We Are One: Unity in the Body of Christ

But speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself in love, as each part does its work. –Ephesians 4: 15-16

Today I visited Florida Avenue Baptist Church in northwest D.C. for the first time. The guest preacher, the Rev. Janelle Thompson delivered her sermon from the scripture above. The title of the message was “We Are One.”

As the apostle Paul wrote at the start of the fifteenth verse, we should speak the truth in love rather than deceiving and scheming one another. Focusing on that part of the text, Thompson stressed the importance of doing everything out of love. “Without love, what good is what we say or do?” We are able to do everything with love when we feel and identify with love.

The core of the message was the notion that all of God’s people are united as one body in Christ. Here in verse fifteen going into verse sixteen, the writer Paul compares our connection with each other to the anatomy of the human body. Christ is the “Head”, and his people are the “ligaments” joined together through Him. Whether you’ve studied anatomy or not, you know that the body doesn’t function if all of its parts aren’t working together. The same holds true in terms of our progression and relationships with one another.

In the church’s role of spreading the Gospel, all of its members are individuals and have individual gifts. The ideas and perspectives of the individuals usually aren’t homogenous. Despite our differences, we all must be willing to be joined together through Christ’s love with the common goal of delivering the good news and developing our faith.

As Thompson said in her sermon, “The Lord made us different so we can come together in our differences.” Since we are all God’s people—not judged by our social or economic status—we all have value and a purpose regardless of who we are in the secular world. This means listening to and respecting others opinions.

This message of unity can be applied to other instances in the secular world. Many people are employed at jobs where they don’t like their bosses or co-workers, but united under that company, they work together to provide a service and to earn a paycheck for doing so. Too often we see single parents who dislike their baby’s mother of father, but they must be united with the common goal of rearing their child to be the best that he or she can be. Additionally, we can apply this to our human rights movements for freedom and equality. History has proven that mass movements for civil rights and political revolutions were only successful through the unity of its participants.

The soul artist Maze was most likely singing about a romantic relationship in his classic “We Are One.” “We are one, no matter what we do / we are one, love will see us through / we are one, and that’s the way it is.” This too applies to us in a broader sense. I also think of Earth, Wind and Fire’s song “Fantasy.” “And we will live together / until the twelfth of never / our voices will ring forever as one.”  The combination of our gifts, talents and perspectives are valuable individually, but they are the most effective when they’re combined as one. Maurice White and Philip Bailey could have had successful solo careers, but not to the magnitude of EWF’s.

Remember, no matter what the goal or objective is, we each have a specific purpose and gift to contribute. We must unite as one body despite our differences or else we won’t achieve our common goal. If we don’t move together, we won’t move at all.

If we don’t move together, we won’t move at all.

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Memorial Day: Remembering Our Service People at Home

Every year at this time, Memorial Day is observed. It’s a time when Americans remember the service people who fought and died in the country’s various wars from the birth of this nation through the present day.  The United States habitually involves itself in wars and conflicts abroad, declared or undeclared. In history classes, students learn about these battles and acknowledge the entirely too many lives lost in combat overseas.

Unfortunately, the history books and Memorial Day observers fail to acknowledge and memorialize the soldiers who lost their lives fighting in wars at home and quite inexplicably, against home. I don’t mean the government and mainstream media-spawned “War on Drugs” and “War on Terror,” although this message is also dedicated to the victims of these illusory wars.

In essence, I’m referring to the wars declared against individuals who merely wanted to enjoy their so-called irrevocable human rights but were denied such by the powers that be. During World War II, Black people across the country championed the Double V campaign in which African Americans committed to victory over totalitarianism abroad and victory over racism and discrimination on the home front.

Since the 1940s, the reasons for America’s involvement in conflicts abroad have changed on the surface from combating communism to suppressing terrorism. Nevertheless, Americans pay homage to those service people who gave their lives fighting in America’s wars, whether justifiable or unjustifiable.

Although the Double V campaign was probably the only official campaign waged, Blacks and other marginalized minority groups have always fought against ostracism at home and against home. Just like the conflicts abroad, an exorbitant number of lives were lost on America’s soil. The sources of death have transformed from lynchings to trigger-happy law enforcement, capital punishment and vigilante oppression.

On Memorial Day, we remember the deceased soldiers killed in other countries at the expense of “politics as usual” and America’s greed. Why can’t we salute our deceased freedom fighters who shed blood in the struggle for our God-given rights?

This is not to discount the contributions of the men and women of the U.S. armed services, and it’s not a critical analysis of foreign policy and defense. I appreciate our service people for sacrificing it all, but this is a call to recognize—on Memorial Day—soldiers of another sort who paid that same ultimate price.

Remembering Professor Mark E. Mack

If it were not for a medical hold on my account preventing me from registering early for classes, I probably would have never been exposed to professor Mark E. Mack’s biological anthropology class. Nearly all of the classes I needed for my first semester at Howard were filled. With hardly any options, I chose biological anthropology as my general elective. Let me emphasize that journalism majors only get ONE elective. My academic adviser told me it would be a difficult, but interesting class. That course would not only be challenging and mentally stimulating, but it would be life changing.

