Our Mother Who Art In Heaven 

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So the verdict is in, Octavia Spencer is my favorite actor. 

And yes, I used “actor” on purpose even though she’s a woman. (I’m a proud gramma nazi with an English degree. I know how to use words good. 🙃)

Any who, I used a gendered term because it serves my purpose when examining her role, as Papa, in her most recent big screen feature The Shack based on the New York Times Best Seller by the same name. 


I first came in contact with the novel in 2011. I was going through [what my 22 year old self thought was] a very rough season of transition. 

I was unloading to my friend, who’s one of my spiritual mentors, (a lot of people’s salvation can be traced back to sacrifices she made as a Michigan State University undergraduate). My dear sister in Christ, Elon, listened to my concerns. She heard my desperation, confusion and hopelessness.  

At the time, I thought I needed a car and a boo to make my life better. Elon knew I needed a shift in my understanding of God and who He is. She suggested I read The Shack and I did. 

Ever since, I’ve had a recurring picture in my mind of a big Black woman facing the sink singing and dancing to rock music whenever I think of God’s love for me. So when I saw that familiar image on the movie screen, I was again reminded of how God meets us where we are. He meets us where we are to take us where we need to be. 

The Shack is a great depiction of that. The shortened storyline is this. A white man, Mack, has a traumatic childhood. He grows up, marries, has children and has a life altering experience as an adult that made him feel distant from God. One day he goes to the shack and has a supernatural encounter with God, the trinity. 

He meets God the Father, played by Octavia Spencer, who’s affectionately referred to as Papa. He meets Jesus, played by a man who looks to be of Middle Eastern descent. He also meets the Holy Spirit who’s personified as an Asian woman. 


So like the main character, Mack, and probably every other reader I was stunned that God the Father was not just a woman, but a Black woman. 

But then again… why is that shocking? Many of the Black women I know and have heard of collectively consistently embody the characteristics of God. 

This is a powerful image of humility and strength. The woman pictured was not the only descendent of captured Africans who breastfed their masters’ children. It’s a commonly known fact that after slavery Black women could only find jobs that forced them to serve their oppressors. Black women have shown the character of Christ by doing something that is extremely difficult for the proud, serve someone who may never understand who you really are. Jesus died for people who will never acknowledge Him as Lord.
More than likely, even the most ignorant person recognizes the person in this photo. Here’s Rosa Parks. A woman who, like Christ, KNOWINGLY went into a situation that cost her life as she knew it. She, like Christ, was arrested and abused.  Because of her sacrifice and her willingness to be crucified, the course of history was changed forever.  If you haven’t already, meet Ella Baker. Ella was a leader who built leaders who built leaders. Like Christ had disciples who made disciples who make disciples. She is known for leaving a legacy that ensured the generation after her would be equipped to do more work than she did. Like, the Lord did.  

My granny… widowed mother of 8 who raised each of them and their children to understand how love overshadows every hurtful word and every offense and that it is what enables us to press through the hardest times in life. She taught us that life happens and sometimes it hurts, but the happenings and hurts cannot break the bonds of love when it’s pure. Just like Christ’s love for us fueled His ability to be cursed, whipped, spat on and nailed to a cross. 

These Black women in this picture remind me that life should be enjoyed and shared with a core group of people who understand your plight. 
These Black women who have mentored and discipled me. Some of these women’s shoulders have been soaked with my tears. All of their phones have had texts with my questions. All of them have shown me the importance and impact of laying down your own life for the purpose of seeing other people be freed. Like Jesus. 
My fellow Black women, for your resilience, for your healing hands, for your supernatural ability to forgive, for your humility, for your ability to love without expecting, for your ability to give without the expectation of reciprocity, for lying down your life for others, thank you for being a shining tangible example of our Father who art in Heaven. 

Dear White Jesus…

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Last night, we watched President Barack Obama give his heart-wrenching farewell address in Chicago. Along with many of my Facebook friends, I found myself reminiscing on my college days. The first time I voted for president, I voted for a Black man. Even then I was aware of how big of a deal that was. But coupled with those feelings of nostalgia was the ever present nagging of the knowledge that I know a lot of people who are planning a party for his last day in office. They’re  planning a parade for Trump’s election because they are actually excited for these next four years.

You see, as a pro-Black devout Christian I navigate a complicated existence. I live by Proverbs 31. Not the part we quote about what a woman should be and do, but the part that talks about how it’s our responsibility to defend the defenseless. (Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Proverbs 31:8) My life’s work is to serve children who live in urban areas, as well as their families. I am a Black person who’s aware of what it means to be Black in America. I work daily to awaken other people to those implications. As a Christian, it is important to me that people understand truth. I understand how oppression is lifted by accepting truth.

