BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Holy Land for All People: #AllPeoplePractices

First plane ride!
Thirty people from UM Church for All People (C4AP) recently returned from a ten-day trip to the Holy Land. We were a different bunch than those who usually get to go on such trips. Indeed, our group represented the full range of diversity at C4AP. We had many races, ages, income levels, and educations. Some of us were very well traveled, having been all over the globe. Others had never been out of the state, never been on a plane.

And so there we found ourselves, together on a journey to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus, who challenged our understanding of power, worth, and privilege. Who identified himself with the marginalized, the persecuted, the downtrodden. The Jesus who told us "blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."

Many of us went on the trip knowing that we would see this land more clearly if we did so with the same sorts of folks that Jesus identified with. We wanted to see the holy sights through the eyes of those that most clearly see God. Usually, it is the powerful, the rich, the well connected that are able to afford such a trip. But what would  happen if we made the journey with those that Jesus spent His time blessing, rather than those that He was cursing?

And so it was with this beautiful mix of friends that we helped each other experience the scenes of Jesus's life and ministry. We visited the Mount of Beatitudes with those that do indeed hunger and thirst. We prayed in the Church of the Annunciation with those who have wrestled unexpected teen pregnancy. We drank from Jacob's Well with those who have been shamed and ostracized from society. We gazed down into where the Pool of Bethesda once stirred with those who have felt helpless, but know that they have been healed. We stood in the cell where Jesus was held in the the House of Caiaphas with those that have felt what it's like to be imprisoned. We walked the Via Dolorosa with those who've also had to stare death in the face.

But perhaps one of the most meaningful spots for me was the the Church of the Multiplication. It's the traditional spot where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplying the loaves and fishes. This passage of scripture is particularly significant for us at Church for All People. Not only do we believe in it, but we've seen it happen.

On Mount of Beatitudes
We've witnessed times when a little bit of soup fed an entirely too large crowd, with plenty remaining for seconds and leftovers. We've seen the widow place her mite in the offering basket and watched it become $50 million in affordable housing. We've received the random request from someone in need, only to have that very item donated the very same day. And we've shopped in a store that gives everything away for free, but never runs out.

We believe in a Divine Economy of Abundance. We do not worship a God of scarcity, but a God who always provides. We know we've been brought a mighty long way, and that our God has delivered us out of every difficult season. And so standing on a hill where Jesus took a couple of loaves and fish to feed thousands of hungry people felt extraordinary, and yet also very familiar.

Of course we saw many other things while on our journey, not all of them pleasant. And these also were made more poignant when experienced with our diverse mix of pilgrims. We passed though check points, and met families divided by walls. We learned about stolen land and forfeited property. We heard the the worries of inadequate education systems, and the frustrations of working multiple jobs without being able to make ends meet. We listened to stories of polices brutality, youth backlash, and parents' fears. We saw the divide between the powerful and the powerless. And this too felt familiar.

The wall surrounding Bethlehem
That one of the holiest places on the planet could be the site of such strife is at once heartbreaking, and yet someone how fitting of the brokenness of our world. In hearing about so many competing interests over so many hundreds of years, the situation often felt unsolvable. Our human divides catch up with us at every turn. After all, we know that in the United States, it's the Christian church that remains one of the most racially and economically segregated institutions in the country.

And yet, there we were. A ragtag group of misfits on the road to encounter the Living Christ. A group from different backgrounds and an array of lived experiences. A group of people that aren't supposed to get along together within the same city, let alone on a long, cramped bus ride. Our mere existence doesn't fix the difficult problems we face, but doing the holy work of solving them together and undivided very well may.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Friday Fruit (02/24/17)

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 many voices leading the way...


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, February 13, 2017

Doomed to repeat itself?

This week we will mark the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066
On February 19, 1942,  Franklin D. Roosevelt signed EO-9066, stripping American citizens of their legal rights, and allowing their indefinite imprisonment without due process. Having broken no laws, hundreds of thousands suffered the undue loss of their freedom and property.

internment_mochida.jpgThe mass incarceration of Japanese Americans is one of the many subjects that are egregiously under-taught in our schools (See posts: 'Ethnic Studies' and 'White History Month'), yet it holds particular salience for our lives today.

