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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!

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.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sean Bell Remembered

On the sixth anniversary of his death

On graves all across the globe we spot the familiar "RIP." This is a death wish. We wish that the souls of dead persons can rest. If such a wish were ever true, it would be highly unlikely that Sean Bell could be so blessed. Six years ago Justice Arthur Cooperman found credible the versions of police officers who killed an unarmed Sean Bell while he was attempting to escape their deadly gun fire. The New York City Police Department found otherwise. The undercover police detective who fired the first bullets in the 50-shot barrage that killed an unarmed Sean Bell as he left his bachelor party was fired. Three other officers involved in the slaying resigned.The officers fired 50 bullets at three unarmed men who sat defenceless in a car. The defence painted the victims as dangerous drunken thugs. Drunk they may have been, but they were unarmed. No drugs were found in their possession. No opened containers of alcohol. No outstanding court summonses. Three young persons of color were at a rowdy bar celebrating the marriage of Sean. He was to be married later that day. Judge Cooperman believed the officers, just as the jurors believed the officers in the shooting of Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant who was also gunned down in a hail of 41 bullets by police officers who mistook his wallet for a gun.

How can the soul of Sean Bell "rest in peace?" He can't. We can't either. The officers who fired their deadly bullets at Bell did not receive a pass on this one. Justice Cooperman's verdict will be debated as to whether it was just. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012


In 1972 I was a student at Concordia Teachers College (Now Concordia University - Nebraska) when George McGovern's bus pulled up to the Seward County Court House. It was the first, and only time I heard a presidential candidate speak at an open rally. I don't remember the speech he gave that day. Perhaps I was caught up in the excitement of being so close to a person who might have been president. Through the years, I have been drawn to McGovern's stand on immigration. Unless you are a native American, and I would add, African American, you are in America due to immigration. That's what made America. McGovern knew that, and he championed the cause of immigration. I voted for McGovern in 1972. It was the first time I voted for anybody. McGovern lost by a landslide. Many of us who heard McGovern that day were energized. We would vote again. We would look for politicians who represented our values. And we would be successful in getting a few elected. I am proud of my vote for McGovern. It was not wasted.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) reacted to a letter sent last week to congress by several American Christian leaders that called on lawmakers to "make U.S. military aid to Israel contingent upon its government's compliance with applicable US laws and policies" with "thinly-veiled charges" of anti-Semitism. These charges are being used as a club to stifle legitimate critique of Israel. This is short sighted. Anti-Semitism is alive. But the church leaders who signed that letter are not engaged in anti-Semitism. They are on an errand. This is a conversation about, and a call for justice. Given the history of maltreatment, disenfranchisement, displacement, and death, and given the shared experience of genocide itself, where is the grief, the hurt, the repulsion at what is being done to Palestinians by the State of Israel? When will there be recognition of the violence being done by Israel?