Back It Up

By Tommy Airey

The year George Floyd and I were born, Paul Simon came out with a song called “American Tune.” Simon sung it to the melody of a Medieval Christian hymn. It hummed on the heavy, confusing mood of the country, caught up in the Watergate scandal and the bloody Vietnam conflict. It concludes with these verses.

We come on the ship they call The Mayflower.
We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune.

Last week, fifty years later, “American Tune” made an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. But this time, it was sung by Rhiannon Giddens, a banjo-playing woman in her forties boasting Black, Native and white ancestry. Simon backed her up on acoustic and she tweaked the lyrics at the end.

We didn’t come here on the Mayflower.
We came on a ship on a blood red moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune.

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A Break

By Báyò Akómoláfé, re-posted from social media (July 12, 2022)

With regards to climate chaos, I find that what is most needed in these moments is more than just political will, new solutions, techno-bureaucratic agency, amplified activism, green legislation, international compliance, indigenous participation, civic education, and intensified philanthropy. We need a break.

Some sort of ontological apostasy is required to compost the human agent, dragging him away from his centralized throne. Something that flashes up, trips up, and offends – like the shaman’s knife poised on the client’s arm. Something that enacts a pause – in the spirit of Wendell Berry’s invitation to consider that “the impeded stream is the one that sings”.

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Lost in Awe and Wonder

By Chava Redonnet, the bulletin for Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church, July 17, 2022

This morning I waited by an elevator with a man from one of my dementia floors. He is someone who used to have things to say, but is increasingly silent and usually asleep. When I do a service on his floor, he sometimes wakes up to join in the Our Father, or clap along to a song, but that’s about it.

The elevator was taking a long time. I took out my phone, and pulled up a picture to show him while we waited. You might have seen it – that wonderful deep space photo from the Webb telescope, that seemed to be all over the internet this morning. I wasn’t sure if he could see it, or understand what it was, but I told him, and showed him the tiny photo. “It brings tears to my eyes,” I told him.

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The Plumb Line

By Rev. Roslyn Bouier (above on the mic), the Executive Director of the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry, Pastor of Trinity-St. Mark’s, UCC, and new church start founder The Beloved Community, UCC. These remarks were given at a press conference yesterday (July 7, 2022) where community leaders called out the latest counterfeit report coming from the Detroit water department, which has shut-off water to more than 170,000 homes over the past decade. The water department just approved an “affordability plan” with little input from experts and few details about how it will be funded and implemented. They refuse to release the full plan to the public.

I am a frontline provider—

I am a Detroit resident—

I am a pastor—

Community leader, advocate for food, water, housing, and basic needs—

I am a mother, grandmother—

But above all of these I am first and foremost a human-being and responsible for my neighbor and doesn’t that count for something?

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Not Without a Fight

By Alicia Crosby Mack, re-posted with permission from Facebook (June 24, 2022)

It is not lost on me that the architects of our present harm are using the Christian faith tradition as their vehicle for violence.

This is my tradition. This is my Christianity.

I will not distance myself from them as a form of absolution but will say this is violent & wrong.

In this moment I resolve to more fervently commit myself to justice, freedom, and agency for all because faith should be a balm for healing, not a bludgeon for to gain & keep control or force others into submission.

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Evergreens of Compassion

By Dwight Wilson

The origin of the root of this psalm is a riff off a quote by Turkish poet Ilhan Mimaroglu on Freddie Hubbard’s “Sing Me a Song of Songmai. That was 50 years ago and it has haunted me all these years. I immediately thought of couples I knew while growing up in Middletown, Ohio. Most hours of the day, mothers who were wiser and more responsible ruled the homes. However, should a man choose to come home, from being dogged by white supremacy in the outside world, most moms stepped aside to let him dominate. I knew men who left the house without saying where they were going and returned without saying where they had been. As well, I knew more than a few who had lovers and “outside children” elsewhere. IF I’M LYIN’ A FLYIN’.

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Supporting Actors

By Tommy Airey, above with his nephews in Southern California

The day after an 18-year-old white boy livestreamed his mass murder spree in the only supermarket of a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, I was hosting another men’s group on zoom. We were sharing early memories of when our tears and tenderness were not honored by adults in our lives. One participant said something that stoked vigorous nodding from the rest of us. “It really wasn’t what I was told,” he said, “It was what I wasn’t told.” We were forced to fill in the gaps of all those silences. We came up with our own scripts saying we were not good enough and would never really be loved unless we met a certain standard of “success.”

The silence is a slow trauma that seeds deep feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. It tills the soil of the gun culture, the rape culture, the corporate culture, the cancel culture. The silence sustains the default dominant culture, what Dr. Willie Jennings calls “the pedagogy of the plantation.” Unless we are intentionally taught otherwise, we are trained up to possess, master and control everything we come across. In America, men are the main characters, the owners of the plantation. It’s not just the passionate men with their man caves and their big trucks and their unregulated firearms—but also the passive men who pride themselves on staying safe, stoic, nice and neutral, above the fray, hiding their feelings as they over-function to “provide for their families.”

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