Politics


I watched another heart-wrenching documentary on the genocide in Darfur. Titled “On Our Watch”, it was featured on PBS Frontline. It’s unbelievable that this atrocity is still occurring in 2008 and the leaders of our world community cannot muster the “will” to impress upon Sudan that it must stop this genocide. The documentary touched on some of the reasons why there is such a failure to act… the most vital being oil. It’s paradoxical that there are those who believe that Iraq was invaded because of it’s oil fields, while Sudan is left to continue it’s policy of genocide because of it’s oil fields.

There is lots of blame to go around for this failure to act, from the U.N; the U.S. (which has taken a hardline and imposed strict economic sanctions on Sudan, but could obviously do more… see here); the European Community, The Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Iran, The African Union, The Arab League and China… to name just a few of the major players. Let’s not forget about the Afrosphere, which could do much more to advocate for the people of Darfur. If half as much energy, focus and commitment was utilized by bloggers of African descent to organize, petition and demand action to stop the genocide in Darfur, as was generated to support the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, there would be more pressure on our leaders, both community and political, to address this issue. If we don’t show we care by taking action, they certainly won’t! For some of us, it will be a historic achievement to have a black face in the White House… while for others, it’s a historic achievement to survive the day without being raped, tortured or killed… and being able to have one meal for the day. Let me give a “dap and a big up!” to Yobachi over at BlackPerspectives.net, who has been constant in his commitment on keeping Darfur an issue in the Afrosphere.

Below are links to the PBS Frontline documentary and other informative sites on Darfur. There are also links on these sites giving you the opportunity to get involved in stopping the genocide.

  1. On Our Watch
  2. sudanreeves.org
  3. Eyes on Darfur
  4. Save Darfur
  5. Save Darfur: Partner Campaigns

I watched a fascinating discussion on Sunday afternoon on a program on BBC World called “The World Debate”. The panel, which was made up of Carl Bernstein, the award winning journalist who helped uncover the Watergate scandal; Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of the internet giant Google; Dan Gilbert, a Harvard Psychologist; Queen Noor of Jordan and the Ugandan journalist and broadcaster, Andrew Mwenda, discussed the role and influence of the “New Media”, via the IT revolution, specifically the dissemination of information and the pros and cons associated with this democratization of journalism.

What I found interesting was how the old guard and protectors of the status quo, embodied by the views of Bernstein and Gilbert, were openly condescending and somewhat alarmist in their opinions concerning what they referred to as the “citizen journalism” via the internet. Berin, Queen Noor and Mwenda were more understanding and supportive of the value and need of alternative voices, who aren’t “trained or schooled” at some recognized institution for journalism and therefore don’t hold the standard eurocentric prejudices, but in many ways provide a more realistic, personal and honest view of events in their environment. 

As I listened to the discussion I came to realise once again the power of the internet in sharing information (especially real time events), views, beliefs and opinions among people throughout the round corners of the world. We have all heard the adages: “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword and Knowledge is Power”. This is truer today than any time in the history of humankind and whomever controls knowledge, and more importantly the access to knowledge, as well as controls the pen (or today the keystrokes), is the master (or chief manipulator) of reality. This is why regimes such as China and Myanmar have such strict controls on their populations access to the information highway. This is why during periods of civil strife and unrest in countries such as Pakistan and Kenya, access to certain sites such as Youtube by their citizens, which may show videos of the brutality of the regime against those protesting for their political and human rights, are shut down. This is why the Bernsteins and Gilberts are fearful of the “New Media”, because the power to shape ideas, beliefs, values (and henceforth culture)… and the power to control (and restrict) information and knowledge, are no longer in the hands of the elite or a select few with common interests to maintain and perpetuate the status quo. This rise of the “New Media” is much more than a democratization of information sharing, it is more of a revolution in “people participation”.  

It is this participation, or the potential of the power of this participation, which makes the blogosphere in general and the “Afrosphere” in particular such a potent force. It brings people together who would have never had the opportunity to connect before and through these relationships, we have the ability to expand our focus, influence and experiences. Through blogging, I have been able to communicate with many people throughout the world. People I have never met face to face and most likely, never will. People from different countries, as well as a variety of political, religious, economic, cultural and social backgrounds, beliefs, values and opinions.