When anyone's constitutional rights are violated, it further normalizes the practice for everyone else as well. As we continue to observe racially-based harassment for the sake of 'national security', we must understand the precedence the United States has for such behavior:

Though German and Italian Americans did face harassment during WWII, they were never summarily imprisoned en masse based on their ancestry. Japanese Americans, however, were racially profiled and forced into concentration camps (the term used by FDR and others at that time). Even as German U-boats navigated the eastern coastline, imprisonment efforts focused on combating Japanese espionage that was never actually substantiated by evidence.

internment_line.jpg
Most internees were taken from the west coast, where the 'threat of espionage' was perceived to be the highest. Yet, had 'military necessity' actually been the driving force for this action (as was originally claimed), we would expect Hawaii residents to be the heavily targeted for their proximity to both Japan and the key US Pacific military base.

On the contrary, despite a 35% Japanese-American population, only 1% were detained in Hawaii. Rather than a strategic military operation, the imprisonment of ~120,000 people was instead “motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership"(not unlike the arbitrary nature of banning refugee from seven non-terrorist-associated countries).

Remind you of anything?
Individuals, families, and entire communities were forcibly removed from their homes and were sent to one of ten internment camps in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arkansas. These locations consisted of unpartitioned toilets, cots for beds, and "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." Camps were surrounded by barbed wire, and prisoners were provided with a daily 45 cents per capita for food rations. Of those imprisoned, nearly half were children under the age of 18.

One of the first examples of legal opposition to the government's policy of internment was Hirabayashi v. United StatesGordon Hirabayashi contested his imprisonment, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1943, where he eventually lost unanimously (a ruling finally vacated in 1986). On the same day, the court ruled against a similar case Yasui v. United States, and a year later against that of Fred Korematsu (See post: Fred Korematsu Day).

Another version of the
'Sundown town'
Perhaps most famous of the three cases, the Korematsu v. United States decision ruled that EO-9066 was indeed constitutional in its violation of civil rights (a ruling that still stands today). Of note, during the course of the proceedings, Solicitor General Charles Fahy suppressed legal documents, which stated that "there was no evidence Japanese Americans were disloyal, were acting as spies or were signaling enemy submarines."

Through it all, white Americans either voiced support for the interment program or simply remained silent. Indeed, the ACLU largely sided with the FDR administration.

Today, we observe rampant racial profiling in the name of national security. Since 9/11, the treatment of American Muslims, and those of Middle Eastern decent, has consistently followed a xenophobic trend toward limiting citizens' individual rights. For example, a federal appeals ruling in 2008 gave President Bush "legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States." The harassment of latinx residents and citizens over 'board security' concerns echoes similar racialized tactics as well.

As long as such behavior is a part of our history and our current policy, we are dooming ourselves to repeat a history we should be ashamed of...if we even knew it.

Take some time to learn the stories of the Americans imprisoned as a result of EO-9066, and then reflect on the implications of our current attitudes and policies surrounding national security.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Know Your History

I've been posting Richard Kenyada's “Inauguration Ball 2009” for Black History Month for four years now. No matter how many times I've read it, it always makes me cry by the time I reach the end. This year even more so. Know your history. -KH

A. Phillip Randolph
Guests began arriving early. There are no place cards and no name tags. Everyone knows everyone else here. Now, there's a grand foursome - Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz sharing laughs with Martin and Coretta Scott King. Looks like Hosea Williams refused the limo again, keeping it real. And my goodness; is that Rosa Parks out there on the dance floor with A. Phillip RandolphGeoffrey Cambridge took one look at the trio of Zora Neale HurstonRalph Ellison and James Baldwin, and jokingly asked, "My God, who invited my personal library?"

Seated at a nearby table, Frederick Douglass has a captive audience in W.E.B. DuBose and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Medgar Evers has just joined them. Marian Anderson was asked to sing tonight, but she only agreed to do it if Bessie Smith and Mahalia Jackson shared the stage, and they were accompanied by Marvin GayeJohn Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Look, there's Harriet Tubman. No one knows how she arrived, but there she is. And my guess is that, when the time comes, no one will see her leave.

