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Friday, July 21, 2017

Waiting in Umm al-Khair

The heartbreaking details of people waiting for their homes to be destroyed by the Israeli authorities is told again and again by the people of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Khair. Umm al-Khair is a Palestinian village located in the Hebron Governorate of the southern West Bank. The people eloquently describe the waiting as something akin to pregnancy. They are waiting for the birth of something, perhaps early one morning, with the realization that it will bring about the cruel destruction of their homes and their way of life. The villagers search the apparently fertile world around them—nearby settlers who enjoy modern life, the new military closed zones, the hum of drones above them near their rural homes, they search for answers. They may wonder why muted responses come from the international community as Israel continues demolitions that contravene explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. They may wonder how the world goes on, as if unaware of or forgetting real human beings in Umm al-Khair. Who will shelter them from an empire whose army has conquered the land where they live and before whose power they are otherwise powerless? Who will protect them from a power that tramples on their basic human rights and cruelly forces them from their homes? Who will save them from a force that destroys their livelihood? Who will halt the aggression? ‘Id al-Hajalin, a resident of Umm al-Khair ask, “Why do they want to destroy my house? Where can I go? Can I go to America? I have nothing, and they want to take that nothing from me. Can you help me? Where am I supposed to go?[1] Demolitions of homes and other structures that compel the people of Umm al-Khair to leave their homes may amount to the forcible transfer of residents of an occupied territory, which is a war crime. It is 5:15 am in Umm al-Khair. I hear the rumble of a large vehicle coming up the road. No, the domolition is not scheduled for today. Umm al-Khair is featured in the 2016 book "The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine" by Ben Ehrenreich.[2]

[1] David Dean Shulman, 'On Being Unfree:Fences, Roadblocks and the Iron Cage of Palestine,' Manoa Vol, 20, No. 2, 2008, pp. 13-32

Thursday, July 20, 2017

NOTES FROM UM AL KHAIR (West Hebron Hills, Palestine)

We traveled to Um Al Khair by taxi from Hebron. We traveled to Yata where we were expecting an awaiting car. My team member had made the arrangements so I trusted that the trip would be routine. Nothing is routine in Palestine. Because neither my team member nor I speak Arabic, we got into a car we thought to be the one waiting for us. The price to our destination was 15 shekels. Two other individuals piled into this small vehicle. In the best Arabic we new, we told the driver we wanted to go to Um Al Khair. The driver had a conversation with the two other passengers about the town of Ar-Tuwani, a place known to us, but a bit further up Route 317. We believed that the two passengers had helped the driver locate out destination, and as they both reached the point where they got out of the taxi, we felt confident that we were on the way. We were wrong. Our driver did not know the way to Um Al Khair, and we could not tell him. We phoned out contact in Um Al Khair who spoke to the driver in Arabic. At this point, the driver was no longer interested in taking us to Um Al Khair. He asked us for 50 shekels. Our contact in Um Al Khair instructed us to pay him the 50 shekels and exit the car. We both reached for 50 shekels at once, and the driver responded that he wanted 50 shekels a piece. We were not going for that!  He drove away leaving us on an unfamiliar road. For all intent and purposes, we were lost. Several locals driving by signaled to us, an elderly white woman and a black man. But because we could not speak the language we were distrustful. We finally got another call through to our host in Um Al Khair who sent a car to pick us up. Lesson learned: Learn the language.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Shopping While Black

Shopping While Black

Today I shopped at the Giant Food Store on Route 611 in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. I was shopping for fresh flat-leaf parsley. I asked a store employee for parsley was and he told me that it was with the spices. He said he did not know where the spices were. I thanked him and found the parsley myself near the vegetables. A few minutes later I observe a white male asking the same store employee for help. The employee left what he was doing and helped the white man find what he was looking for. I am black and I take it that I don’t matter in the economy of this worker. On Sunday, I took a Delta Airline flight from Atlanta to New York. I observed a white women leave the coach section of the aircraft to use the toilet in the first class section. It occurred to me that she was not challenged because of her white skin. When an elderly black man attempted the same thing, his skin told on him “This facility is reserved for first class passengers.” I hope he didn’t pee on himself while waiting for the coffee and snack cart to finish the rounds. The funny thing is that the flight attendant probably did not realize that the white woman was not a first class passenger. But she knew that the black man belonged in the back of the plane. She had her eyes on him. Daily black people endure these little indignities. Daily, while walking, riding a bike, speaking black, shopping while black, flying on planes while black, being in the park, swimming at the pool, being in church, in a police van, black in court, we are treated differently. Just for being black.

