friend giving the same advice to other people that I am trying to embody in myself - Grow Up!

Grow up and take responsibility for your choices and their consequences. Grow up and realize that even if the world did owe you something, you don't have the power to enforce the payment. Grow up and deal with your past honestly so that you have the hope of a healthy present and a possible future. Grow up and learn that just because you want it doesn't mean that you should or will have it - whatever it is. Grow up and acknowledge that much of your life and its contours really are in your hands.

Kwame Kilpatrick the errant mayor did not emerge overnight. Recent events are just the culmination of a history of license. Too many people winked at his excesses for too long. He is not alone or exceptional. He just needs to grow up! And all who view his spiraling free fall should know that while our immaturity and self-gratification may not land us in the news, our selfishness and juvenile behavior are just as destructive in our sphere as his is in his.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dunbar Village and Rev. Al

Those of you who pay attention to the Black blogosphere are probably familiar with the heinous and violent crime perpetrated last summer on a Black woman and her son in Dunbar Village, a low-income, high-crime neighborhood West Palm Beach, FL. (If you're not, click here.) Especially if you read one of my favorite sites What About Our Daughters, you also know that repeated invitations went out to Rev. Al Sharpton and the local NAACP to get involved in righting the wrongs continuously perpetrated on the people of color who live in Dunbar Village without proper lighting or policing and are therefore left prey to the violent, pernicious whims of predators, resident and non-resident, adult and juvenile.

Now that you're up to date, let me tell you the latest. While stumping in FL to prevent the seating of that state's Democratic delegates, whose presence in Denver could potentially determine the Democratic nominee, Rev. Al took a moment to speak out about Dunbar Village. No, he did not finally come to his senses and offer support to the victim and her son. Rather, he joined the local NAACP in protesting the denial of bail to the four "boys" accused of the vicious rape.

What in the world is wrong with our so-called Black leaders? Why are they always falling over themselves to take up the cause of accused criminals? I too am a believer in the presumption of innocence for purposes of mandating a fair trial. The accused have a right to trial and to adequate representation during said trial. But my limited knowledge of the law (from watching Law and Order)and my common sense teach me that certain crimes are so heinous that the public interest is best served by the accused remaining in jail until trial. Leave these four probable perps in lockup and give them a speedy trial so that if they are not the actual perps we find that out quickly. But if they are the actual perps, then I don't want them to ever see the light of day on the outside again. They are without a conscience.

People, it serves no JUST cause to have all of the advocacy on the side of the ACCUSED and no advocacy for the VICTIMS. If Dunbar Village wasn't Rev. Al's thing in the fall when the whole community was placed in danger because those conscienceless criminals were on the loose, then Dunbar Village should not be Rev. Al's thing now. The fact that accused white rapist are out on bail in Boca is immaterial. When will our community learn that it is dangerous to advocate for wrongdoers uncritically? While it was surely a miscarriage of justice to charge the the Jena 6 with attempted murder, it was also wrong not to hold them accountable for the assault on the white kid, no matter how much that assault was provoked by insurgent racism in the Jena community. Now that one of the kids has been subsequently charged with another assault, the whole marching community has egg on its face.

Now that this post has a "...and the kitchen sink" quality to it, let me get to the real point. Obviously, as Renita Weems and others are pointing out, the time has come for us as Black women to defend our own selves and our own interests. That's what this post is all about. I am standing up in this post to join all the other sisters who are tired of having our lives, interests, and even bodies thrown under the proverbial bus of Black protest and progress. I love Black men because they are a part of our larger community. But the time has come for sisters to love only the brothers who love us back. Those brothers we should love hard and well. The others, like Rev. Al, can go back to the hell from which their sexist, demeaning, woman-hating ideologies and actions came.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

1 in 4?

Here's what you need to know, according to the New York Times Article detailing Centers for Disease Control findings: Overall, one in four girls aged 14 to 19 has an sexually transmitted disease, most commonly human pampiloma virus (HPV). And 15 percent of those infected have more than one of the diseases. For African American girls, the rate of infection is 1 in 2.

What are we going to do? How are we going to give our young people the information that gives them a hope of remaining safe? How are we as a community going to confront the crisis of dangerous sexual behavior among our young people?

Does the church have anything useful to say about any of this? Does our government? \

Monday, March 10, 2008

When will they ever learn?

I actually thought it was some kind of crazy joke. Surely, Eliot Spitzer the Governor of New York would not be stupid enough to solicit a prostitute, high-priced or otherwise. After all of these years of media scrutiny on elected officials and after making his own name as the defender of all that is ethical, surely Spitzer was not paying for sex. But then I went to the NY Times webpage. Apparently, Spitzer's name will be added to the long list of stupid politicians who did not know that what is done in the dark will come to light. Kwame Kilpatrick, mayor of Detroit, should have sent Spitzer a text message.

I am not naive. I know that people have shadow sides to their personalities. I know that many people are unfaithful to their spouses and that prostitution is known as the oldest profession for a reason. What I don't understand is how people like Spitzer even have time to hire out for sex. He was supposed to be running one of the largest, most populous and complex states in the Union. He's got illegal immigrants to register, a budget to balance, corruption to expose and excise. Not to mention a wife and kids to take care of. He shouldn't even have time to be ordering up sex in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

I don't think Spitzer should be let off the hook. I think he should resign in disgrace, not for adultery or even for hypocrisy. I think he should resign because he wasted precious time. One of my friends said it better than I ever could, when she asked why our public servants,"especially the ones whose leadership is so critically needed on issues and policies affecting children, women and the vulnerable ALL NEED CROTCH SUPERVISORS and WILD and ERRANT PENIS RESTRAINT BELTS?"

By the way, I think Kilpatrick should resign too.