Although I do not profess to be a Biblical Scholar, I have found myself inside of a ‘praise house’ or two. It is my exposure to “the Gospel” that has often provided solace during many of life’s trials and tribulations. However, at my core I naturally operate from a position that says “faith without works is dead.” Put simply, as an activist and public intellectual I have always agreed with Malcolm X’s contention that “the times will never get better until you make them better.”
Make no mistake about it; I was undecided regarding what I should do in the wake of the demise of Sandra Bland; she happens to be a former student. It is at such moments that I rely upon my ancestors’ teachings and admonishments, life has taught me that their perspective and understanding extends much further than my own. My ancestors consistently ordered us to pray when we were indecisive regarding a situation. The alluded to advice was the primary impetus behind my attending a ‘prayer vigil’ for Sandra Bland.
Although it pains me to state this, I knew from the very first ‘preacher’ who spoke at the event that I had not only made a grievous error in attending this event, but also that I would never view our religious traditions in the same light.
I am certain that you are wondering what this initial Negro Preacher stated that irrevocably altered by relationship to this religious tradition. Well I’m glad that you asked. The African Methodist Episcopal preacher, whose voice, in my opinion, should have been emanating from a tradition that tapped into the revolutionary spirits of Richard Allen and Absalom Jones immediately stated to the grieving assembly that “this is not a place for political talk. We are here to pray for forgiveness.” My soul dove into a downward spiral as I could not believe that we still have Negro ‘leaders’ operating from a fallacious belief that they will be able to pray themselves to racial justice and equality.
Here I was sitting in an A.M.E. church located not 10 yards away from where Sandra Bland was abducted by a law enforcement officer viewing Negro preacher after Negro preacher extol the spirit of God in the hopes of generating forgiveness and healing between the races. My anger grew with each preacher who rose to speak about forgiveness, racial reconciliation, and peace; this anger increased exponentially as it was being directed at those who were living under the yoke of racial oppression.
However, the rhetoric and obviously rehearsed prayers of the Negro clergy present on this day reminded me of Christian messages of yesteryear that provoked the indomitable Malcolm X into addressing them during his speech, Message from the Grassroots.
You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution. The only kind of revolution that’s nonviolent is the Negro revolution. The only revolution based on loving your enemy is the Negro revolution. … Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise, revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way. And you, sitting around here like a knot on the wall, saying, “I’m going to love these folks no matter how much they hate me.” No, you need a revolution. Whoever heard of a revolution where they lock arms, singing “We Shall Overcome”? You don’t do that in a revolution. You don’t do any singing, you’re too busy swinging. It’s based on land. A revolutionary wants land so he can set up his own nation, an independent nation. These Negroes aren’t asking for any nation—they’re trying to crawl back on the plantation.
Although there is obviously a time for prayer as it has many virtues; however, the Negro clergy needs to realize that there is likewise a time for political agitation and force. At a moment such as this, I think that the latter would be much more beneficial than merely calling activists together to pray for forgiveness. By the way, what are the victims of racial oppression asking for forgiveness from? What have they done other than be born Black?
If I did not know better, I could be led to believe that Negro preachers reliance upon prayer and a steadfast belief that the Lord will fight their battles for them reeks of pure cowardice and submission to racial oppression.
Sandy deserves better than that! And yes she is STILL SPEAKING.
James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2015.
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