Tag Archives: holidays

Self-Determination.

Today marks the second day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a seven day holiday celebrated around the world by people from the African diaspora. Ever since I was a fifth grader, I have been aware of this holiday. At that time, my family and I were attending a predominantly Black Baptist megachurch which celebrated both Christmas and Kwanzaa. As a family, we didn’t really celebrate the holiday but I grew to respect people who chose to. One of the laziest criticisms of Kwanzaa is that it is a “made-up” “fake” holiday. If we are gonna be honest, all of our holy days are socially constructed, or “made up” as they say. I would argue what matters not is the origin stories of holidays, but ultimately the values that they teach.

In his significant work, Black Theology & Black Power, James Cone quotes Kwanzaa founder Maulana Ron Karenga and his criticism of Christianity, and the need to “concern ourselves more with this life which has its own problems. For the next life across Jordan is much further away from the growl of dogs and policemen and the pains of hunger and disease” (page 33). In the era of Black Lives Matter, I find Karenga’s words timely. U.S. Christianity, specifically White evangelicalism, has sneered at visions of black liberation for decades. Rather than join the struggle versus mass incarceration and the pre-school to prison pipeline that subjugates an overwhelming number of young black boys, White Christians would prefer to continue to perpetuate antiBlack narratives and politics for the sake of maintaining their power.

White Supremacist myths that continue to oppress Black people include the slaveability and dependent nature of Black souls. In this mythology, Blacks do not like freedom, Black people are servile, they play the entertainer, the really good athlete, the nice Black soldier, the “welfare queen,” or the uncritical “uninformed” Democratic party voter all at the same time. We see these images in the white supremacist media from good liberals at ESPN to the nice establishment conservatives at the Wall Street Journal. Black intellectuals are never seen as unique thinkers, only the black versions of European greats, like Frantz Fanon as the Black Jean-Paul Satre, for example.

These racist myths exist only to justify the current status quo, and to justify the four hundred year legacy of Black enslavement without any means of reparations, justice, or reconciliation. And yet, today is what celebrants of Kwanzaa call Kujichagulia Day, a day to reflect on SELF-INITIATIVE, SELF-RESPECT, AND SELF-DETERMINATION. If our notions of the human involve racist ideas, then I suggest that unfreedom, oppression would be part of our understanding of personhood. This would explain the preferred viciously antiBlack racist anthropological gaze of the majority population here in the United States. However, if one’s understanding of our humanity is that freedom is an inextricable part of our being, then the desire for self-determination shouldn’t be considered anything to be but natural. Over the years in my experience as an educator in a special education program, I have had to re-learn and learn with teenagers with disabilities about the value of self-determination. When working with various students with disabilities, I have learned that autonomy is going to look a whole lot different from one student to the next. For example, for one student who may be higher functioning with a slight learning disability, independence could look like moving away from study helps like dictionaries to newer reading strategies. Or, for another student who may have a significant intellectual disability and motor impairment, self-initiative could look like learning how to crawl and then walk for the very first time with the help of leg braces and a gait trainer. Self-determination isn’t going to look the same for everyone.

This essay is not only a push for the Black community to being more inclusive of people with disabilities in the practice and idea of Kujichagulia, but also to make it (self-determination), the strive towards freedom more contextual and less hegemonic. Such a move would allow us to also make a break away from essentialism that we sometimes see from defenders of Black culture. What if all Black college football players decided to boycott the NCAA until they, and all other student-athletes were paid? Or imagine a world where Black writers didn’t have to be the only ones left to navel-gaze of the history of white supremacy? Hear me out, but maybe what if Black scholars started doing work independent of White theorists and started appreciating the intellectual history and labor of Black people? What if Black self-initiative looks like not needing the approval of Whites, whether they be conservative or liberal or Marxist? We cannot have any form of racial reconciliation or racial justice without first developing a self-respect for our own work in a world where there exists a preferred hierarchy of values.

 

Photo Description:  Photo is a drawing of the 7 Kwanzaa candles, from left to right, 3 green candles, 1 yellow candle, then 3 burgundy candles.  Photo was taken by Katallna-Marie Kruszewskl. found on flickr.  