Marian Anderson
There's Jackie Robinson swiftly making his way through the hall as the crowd parts like the Red Sea to the unmistakable sound of applause. "Run, Jackie, run!" Along the way he is embraced by Jesse Owens.  Three beautiful young women arrive with their escorts – SchwernerGoodman and ChaneyMs. Viola Liuzzo flew in from Michigan, exclaiming, "I could not miss this."

Richard Pryor promised to be on his best behavior. "But I can't make any guarantees for Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley," he chuckled. Joe Louis just faked a quick jab to the chin of Jack Johnson, who smiled broadly while slipping it. We saw Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole greet Luther VanDrossJames Brown and Josh Gibson stopped at Walter Payton's table to say hello.  Althea Gibson said, "You always were a charmer," as she gave Arthur Ashe a hug. August WilsonDouglas Turner Ward and Lorraine Hansberry have just arrived from New York.

Miriam Makeba
I witnessed one touching moment after another… Young Emmett Till tapped James Farmer on the shoulder. "Mr. Farmer I really don't want to sit at the children's table. We feel we're old enough to be out here with everyone else. My friends here are Addie Mae Collins, 14, Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14 and Cynthia Wesley, 14. They just came in from a church in Birmingham. None of us wanted to miss this night."  Then, all decked out in stylish evening wear, a small group of guests from the New Orleans Superdome proudly took their seats to rousing applause. It warmed my heart to see Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba, still singing and dancing pata pata style. I caught a glimpse of Lincoln Perry. He was steppin' all right, but this time he was in white tie and tails.

Bill Pickett
San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk discusses organizing strategies with activist Cesar Chavez. The 60-Minutes man, Ed Bradley, just introduced himself to Josephine Baker, who flew in from Paris. It made me smile to notice how uncomfortable rodeo cowboy Bill Pickett looks in a tuxedo. Then there are the African warrior and his pregnant wife. No one knows for sure, but John Henrik Clarke thinks they could be the first Africans to have thrown themselves over the rail of a slave ship rather than take their chances with Affirmative Action. I felt a sudden chill when I saw Dred Scott speaking with Johnnie Cochran, who believes he could have won the case. Satchel Paige made his way through the crowd to greet Ossie Davis, who was sharing thoughts with Langston Hughes over there near the crystal stair. Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando were intently listening to Nina Simone make a point, while John and Bobby Kennedy cornered Lyndon Johnson for a few laughs. All was forgiven.

Oscar Peterson is moving to take his turn on the bandstand, followed by Ray Brown. And it looks like Art Blakey and Max Roach will be keeping it tight. I spotted Congressman Adam Clayton Powell having a lively political discussion with Eldredge Cleaver, and there's Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall looking on with interest. World War II Pearl Harbor hero Dorey Miller shared a few thoughts with Crispus Attucks, a hero of the Revolutionary War. And there is Madam C.J. Walker talking with Marcus Garvey about exporting goods to Africa. Look out, America - a King of Comedy, Bernie Mac, is in the house. But tonight, he is the perfect gentleman, with Lady Day and Ella on each arm. A party wouldn't be a party without the lively bunch from Galveston Texas that brought all the jubilation of their annual Juneteenth gathering.

Shirley Chisholm
General Benjamin O. Davis flew into Washington safely with an escort from the 99th Fighter Squadron - better known as The Tuskegee Airmen. At the table on the left are three formidable women - Shirley ChisholmSojourner Truth, and Barbara Jordan - gathered for a little girl-talk... about world politics. No one could mistake the men of the 9th and 10th Cavalry. As they mingled among the celebrities, The Buffalo Soldiers found adoring fans of their own. One soldier looked up and told his buddies, "Sharpen up, the 54th is in the house!" noting the fresh uniforms of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry that fought so Glory-ously in the Civil War.

Patricia Harris
As usual, all the science nerds seem to have gathered off in a corner, talking shop. There's Granville T. Woods and Lewis Latimer needling each other about whose inventions are better. Someone jokingly asked Benjamin Banneker if he had needed directions to Washington. And George Washington Carver was overheard asking, "What, no peanuts?" James Weldon Johnson busted out laughing as he remembered how he wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as a poem to introduce Booker T. Washington at a celebration for Abe Lincoln. "Looks like I'll have to write another verse for Barack." President Lincoln smiled and nodded in agreement while refusing an offered chair. "Learned my lesson; when you sit down in Washington, they make a monument of you," he joked. U.S. Cabinet secretaries Ron Brown and Patricia Harris are heard discussing possible Cabinet appointments in the new administration.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson 
Dueling bands? Anytime Duke Ellington and Count Basie get together, you know the place will be jumping. Tonight is special, of course, so we have MilesDizzy, and Satchmo sitting in on trumpet, with ColtraneCannonball, and Bird on sax. Everyone's attention is directed to the dance floor where Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is tap dancing. Right beside him is Sammy Davis Jr., doing his Bojangles routine. And behind his back, Gregory Hines is imitating them both. Applause and laughter abound!

