Saturday, March 22, 2008

Being a More Perfect Union

I am most proud to be among those who, in a forum such as this, share their hearts and thoughts so we can truly have "A More Perfect Union" across all divides, nationally and internationally. From the deepest part in me, I am thankful for the words that I read from Trevor Gay, Richard Lipscombe, and Dave Wheeler on other Blogs. Thank you for your words. They matter.

As an African American woman born after the "I Have a Dream Speech," it is incredibly heartening to read such thoughts by those of different ethnicity, nationality, and undoubtedly political persuasion. In this vein, I understood the words spoken by Michelle Obama when she said "for the first time, I am proud to be an American." Although the quote has been grossly misaligned, I understood perfectly what she meant. It did not come from a place of anti-Americanism, but rather from a place of true community across racial divides. She may have, however, forgotten her audience. And this is a good thing, a real thing.

In a real sense her open transparency bespoke, in fact, of the overwhelming pride she felt as an American in that so many of different races, ages, and people of various economic backgrounds were linking up and embracing the beauty and truth of Obama, this remarkable change agent, despite his race. We have not forgotten the not too distant past, though we believe so joyously in the future. Also, Michelle Obama was speaking of none less than her beloved husband and father of her two beautiful daughters. The response of others to her husband, whom she knows best, I'm sure made her feel particularly proud of being an American. This "first time" may simply imply the first time of such a candidacy.

I had the opportunity to hear Obama's speech live and was incredibly moved by its honesty and spirit of truth. As Obama, I could not have denounced the man, the Rev. Dr. Wright, though I denounce his words of anger and hyperbole. But I too understand the history from which he was hewn and the spirit of self-reliance that he embraced and taught his congregants for 30 years. I have a question regarding our response. Do we tend to be less vehement in our responses to various ultra religious conservatives who in essence speak of overthrowing local and national governments when the laws of God are violated? Are our responses less vehement when liberal or conservative talk show hosts spew hatred on the radio and TV daily? Yes, I know we're choosing a president here. But, after all, these were not his words.

For years the Rev. Dr. Wright has been a fierce advocate of self-reliance and a great supporter and advocate for the poor and sick. The many programs at his church, including assistance for those suffering with HIV/Aids, are indeed laudable. I too could not have denounced the man, as I also have relatives with histories that are amazing in spite of the intense discrimination they faced, ranging back from the late 1800s. Sometimes they have spoken in anger, but it is definitely not who they are. My great grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, by in large, have survived with their dignity and love of humanity in tack, teaching their offspring to move forward in love and determination.

The reverent and irreverent alike are a part of our families...and undoubtedly yours too. My mother is Richard Pryor's cousin and the stories told about my great grandmother and legendary connections with the underworld are hair raising and quite funny indeed. She ran speakeasies in the Chicago area, though by all accounts she appeared to be quite loving and caring. But she was indeed a fierce business woman. Have you heard Richard Pryor speak of his relatives? Funny, eh? But I digress.

Denouncing the Rev. Dr. Wright would be tantamount to denouncing the Black church that has long been a place where we express great joy and vehement discontent. It is a raucous joyous experience each and every Sunday for both the educated and uneducated, the rich and poor, the young and old. It is a place that no matter how far we progress up the socio-economic ladder and live in the whitest poshest communities (these areas are not typically predominately African American), we invariably go back to the 'hood every Sunday to get our brand of religion that only the Black church gives.

Having said this....it is not to say that other brands of Christianity are less in any way. It is, however, to say that African Americans -- as so many others -- have great respect and love for our churches, pastors and communities. The Black church has for nearly two centuries been a place for African Americans to share, vent, and simply love on each other. It is a place that lifts us to great heights, no matter what the following week has been and prepares us for the upcoming week. The Black church has and remains our safest haven, our greatest place of inspiration. Yes...havens are still needed, nurturing still required, though not exclusive to our ethnicity alone. All are welcomed.

My paternal great grandfather, Bishop Garfield Thomas Haywood, had a church of 1500 people in the late 1800s in Indianapolis, home of the KKK, where half the congregants were white. People of all races spoke of his kindness and brilliance and his great love for all people. He was a sort of Renaissance man. He was a pastor, businessman, composer and artist. Along with establishing churches in the US, my great grandfather led multi-racial groups of pastors to establish churches abroad. He was a Black man in the late 1800s who brought the experience of the Black church to the masses and they brought their particular brand of Christianity to him. Together they formed a great union. If they could come together during a time that could have left massive bloodshed in its wake, and if they could deal with preconceived notions of each other and undoubtedly unsavory words, surely we can move towards "A More Perfect Union" in our time.

God bless us all. God bless the United States of America.

6 comments:

Trevor Gay said...

Welcome to 'Blogland' Judith - I am sure your Blog will be terrific - I have added it to my favourites!

As well as a time of endings, Easter is also a time of new beginnings of course :-)

judith ellis said...

Trevor -- Thank you for your vote of confidence.

Blessed are we who come in the name of the Lord.

John O'Leary said...

I'm listening to Barack's speech as I write this - the delivery and content of which epitomizes "being."

judith ellis said...

Obama's clarity, honesty and humility are qualities we all admire in leadership. This is exactly why he draws such a diverse crowd. He appeals to our highest being.

David said...

Judith: beautifully said.

judith ellis said...

David...thank you. I'm glad you stopped by. Do pop by again.