Conjuring Freedom

From Johari Jabir’s Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army” (2017).

Conjure is the black cultural practice of summoning spiritual power as an intentional means of transforming reality and involves a belief in an invisible magical power that can be used for healing and/or harm…

…For soldiers in black regiments during the Civil War, freedom was not simply found, it had to be forged. They found themselves forced to conjure freedom out of the materials made available to them as soldiers who had been slaves but were not yet citizens. In much the same way that the coping religion of the slaveocracy became transformed into the enabling religion of the slaves, the forms of soldiering and citizenship made available to former slaves that were designed to assimilate them into a masculinist hierarchical, exploitative, and racist society became something else in practice. These tools of domination became conjured into new forms of masculinity, solidarity, and social membership that promoted democratic and egalitarian change in society at large. Just as conjurers healed the slave body with a mixture of efficacious materials, newly free Africans in America attempted to heal the body politic and cure society’s ills through a tradition of organized protest with musical accompaniment that expressed alternate social visions of democracy.

The State of Black America

A Message from The Movement for Black Lives.

Hello Community,

With the State of Black America coming up soon, we want to preview one of many important topics we’ll address: education and organizing in the pandemic.

You will hear from Black organizers and educators with the Chicago community organization Equity and Transformation (EAT). In a field report from Chicago, we will hear how Black organizers and educators came together to pass the Illinois BREATHE Act that will free up much-needed resources for schools and communities by redirecting funds away from racist, ineffective policing and mass incarceration. We’ll also hear from Dr. Armen Henderson with Dream Defenders and their efforts to expand COVID-19 health access to Black people who are unhoused and other communities in Florida.

RSVP for the State of Black America taking place before the State of the Union on Tuesday, Feb. 23rd at 6-8pm ET. Hear from Black movement leaders across the country. Organizers will discuss education and organizing in the pandemic, as well as climate, jobs, healthcare, public safety, and Black community self-determination.

Continue reading “The State of Black America”

Mass Incarceration: The New Caste System

From Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. #LentenAbolition

It may be helpful, in attempting to understand the basic nature of the new caste system, to think of the criminal justice system—the entire collection of institutions and practices that comprise it—not as an independent system but rather as a gateway into a much larger system of racial stigmatization and permanent marginalization. This larger system, referred to here as mass incarceration, is a system that locks people not only behind actual bars in actual prisons, but also behind virtual bars and virtual walls—walls that are invisible to the naked eye but function nearly as effectively as Jim Crow laws once did at locking people of color into a permanent second-class citizenship. The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web of laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison. Once released, former prisoners enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. They are members of America’s new undercaste.

Continue reading “Mass Incarceration: The New Caste System”

Simply Being Black

From Jesmyn Ward in The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race (2016)

Though the white liberal imagination likes to feel temporarily bad about black suffering, there really is no mode of empathy that can replicate the daily strain of knowing that as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.

My church will replace our Black Lives Matter sign. Will America replace its racist myth?

In case you missed it. This is re-posted from a Washington Post op-ed written three weeks ago by Rev. William H. Lamar IV, the pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington.

Do you hear what I hear? I hear the imperial American myth in the throes of its own death rattle. And I hear a people clamoring for a story by which to order their lives.

The United States does not like to call itself an empire. But it is. Through military and economic force, the United States extends its narrative, politics and culture throughout the globe for good and for ill. The American story to which I refer does not shape our domestic life alone. It shapes the world.

Myths, stories, give our lives meaning. They tell us who we were, who we are and who we will be.

Continue reading “My church will replace our Black Lives Matter sign. Will America replace its racist myth?”

Confession & Call to Action: White Supremacy & the 2020 Election

Today, once again, all eyes are on Michigan as the State Board of Canvassers votes to certify the election results. This is a statement written by white radical disciples in Detroit. Click on and sign to be in solidarity.

We are speaking in this moment as White people.

We join our voice with others.

Continue reading “Confession & Call to Action: White Supremacy & the 2020 Election”

This is Where You Start: Letter to a White Child on Choices, Ancestors, and the Future

By Rev. Margaret Anne Ernst

PC: Kelly Sikkema

October 2020 

I started writing this letter to you four years ago on the kitchen table, the winter after a man had been elected to the highest office in our land who represents such meanness, such smallness of imagination, and such hostility towards humanity that I had to start writing to someone. Best, I thought, to someone not fully grown, or even here yet. If I write to you, I must believe in you.  I must believe in something past this moment, this nightmare, as many people behind me have imagined past the terrifying circumstances of their times. 

Your world is, to me, barely glimpsed, like the moon showing itself from behind the clouds. And yet I will hang on to that moonbeam like I would clutch a breadcrumb after having not eaten for days. I choose to believe in the future.

Continue reading “This is Where You Start: Letter to a White Child on Choices, Ancestors, and the Future”

True Solidarity

From Ashley Bohrer, professor, author and activist, in a May 2020 interview with George Souvlis on the Salvage site. Bohrer was asked about “solidarity” as both an analytical concept and a political reality.

True solidarity is life. There’s no other way, I don’t think, to orient ourselves to the struggle and to each other. There’s something really beautiful about solidarity, about the ways that millions of people work together and for each other, not on the basis of personal connection or individual acquaintance, but out of clarity and conviction that we all deserve a better world. We’re doing this interview in the midst of the Covid crisis and the mutual aid work I and so many other have been participating in, I think, has brought a whole new group of folks into understanding that feeling.

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Kyle Rittenhouse, Whiteness, and The Responsibility of White Faith Leaders: Notes from Conversations with Ruby Sales

kenoshaBy Rev. Margaret Anne Ernst

The seventeen year old Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been charged with killing two protesters in a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, could have been my cousin or little brother. Raised in the far north suburbs of Chicago, his life proves that it is not Southern rural people who are the foot soldiers of white supremacist violence, like I was often raised to believe as someone who grew up in the North, but white people everywhere, including and especially in tree-lined suburbs just like where my own people came from.

I woke up last week to news of Rittenhouse’s murders of two protestors who were in the streets raising their voices for justice for Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and to the defenses of these murders from amidst the Right’s flanks like Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter said she would want someone like Rittenhouse as president. Tucker Carlson said that Rittenhouse was right in “maintaining order” on the streets of Kenosha, echoing the law and order talking points that have become front and center in the Republic National Convention. Continue reading “Kyle Rittenhouse, Whiteness, and The Responsibility of White Faith Leaders: Notes from Conversations with Ruby Sales”