This gathering of people of African descent — whether born in the U.S. or Africa or elsewhere, whether descendants of slaves or free men, whether rich or indigent –this gathering arises out of a need for self-determination and a history of forced subordination and removed relativity to an abstract outsider. We face each other under a banner of survivalist solidarity because regardless of our differences — whether they be our sexualities, our disabilities, our religions or our interests — we are viewed as one. What jerks at one of us sends tremors through all of us. So we need to understand each other.”  From the Mission Statement of the Afrospear, written by Sylvia.

Powerful! The above statement is truly a call for those of African descent throughout the world, who have the ability to utilize the “New Media”, to come together for the advancement of our people, regardless of our “isms” ! It is a challenge to revolutionize our way of thinking, and rise to the higher and uncharted territory of focusing on the value in our different perspectives. We need to do away with the mindset that because we are all not of, and/or from, the same social or economic class, political beliefs (or affiliations), religious or spiritual sects, continent, country, tribe, ‘hood, gender, sexual orientation etc., that we can demonize, dehumanize, disrespect, define and declare who belongs to our community and who does not. We need to do away with egotistical and self-righteous declarations that those who do not think, believe or live like us… are not with us… they are against us. We need to do away with intellectual tribalism… which like Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone and most recently Kenya… leads only to our communal genocide. The only requirement is that one is sincerely working for the benefit and advancement of people of African descent, whether in the local, national, international and/or virtual arena.

I am not so naive to believe that all people of African descent will agree, get along with each other or come together for the greater good of the community. It won’t happen! I am resigned to the fact that it will never happen! Selfishness and self-centered interests are chief among the reasons which makes this impossible. I have already seen it within the Afrosphere and Afrospear, how differences in beliefs and opinions, as well as self-interests, have caused very smart and committed Black people to refuse and/or decide that they cannot… will not… work with other very smart and committed Black people.

However… this does not prevent me (and others) from working to create a “new deal” among us. To be a part of, connected to and add our collective voice to the variety of other Afrocentric/Black individuals, cells, conglomerations and collectives out in the AfroSphere. I am indeed hopeful because I have also seen the potential and practice of the power of the “New Media” in the past successes of the Afrosphere surrounding the issues of the Jena 6, Kenneth Foster and Shaquanda Cotton. Furthermore. I have foreseen the potential power of the Afrosphere spurring the future successes that are to come, regarding issues such as BET, Dunbar Village, Darfur and even the election a person of African descent as the President of the United States of America.        

 VS 

Recently I have been contemplating if the church has any real significant and positive influence on the world today, especially in the beliefs and actions of western society in particular. There was a time when Christian ideology, through the church was very influential (good and bad) in shaping political, social, cultural and even personal beliefs and viewpoints. I would argued that today this influence is not as great as it was say… even 30 years ago.

I read an analytical report on The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life website which somewhat dealt with this issue, from an interesting point of reference. This article entitled: “Science in America: Religious Beliefs and Public Attitudes”, discussed the findings of a survey which concluded that “when scientific evidence and long-held religious beliefs come into direct conflict, many Americans reject science.” 

According to the authours of the report, American society has a unique dichotomy in that on one hand, it is the most religious of the advanced industrial democracies, while on the other hand, it’s leadership in scientific research and application has been instrumental in making it a powerful nation. This has… not surprisingly… created some conflict between faith and science on societal beliefs, particularly on controversial issues such as evolution, homosexuality and global warming. The report primarily looked at the influence of religion and science on these three topics in American society.

The report contended that a close reading of the survey shows that large majorities of the American public respect science and scientists, but where scientific evidence and long-held religious belief come into direct conflict, “many Americans reject science in favor of the teachings of their faith tradition.” However, surprisingly today such areas of explicit differences are not common. 

It was interesting to compare the beliefs of Black and White Christians (specifically Evangelicals) on the above three issues, as well as secularists, Conservatives, Moderates, Liberals, college and high school graduates. The results were not as straightforward and/or obvious as one would be expect. There are definite mixtures and combinations of scientific and religious influences which run through even strong held beliefs and opinions.

The report does not necessarily answer my original question on whether the church, Christianity and religion in general is a positive driving force on western society, but it does offer some insight on what motivates beliefs and therefore actions… which can have obvious implications in areas such as the formulation of government statutes and public policies. 

