Lament Song


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I woke up Wednesday morning feeling lost and confused, remorseful over the events of the night before. So much shame and a deep feeling of wantonness filled my chest, comprising the air circulating in my lungs trying to keep me alive. My head ached, my body was sore, and I wanted to vomit up the evils that threatened to overtake the dark-skinned body that I inhabit, telling me that I don’t belong.

For years, I have felt this though sometimes in less subtle ways. Being a product of the 80s, my grandmother’s realities were not my own. After all, I have always lived in the progressive north and was born after monumental civil rights legislation was passed. At the same time, racism has always been part and parcel of my life’s experience, whether I lived in the hood or the burbs. Mass incarceration. Rodney King. Massive unemployment. Displacement and gentrification. Police Brutality. And discrimination. These are all daily realities of living in this black body, here in this country that claims to love God so much while it despises God’s very creation.

But Wednesday, Wednesday the day after that night that we have all been dreading more than 18 months, further intensified what I have always feared. In many ways, it made the covert nature of racism more overt as the nation elected a fascist, white supremacist for president. This man was clear about his intentions for people that represent any difference from the cis-gendered white male identity, you know – Black, American Indians, Asian Pacific Islanders, Women, Differently Abled, Queer and Gender Nonconforming folks. 

And his people salivated for it, no matter how much we tried to reason. They ignored our pleas and appeals to the higher conscious and Christian morality. They so much lusted for the power of days gone by when it was okay to call people Nigger and lynch them in the next moment. They craved the freedom that comes with male patriarchy and treating women as sex objects with no personal ideas and inclinations. To them, this was liberation, they only felt secure in their humanity when they stripped others of theirs. They denied the image of God in people who look like me, insisting that in a world of 7 billion people their’s were the only lives who truly mattered. So they refused the call of the prophets and priests and the saints among us, quenching the spirit of God begging to break forth in themselves in order to satisfy the depraved yearnings of the flesh.  

So now. We grieve. We lament. We the black ones whose lives are already under attack every single day. We the American Indian ones who are fighting to hold on to the last bit of land we have and save our earth. We the undocumented ones – Asian, Latino, African, and Caribbean – who fear instant deportation, whose children are too scared to go to school, who are afraid to even comprehend what it is to go back to their own countries of origin that have been decimated through US foreign policy, trade, and war. We the queer ones, whose bodies people just won’t allow to exist. We the Muslims who’ve been called unworthy, who’ve been labeled terrorists, who are stopped and profiled before we even leave our homes. We the women, who already experience assault, whose bodies are already over sexualized, whose voices are already silenced because no one dares to believe our stories are real.

We are the voices calling out from the margins, raising our voices to denounce America’s sin. We weep because you have chosen the fleeting pleasures of whiteness over our existence. We wail because you used religion to cover up your hatred of us, insisting that this was about God when in fact, you denied him over and over again. We shake our fists in rage, fearing what may happen, agonizing over what has already happened to our babies, our folks, and our kin as the hoods come on and the racists, who we’ve always known to be racist, come out of hiding to denigrate our existence. 

And yet.

We forgive you. And we will resist you. Our liberation and even yours, is tied to our resistance of this great evil that eats at your soul.

We love you. And we will rebuke you. For if we do not rebuke, we do not love.

We wish to be reconciled to you. And we will protest you. For reconciliation cannot occur without a prophetic telling of our pain and suffering. If Christ could not reconcile us to God without calling us into repentance, you should expect nothing less from us. We call, no we implore you to repent and be delivered from the sin of white supremacy that steals our land, kills our bodies, rapes our women, and denies our sons and daughters the opportunity to be free.

In our liberation, you will find deliverance.

In our liberation, you will find deliverance.

In our liberation, you will find deliverance.

Breathe

icantbreathe2
I can’t breathe.
Your unrealistic expectations are suffocating me.
But you can’t hear my cries for help,
Over the noise of your ego.

Maybe my existence clashes with your own.
But I don’t need to die,
Just so that you can live.

Link to image >

Dirt

 

dirt

Dirt.
Ending up in places you don’t belong.
Whoever thought you could be the source of so much
unhappiness?

What did I ever do to you?
Have you come to disturb my peace?
Have you come to unearth its fragile state?

Dirt.
I don’t know what to make of you.
I will clean you up lest you make a fool of me.

Link to image >

 

Is This Who We’ve Become?

Live togetherLast week, I received a call that no parent ever wants to receive – that there was a potential threat at my child’s school. After the police received information that there was a suspicious person outside of the building, the school was put on code yellow to ensure the safety of the children and faculty as well as to allow for more investigation. Fortunately – thank you Jesus – the police didn’t find anything and all returned to normal. Even still, the fact that there was a remote possibility of a threat sent me into an emotional frenzy and a slew of what-ifs.

What-ifs. I was here just a few weeks ago. As I came home from work and prepared to turn on my street, I noticed a cop car blocking most of the intersection. Determined to get home and start on dinner, I cut through the parking lot of a nearby CVS only to be met by a cop on the other end. After stopping me, the cop walked up to my car door, opened it and informed me that the street was closed. Unsure of what was going on, I explained that I lived on that street. When I disclosed the address of my residence, the cop informed me that there was a shooter nearby and that if I wanted access to my building, I would have to go the other way around, park my car, and walk. Not wanting to take chances, I decided to take my kids to dinner away from the area, hoping that by time we were done, all would be clear. But it wasn’t. For nearly three hours, we waited to receive word from my husband – who happened to make it home right before this charade unfolded – that the cops had opened up the street and it was safe to come back home. And with every minute we waited, I agonized over the sense of normalcy that have characterized things like this.