Regardless of who the professor was, the class would have been interesting, but having Mack as an instructor was an experience in itself. Mack was unquestionably passionate about the subject. He not only taught us the material, but he allowed space for self-learning, urging us to read the text prior to class.

In addition to teaching us diligence in preparing for class, Mack taught us discipline. Certainly adamant on punctuality, he started class on time and had a low tolerance for tardiness and poor attendance. I recall a specific lab day towards the end of the semester in which I had arrived to the lab about five minutes before the official class time, and Mack had already locked the door.

You did not want to earn low grades on exams. Yes, students are concerned about what grade they will receive in the class and how it will affect their GPAs, but if you had Mack for class, you would be afraid of his reaction. Upon grading a particular exam, Mack verbalized an expletive-filled rant and dismissed the class for its unsatisfactory performance. I feel sorry for that afternoon class, but luckily it was not my class.

His reaction was a bit extreme, but as I mentioned previously, Mack was passionate about anthropology and wanted his students to grasp the material and succeed. Mack was tough and strict, but it was in good reason. In essence, biological anthropology is about US! When we are learning anthropology, we are learning about ourselves, and I believe professor Mack taught his classes with this in mind.

We learned through archaeological evidence that humans originated from Africa. This was an important lesson in debunking the myth of White superiority and Black inferiority. Mack exposed us to historical racism within the field of biology, how Eurocentric scientists have attempted to promote Black inferiority through science. Some of these examples can be found in one of my previous posts, “Race, Racism and Science.”

We learned the differences between race, ethnicity and nationality as well as the dilemma of choosing your race/ethnicity on the census form. Mack used our class’s inability to fill out maps of Africa with the continent’s countries as a point that we should not classify ourselves as “African American” if we do not know anything about Africa. And unlike other biology professors, teachers, etc., Mack taught us about evolution, but he stopped short in suggesting that we believe evolution. A supporter of the creationism theory, he would say, “I ain’t going to hell y’all.” And, I’m not going either.

Mack was definitely a contender in his field. Along with teaching, he was the curator of the W. Montague Cobb Biological Anthropology Laboratory at Howard University. He served as the Osteological Supervisor for the Foley Square New York African Burial Ground project, and he worked on the Archeological Survey of the Walter C. Pierce Community Park in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Most importantly, Mark Mack was a loving husband and father who took pride in his family. His daughter was born during the semester that I had his class. I remember the smile on his face and the joy he had when he told us the good news. Last October, I had the chance to see her on campus with her father.  Around this time, President Obama apologized for the Guatemala syphilis experiment. Standing next to the football field, Mack and I briefly discussed the craziness of this revelation.

Outside of class, Mack was a cool brother. He would “dap me up” in Douglass Hall or express love while posting up outside of the building. Mack wanted his students to succeed and to make change in the global community. Anthropology has nothing to do with my major, but the class taught me about myself. It was one of the most difficult classes I have taken at Howard, and it is the ONLY class I got a C in. But, I do not regret taking the course. It was one of the best choices I made, but I do regret earning that C. Mack left his legacy and mark at Howard University and will be greatly missed.

Rest in Peace Professor Mack

Faith of Our Mothers Part 2: From Pain to Power

At the beginning of our Mother’s Day service at Calvary Baptist, we had a special alter prayer for the mothers and their children. Sons, daughters and grandchildren stood next to each other, touching and agreeing while the pastor prayed for their faithfulness, unity and encouragement. After the alter prayer, everyone returned to their seats and had a moment of silence for the mothers who were not among us anymore.

The assistant pastor also suggested that we pray for those mothers who may be going through painful times. I prayed for the mothers who passed and for the mothers enduring pain. In particular, I lifted up the mothers who lost children, and that time of meditation reminded me of a recent story in The Final Call.

The article told the stories of mothers who lost children to violence and how they are turning that pain into power; using their faith to remain hopeful while leading the movement to prevent other mothers from feeling that pain.

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, lost her son in February when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman. She has dealt with the pain by reminding herself that “God is still in control.” She said she would tell mothers who lost children to “read their Bible, remain prayerful and keep pushing forward.”

Dealing with the pain of losing a child is unimaginable and has to be increasingly overwhelming on Mother’s Day, a day that is suppose to be a joyous time where children show their appreciation towards their mothers. But the faith of Ms. Fulton and the many other mothers is the catalyst that transforms their pain into power.

Wanda Johnson’s son, Oscar Grant, was shot and killed in 2008 on a train station platform by a former Bay Area Rapid Transit District officer. Johnson attributes her strength to endure and remain hopeful to her faith.

“Had I not had a relationship with the Lord, I probably would have fallen into depression.”

She also said that prayer not only gave her power through God but it gave her the strength to encourage others. The article entitled “Mother Love Conquers Adversity” also told the stories of Theresa Williamson, Valerie Bell, Enola Causey and Wanda Hawkins, all mothers who lost their children to violence but found power in their faith.