 

Here are some of the jewels from Africa that has enriched my life:

My favourite online African magazine, The African Executive. Here are 2 of this month’s articles that may be of interest:   

Tribalism in Africa: A Western Creation? 

Is Democracy Working in Africa? 

Blogs:

Africa Beat: political and economic development by an Afro-optimist;

Blog Africa: wide variety of African blogs; 

Le Pangolin: French blogger from Senegal;

Ore’s Notes: Nigerian woman living in Lagos;

Poefrika: a weblog of creative African-inspired writing; 

What an African Woman Thinks: one of my favourites. This blogger in Kenya really personalizes the fears and aspirations of those who are currently experiencing the events in that country. A must read!

Books:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Why Are We So Blest both by Ayi Kwei Armah

Weep Not, Child by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

God’s Bit’s of Wood by Sembene Ousmane

Death and the King’s Horsemen; Madmen and Specialists. Both are by Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka

Long Walk To Freedom. The autobiography of Nelson Mandela

The Wretched Of The Earth by Frantz Fanon

Civilization and Barbarism by Cheikh Anta Diop

West Africa Traditional Religion by T.N.O. Quarcoopome  

Music:

Femi Kuti: Nigerian Afrobeat and Jazz artist.

Angelique Kidjo: Beninese singer and songwriter who performs a variety of afrostyles.

Salif Keita: Albino Malian singer and songwriter with a sweet voice that fits well with his buoyant beats. 

Youssou N’Dour: Senegalese musician who is a modern day Griot.

Miriam Makeba: South African singer, actress, anti-Apartheid activist who was at one time married to Stokley Carmichael.

Hugh Masekela: South Africa Jazz composer and musician, known for his skillz on the trumpet.

Interactive

A Day in the Life of Africa: On February 28th 2002, 100 photojournalists captured the essense of Africa in a 24 hour period. Enter the Gallery at this site and click on each of the 10 Timezones to enjoy some of the magnificent photos.This effort was to raise funds and awareness of the AIDS-HIV crisis on the continent. A photo book is available for sale with proceeds going to Africa AIDS Education Fund.      

 

I wanted to do this post last week but I was just too busy with doing “da life thang” to blog. I was inspired to get it done after reading this post by brotherpeacemaker: The “N” Word.

The Queen-Mother informed me of a news story she saw that in the southern U.S., they are using the term “Canadian” as a code word to refer to Black people. It replaces the publicly unacceptable term “nigger”. Huh!? Apparently in 2003, after a prosecutor in Houston, Texas got a double manslaughter conviction, his boss sent out a congratulatory email to the whole office, commenting that the conviction and stiff sentence was secured although the jury had some “Canadians” who were feeling sorry for the defendant. There were no people from Canada on the jury but there were some African Americans. There was also a story of a Black store clerk who kept overhearing patrons complaining that they were always being served by the “Canadian”. She didn’t know who they were talking about and finally asked a co-worker, who was this “Canadian” she kept hearing about? She was enlightened that it was her and it was a new code word for “nigger”. But why the term: “Canadian”… because Canadians aren’t Americans… they’re “outsiders!” See news story here.   

I have also been made aware that another code word for us Black people is “Mondays”. Why “Mondays”? Because people usually don’t like Mondays! I was mistaken to believe this was just an American phenomenon. I was telling a friend who lives in Toronto, Canada about this and she told me of an incident she recently had on the subway. She was standing and holding on to a pole on the train with 4 other white people who knew each other, when one of the guys started talking about “Mondays”. She didn’t know what he was referring to, but she thought it was strange because it wasn’t a Monday. She stated that one of the white women with them gave her a “look” and she felt strange, so she moved.  She later came to realize they were referring to her.    

WOW! It makes me wonder what other new age references and/or derogatory terms they have for “us”? Ignorance is never bliss! 

“Tell me why I don’t like Mondays…. I want to shoot the whole day down.” The Boomtown Rats.   

 

As I have been following the current news events out of Africa, it is disturbing to see all the images of chaos, death, disease, greed, genocide and corruption. Is that all there is or is that only what is being fed to us? I have always believed that western society’s (and the global) view of those of African descent starts, is influenced and perpetuated by these negative media images from the Motherland. I also believe that these images have an effect on how “we” see ourselves here in the Diaspora.

