Tag Archives: enslavement

prophecy and deliverance.

Cornel West in his groundbreaking text work, Prophesy and Deliverance: A Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity,  attempts to outline a methodology by which we can understand African American political theology. Accordingly, those who study African American political theology must acknowledge the strong influence of evangelical and pietistic Christianity on it.  African American Christian traditions were begotten the moment the African slaves landed in the United States and were dominated by their slave masters who used the bible to justify it. White American Christians used the bible as tool to create servitude. However, the slaves took Christianity and used the biblical text, Protestant hymns, and Christian testimonies to interpret their lives. Ultimately, this engagement led to how West conceives of the black church. For West,  the black church is not limited to a particular denomination interpretation of church. Rather the black church is unified under by the shared experience of slaves to follow Jesus over the dogmatic and coercive Christianity that was presented to them by their slave owners. It was the black church that helped the slaves to not only understand themselves but their communities as well. West admits that the black church tradition took various forms to create what is now the rich diversity that is contemporary black theological reflection.

Most poignantly for West is the prophetic tradition originated from the black church, and its influence on the scope of African American political theology. He writes the prophetic Christianity’s greatest contribution is, “individuals regardless of class, country, caste, race, or sex should have the opportunity to fulfill his or her potentiality.” This serves as the core of prophetic Christian gospel for him. The God of this text is a transcendental God who has created all people equally and subsequently has provided divine salvation to the same extent. In other words, prophetic Christianity has provided African American political theology with the notion of radical egalitarianism. West describes this notion as “the Christian principle of the self-realization of individuality within the community.” While I agree with West for the most part on his view of the role of the prophetic in shaping the African American political theology I do believe that his view is limited. I strongly believe that Christianity is not the only religion that was used by slaves in developing African American political theology. Although the black church had arguably the loudest voice in this development it certainly was not the only voice. West monopolizes Christianity as the sole religious factor in the development of the political theology for the African slaves. It has been estimated that between 10-20 percent of the African slaves who came to America were actually Muslims. Many of these slaves fought fervently to maintain their Muslim identity. Some of succeed beyond the first generation but many were coerced into converting into Christianity.

There were also various theistic slave religions that came to America as well, through the transatlantic slave trade. Many of them shared similarities such as a belief in a Supreme Creator. African religious traditions were deeply rooted in balancing the spiritual realm and the natural world. Remnants of this are still seen today in how African Americans balance theology or religious modes of thinking with the realities that they experience in the natural world. My point here is this, Cornel West in his description of the black church and the influence of the prophetic nature of Christianity on the scope of African American political theology neglects the multifarious religious nature of the African slaves. Enslaved Africans did not learn American Christianity on a blank slate or without prior religious foundations. There were many different religious ideologies that influenced the development of African American political theology. To develop a more robust understanding of the political theology of African Americans it is important to recognize the polyreligious origins of the religion of the African American slaves.

12 Years A Slave

Video Linked Here

Watch the awkward video above. It’s so funny, especially when you think of hit NBC comedies like FRIENDS, which went without a major POC character even though it was set in the middle of New York City. Crazy to think what type of mentality leads to these “oversights.” After going to see 12 Years A Slave, I believe Steve McQueen is a hit-maker in his own right, and hopefully a certain company I like (WB, cough cough) will scoop him up for television show or plenty, and a few films. Below, I offer my own reflections from my experience of 12 Years A Slave.

TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR RAPE CULTURE, GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE, AND WHITE SUPREMACY, AND LASTLY, SPOILER ALERT!

I was in a rush to get to the movie theater. It’s right across the street from my weekend retail job, and I had 20 minutes to get from there to the movie tavern. As I rose up the escalator, I felt the 3:55pm showtime pass, I was nervous. Not that I wouldn’t get the seat, but that there wouldn’t be any trailers and they would go right to the movie. Um wrong. I chose my seat, I was the last person to purchase a ticket, it was middle-middle, all though closer to the front, but always, middle-middle. Perfect. The movie trailers featured casts with black actors and even a black church movie promoting the politics of respectability UGH! I was surrounded by a diverse audience but it was predominantly white. A black family had brought their toddler into the movie (um what?, yeah). I planned to only order a Sprite, because seriously, who is going to be able to watch a movie like this and eat. Not my neighbors. They ordered a ton of food, and let’s just say their plates were basically full and got cold at the movie’s conclusion. A few people left after the first 15 minutes of the movie. Predictable.

First, I would like to start with the discussion of the character Patsey, played by Lupita Nyong’o Nyong’o ‘s performance was awe-inspiring. When we talk about the enslavement of African persons on U.S. shores, historians and average persons both like to forget that this system was built on profaning the family and rape culture. In this film, Patsey is the best cotton-pickin’ slave (literally) that Master Epps (who I will get to later) owns. She is precious in his sight both as a cash cow and a sex object. While this movie is about the pain of black men similarly to Mel Gibson’s “Passion Of The Christ” addresses the pain of white men, in order to fully understand McQueen’s message, we must remember the narrative of Patsey. The anguish of Patsey leads her to becoming suicidal. She is the Sally Hemmings of Epps’ plantation. Master Epps considers himself blessed by God’s grace even when he sends away all of his slaves (due to his cotton crop being diminished by the boll weevil) and starts being “steady” with Patsey (what he calls ‘righteous living’). Patsey is rendered physically disabled as the movie moves on, her scars in her eyeballs and the marks on her back are poignant history lessons for audience members who had bought into whitewashed versions of history. Patsey a monstrosity because of her gender, race, disability, and social position. Steve McQueen’s writing (and Lupita Nyong’o ‘s acting talent) confront the oppressive gazes of his audience with intersectionality in a way that we have no choice but to weep.