I’m an advocate by nature, trade and calling. So it’s a struggle for me to align myself with a brand of politics that makes its name based on oppressing others who don’t believe what Christians believe.

A few nights ago, I watched Meryl Streep’s viral speech where she expresses something that reminded me of sentiment I heard from a conservative Christian figure.

They both expressed that when the leader of the country does something it permits citizens to do the same. The concept is that when a leader does something it conveys the message that the behavior and/or belief is a new societal norm. Meryl Streep was referring to Trump’s overall childishness and his mocking of people with differing abilities. The religious person referred to President Obama’s allegiance to LGBTQ people.

So… what does this have to do with the title of this post?

White Jesus is the guy  in the pictures we grew up believing was Jesus. Only perceived white supremacy could make it okay to depict a god with skin that light to represent someone born in Bethlehem.

White Jesus is the one who has pushed many Black people away from Jesus and church because his followers beat White Jesus into some Africans and their descendants through slavery. Then those White Jesus followers used the bible to explain why slavery was just. The bible has stories of enslaved people. It doesn’t condone it. The scriptures that speak about slaves obeying their masters are instructions to help people live in the society that existed. They don’t say the society was right.

White Jesus is the ultra privileged guy who validates conservatives’ beliefs that they are justified in their practices of blocking and hating legislation that benefits LGBTQ people and that supports people’s ability to choose what happens in and to their bodies. They do this while simultaneously hating refugees, poor people, people of color AND Muslims (and any other religious group). All of their anger about policies and support of policies that ostracize people groups are all in the name of Jesus.

In the name of Jesus… Jesus, the man born in a place that wasn’t his home. Jesus, the Middle Eastern man who hung out with sinners. Jesus, the man who crossed the ethnic and societal lines and offered living water to a woman at a well. Jesus, the God who came so that EVERYONE could have access to life and that more abundantly.

I don’t have a problem with him, per se, but White Jesus has a whole lot of followers though and they make it really hard to go to church or want to get to know the real Jesus.

White Jesus makes me aware of the social privilege I have because I’m a Christian living in Western society. Having privilege is almost uncomfortable for me as a Black woman. However, living with identity markers that are historically oppressed makes it impossible for me to not use my agency to speak out against wrong doings by others in my group.

Dear All Lives Matter

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Dear All Lives Matter,

The schools of Detroit Public Schools (DPS) are being stripped. The teachers are being forced out and being made to look like the villains. Before you know it, DPS won’t exist. Children are being forced to go to schools that don’t have heat, updated books, or enough certified teachers to teach. Everyone knows that a quality education is one of the prerequisites to a successful life. The lives of those children matter because all lives matter.

You might have heard about the Sick Outs, but just in case you haven’t let me catch you up. DPS teachers are calling in sick, in droves. So many are calling in because they really are sick. They’re sick of losing their benefits. They’re sick of taking paycuts. They’re sick of having to teach 40 students per class. They are sick of losing funding. They are sick of being blamed for the failing system. They are sick of knowing that their school district is being intentionally and systematically dismantled by the institution that claims to be supporting them, the state. They are sick of not being able to live lives like people with full time jobs. Their lives and livelihoods matter because all lives matter. So yea, they’re sick, but probably not as sick as our neighbors in Flint.

I know you know about the genocide poisoning unfortunate event that is the lead filled water that’s plaguing the city of Flint. So far, only ten people have died. You and I know that even ten is too many because all lives matter. Different organizations are working together to donate bottled water to the citizens of Flint. This needs to happen because city officials have officially declared that the brown colored water is safe to drink and bathe in.

Detroit and Flint used to be heavily populated cities. They attracted lots of people in decades past because so many jobs were available in car plants. Over the years, the jobs were moved to the suburbs, but the people (who couldn’t afford to move) stayed. Schools are funded based on the property values of the homes surrounding the schools. If neighborhoods are poor so are the schools. Poor schools lose resources and materials. Then, class sizes increase and test scores decrease. The government uses the test information as proof that the teachers, administrators and school board are inept and the solution is for the state to take over. This happened in both Detroit and Flint.

I could say more, but I want this message to reach the people it’s intended to reach before I divulge more details about the crimes being committed against Black people of color  poor people citizens of Michigan so please send this to the leaders of All Lives Matter of Michigan.

Fundamentally, we agree. All lives matter. The way we show that is different though. Let’s meet and discuss this.

Peace,

CAE

P.S. Please tell the modern day slave auctioneers who break up families  Child Protective Services (CPS) that it isn’t ok for them to come and take citizens of Flint’s children because they are refusing to pay water bills for polluted water.