Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Indictment For Darren Wilson in Ferguson

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.

We who believe in Freedom cannot rest. 

Articles and resources will be gathered
in the comments section below.

Feel free to add your own. 

Peace, peace!’ they say,
when there is no peace.”-Jeremiah 6:14

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Creation Myths: Thanksgiving

There are two sides to history, and it is the winning side whose story is remembered. Such is the case with Thanksgiving.

The Black Commentator suggests that "the Thanksgiving story is an absolution of the Pilgrims, whose brutal quest for absolute power in the New World is made to seem both religiously motivated and eminently human. Most importantly, the Pilgrims are depicted as victims – of harsh weather and their own naïve yet wholesome visions of a new beginning."

There is much debate regarding the very first Thanksgiving. Indeed, there were many ‘days of thanksgiving’ proclaimed after settlers first landed, or survived harsh winters, or experienced plentiful harvests. The earliest Thanksgiving was not celebrated by British immigrants, but rather by Spanish conqueror Pedro Menéndez de Avilé, in Saint Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565.

Over the subsequent century, many other Thanksgivings took place as new invaders and immigrants arrived. One of which, one was held under truly despicable auspices. Thousands of Indians had been killed or sold into slavery during the Pequot War (which began after the British-led nighttime massacre of  Mystic village). Heartened by their 'victory' and the death of thousands of men, women, and children, Connecticut Puritans declared October 12, 1637 a holy day of thanksgiving.

William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony gave the following account:
“Those that scraped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escapted...It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of... [The pilgrims] gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.”
The TRUE origin
 of Thanksgiving
The most famous Thanksgiving meal was indeed held by British immigrants in partnership with (and thanks to charity from) members of the Wampanoag Nation in 1621. However, that alliance was only forged subsequent to the enslavement and mass death of the Patuxet Indians, an occurrence which necessitated more acquiescent relationships with the British immigrants in the region thereafter.

However, it was over 150 years later that the familiar story of the 1621 Mayflower Thanksgiving was actually established, in large part due to Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879). Her enchantment with the Pilgrim narrative compelled her to campaign aggressively for the adoption of the national holiday. Her bucolic editorials and petitions shaped the modern conception of Thanksgiving, which became a national holiday in 1863.

This year on Thanksgiving, take time to learn the stories that aren't being told in school. Become familiar with the National Day of Mourning and the Indigenous Peoples Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering, which commemorate the true history of Thanksgiving and honor the many voices that have been silenced.

Wamsutta (Frank B.) James
Read the suppressed speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James, which was supposed to be delivered in Plymouth in 1970 as part of a celebration of the Pilgrim landing. The event's public relations personnel edited his speech because they didn't approve of the history he told in it, but Wamsutta refused to deliver the revised version. Read the words he would have said that day.

The fact that such a sordid history is associated with the day we set aside to ‘thank God’ for his providence should give us pause. In reality, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving because the majority of its population benefits from the fruits of genocide and slavery. Let us indeed set aside time to count our blessings, but let us also be honest with ourselves about the legacy from which those blessings are derived.

See Also: Adam Ericksen's great article discussing similar issues on Sojourners

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday Fruit (11/21/14)

Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com/Sojo
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity
for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Facing Race 2014

Facing Race is a biennial gathering of racial justice activists, practitioners, and scholars. Hosted by Race Forward, in partnership with the Kirwan Institute, Facing Race offers education, resources,and fellowship for those seeking to bring about racial equity in their world. Here, I summarize some take-aways, but am happy to discuss any aspects in more detail in the comments section.

I find Facing Race to be both rejuvenating and activating. It offers an all-too-rare environment in which institutionalized racism is the start of conversation, rather than the end. Bringing together co-laborers from many facets of justice work helps reveal new growth edges and best-practices to spur the work ahead.

