No, I’m not COGIC for all those who recognise that as part of the COGIC theme song, but I realized that I just was a part of something that Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reily, Lou Dobbs, Anderson Cooper, Campbell Brown and many others of the white church will understand.
A graduation from an historically black college or university.
I needn’t go through the minute detail of the jubilation experienced at a Fisk University or a Dillard University (see the Avenue of the Oaks at the top of this page) or a Howard University, Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Florida A&M, Jackson State, Prairie View, Stillman–the list goes on. I will indulge slightly for my readers who don’t have this in their cultural arsenal. Just imagine if you were the first college graduate from your family, that you’ve beaten the odds and actually graduated from high school despite what high school counselors and teachers said, and somehow you managed through college–just imagine the jubilation of it all.
Well, as I’m getting caught up in the revelry of it all, I can’t help but indulge myself a bit more.
Its pure ecstacy as Ma’ Dear and Auntie and Uncle and Mama and Daddy all come, take time off from work to share in the graduates moment. As a result of European influence usually a pipe organ of some sorts is brought to the stage be it indoors or outdoors and all types of classical pomp and circumstance are played and the graduates march in, the professors with full regalia and family members climbing over others trying to get that one precious picture taken. It supposed to be calm and reserved, and dealt with quiet repose–save the one family that brings an airhorn.
But, there’s something else that most at the HBCU’s have that the other schools don’t have: many of the graduates are the products of the Black church.
Yes, the Black church is an institution, much like colleges and university operate as institutions of higher learning. And what we as members of the Black church like to do is turn many of our meetings into church services. So, in turn, as most HBCUs, that’s what the Baccalaureate service turns out to be, and tonight was no exception.
Dr. Carolyn Knight preached a might word down from on high coming from Jeremiah 29:10-11 NKJV and closed with the message to the graduates that despite the fact that you may be ministering while in exile, that God speaks to your future, meaning that you will be around in the future, no matter what (or at least that’s what I got from the message).
But, she couldn’t help herself as she parenthetically spoke about the role of the prophet, particularly in Jeremiah’s case. The congregation at Big Bethel AME knew where she was going with it, and many of us stood up in our chairs. She said the prophet is never called by the Press Club, but rather sent out to the people by God–and I was shoutin’ sitting in front of the keyboard. She said what most biblical scholars will acknowledge, even the conservative ones: the prophet ALWAYS stands in juxtaposition to mainstream politics. Frankly, if one of the Hebrew Bible prophets were standing on the side of the empire, then in fact one of the prophets from YHWH was going to call them false prophets. We all knew she was talking about Jeremiah Wright, and it was helping understand that I wasn’t alone in my own viewpoint about this whole thing. I mean seriously, I was beginning to think I was a bit skewed in my own thinking.
After she closed, with a wonderful hoop in F-sharp, with “My hope is built….on nothing less…than Jesus blood….and righteousness….I dare not trust….the sweetest frame….but wholly lean….on Jesus name….On Christ…..” well, you should know how she closed. We muddled through the litany and then it was time for the class president’s remarks, and well…we all know William Mebane III, mystic if there ever was one. We were there and the church was ready to dance, so we had a nice lil’ ole praise break right there, and then William got through the officers presentations and then Dr. Knight got up for the benediction. What she said helped me through all of this: “Sean Hannity will never understand what happened here tonight. Bill O’Reilly will never understand what happened here tonight.” She went on, but I was on my feet by the time she had gotten through the first “will never understand.”
We always used to joke while watching a church shout on Youtube that white folk probably think we crazy as hell, but honestly, I guess some white folk do, but guess what–that’s okay, its like water off of a ducks back, I’m not loosing any sleep–at least not over that anymore.
This is us, this is how we have church, this is how we have church service as far as graduation is concerned, and we’re okay with it.
Nothing in this service got said that was anti-anybody, but actually focused on verse seven of chapter 29 that says “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on it’s behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Now NKJV transliterated “peace” for NRSV’s “welfare” her point being that our peace as African Americans in this country is contingent upon an ultimate reconciliation, although she wasn’t quite direct about it, but she did drive home the point of rejecting exclusivity saying that peace was incumbent upon gender, racial and sexual equality among many other things.
But oh my, I guess to the Sean Hannity’s and the Bill O’Reilly’s I say in the words of the Church of God in Christ theme song “you can’t join it, you got to be born in it” to understand it. So don’t rack you’re brains trying.
Keep it uppity and keep it radical, JLL