Africa is indeed resource rich. However, despite the dismal news reports and negative images, Africa has much more to offer the world other than it’s material resources, that is being raped and stolen for the benefit of former neocolonial regimes and to enrich their propped up African overseers! One of the resources we don’t utilize enough as people of African descent, are the many voices that are available to be “mined” for our benefit. There are cultural, political, econimic, artistic, literary and spiritual gems of experiences, knowledge, beliefs, values, insights and opinions, which are available to help bring clarity and strength to our being. The continent is rich in books, films, magazines, music, websites and blogs, etc., which are the invaluable jewels that their best and brightest have to offer the world.  

For this month’s carnival, let’s share and exchange some of the priceless resources from the Motherland that have enriched and brought joy to our lives. Create a post on your page with African based web links, as well as book, music, magazine, movie and blog lists, etc., and submit a link to Afrospear@hotmail.com by this Sunday 10th February. I will compile the links and publish the carnival on Monday the 11th. 

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

 

 

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

People,

African-Americans are at a critical point in time. They need to address conditions and circumstances that are preventing them from existing as a free and independent people. In order for them to do this there are many factors they should prepare to embrace. The first one is God and spirituality which will inspire them to want to atone, unite and organize to address conditions in society and this onslaught of racial attacks. The second is numbers. Blacks need to show a force of millions of their people preparing to fight for freedom, justice and equality. That is why the Black Church and the Five Phase Plan will play a crucial role in this movement for respect and reparations.

1. When African-Americans decide to engage in this effort, they will realize they should go through a process to solve differences among their people and prepare to carry on these actions until they receive justice in the form of reparations. They need to atone to make themselves better people in their own eyes and commit to organizing with the purpose of addressing racism, disparities and inequities, and demanding respect and reparations.

2. Blacks should realize that it is of the ut-most importance for them to identify themselves as they see fit. They should not continue to let others name them and dictate their destination. Blacks should know that they can name themselves according to their land of origin, culture and existence. African-Americans should know different terms that have been put forth to identify them, such as Afro Descendents of Slaves, Descendents of Black African Slaves, Indigenous African-Americans, Moors and African Spiritual Beings, among other names. We should learn what it would mean for us to claim an identity for ourselves and move accordingly. This would be a signal to the world that we are claiming our independence. We should not continue to identify ourselves as others see fit.

All groups who claim blacks should call themselves one of these names have good reasons. But there is one name that will give African-Americans a right to land and all forms of reparative measures to recover their heritage, relieve themselves of the mental anguish they suffer from due to 500 years of extreme prejudice or (PTSS) and build cities complete with an infrastructure. Blacks can undergo this task by holding a Plebiscite for Sovereignty, which is a national vote among black folks in America.

3. Blacks need to form a Reparations Union to create a power base to carry out a massive campaign for reparations. It would enable them to address the rise in racial attacks in a strong, united and ever lasting group effort. Instead of the usual manner in which a few folks who normally show up call on thousands to conduct one day protest. It would direct them to put pressure on the government and big corporations that will stimulate real and lasting change. It would enable them to carry out national boycotts, marches and protest that would last for weeks and months and years if necessary, to force policy makers and institutions in this country to respect them. And most important of all, the formation of this union would get others to think twice before they violate African-Americans and their constitutional and civil rights because they would know the union will fight hard to make them accountable for their actions. This would strengthen the Plebiscite and the black condition in America.

4. Blacks need to form a constituency among themselves to label and suggest solutions to solve crimes of slavery, segregation and discrimination, that have a lasting impact. This would be a Reparations Tribunal where African-Americans would place their findings before the public to determine what remedies are most suitable to repair the damages done to their people.

5. Blacks should work with Whites, Jews and others who have enslaved and or exploited them in a Truth and Reconciliation Process to elaborate on findings of the Tribunal and to disclose all others areas where they have been damaged and victims of injustice. This would signal the bearing of human beings to make up for past atrocities and to facilitate a healing between blacks and those who have caused them great pain and suffering. This is the way to bring justice to Black people and reconnect the different races in America in the spirit of God as various peoples with an understanding and degree of tolerance and respect for one another.

In memory of our ancestors,

Brotha Pruitt
Reparations Leader and Chairman
Committee for African American Reparations (CAAR)
Reparations Union Lobbying Association (RULA)

http://hometown.aol.com/blk2day/myhomepage/index.html

in-teg-ri-ty (from Dictionary.com):

  1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
  2. the state of being whole, entire or undiminished.
  3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.