Headlines abound with stories of an unarmed blacks being killed by police officers who are not doing something wrong, but for simply being black.The recent killings of unarmed black men, women and children by police in New York, Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio and Florida, and the failure to prosecute the killers, sends the message to black communities that black lives do not matter. Unarmed black people were killed by police at 5x the rate of unarmed whites in 2015. (Source: Mapping Police Posters reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot,” “I Can’t Breathe,” communicate the reality of a specific kind of racial vulnerability that black people experience on a daily basis. How does all this communicate to black people that their lives don’t matter?

A reason the chant “Black Lives Matter” is so important is that it states the obvious. It is a statement of outrage and a demand for equality in the face of acts that violates accepted standards of behavior. It is a sound that links the history of slavery, of rape of black women, of poor schools, and a prison system geared toward the warehousing, demoralizing and destruction of black lives, but also a police system that is regularly videoed taking black lives because some officer relies more on a gun rather than training.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Black Lives Matter

When I moved to South Carolina 8 years ago, one of the things I gave up in leaving New York was my membership in an investment club. I looked around for several years to find a club in South Carolina, and I found one in Aiken, SC. I sent an email to the contact person and was invited to a meeting. I am a professor of Church and Ministry at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary Lenoir-Rhyne University, Columbia, SC. That is how I introduced myself in my email. I am also black. My sense is that the club members expected a white male. I attended a meeting and learned that according to club rules, I would have to attend at least three meetings before I could be proposed for membership. I missed the next meeting due to the South Carolina flood of 2015. Two weeks after the meeting I missed I received an email which pointed out that the investment club was declining my membership application because I was not nominated by a club member. Translated, it means that I was denied membership in a white investment club because I am black. Black Lives Matter!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Ethnic Day

I have wondered for awhile about the identities of persons I make contact with during the day. On a trip to New York last September, I found out how diverse my encounters are. Some are missing.

7:30 am Robert F. Kennedy Tool Booth, NYC - A black woman took my bridge crossing fee
8:00 am - Purchased food at Dunkin Donuts - A Guyanese woman took my money and order.
8:05 am - A black Jamaican woman handed me my food order.
8:30 am - Arrived at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Springfield Gardens, Queens, NY. Will be with this African Descent Congregation for the next six hours.
9:38 am - Spoke to Jamaican/American man about parking in church parking lot.
10:00 am - Greeted several NYC police officers along congregation parade route, 4 whites, 3 blacks, all males.
4:00 pm - A black woman checked my rental car in at LaGuardia Airport, NYC
4:10pm - A black male drove the rental shuttle
4:12 pm - Had a brief conversation with a white couple in the shuttle. I initiated it.
4:20 pm - Latino woman processed my rental car return
5:59 pm - My bartender was Equdorian  (male) at LaGuardia Airport.
6:04 pm - Had brief exchange with a white male at the bar about the Beatles hit, Eight Days A Week, which was background music. I initiated conversation.
6:16 pm - Conversation with Guyanese male at bar. He initiated conversation.
7:00 pm - Indian woman directed me to TSA line
7:05 pm - Interact with black male, white female, and black woman TSA agents
7:30 pm - Boarded flight, greeted by white woman flight attendant
7:35 pm - Greeted Mexican seating partner
9:30 pm - paid parking fee to black woman attendant in Columbia, SC

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Elder Brother Bill Jones, the Co-founder and Chairman of the First World Alliance Lecture Series made his transition to the ancestral realm while at St. Luke's Hospital in Harlem, NY, December 17, 2010. It has been almost three years, and his presence lingers. Through Bill's leadership (and Sister Keffa's) The First World Alliance introduced millions of people to the works of Dr. Josef ben Jochannan, Dr. John H. Clarke, Dr. Asa Hilliard III, Dr. Leonard Jefferies, Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, Brother James Smalls , Dr, Rosaline Jefferies and many other fine Africana scholars. Bill founded a school for Africana studies at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, where I served as pastor. I was host and student. In the 80s we spoke almost weekly. I am not sure who was the sounding board. Bill Jones was deeply committed to publishing and publicizing the African origin and roots of a wide variety of thought, achievements, and cultural contributions. Bill wanted his students (peers, strangers) to know the rich history and traditions of Black Africans. He has left a rich legacy.

Blogging From Ghana

I arrived in Accra, Ghana for a four month stay, September 7, 2013. I am Visiting Professor of Church and Ministry at Good News Theological College and Seminary. Good News is a school founded in the 1970s to serve the educational needs of pastors and lay leaders of African Independent churches.

This morning, while I prepared a cup of coffee I heard the voices of small children. Glancing out  the kitchen window I saw four boys and a girl foraging in the bush. I asked the housekeeper (yes the college employees housekeepers) what were they up to. She reported that the children were collecting snails. The children were collecting snails for a meal.