Killing Rage

It’s Black History Month, something we celebrate all year long at RadicalDiscipleship.net. This is from the conclusion of bell hooks’ classic essay “Killing Rage” (1995).

Rage can be consuming. It must be tempered by an engagement with a full range of emotional responses to black struggle for self-determination. In mid-life, I see in myself that same rage at injustice which surfaced in me more than twenty years ago as I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X and experienced the world around me anew. Many of my peers seem to feel no rage or believe it has no place. They see themselves as estranged from angry black youth. Sharing rage connects those of us who are older and more experienced with younger black and non-black folks who are seeking ways to be self-actualized, self-determined, who are eager to participate in anti-racist struggle. Renewed, organized black liberation struggle cannot happen if we remain unable to tap collective black rage. Progressive black activists must show how we take that rage and move it beyond fruitless scapegoating of any group, linking it instead to a passion for freedom and justice that illuminates, heals, and makes redemptive struggle possible.

Only Almost Half Full

From poet and activist Alexis Pauline Gumbs, re-posted from her website. Thanks to Kateri Boucher for the recommendation.

Last night the moon was a bowl again, almost half full out my airplane window. Slightly tilted so maybe moonlight, if it could spill would offer the contents of its light one drop at a time.

Last night, the moon in my airplane window and Tyre Nichols mother’s face on all the airport TV monitors. I can’t hear what she’s saying for all the amplified systemwide announcements, so I just look at her round face and wonder how she’s saying anything at all.

Audre Lorde published the poem “For Each of You” in 1973 for her children who she said were black “in the mouth of a dragon who defines them as nothing.” Like Tyre’s mom, RowVaughn Wells, Audre looked to the heavens. Here is Audre’s astronomical offering:

Remember our sun

is not the most noteworthy star

only the nearest

Audre’s clarification of what space means has trailed me since I was a teenager. I couldn’t grasp the meaning of this stanza until at least a decade after I read it. And then I shook my head. All this time I had believed the colonial education that taught me it was my brightness that mattered above all else. No. Audre clarifies while her children get death threats at their Staten Island grade school, it is where you are that matters. The sun is close enough to make all this photosynthetic life on Earth breathe.

to read more (and really you must), click this.

Just Community

Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries will, once again, be hosting its annual Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute (BKI) next month in Southern California. See below for details. See this for BKI Covid-19 protocols.

“Just Community”

Begin your 2023 Lenten journey with kindred spirits at the 2023 BKI

Registration closes Feb 3rd, 2023

February 20-23, 2023, in person at Camp Forest Home (Ojai), Oak View, California

See our Featured Resource People including Elders and Indigenous leaders

Why: We are mindful that political and personal landscapes have changed since we last convened in the
Ventura River Watershed… What hasn’t changed is our deep need for ekklesia—kindred spirits
committed to faith and justice who gather for discernment and reflection, support and solidarity,
nurture and remembering, courage and joy… [more]

Continue reading “Just Community”

May We Be Solidarious

By Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola, re-posted from Enfleshed

We must be solidarious, meaning one with everybody, with the care of the planet, and we must be willing to accompany people’s movements for their rights, justice, peace. And so I put my education and my experience and my commitment to that service.” – Rev. Marta Benavides

I heard a podcast once about humpback whales saving a seal from an orca attack.* One of the whales swam belly up, and put the seal on its belly. When it seemed like the seal might slip off during their escape, the whale would raise a fin to guide the seal back onto its belly.* Humpback whales have been recorded saving other animals, like sunfish and seals, from orca attacks. And scientists can’t agree on why. Some speculate that they may be instinctually wired to interfere with orca attacks because, in doing so, they might save a humpback whale calf. So in their act of trying to help their own family or community get free, they inadvertently help others get free.

10 years ago, I met Rev. Marta Benavides through Churches Witnessing with Migrants (CWWM). In El Salvador, she journeyed alongside Archbishop Oscar Romero. When sharing her experiences and expertise, she would occasionally bring up this concept of being solidarious – “We must be ‘solidarious’ as one vs be ‘in solidarity’ with other’s interests.”*

Continue reading “May We Be Solidarious”

The Truth of the Work Itself

An excerpt from Thomas Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist. Thanks to Bill Boyle, a radical discipleship comrade in metro Detroit, for passing this along.

You are fed up with words, and I don’t blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated with ideals and with causes. This sounds heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to be engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make the meaning be there again by magic. Going through this kind of reaction helps you to guard against this. Your system is complaining of too much verbalizing, and it is right.

