Tired….silent

Ok White people! It’s your turn!

Need for you to open your mouth! It’s your turn.

You know you saw the murder of Ahmaud Arbery! It’s your turn!

You know you watched the white officer’s knee in the neck of George Floyd. Oh yes you did!

It’s your turn.

I’m tired…and would like to rest… if only for a little while.

It’s your turn.

Joy is coming.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). This scripture is a familiar one in my community. I grew up hearing those who were sharecroppers, working on Jim Crow farms, whisper this scripture in their prayers on Sunday mornings at Mt. Olive AME Church in Woodrow, SC. People would dance and shout just in the hearing of this scripture. People hung on these words day and night, in the midst of an oppressive era. When racist called my community derogatory names, when local government tried to take away their voting rights, when banks refuse to give them loans, when they fought a war and then were deny any kind of welcome home parade from the country they fought for, this scripture provided strength to my ancestors to stand and demand their rights.

And here we are again, in a continuation of an oppressive era, this scripture resonating in my mind over and over. Today, my black community are the ones dying more from the Covid-19 virus; having inadequate or no healthcare, working essential jobs such as CNA’s, grocery clerks, public transit workers, assembly workers in meat factories; only allowed to take unpaid sick leave. And here we are again, having to deal with burying our dead not only from the virus but now from white supremacy families who just believe that all black young boys and men should be hunted down and killed. We pause and call the name of Ahmaud Arbery. We work hard to provide for our families. In fact we work ten times as hard to get the same things, housing, transportation, education, etc. And here we are again, being the ones who will suffer more from an economic recession. And here we are again, breathing into our nostrils, this beloved scripture.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. When would the joy come? When would the weeping stop? Why does the weeping have to endure for the whole night? Isn’t a whole night of crying enough? Is it that crying throughout the night will produce joy in the morning? So in the morning, I have something to look forward to? These kind of questions pop in one’s mind, I would guess, when the burden of pain seems just too much to bare. Or, if I can be honest, when one wonders if God really cares. But then I am reminded that my ancestors were not a selfish people that thought only of their immediate satisfactions. My people have great vision; to see beyond hateful bigotry. My people have great vision; to see beyond even the deaths created by our oppressors. My people have great vision; we arrived in chains but broke loose to create magic and provide to a world musicians, scientist, engineers, entrepreneurs, educators, farmers, congresspersons, senators, a black president and so much more. So when I stop and remember the amazing contributions that my people have given to this world, out of their love for humanity, I understand the tears and the endurance, the struggle to make this world a welcoming place. The world needs us. The world would be lost without the richness and grace of God’s melanin people.

Weeping may endure for a night. Water is required for growth. Tears made our roots stronger. Tears provided nourishment for my people. We endure in the hope and as we sprouted forth, seeds fell to the ground, but the seeds can never be dormant. We produce from our tears new generations and in them Joy arise. Understand, we cannot be stopped. Joy always comes in the morning.

To my ancestors…I understand now. Thank you!

Sunday

We woke up again to a cloudy, cold and rainy day in Philadelphia. It is Sunday. This day we would usually find ourselves in our perspective church buildings gathering for worship. My husband and I attend different churches. We are both ordained clergy, he in the Lutheran tradition and me in the Methodist tradition. We practice our faith a little differently, but we come back to the centering of our faith, which is Love. This quiet Sunday has provided me the opportunity to meditate on why this particular day of the week is so needed during this pandemic crisis the world is experiencing.

It is becoming difficult to get up on Sunday mornings and not be able to head out to the church building where I get to see people like Sister Woods, who has a way of correcting and loving you at the same time. For those of us who grew up in the black church, you already can imagine a Sister Woods, so you know she don’t play! Sister Robyn, who is that true black “sistah” that carries the justice torch and will stand toe to toe questioning the scripture, forcing pastor to deal with the injustice so many don’t like to take in the pulpit; the young children and teens inspiring adults to do better because, well you know, we really don’t have this spiritual thing all together and the children are there to remind us that we are not all that smart. I miss sitting and singing songs of Zion with my folks! Now, don’t get me wrong! I do like the fact that I can stay in my pajamas all day, look at a virtual worship service, sing off key in the privacy of my bedroom and make ugly faces if I kinda don’t agree with the pastor’s sermon. And now, I find myself surfing on Facebook Live for community, for belonging, for hope and in my search, I have found so many wonderful worship services that have sparked me to think differently about Sunday mornings. And this is what Sundays bring.