In our day and time, it is becoming increasingly normal to encounter acts of terror throughout our society. While we go throughout our day hoping and praying that the next attack won’t hurt us or our loved ones, we do very little to change the reality that violence characterizes our society. Whether that violence is exacted by the hands of the police, politicians ready to kill anything that moves contrary to their will, religious extremists, white supremacists, or lone gunmen who just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, the fact of the matter is that violence is the way that America does life.

Because violence dominates our way of being in the world, we also live in a heightened state of fear and anxiety. Fear over what someone might do to us. Fear of random strangers on the street who happen to cross our paths. Fear of those who look, believe, and act differently than mainstream white folks so that at every misstep we jump, ready to defend ourselves. And then, a loose cannon gets on television and tells us that the fear is justified. That those people over there are the root of the problem and not hundreds of years of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. And they insist that more guns and violence is the solution. ‘Arm yourselves.’ ‘Protect your family and your property.’ ‘Shoot first – ask questions later.’ As a result, everything and everyone becomes a target. I swear, we’d shoot the wind if we could.

Is this who we’ve become? Has our existence, our purpose in life, boiled down to this? Are we nothing more than strangers, and – I dare say – enemies, to those who don’t ascribe to our way of doing things? Will we continue to devour and destroy those who we fear poses a threat to our existence like wild, ravenous animals? Can we not find a way to move forward that doesn’t involve more loss of life and human connection?

I believe we must. We have to dig ourselves out of the deep abyss that we’ve created – the abyss which chokes out life and disregards our God-given humanity. While the U.S. has long operated under the guise that this mass of marginalization and death was for others – black and brown folks, the weak, those who were easy to exploit – the fact of the matter is that we’ve been digging ditches for our own burial. And the more we target and silence others, we compromise our own ability to breathe.

Nothing makes this more clear than the looming threat of climate change. We are now in crisis mode. Of a truth, communities of color and indigenous communities over the world are facing the most adverse realities of this right now as whole land masses are predicted to soon be under water and weather changes ruin crops and other resources. But the reality is the devastation will soon affect us all, which emphasizes the need for us to act as one human family, placing aside individual – and frankly monied – interests for the sake of the common good.

We are connected. We are one, big human family. The fear that defines us and the violence that characterizes us is not only a threat to marginalized groups at the bottom of the barrel, but all of us. The time has come for us to put down our arms, overcome our racism, xenophobia, and greed, and walk back toward one another so that we all may live.

*Quote is from Dr. King, link to image >

 

 

 

The Importance of Worship in Times of Despair

Worship8This last year has left me weary. The constant news of violence against my people has been both overwhelming and discouraging, the latter because I honestly don’t know when relief will come. Our nation has built it’s wealth and prominence in the world by victimizing black and brown people – something that will not be easily overcome, though I remain hopeful as smaller scale victories are won through protest and policy change everyday! I know that our present suffering will not endure forever, mostly because empires, no matter how powerful last forever. And I also know that the fullness of the Kingdom of God, when He redeems those who have been oppressed, is coming! But when that all will be, I just don’t know.

As aforementioned, I remain hopeful. Hopeful that change will come. But it is not the kind of false optimism that believes everything will work itself out in the end – that we as a people will eventually progress to a more peaceful, harmonious state of being. I have no time for such nonsense! No, my hope is anchored in what I know Christ will do as a result of what He already did on the cross. His blood, shed for the sins of all of humanity – past, present, and future – reconciles us back to God, each other, as well as the earth and land around us. And reconciliation is inseparable from justice! God will bring about justice for those who have been chained and shackled by governments and systems of this world that exploit people for power and profit. And despite how much leaders in our nation clothe themselves in American Christianity, there will come a time when those who have been on the delivering end of injustice will be brought to account.

For me, hope goes hand in hand with despair. I despair and agonize over the current situation as I hope for a redeemed, victorious future. As Dr. Cornel West puts it in his book Hope on a Tightrope, “Those of us who truly hope, make despair a constant companion whom we outwrestle everyday owing to our commitment to justice, love, and hope. It is impossible to look honestly at our catastrophic conditions and not have some despair – it is a healthy sign of how deeply we care.”

Hope and despair! You can probably now understand why I’ve been so weary. Two seemingly conflicting dispositions that can either propel you forward or force you to turn inward and as an ambivert, I straddle both pretty well. Reach out or shut down. Engage or withdraw. Fight or retreat. Worship or not.

Ironically, its the worship piece that I have struggled with the most and which I have had energy for the least. And it is not because of disbelief or even discouragement, because remember I know that Jesus will transform this! It is because after expending myself in so many ways throughout the day to stand and fight for justice, at the end of the day I just want to tap out.

However, this is really where our quest for reconciliation and redemption must start! When we begin with worship, God Himself strengthens our hearts and minds when we have grown weary with despair. Additionally, magnifying God above and higher than structural racism and capitalism gives us the perspective and strategy that we need to prophetically counter injustice. When we see God clothed in all of His glory, empires start to look a little smaller.

So once again, I make a commitment to God, to myself, and to those around me to begin with worship. Worship because I have to if I want to ensure that despair doesn’t turn into despondency – hope deferred makes the heart go weak.’ Worship because I want God to take His place and restore everything that has been lost through conquest and war. Worship because the race for justice that we are running is a long distance marathon, not a sprint – I need endurance for the long haul!