You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has  to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. the range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, as you yourself mention in passing, It is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

.”

We Flesh

From Toni Morrison’s Beloved. This is the sermon that Baby Suggs gives one Saturday, sitting in the Clearing while the people waited among the trees. The Clearing was “a wide-open place cut deep in the woods nobody knew for what at the end of a path known only to deer and whoever cleared the land in the first place.”

——————————————————–

Here in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs,

flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.

Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it.

They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out.

No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it.

And O my people they do not love your hands.

Continue reading “We Flesh”

A Wake

By Robert Jones, Jr., re-posted from his MLK Day substack newsletter. Subscribe here.

“The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)

Hello Family,

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It is a day on which a particular kind of performance is expected of every Black American.

It is believed that we should join hands; sing sweet gospel songs; be respectable, conciliatory, and most importantly, civil representatives of the man assassinated by the very nation that turned him into a hollow holiday platitude. A man whose face they put on postage stamps and t-shirts to sell back to us at a premium.

For us, today is supposed to be a day of forgiving, certainly; but most of all: of forgetting.

Continue reading “A Wake”

My Forever King

By Johari Jabir

America had but one pastor
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was his name

My King,

The days leading up to the national observance of your birthday
seem to result in a passing season of melancholia
we have crossed so many lines
you warned us not to cross
we now live in the reality of that other side
of hate-filled violence and indifference
that feeds the victims to themselves

Continue reading “My Forever King”

Freeing God to be God

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Pastor Emeritus, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ

The Spirit of God brings peace, consolation, and perspective in times of personal and collective trauma and tragedies. Having served as a public and parish Christian pastor for over four decades, I have counseled, listened to, cried with people, and have come to know the power of God for uplift, hope, and comfort. I have also known and experienced how God can be used for hurt, ridicule, diminishment, oppression, and exclusion. I have witnessed the goodness of God, and the hurt inflicted on people by human pronouncements of God. I have seen God used for both good and bad, and for liberation and oppression. It is all in the interpretation of God and claims of “truth.”

People seek “truth” in life, after-life, and for living right, and deeply desire to live on the right-side of the “truth”. People come to faith experiences seeking encouragement, strength, and “truth” for living. This is the reason the “Golden Rule” manifests itself in so many forms, ‘Do to others as you would have them to do to you’, and is core to so many faith traditions. However, unfortunately, there are political and economic structures, such as monarchs, empires, forms of governments, and individuals that have deliberately manipulated the concept of God towards material and political ends. They have seized on the desire for “truth” among the masses, by reshaping and remolding the concept of God into materialistic and nationalistic loyalties. Divinity is often exploited and manipulated to maintain systems of power, protect the status-quo by offering equations of absolutism forcing almost slavish obedience upon masses of people who only seek to live in “truth”, and on the correct side of God. Political leaders and governments create a central narrative of God that becomes a form of political orthodoxy, just like faith traditions create orthodoxies. Those who question this authority and its absolutism are criticized, ostracized, ridiculed, villainized, and often killed for endangering the existent order of things. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, was lionized for civil rights, but villianized for his critique of the war in Vietnam. He had violated the political orthodoxy.  

Continue reading “Freeing God to be God”

Indigenous Resurgence

An excerpt from Noura Erakat’s recent piece (“Designing the Future in Palestine”) in Boston Review. Read the full article. It’s so worth it.

…[Palestinians] are moving in tandem with other Indigenous communities increasingly engaged in Indigenous resurgence. This is a phenomenon, explains Cherokee political scientist Jeff Corntasssel, that reframes decolonization by turning away from the state to “focus more fully on the complex interrelationships between Indigenous nationhood, place-based relationships, and community centered practices that reinvigorate everyday acts of renewal and regeneration.” This shift does not reject state-centric diplomacy or abandon the struggle against the settler sovereign. A full pivot away from such engagement would be short-sighted and counterproductive, especially for Palestinians who remain forcibly exiled from their lands and barricaded within militarized ghettoes. Rather, Indigenous resurgence centers Indigenous life and governance alongside other approaches. It seeks to undo the alienating force of colonization by reconnecting “homelands, cultures, and communities.” In particular regard to Palestinians, scholars Nour Joudah, Tareq Radi, Dina Omar, and Randa Wahbe explain, resurgence facilitates a “self-recognition” that transforms “fragmentation into a strength” and “variegated experiences of loss” into “a politics of care.”

If decolonization typically pits native against settler in a struggle for the land, Indigenous resurgence focuses on how to belong most ethically in relationship to one another and to the land.