Sundays offer us the opportunity to start over again. It is a beginning of the week where we can decide to do things differently than the previous week where we may have experienced stress, the frustration of seeing the hurt in people eyes as they formulate lines to either go in grocery stores or stand in food lines for long period of time; anxiety that is heighten when another first of the month is about to roll around reminding us that mortgage and rent are due soon. Sundays offer the chance to seek compassion and acceptance. Sunday offers hope, dreams and rest as we prepare ourselves for the coming week. We get another chance, to try again, to study again, to live again, to take another step and just maybe we will experience new possibilities, amazing adventures because embracing Sundays gives us clearer vision and strong will to continue on.

So I offer this to you. During this time where we are staying home, which is the most loving thing we can do for everyone right now, find a worship service online that speaks to your authentic self. If you come across a worship service that preaches hatred, racism, homophobia, sexism, white supremacy, log away! Find a worship service that speaks of love and only love. I am a Christian. But you don’t have to be. A community that embodies love is all that matters. Allow Sunday to become your new beginning that happens over and over again, gaining strength over and over again, growing in grace over and over again until Sunday is everyday.

A favorite song from my Christian tradition, written by Daryl Coley, speaks this way:

When Sunday comes My trouble gone. As soon as it gets here I’ll have a new song. When Sunday comes I won’t have to cry no more.

Every trial, every tribulation will be left behind – When Sunday comes.

My Hat

There is something about wearing a hat that makes me happy. When I want to feel funky and sexy, I have this wide brim black hat that I put on and just like that, I become that woman who can walk in a room and every one stops to notice that I have arrived! At least this is what happens in my mine and that’s all that really matters. All of a sudden I am fierce and confident. I went to a play wearing this amazing hat and some woman just started talking to me and said she knew me from somewhere, then her friends came over and I became the center of attention! I was so classy, smiling from ear to ear, talking with a flair of a valley girl leftover in an old black woman’s body. Yeah, this hat brings out some weird stuff!

Look, have some fun! Step out in something that makes you feel like you are invincible. For me, its that wide brim hat! If one night you’re out on the town and you see this woman flailing her arms and acting like she’s the bomb, well that will be me! Come over and hang with me! I promise you my hat will not disappoint!

This is not about God

God. I believe you hear us when we cry out. I believe you see our tears. Some folks have said that we should take this quarantine time to be quiet and still, to hear your voice, to make our relationship better with you, so that we can be saved, so that you can take us to heaven when we die.

We are many people and there are many names that we call you. So, I’m not sure exactly if all we are to do is to just be with you during this time or instead, listen and build on ourselves individually, that maybe, just maybe when this is all over, there will be so much love that overflows in this world because we have realized that what we do individually impacts what “good” can happen to the whole world.

God. This is not about you, right? This is not about us curling up in our corner, reading our bibles or other religious books just to say that we spent time with you. Right? In this moment, we are learning to be better stewards of the earth. Right? In this moment, we are learning to be who and what you created us to be, and that is to be “Very good”. Right? This is not about separating ourselves, only to return to those very thoughts that separated us before, self-centeredness, hatred, greed, lust, racism, sexism, all the things that are not loving. Right?

When our focus is on what God can do for me, we miss God totally. It is quite alright to meditate with God, quite alright to worship and praise. It is quite alright to seek God’s face. But it is not alright to hide behind God. This is not about God. This is how we operate in a world that God created for us to take care of, to manage, to help build people. God trust us in allowing us to name plants and animals, bodies of water, land. That’s a lot of of trust. Imagine, God trusting us to figure this thing out!

Where are you? What will you become when this pandemic is over? Will you become, “Very good?” This is my prayer for all us.

Nothing

There is so much to say during this pandemic! And yet I have absolutely nothing to say. I feel exactly the way a blank sheet of paper feels. Nothing coming from the page. Just a stare. Maybe a sigh. A tear. So I will embrace nothing, hoping that something will come tomorrow.

Say a Prayer

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Habakkuk 1:1-4 NRSV.

(The Prophet’s Complaint) ” O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous-therefore judgment comes forth perverted. ”

Let’s pray.

God we open ourselves to you. We stand before you hurting and confused. Our world is in desperate need of your arms to hold us. We are scared, tired and weary. Hear us, O God. We have faith God. Our faith did not leave us. We stand before you angry. We stand before you human.

Heal the sick. Protect the helpers. Protect the elderly. Protect the young.

We stand naked before you God, with all of the ugliness, rudeness and unloving things that we have done. Forgive us O God! We need you. Don’t turn away from us. Amen.