No organization or event is above critique, but I appreciate Race Forward's intentionality in planing and executing their conference. They value intersectionality, weaving together the many aspects of identity and culture that impact our lives. For example, they offer lists of wage-responsible restaurant choices, gender neutral restrooms, sliding-scale registration (though I did hear some observations ableism at the conference). Overall, the message is that you don't have to choose which aspect of your identity you will prioritize during your time at the conference.

Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon
As evidenced by their Keynote Address featuring  Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon (three generations of activists), Facing Race also emphasized inter-generational alliance. I enjoyed the plenary on youth-led racial justice, but would have liked to have heard from more youth activists from Ferguson or Beavercreek, for example.

After a hard summer, Rinku Sen's reminders of the many good things that Race Forward and others have accomplished was helpful. She reminded us about the progress against Stop-and-Frisk in New York, and the success in getting AP to 'drop the I-word.' She affirmed to her audience the belief that talking about race is what helps eliminate it, not keeping it silent and ignoring the problem. Namely, we must face it.

I attended several Research and Policy breakout sessions, particularly with regard to education and housing. For me, a pressing question is whether the massive inertia of gentrification can be combated, even when a neighborhood sees it coming many years in advance. How do we transform communities into opportunity-rich neighborhoods, while making sure that everyone that wants to stay can stay?

Jason Reece of the Kirwan Institute spoke about the importance of community land trusts and affordable senior housing, reminding us as well that one's zip code is more predictive of health outcomes than is one's DNA. He also emphasized the importance of the upcoming disparate-impact case before the US Supreme Court, noting that when it comes to equitable housing we have a long legacy of skillfully obscuring intent.

With regard to education, Sharon Davies, also of Kirwan, asserts that “a lot of learning comes from students with different backgrounds sitting in the classroom together" and that "we must acknowledge race as an important value in the composition of incoming classes.” Similarly,Marc Nivet of the Association of American Medical Colleges observed how universities' obsession with ranking combines with racial disparities in standardize testing to create a no-win scenario for students of color. He insists that "excellent institutions aren't those that admit already-great students [by inequitable standards]; it’s the ones that transform students into greatness."
Melinda Weekes-Laidlow

I was also re-convicted at this conference of the power of storytelling as a central tool for racial justice. There were several workshops along these lines, but Melinda Weekes-Laidlow and Yavilah McCoy's session on faith and racial justice reminded me again of the importance of sharing our narratives as means of building multi-faith coalitions.

Nevertheless, I left the conference wondering what the role of Christianity is and should be in these contexts. There were certainly many people of faith present of all races (including several representatives from UMC's GCORR). Indeed, non-white-Christian people of faith were great assets, with Muslim activists and black Christians both playing prominent roles in workshops and plenaries.  But I couldn't help but muse over the disconnect in the white Church (especially, but not limited to, the Evangelical white church) and how uneasy many white Christians would have been at this conference. The discomfort is important. Would that the white Church be more willing to experience it.

In my observation, churches do not avail themselves of the rich resources of the secular justice world nearly enough. And perhaps vice versa. There is a skepticism that impedes the cross-pollination of wisdom unless the people, organizations, and ideas pass a set of unwritten standards for being 'appropriate'. I wonder how many of the brilliant plenary speakers and workshop leaders would even be welcome within church walls.

The impending irrelevance that churches so fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the world observes the hearts and actions of God's people. Rather than leading the way for justice and reconciliation, the white Church plays an ongoing charade of catch up. Religious motivations have been the cause of so much hurt and prejudice that there is much distrust to overcome if we are to participate in any meaningful change. Nevertheless, I continue to firmly believe in the tremendous potential of the body of Christ to usher in a new era of justice for the sake of the Gospel.

Check out the @BTSFblog Storify for more reflections and commentary from others:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Fruit (11/14/14)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

Also: Follow updates from #FacingRace14!
-Live stream of Plenaries
              -Conference Hashtag and Handle

-@BTSFblog Livetweet

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.
Creative Commons License
By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @BTSFblog