As I reflect on this subject, I think of Nardyne Jefferies, the mother of 16-year-old Brishell Jones who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in southeast Washington, D.C. in 2010. I met Ms. Jefferies a couple of months ago when she spoke to the male students in the chapel at Howard University on the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. We prayed with her, and it was evident that her faith was keeping her grounded during those trying times.

I also think of the mothers of Tylik Pugh, Saahron Jones, Shakur Prince, Sha’Ron Jackson, Jonathan Paraison and the several other names from around my way who are gone but never forgotten. My prayer is that those mothers find the faith and peace to turn their pain into power on this Mother’s Day.

My heart goes out to all mothers who may be experiencing the pain of lost. Lord willing they keep pushing forward, remain faithful and keep the memory of their children alive so another mother will not have to experience the same pain.

Happy Mother’s Day

Peace

Faith of Our Mothers: Part One

Last year, I stayed on campus for Mother’s Day, but this year I made sure I was home to sit next to my mother and grandmother in church on Sunday. Along with sitting next to two of my favorite girls, I was highly anticipating the Mother’s Day word from my dear pastor, the Rev. Dr. Dwight C. Northington.

Referencing 2 Timothy, the preacher focused on the first chapter and the fifth verse in which Jesus remembers the “unfeigned faith” of Timothy’s mother, Eunice and grandmother, Lois. The “unfeigned faith” of the two biblical mothers is the faith that our mothers should strive to achieve. This is the same faith that is sung about in that classic congregational hymn that churches sing every year at this time, “Faith of Our Mothers.”

We were encouraged to pray for our mothers, for they “go through many things men wouldn’t go through.” The biggest task of them all, the pastor said, is carrying a child for nearly a year and giving birth: “Lord have mercy, I know brothers couldn’t deal with that nine months of kicking and moving.” I know I could not deal with it. Women are especially blessed with the God-given ability to bring forth life.

There was a word of encouragement for our mothers who face unfortunate circumstances with their children. Whether the child is not doing right or the child’s father is not doing right, the preacher man urged those mothers to not let the negative hand they have been dealt to interfere with the love of their children.

In order to survive those troubling times, mothers “must have unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that is deeply grounded in the word of God.” Also in the words of the reverend,

“Don’t hit the panic button, hit the prayer button.”

Having that steadfast faith, that faith of Eunice and Lois, means mothers should bring their children to the house of the Lord so they may learn about Jesus and learn that “God is good.” Not only should mothers bring their children to church and Sunday school, but they should come and learn WITH their children. In this manner, mothers adhere to Proverbs 22:6 which instructs parents to “train up a child in the way that he should go…”

Every day should be Mother’s Day. On this day, we should pray for their continued strength and be thankful for their faithfulness and nurturing love. Most importantly, we should honor our mothers just as the Word says. I pray that all mothers be encouraged and continue to have genuine faith.

Look out for part two.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Fear is Preparation

Earlier this week, I briefly conversed with an OG (original gentleman). He asked me about school and when I’m supposed to graduate. I told him I would be graduating in December, which is not a long time from now. He then asked that dreaded question that many prospective graduates hate to hear: “What are your plans after graduation?” I have some idea of what I want to do, but my goals are not specific, so I simply responded, “I don’t know.”

His response to me was “I bet that’s scary.” With less than eight months until graduation, I undoubtedly agreed with him. At this point, he shared with me a jewel about dealing with fear. He started out by asking, “When an animal becomes afraid, what does it do? It tenses up.” The OG explained that when an animal tenses up, it means that it is either preparing itself to either attack or run away. Furthermore, he said that when you are experiencing fear, it only means that you are in preparation. Therefore, fear is something to embrace, not to be afraid of.

I believe my fear lies in the uncertainty of the future and the unknown. I have somewhat overcome the fear of failure, but I have struggled with not knowing what I specifically want to do with my life, or rather what God’s will is for my life. While time was passing me by, I have not been making the moves I need to in order to establish a career where I am earning a living while changing the world.

The words from the OG reminded me of a sermon that I heard sometime last year. The preacher stressed the importance of distinguishing between concern and worry. I have to learn how to eliminate the worry from my mind and only allow he spirit of concern to dwell in me. I cannot allow myself to be become worried about the future. With concern and no worry, I maintain the faith that God will supply my needs and provide guidance while using the power He has given me to take steps towards doing His will.

I agree with the famous quote from President FDR’s inaugural speech: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” My attitude towards fear may hinder me from reaching my fullest potential. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In accordance with this scripture, I am not embracing fear as an acceptable emotion, but I am embracing it as a feeling that can be transformed from something negative into something positive.

As I attempt to transform the spirit of fear into a spirit of power and rely on the success of my faith, I recognize that fear should be received rather than rejected, and I remind myself that I am preparing to make major moves, and God is preparing me for those moves. All I have to do is stay prayed up, educate my mind, leave everything in the God’s hands and simply be cool like I know how to do.