Invitation to My Table

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I started writing this piece on February 20th. I stopped for some reason, but I find it to be relevant as we are in the midst of a pandemic with Covid-19. So from where I left off…

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the National Faith Forum 2020 in Las Vegas, NV. I was overwhelmed with joy, seeing people operate in their perspective faiths, for the goal of liberating the oppressed; the low-wage worker, the transgender, the single parent, the uneducated child, all of God’s children that we pretend not to see. And what a place to gather, a city where residence struggle for housing and living wages. The moment we got into the Uber, the driver asked us whether we were there to party. Once we told her the reason for our visit, to be in a space with other like-minded loving people of God, she immediately said, “I am taking care of my friend’s four children, because she is homeless and her children were taken away because she had no place for them to live.” One of us gave her information to contact an organization in her city. I don’t know how anyone else felt in the car, but I wanted goodness to happen immediately. I wanted those four children to have their own rooms and a big backyard to run and play. That would not happen today. Unfortunately for many poor families in our country, playing in a backyard is a far away dream. We were dropped off in front of this glamorous hotel. The driver offered us free water just for being a customer. I’m sure each of us offered her a silent prayer.

During the forum, we had the opportunity to hear what others were doing in their perspective communities, transforming neighborhoods, prison reform and speaking to government officials concerning fair education funding. I felt proud to be among what I called great prophets, speaking to the Goliaths, telling them that all people are to be treated fair and these prophets would not back down. It was amazing! But then I had to deal with my shit. As I sat listening, I wondered where have I participated in transforming power. Wanting the four children to have their own room is one thing but how have I helped back home, creating space for prosperity among my neighbor, speaking on behalf of the voiceless? Realizing at that moment, that my wanting was a far away dream as well. Yeah, I could imagine it, the beauty of raising my power fist in the air, the feel good feeling of sitting at the table with all these strong prophets, but I wasn’t doing shit to make a difference. Seriously, nothing!

It dawned on me that I was invited to this table. Invited by good people who believed in the work of justice. Growing up in the 1960 South, whenever you were invited to someone’s house, you were taught to be respectful. You were appreciative and you smile a lot, nodding and being quiet. I understood from this moment that every table I’ve been invited to, if it’s a new job, a new church, a new community, a new school, a new oppressor, whatever. The mere fact of me believing that they invited me in, I should be nice and respectful, quiet and appreciative. At least I was surviving at the benefit of their invitation. I realized that I’ve been sitting at the table all my life believing that I should just be glad to be at a table. God forgive me. I screamed with joy in front of those prophets who invited me and said, “I have a right to be at this table, I don’t need to be nice or kind!” I’m so glad at this table they comforted and smile and said… “We would be glad to be invited to your table!” These were the most powerful words I had heard in my life time. I didn’t know what to do next! But at that moment, I mattered! All the injustice I could never explain, all the pain and guilt of growing up in an oppressing time and accepting scraps from the table because I just wanted to merely survive! At that moment I had power. My table was worthy enough.

As we all go through this pandemic we need to be aware that others will invite us to their table, not physically of course. But they will invite us when they are trying to figure out how to make a living on an unemployment check. They will invite us when there is not enough food in their cupboards, they will invite us when their communities experience gentrification, they will invite us when their health care no longer exist, they will invite us when they are unable to bury their child due to senseless gun violence. And they will invite us as Covid-19 tears apart all they have worked for. I never sat down at the table of the Uber driver taking care of four children. I heard her and smile, nod. Maybe none of us that day, actually took time to sit at her table. It requires the discomfort to leave ours, knowing that we may not have all the answers or knowing that maybe just sitting with her trouble is all that’s required. Maybe we didn’t think her table was worthy enough or maybe we just wanted to feel good, smile, nod and dream of what can be instead of dealing with the ugliness of what is. The Uber driver table is worthy. The four children’s table is worthy. The homeless mom’s table is worthy. Sitting at the table means that you will probably get food thrown on you, you may not like the main dish, the kool-aid may not be sweet enough, but hey, deal with! Don’t you think they’ve sat at your table long enough?

Sit at someone’s table where life happens and trouble comes. Don’t rush through the meal and conversation; it is a worthy table with worthy people.

Oscar Night

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I’m looking at the 2020 Oscars and having a moment. Remembering when I was eight years old and saying one day I’m going to be on stage getting that Oscar. I loved acting and singing, knowing at such an early age what my talent was. I just knew one day I would be there. I’m not.

