One of the Active Ingredients in a Meal Served by Many Hands

BayoA timely message from our comrade Bayo Akomolafe.

I am very excited to share that my course, We Will Dance with Mountains: Let us Make Sanctuary, is now open for registration…

You can learn almost everything about the course by heading over to the course website now. Before you do, I thought I’d sit again with the nagging question (as I did when this year of shocking upheavals and seismic shifts began): “Why do a course now?” What is it for? What do you stand to gain?

In yet another curious instance of receiving answers long before their questions have been articulated, I heard the call to do this course when I spoke with an African American man late last year. He had written to me, wanting to speak. He felt he needed to share something with me. I honoured his invitation and got on a Zoom conference call with him. Continue reading “One of the Active Ingredients in a Meal Served by Many Hands”

Kindred, The News is Bleak

California Wildfires
AP Photo/Noah Berger

By Ken Sehested

Kindred, the news is bleak. For we live in the valley of the shadow, when:

  • the stock market reaches record-breaking levels in the midst of near-record-breaking rates of unemployment;
  • when 1% of US citizens control $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half is saddled with more debts than assets;
  • when the median wealth of Black households is a tenth of that of whites;
  • when yet another unarmed Black man is shot—in the back, seven times, while getting in his car where his children are sitting—by police;
  • when polls show 57% of Republicans (along with 33% of Independents and 10% of Democrats) believe our nation’s COVID-19 death toll (many times greater than any other nation) is “acceptable”—despite ours being the wealthiest nation in recorded history, purportedly with the world’s most advanced health care system;
  • when wildfires in California set yet another record in size and destructive infernos, and similar flames in the Amazon are on track to eclipse 2019’s record;
  • when 30 million families lacked sufficient nutrition last week, yet the suicide rate among farmers—who provide our food—is five times greater than the national average;
  • when the federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25 (lowest it’s been since the 1960s when adjusted for inflation), yet Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earns approximately $8,961,187 per hour;
  • not to mention a monarch aspirant in high office; and our oldest living president, Jimmy Carter, having
    described our political economy as “moving toward an oligarchy.”

Continue reading “Kindred, The News is Bleak”

Soul Talk in a Neoliberal Age, Part II

Mental Health Counseling Conference
 PC: Sam Simpkins

On Fridays, we are posing questions to Dr. Bruce Rogers-Vaughn (right), an ordained Baptist minister, pastoral psychotherapist and Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Counseling at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and the author of Caring for Souls in a Neoliberal Age (Palgrave, 2019). Bruce presses for a “post-capitalist pastoral theology” that empowers people to resist the system (instead of adapt to it), to embrace communion and wholeness in relation to others and the earth (instead of functioning in accord with the values of production and consumption) and to pursue interdependent reliance within the web of human relationships (instead of accepting shame-based personal responsibility narratives).

*This is our second Friday with Bruce. See this for Part 1.

Tommy Airey: You described how neoliberalism is a system that “turns control of the economy over to a handful of wealthy rentiers.” What is a rentier? Continue reading “Soul Talk in a Neoliberal Age, Part II”

A Culture of Belonging

bell hooksAn excerpt from Belonging: A Culture of Place (2009) by bell hooks (right).

In her book Rebalancing the World, Carol Lee Flinders defines a culture of belonging as one in which there is “intimate connection with the land to which one belongs, empathic relationship to animals, self-restraint, custodial conservation, deliberateness, balance, expressiveness, generosity, egalitarianism, mutuality, affinity for alternative modes of knowing, playfulness, inclusiveness, nonviolent conflict resolution, and openness to spirit.” All of these ways of belonging were taught to me in my early childhood but these imprints were covered over by the received biased knowledge that served to fuel my adult radicalism.

The Poor Among You

Poor Peoples CampaignBy Tommy Airey

Over the decades, I’ve consistently heard conservative pastors quote their Lord and Savior to dismiss policies and provisions that attempt to systematically help low-income residents. You’ll always have the poor among you (Mark 14:3-9). “See,” they say, referencing the Scripture, “Jesus, is telling us it’s a waste of time to try to alleviate poverty. He promises that the poor will always be with us no matter what we try to do.”