Master Epps played by Michael Fassbender, what can I say? he was terrifying as he was pious. MAGNETO’S execution of this role is exactly what acting is all about. I don’t have to go to see another horror movie this film season because Master Epps just frightened me. The way he so easily read the Bible and then added his own “text” so as to make the enslaved Africans believe that a master giving them 140 lashes for not meeting the 200 pounds of cotton a day picked limit was “Scripture.” The scene where we are introduced to Epps exposes the dirty little secret of Biblical Studies, that recognizing the interpreter as subject is crucial to the task of reading the Bible in community.

The scene with the slave auction, which felt more like a very formal dinner party than any auction, but the thing that stood out to me beside the use of the “N-Word” was the separation of a little black boy and his mother. Another interested enslaver asked the boy to show how high he could jump, and after the boy proved them how much potential he had, the white men called this kid “a beast.” White supremacist logic makes the elites the foreordained predestinators of where black bodies ought to go. The stereotype that all black people are athletes, or that we all know how to play the bass (South Park reference) means that we are just here for everyone’s entertainment. Blacks are only acceptable when they fit the roles that white supremacist society has chosen for them. This is the essential problem with our protagonist, Solomon Northup, he is literate, but as a slave, he please his masters by keeping his mouth shut, and playing the fiddle. The beginning of Solomon’s enslavement is his belief that his role for the circus is to do concerts. Yes, he is musically successful, but the only way that white supremacist society will let him share the stage with white folks is if he can entertain them. What makes both hip hop AND professional sports as part of contemporary plantation system is that they have convinced black boys and girls, that their choices are limited, it’s either sports, music, prison, or poverty. This is why fighting for public education is a good thing, because we can open up so many other worlds of possibilities for all of our youth.

AND NOW FOR MY CRITICISM OF THIS MOVIE.

#1. This movie is way way way way too graphic that it could be triggering for a lot of persons who are victims of rape and physical abuse.

#2. I am sick of “The Critically Acclaimed Black Film” from Glory to The Help to Remember The Titans to Coach Carter to Lean On Me to The Butler, why does every “black film” have to have negative tropes to define black people in prescribed racial roles. From where I am standing, “black films” are only acceptable if they show black people as being either subservient, or angry or criminal. Like Steve McQueen asks in the video, where are the RomComs with blacks and Latinos from New York? My props for McQueen for giving us a history lesson in this movie, but look, he shouldn’t have to. If it weren’t for whitewashed histories being taught in social studies classes, McQueen and other POC directors wouldn’t have to do movies like these.

#3. This movie has white Saviordom written all over it. First, we had Benedictine CucumberSandwich play a moderate, “good” Southern gentleman so that we could all have the sympathy that good white enslavers had in saving the lives of their property. Awww how sweet! BTW, I really didn’t see the difference between the logic that JJ Abrams had in justifying whitewashing Khan and Master Ford’s approach to Northup as an “exceptional negro.” The concept of “the exceptional negro” while it might sound like white supremacist society is open and inclusive, it really reveals its exclusion, the colored bodies that WS disciplines out of its presence. And really, did Brad Pitt have to play the abolitionist who saves the day? Really? Really? We couldn’t have some obscure actor to do the job? Ugh. Just. Ugh. STAHP. IT!

Jefferson Davis, Spiritual Head of the South: His Anti-Emancipation Proclamation

Jefferson Davis, Präsident der CSA Deutsch: 18...

Jefferson Davis, Präsident der CSA Deutsch: 1861: Jefferson Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday Ishmael Reed commented on how NOT subversive Django Unchained was, that perhaps exacting vengeance on a head of state like Jefferson Davis. He also mentioned in his comment that that would never happen because Jefferson Davis is STILL the spiritual head of the Southern U.S. I think Reed is dead on the $$$! Tuesday a lot of people recognized the Emancipation Proclamation, but today I wanted to highlight the theology of racism & unfreedom in Jefferson Davis’ thought, The Lost Cause religion.

On January 5th, 1863, Jefferson Davis declared Abraham Lincoln a heretic, who invited the Apocalypse, the doom of the white race by collaborating with blacks. The Confederacy was committed to starting an American empire, with the enslavement of blacks as a NATIONALIZED institution. Blacks were born not in the image of God, but to be subjugated by white men. The religion of the Lost Cause is a philosophy still being fought today.

Here is a link to Davis’ address; a PJ Thank you to Jeremy M. for the heads up:

Jefferson Davis AntiEmancipation Proclamation

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