Patristics Carnival 34: Coming EASTER 2014

Patristics Carnival XXXII

Hello all my fellow fangirls and fanboys of the Early Church and Medieval Church! It’s time once more to bring back the Patristics Carnival. A few weeks ago, Jonathan of Linguae Antiquitatum asked if I was bringing back the Patristics Carnival, and indeed, I had been brainstorming about how to go about it. Given time constraints but at the same time the need for keeping the Church Mothers and Fathers’ works accessible in the blogosphere, I have decided the best way to do the Patristics Carnival is to set it up about every two months, around the Liturgical Calendar of the Catholic Church. The idea came to me at work one day, and I think it works; the tentative schedule would look something like this:

April 20th- Easter Hosted by me

June 8th- Pentecost [tentatively] hosted by Jonathan

Either: September 3rd- Gregory The Great or September 13th- John Chrysostom: Hosted by Me

Either: November 1st- All Saints or November 23rd- Christ The King / Clement of Alexandria Feast Day [Western Calendar] Hosted by {yet to be determined]

December 25th- Christmas Hosted by me

If there is a Feast Day or Holy Day that fits in between these dates (does not have to be part of the Western Liturgical calendar), and you would like to host the Patristics Carnival, let me know.

The rules are virtually the same from when Phil started the Carnival:

“” A. Eligibility
Any blog entry dealing with an aspect of Patristics included, but not limited
to textual studies of a patristic writer, translations of the patristic
writer, historical research on the patristic period, reflections on the
connections of the Church Fathers to today, influence of patristic authors in
theological writing (I’m sure there are more categories possible, so, the
rule is submit or ask and we’ll figure it out as we go.)The final
determination of the eligibility of a post must rest with the host (I propose
to do the hosting first)
Amendment- November 12th [2006] add discussion of Christian Apocrypha” “

In this carnival, posts on historical theology prior to the Catholic and Protestant Reformations, articles on these topics, new developments and news, book reviews will all be eligible for this carnival.

To submit nominations for the carnival, place a comment on this post (the call for submissions), email the carnival at PATRISTICSCARNIVAL [A] HOTMAIL.COM, or send a message to the Political Jesus Facebook Page. You can even do a submission for this carnival on the PJ Tumblr: Just fill out, submit with your name and/or pseudonym here: PJ Tumblr Suggestion Box

The deadline for submissions is April 19th, 2014 at 11:59pm.

If you are interested in being a host for the Patristics Carnival in the future, please contact me through the above means mentioned. I am serious, I would love to share hosting duties.

dreams not drones #MLKDay2014

“It’s ideas that change people over times.”- Melissa Harris-Perry

If there is one thing that I can’t stand more than anything in January, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day on social media. I’ve grown tired and sick of being tired of people who normally STAN for white supremacist practices, dole out quotes by MLK Jr. to make themselves feel better.  When I was in seminary, one of the bitter experiences that will always stick with me was a chapel service where then-Senator Obama was praised as the culmination and fulfillment of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s work.  In fact, I do recall a friend was wearing a shirt that suggested just that!

 

In a recent lecture and subsequent q & a session with students at the University of Rochester, political studies professor and MSNBC analyst Melissa Harris-Perry talked about how a more human, less divinized, messier approach to King Jr.’s legacy should be the key to winning a more progressive future. Ideas are what matters, they are what last and change the world.

MLK Jr. wasn’t shot down for his beliefs. MLK Jr.’s and the women, the other adult men, and children who marched with him, their bodies were not tortured because of their abstract notions of equality, their patriotic love for the U.S. Constitution, or their religious fervor. Bodily encounters are what change the world through praxis. Liberating Praxis changes things. Battles of ideas are waged through the mediation of human anatomy.

We should stop looking at how Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world; let us ponder what changes he fought for, and how this world has remained stubbornly the same. What we should do, on this day, and maybe every day, is look at the values he embodied, and the places where he placed his body. Why was he joining janitors in Tennessee for a protest in his last days? Why did the White Supremacist media in the days of old (I’m looking at you, New York Times), condemn MLK Jr. for opposing the Vietnam War? You see, the Civil Rights movement was and still is a peace movement. One cannot separate the white supremacist logic behind domestic policies and neatly divide them from the Military-Industrial-Complex. War means an evaluation of which bodies matter, which bodies are to be valued over all others. Any military policy that kills indiscriminately, and disproportionately against one people group, is racist. This is why I don’t divorce my anti-racism from my pacifism, I never have, and I never will.

Harris Perry and other black academic elites have supported President Obama’s drone policy uncritically, and I think it is time for them to reassess their values. Reverend Jeremiah Wright is right, MLK Jr. had a dream, Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama has a drone. I am under no illusions about how imperfect MLK Jr. was, but I do have a good grasp on what he stood for, and no matter how murky you try to make his figure, a tool for militaristic neoliberalism he certainly was not.

Now, more than ever, the Church, and the United States do not really even need MLK Jr.’s ideas (ahem, uncritical commitment to the state via the Constitution is problematic); what we need is his model of practices for peacemaking.

You might also like:

Cornel West on the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

and

How Lupe Fiasco Honors MLK’s Legacy and HOw President Obama Doesn’t

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