Yes, I’m sad that I did not reach out for my dreams. I’m sad that I didn’t try, at all to go for what I knew I could do. I should have listened to my heart and not listened to my mother who wanted to make sure I was able to eat and said, go to college, study business administration and get a skill to fall back on. I remember sitting in the back of the college auditorium, seeing students rehearsing for their upcoming play, “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Me, next day, singing, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, in the girl’s dormitory bathroom and hearing one of my floor mates applauding the sound of my voice. I should have changed my major then.

It’s not anyone’s fault. But let me just say this to a parent who could be poor, afraid that you don’t have much to offer to your children, afraid that your children’s life may pattern the life of yours. Tell your child to trust their gifts, tell your child their talent is big enough to carry them into success. For if you don’t, you child will pattern their life after yours, a life of being afraid, a life of shoulda, woulda, a life of sitting sixty years later, drinking a glass of red wine, wondering what could have been.

I don’t dislike my life now. It took be a while to get to a place of contentment. But damn, I could have been a star!!

My Brother, Carl

I was attending a visit with a client and his daughter when suddenly I had this urge to check Facebook. I gasped when I saw the first status of my friends were from my niece with the message, “It is with sadness that Carl Pinkney passed away on Jan 2, 2020.” Immediately, I ran out of the room in tears that my nephew, who I called my brother was gone. I wasn’t upset on the way I found out about his death; that wasn’t an issue. I was upset because I never told him how special he was to me.

Carl and I were born ten days apart. Carl was the oldest. Carl’s grandmother, Katie, took me into her home when I was only a couple of hours old. If anyone from the South read this, they would understand that when a young teen girl gave birth and was unable to take care of her child, there were families who stepped in and raise that child. No questions asked. No legal papers drawn. This was how shame and caring functioned at the same time. This is how Carl and I met. Babies who would be raised together, sleeping in the same crib, starting kindergarten together, first grade, fighting with each other and being friends. We were inseparable. We held hands walking into our kindergarten class together and when we went to first grade, we were in the same class. I always felt safe because he was near.

Our homes were next door to each other and I spend almost every night at Carl’s house for supper. To be honest, Carl’s mother, Katie’s daughter-in-law, was a great cook. I felt like I belong sitting at their kitchen table. At Katie’s house there was just her and I, but the house next door was always filled with laughter. Carl love telling jokes and sometimes they were not clean jokes. One time, his mother actually washed his mouth out with soap. He was my hero.

Carl and his family moved to another part of the county when he was a teenager. His high school and my high school were arch rivals. Of course, Carl’s high school had the better football team and marching band. Carl played saxophone in the band. He idolized his older brother, Earl, who also played saxophone. Earl died when we were eight. We still found ways to see each other on the weekends, partying in places we should not be, smoking weed and drinking Colt 45. His friends became my friends and vice-versa. After graduation we attended the same college; we both dropped out. We both seemed to be chasing a dream or chasing life that would, so we thought, make us whole and complete. Carl joined the military. I moved to New York. We became distant from each other, chasing whatever desire we had that demanded us to give up our childhood.

This is what I remember about my brother, Carl kept his childhood alive, I gave up mine. He always had a twinkle in his eye because he kept chasing life. The way my niece described him, Carl was optimistic. He never lost hope. Even in his flaws, and there were many, the twinkle was always there. Carl lived life on his terms that were always not so pleasing to all of us, but he lived life still chasing the fullness of it. He struggled, got back up, struggled and got back up again. He told stories, yes some fabricated, but he had a gift of gab and he knew it. His stories were warm and humorous; his mission to make people laugh at themselves, stop and see the beauty and struggle of life.

Carl purchased a home in October of 2019; something that may seem simple for some but for him, it was major! After his 60th birthday, which was August 2019, he finally did something to let people notice that he could never fail. He was proud! He posted pictures of his home on Facebook, with emphasis of the pool in the backyard. He standing proudly with his wife after signing the mortgage papers, with key in hand! I can only imagine him saying, some folks counted me out, but God never did. He won’t get to swim in that pool but I’m sure he takes delight that his grandchildren will. He won’t get to sit in the rocking chair on the front porch, sipping on ice tea, or something else, telling his stories, but I’m sure those of us who love him will sit and sip ice tea, or something else, re-telling his wonderful fabricated stories and remembering to laugh at ourselves.

Carl was baptized a few months before he bought his home. His vices tried to defined him but he kept seeking life and he kept seeking his dream. I love him for that. I believe he found peace. I believe he knew, this time for sure, that he could never fail. Failure just wasn’t in him. John 16:33, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage, I have conquered the world!”

I hope we all can learn from my brother. Carl would say this; “When the world is kicking your ass, because the world will, never give up, never give in, never stop fighting, never stop believing; because God has already ordained that, you will win.”

Miss you my brother!