I have always advocated that one should take responsibility and accountability for what one does, does not do and for what one says. We are not perfect, but that’s not the issue.  In our imperfections, once we make a mistake or do something that isn’t right, we need to own it, apologize if need be and make it right. This is all rooted in the concept of personal integrity. This is what bothers me most: when one does not act with any integrity!

Today, living with any sense of integrity is not seen as a positive attribute. Actually it is seen as a weakness. The latest celebrity figure from our community who has manifested this lack of integrity is Olympic track and field star Marion Jones. These s/heroes from our community once were the standard, the model of hard work and personal integrity. Now they are just a reflection of the the lack of responsibility, lack of accountability and loss of personal integrity which the wider society now perpetuates…. and this wider society includes us! There are those we come in contact with every day, even some of us, who act with no sense of personal integrity. It’s not that we never had it, it’s not that our parents or grandparents never schooled us on theses values…. we’ve either lost it or sold out for selfish accolades and/or material trinkets. 

“Integrity comes when character is tested; keep true and never be ashamed of doing what is right.”

I was faced with a situation where I was temporarily assigned as a supervisor towards the end of last year. I didn’t receive the customary supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of this assignment. Why? Because my manager who is “white”, didn’t file the required paper work in time. It is policy that temporary increases in pay for acting supervisory assignments must be filed and approved before it starts. When I enquired about this at the time, my manager lied to me and said that he had filed the paperwork, but his manager who had to also approve it, had at first lost it and when he had filed the paperwork a second time, it sat on his supervisor’s desk and didn’t get approved in time. He assured me that I would receive all my supervisor’s pay in the next period. I didn’t make an issue of it at the time since I felt that getting the experience was beneficial enough at that point. After 6 months of performing supervisory duties, I was finally given my supervisors wage but it was retrograded to the start of 2007…. so I only received 4 months compensation. My manager informed me that I couldn’t get compensated for the first 2 months, since they were in 2006, in another fiscal period. hmmmm ok…

Because it was a temporary assignment, the paperwork for supervisor’s pay has to re-filed for every 3 month period. My manager again filed this paperwork late for the summer period that I had supervised…. he actually filed it at the end of the summer. For this reason, his manager refused to approve the late request for my supervisor’s pay, which I had already received, so I had my pay deducted! Now I got to find out that another colleague of mine, who is “white” and also on temporary supervisory assignment, had all his paperwork filed on time by this same manager and therefore received his due compensation… no problem. Subsequently, I also found out that my manager never filed the original paperwork so I could receive my supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of my assignment!

My manager was informed the same time I was from our human resources department that my pay was being deducted. He never contacted me to explain or apologize for his negligence. There were a number of factors at work here and one of them is “racial”. I believe that subconsciously, my manager felt he had no responsibility to treat me fairly, explain his actions or apologize for his inaction, due to the colour of my skin. It’s a slave masters mentality…. he values my work, but he does not value me as a human being!  So after a month I contacted him and made it known that this issue was not about the money, which I was no doubt entitled to, but for me it was now a matter of principle! So I asked him to explain why:

  1. I was being punished by having my pay deducted, for his not filing the required paperwork on time to extend my supervisory assignment over the summer period?
  2. Why I didn’t receive my supervisor’s pay right from the time I started the assignment as did my white colleague?

Needless to say this has caused a sh*t storm! My manager took no responsibility nor accountability for his failure to treat me fairly, or for lying to me…. and went on the offensive. He made it known, very strongly and in no uncertain terms, that he was disappointed in me for being so ungrateful for the opportunities he had provided me. He attempted to twist the whole affair around to make it my fault…. my problem…. and I was the one who was being unfair and he was the victim! 

“Your integrity is your destiny. It is the light that guides your way.”

I now have a son. I have to be the primary example in his life of acting responsible and being accountable for what one does, doesn’t do and/or say. I have to teach him how to stand up for his principles, beliefs and values. I have to educate him on the fact that as a man, especially a Black man in a “white” dominated society, there are those who will try to take advantage of him, who will devalue him as a human being…. and expect him to be quiet and accept his “fate”. I have to impress upon him that you don’t need to “fight every fight” that comes your way…. you need to pick and choose your fights but you always fight for your principles. I have to be a role model to him on having personal integrity…. no matter what the cost. 