The Hollywood contingent has just arrived from the Coast. Led by filmmaker Oscar MicheauxPaul RobesonCanada Lee, and Hattie McDaniel, they find their way to their tables. At a nearby table, Beah Richards and ButterflyMcQueen are enjoying a conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt and Gordon ParksDorothy Dandridge, looking exquisite in gold lamé, is seen signaling to her husband, Harold Nicholas, who is standing on the floor with brother Fayard watching Gregory Hines dance. "Hold me back," quips Harold, "before I show that youngster how it's done." Much laughter!

Sam Cooke
You can't miss the big smile on the face of Sam Cooke as he moves through the crowd reminding everyone that he was the first to tell us that a Change was gonna come. Meanwhile, Ellington seats Ray Charles at the piano, and Brother Ray rips into a rousing version of "America the Beautiful." My heart felt like it would burst right through my chest. I had to remind myself to keep breathing. Then a sudden hush comes over the room. A single silhouetted figure stands at center stage, and as the lights slowly come up, the crowd recognizes the man of the hour, President Barack Obama.

The applause and cheers were deafening. The President looked out across the enormous ballroom at all the historic faces. There were many smiles; precious few dry eyes. Someone shouted out, "You did it! You did it!" And Obama replied, "No sir, you did it; you all – each and every one of you – did it. Your guidance and encouragement; your hard work and perseverance..." Obama paused, catching a glimpse of his mothergrandfather and his beloved grandmother, Toot. "You would not let me fail," he said, addressing them directly.

Workers in front of the White House
And after briefly composing himself, he continues, without cue cards or TelePrompTer. He speaks to us from his heart. "I look at your faces - your beautiful faces - and I am reminded that The White House was built by faces that looked just like yours. On October 3, 1792, the cornerstone of the White House was laid, and the foundations and main residence of the White House were built mostly by both enslaved and free African Americans and paid Europeans. In fact, most of the other construction work was performed by immigrants, many of whom had not yet become citizens. Much of the brick and plaster work was performed by Irish and Italian immigrants. The sandstone walls were built by Scottish immigrants.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the White House is, ultimately, The People's House, with each President serving as its steward. Since 1792 The People have trimmed its hedges, mowed its lawn, stood guard at its gate, cooked meals in its kitchen, and scrubbed its toilet bowls. But 216 years later, The People are taking it back!"

More applause, and recorded music begins to play. Then Michelle makes her own entrance to the music of The Pretenders – "I'll Stand By You." She walks up behind Barack, kisses him and holds him tightly, as the song continues, "I'll stand by you; I'll stand by you. Won't let nobody hurt you. I'll stand by you." That's where I lost it, and tears streamed down my face.

The Obama familyThe President smiled broadly and took her hand as the music faded. "Today, Michelle and I usher in a new era. But, while we and our family look toward the future with so much hope, we know that we must also acknowledge fully this milestone in our journey. We want to thank each and every one of you for all you have done to make this day possible. I stand here before you, humbled and in awe of your splendid accomplishments and unwavering sacrifice. I will dedicate my Presidency, in your honor, to the principles of peace, liberty and freedom. And if it ever appears that I'm forgetting that, I know I can count on you to remind me." Then he pointed to me near the stage... "Kenyada, isn't it time for you to wake up for work? Isn't it time... Isn't it time for all of us to wake up and get to work?"

Suddenly I awake and sit right up in bed with a knowing smile. My wife stirs and sleepily asks if I'm OK.  "I've never been better," I replied, "Never better. It's gonna be a good day."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Friday Fruit (02/03/17)

Black and white selfie of Black woman with braids and her young son 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 many voices leading the way...


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.
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