In this episode, Jesus is actually quoting Deuteronomy 15, one of the most crucial junctures in the history of Israel. God is preparing the former slaves of Egypt to live in a new kind of way in the Promised Land. As the old African-American proverb illuminates, it is easier to get the enslaved out of Egypt than it is to get Egypt out of the enslaved. The exodus wilderness was a school, a 12-step-program for recovery from the colonial script. Continue reading “The Poor Among You”

Soul Talk in a Neoliberal Age, Part 1

Mental Health Counseling Conference
PC: Sam Simpkins

For the next five Fridays, we will pose questions to Dr. Bruce Rogers-Vaughn (right), an ordained Baptist minister, pastoral psychotherapist and Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Counseling at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and the author of Caring for Souls in a Neoliberal Age (Palgrave, 2019). “Neoliberalism,” he writes, “has become so encompassing and powerful that it is now the most significant factor in shaping how, why, and to what degree human beings suffer.”

This is why Bruce presses for a “post-capitalist pastoral theology” that empowers people to resist the system (instead of adapt to it), to embrace communion and wholeness in relation to others and the earth (instead of functioning in accord with the values of production and consumption) and to pursue interdependent reliance within the web of human relationships (instead of accepting shame-based personal responsibility narratives). Continue reading “Soul Talk in a Neoliberal Age, Part 1”

The Subconscious Code of Instructions

caste
PC: Joe Henson

An excerpt from Isabel Wilkerson’s just-released Caste: The Origins of our Discontents.

Like other old houses, America has an unseen skeleton, a caste system that is as central to its operation as are the studs and joists that we cannot see in the physical buildings we call home. Caste is the infrastructure of our divisions. It is the architecture of human hierarchy, the subconscious code of instructions for maintaining, in our case, a four-hundred-year-old social order. Looking at caste is like holding the country’s x-ray up to the light… Continue reading “The Subconscious Code of Instructions”

Amplifying the Conception of You

dominiqueAn excerpt from Rev. Dale Fredrickson’s interview with Denver-based poet and activist Dominique Christina.

For my children one of the things that was most useful to me in trying to curate language for them, that would give them the most room, the most space, was to explain to them that you are, we are, I am a concept. A beautiful designed concept, is where the word conception comes from. You are your parents’ best idea. You got here and constructs were forced upon you. We know that a construct is built from without. There’s a rainforest and that’s a concept. But if I clear those trees to build a nightclub, the nightclub is the construct. In creating that construct I had in that clearing things had to die. Things that were organic had to die to accommodate that construct. Continue reading “Amplifying the Conception of You”

Truly Honoring Black Women’s Labor and Fatigue to Change this Country

L-R: Thomas Jackson, Derecka Purnell

From the conclusion of a Guardian op-ed “Why Black Progressive Women Feel Torn About Kamala Harris” by Derecka Purnell (right), a social movement lawyer and writer based in Washington DC.

I am reluctant to say that Biden and Harris can be pushed. My hope of being wrong is greater than my fear of being right. That hope comes from countless activists who organize across the state and local level, who are vigorously defending democracy on their blocks and creating care in their families and communities. That hope comes from studying Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, who, facing impossible odds and considerable violence and no resources, decided to forge an alternative to the political establishment. Hamer asks, “Is this America, the land of the free and home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?” Continue reading “Truly Honoring Black Women’s Labor and Fatigue to Change this Country”

Weeping Permits Newness

WalterFrom Walter Brueggemann’s classic The Prophetic Imagination (1978):

I used to think it curious that, when having to quote scripture on demand, someone would inevitably say, “Jesus wept.” It is usually done as a gimmick to avoid having to quote a longer passage. But now I understand the depth of that verse. Jesus knew what we numb ones must always learn again: (a) that weeping must be real because endings are real; and (b) that weeping permits newness. His weeping permits the kingdom to come. Such weeping is a radical criticism, a fearful dismantling because it means the end of all machismo; weeping is something kings rarely do without losing their thrones. Yet the loss of thrones is precisely what is called for in radical criticism.