I had other co-workers warn me that if I made an issue of this, if I confronted my manager as I had done, that it would seriously jeopardize my chances to get promoted. My reply is “what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul”. Integrity resides within our soul. Once you lose your integrity, you lose your soul. They say everyone has a price. For Judas, like for some of us, it is 30 pieces of silver. For others it’s the opportunity to eat the scraps from “Massa’s” table. My integrity is not for sale.                            

I am sorry to be late with my submission on this exciting topic for our second carnival, but I haven’t yet mastered how to best divvy up my time as a new father. I am always tired…. I sleep, I take care of baby, I go to work, I take care of baby, I sleep and the cycle starts again…. I have “a minute” to spare so here goes…..  

The work of Marimba Ani in  “Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior,” has a lot of truth in it (it is definitely a must read) and I agree with Lubangakene when he asserts that it “makes it clear that the intention and proselytizing usage of European religion was for control and conquest of other peoples. “ Some of his questions also “struck a cord” within me and sparked a thinking process as I contemplated my responses to them…. namely:

  1. How does our God-consciousness, filtered through an alien religion, shackle us?
  2. Can our spiritual/religious beliefs flower within such a context? Can those beliefs and practices empower us?
  3. Is the white man’s religion a positive or negative force, ultimately, in the lives of African peoples in the diaspora?
  4. Is it possible to adopt/adapt the religions and religious practices of an oppressor who has used religion throughout history to conquer the minds and bodies of his targets/victims – to positive affect?

Percolating within me was a rational, intellectual and measured response anchored by my religious beliefs and literary knowledge. I had quotations from the Bible and references from James H. Cone’s “A Black Theology of Liberation” as well as, “God’s Politics” by Rev. Jim Wallis, chosen and ready to assert that religion is about a personal relationship with God and whatever choices we make…. whether good, bad or indifferent, especially in His name, we will have to answer to someday. I was ready to debate that Christianity is not a eurocentric-based religion as such, but that version of it was forced upon us, people of African descent, and it was up to us to free ourselves from spiritual (as well as mental) slavery and find our God… the One who meets all our needs as a people. That is the physiological, emotional, psychological, financial, societal, environmental, intellectual, safety and spiritual needs which may be unique to us and our condition. I was all set to argue that paradoxically, all these needs are not ethnically nor culturally based, since they are important to everyone, regardless of colour of skin, nationality, gender, orientation, language, or even religious beliefs…. however the way and how God meets our needs are not necessarily the same. Depending on any one or combination of the above factors, He may meet our particular need(s) on an individual, community or yes…. even a cultural level. I was ready to boast of how multi-cultural and multi-racial the church I attend is and that as a Black man…. as a Black family,  it certainly meets my/our needs and that it reflected the best of what heaven on earth can be. Yes I was all primed to “shock and awe” with my blah, blah, blah….

Then I went to do my weekly volunteer commitment. I am involved with an inner-city mission that I found out about through my church. It is a Christian based facility that specializes in assisting the homeless and those with psychological challenges and substance abuse issues (and the combination of all for some). We simply provide information on where to access city services, feed the hungry, provide shelter for a time, listen to life stories, offer advice and when it’s appropriate, tell them about the love of Jesus. On Sunday afternoons we hold a inner-city service for those who don’t belong to a specific church or denomination, or profess to follow any particular religion. The mission caters to different types of people, from a variety of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common: regardless of our circumstances or status…. we are all striving to make it through the day.

So as I was working, I looked around at the people I was serving and I thought that as a Christian, as a person who believes and wants to serve God in my own “little” way…. this is what really matters! Standing there it was clear that cultural and historical context didn’t matter. Eurocentric or Afrocentric symbolism didn’t matter. Religion and religious practices didn’t matter. What really matters and gives me hope is that today, there are people all over the world who are inspired by their own religious beliefs to serve others (the Buddhist monks in Myanmar come to mind). What truly mattered was the “smile” and “thank you” I got from connecting with another human being and hopefully making a positive impact on their life. Even it that just means giving them a sandwich and a coffee or listening to the same joke or story for the umpteenth time. Regardless of my all religious pontificating and intellectual discourses, the few hours I spend each week, serving each individual, meeting their individual need at that particular time, for the glory of God, is what my religion means to me.                                 

  

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