Yes, there is a theme that has been consistent in what I write, more so in my comments on other people’s blogs. Most times I offer anti-intelligence as the reasoning behind people and their actions. To drive the point home, it’s really their reactions. Those who try their best to engage in critical debate and critical thought, and push themselves to read a book (read a book, read a muh—– book) usually are the one’s who either a) are the first to take serious action or at least b) make a calculated reaction to any particular situation.
As I’ve said in my other posts, the youth group I was with visted the Eliza Shirley House on Arch Street in Philadephia and the other groups visted various Salvation Army shelters, food banks, thrift stores to sort through donations, and other homeless shelters dealing with kids and adults with mental illnesses alike. It was my job, seeing as how I was the adult leader for this trip, to lead group discussion at night with our group.
Before I say what occurred in the group discussions, I’d like to pause here and say that euphemisms have effectively killed serious and meaningful discussions about flashpoint issues; euphemisms merely pour fire onto a fire that very well may be out of control. Case in point: Our group was to have a night of “cultural exchange” with Greater Exodus Baptist Church on North Broad Street and I guess since I’ve been black for so long, I figured that this was a black church. I mean, my friends and I make jokes about the names that black churches come up with, especially the storefront ones that may be associated with some off-brand Holiness denomination.
I guess calling it a “cultural exchange” was a mixture of anti-intelligence, in my opinion, and a combination of just being culturally unaware. I say culturally unaware because it seems that by not calling it a “black church” but going into depth about how the service and modes of worship may be different than what this group is used to, somewhat diminished that which is the Black Church as an institution.
When we came back to group meeting that night, after the youth were more than impressed and pleased with the service, I just mentioned, kind of in passing, not to harp on the point, but that vocalness of the parishoners in response to a prayer, a song or the preacher was what was known as call-and-response and I proceeded to say these exact words that “it was born out of the Black Church–” and immediately my host mother (yes, the same one who said “hip hop was born out of the prison culture) and my partner in this internship proceeded to tell me that I was wrong “because I attended a church just like that back home and there were not just black and white people there….”
And, then Militant Negro knocked on the door.
I paused and started saying “Call-and-response was born out of African–” as I began to walk to the door and peep in the peep hole debating if I wanted to answer Militant Negro’s knocks.
And these two ducks interrupted me again, my host mother being a bit more vocal saying “You can’t say that this is only a black thing because….”
This time Militant Negro did a loud holler out to Angry Negro and both of them started beating on the door because, by now I was really ready to read ’em. I am studying this in seminary; I have been a member of a black church and the Black Church from birth; I know this stuff like the back of my hand–in fact these two women are lucky that I haven’t taken Church History I and II and African American Church History I and II at school yet because history is a pet subject of mine, and then I woulda started quoting dte and whatnot, an it woulda been a Michael Eric Dyson on my part–mass murder of white intelligensia.
Instead, I didn’t open the door, and stayed my good ol’ Uppity Negro self and just started for the third and final time that “Call-and-response was born out of the Africa and from the Black Church…”
I was pushing the racial envelope in the discussions because a good majority of the people that we were encountering in the shelters and homes were people of color. And anyone familiar with East Coast cities knows that everybody from the tip of South America, north through Central America and the Caribbean find themselves immigrated to larger cities.
These were the people we encountered. Along with your garder variety white person who may be classified as poor white trash, and clearly grew up poor right alongside all the other darkies.
Editors Note: Aint it interesting that poor people more or less share the same fate from a crappy government, be it on the local, state or federal level, yet and still their are distinct delineations on the basis of race that still place those from the white race on top
I’m not going to lie, but I was honestly shocked that these youth actually had opinions about them being from the suburbs versus that of growing up in the city. And these were real statements and questions that they had. I think the problem is that, people from this particular culture that I’ve found myself alienated in, by choice of course, I applied for the job knowing what I was getting into, is that they never push themselves to the level of uncomfortability; they rarely stretch their thinking past face value.
Another case in point: my host mother has just convinced herself that the neighborhood around Howard University is just the worse neighborhood in the world. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when she first told me that. I mean, she went on and on today about a non-fatal shooting in Adams-Morgan today and I’m like–OMG, these surburban folk, white and black have a TOTALLY whacked-out view of what it means to live in the city. (I could take a niiiiiice digression about the images that are portrayed through media, be it TV or print, but you already know where I stand on these issues.) I have convinced myself, rightly or wrongly, that these youth would not have had as frank of a conversation about “call-and-response” or even felt comfortable to ask me about where I stand as a black young man from the city on Barack Obama.
I am convinced that we are raising another generation that will coddled with euphemisms yet again, and they will fail to have the tools necessary to deal with many of our social ills, not just in this country, but in the world. We cannot be afraid to call a spade, a spade. I think it is imperative that we be truthfully radical because while attending a black church is in fact a “cultural exchange” it’s just not radical enough to change anything. Not saying that every black church is like Greater Exodus, I know that for a fact not to be true, but, it still broadens a perspective.
I urge those who read this post to first start reading. Even though I have a proclivity for Michael Eric Dyson, he doesn’t have to be your premier choice, but I definitely recomment him. And even with what you read, challenge it, ask the author rhetorical questions, don’t take it for face value. Secondly, pick up a newspaper. Well, you can go online and read it, but it still usually gives more information than what the talking heads on TV are going to say. You’d be shocked at the number of obscure articles that Mama Uppity has found over the years in the Chicago Sun-Times that would help support numerous conspiracy theories. Thirdly just ask questions. Too often people get afraid at offending people; stop worrying about people’s feelings, they’ll get over it in due time.
Hell, just stop being dumb–as Bishop Owens said this morning at Greater Mount Calvary: “Elevate your mind!”
So do you think that this is seriously a problem in this country? The absolute failure to cricicize intelligently the social and economic ills of this country or have I totally missed the boat on this one and making a mountain out of a molehill?
Also, I’d like to hear the longest and most ridiculous church names that you see driving down the street.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL