Friday, October 23, 2020

Holding on to Hope!


I grew up in a loving upper-middle-class family in Baldwin Hills (an area of Los Angeles known as the Black Beverly Hills). My immediate neighbors were professional people of color—doctors, lawyers, producers, educators, actors, ministers, real estate investors, etc. My parents did a great job of providing a safe environment where I was able to grow and thrive. When it came to matters of “race,” I didn’t have a ton of interaction with White people aside from a few of my grade school teachers. With respect to the latter, I didn’t see any difference between us other than our age and skin color, but those things didn’t matter to me. All I knew is that they were kind. My parents also had a few White friends that we visited from time to time. Again, I didn’t notice any differences between us except age, color, and geographic location, but those things didn’t matter. They were kind and we all got along.

As I grew older, I began to pay attention to the news and hear stories about injustices that took place against people who looked like me. In many instances it seemed like we were looked down upon and I couldn’t quite understand why. The people I knew were mostly upstanding citizens. I got along well with the people of other races that I knew. If others gave it a try, couldn’t they make it work too?


In elementary school I heard about the beating of Rodney King. Then the city went up in smoke as angry protesters demanded justice. I heard there were the five Black boys in Central Park falsely accused and convicted of assault and rape. I learned about the property tax base and how public schools are funded (making equality in the educational system impossible and stacking the odds against people of color), the atrocities of slavery, three strikes laws, the fact that Black people were considered property (3/5 of a man) by the founding fathers, my father’s own experience as a sharecropper in Louisiana before being drafted into the Navy during World War II. I began to learn about Jim Crow laws, unfair voting laws, institutionalized racism, the great lengths people went to keep people of color from receiving an equal education, standardized testing that isn’t created with the success of diverse people in mind, redlining, and unfair practices in hiring and pay. I learned about how groups composed of Black people that were started to uplift Black people were torn down before they could really take flight. I heard about Emmett Till, who was lynched after being accused of looking at a White woman the wrong way. I learned about Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and the massacre that occurred there in 1921. I started paying attention to the criminal justice system and realized that one out of every three Black men is on paper and understanding the fact that it is by design... 

Whether it was the “by any means necessary” message of Malcom X or the peaceful message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the end result seemed to be untimely death. In the present day, many people were angrier about a Black man kneeling during the National Anthem than they were about an officer kneeling on a Black man’s neck for almost 9 minutes... 


It seemed like Black people just couldn’t win for losing and all we really wanted to do was live, be treated with respect, and BREATHE…


The stories broke my heart, and so I did the only thing I knew could make things right in an instant…I prayed. I asked God to make everyone love each other and live by the Golden Rule—to treat others the way they would want to be treated. I pleaded with Him, but I soon learned that although He is omnipotent, He provides us with free will. Treating others with love and respect is a choice He allows us to make. This realization made me feel hopeless because humans are—human. Given free will, could we love and respect one another?


Years passed and injustices continued to occur. 


Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Freddie, Gray, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd…


The list goes on…and on...and on...

Along with these names and the stories of their murders is the weight of the fact that my husband, my son, my daughters, many of my friends, my family, and I are all guilty of their same crime…We are Black. We are seen as threats because we are Black. Will one of us be next? It is a fear that so many of us experience every single day as we go to work, send our children to school, and walk, run, or ride our bikes through our neighborhoods. 


We have stories about being pulled over because we played our music a little too loud or being profiled as we walked through a convenience store, or being questioned about our presence in an area where we “don’t belong.” Many of us have stories about being on the receiving end of unkind racial jokes. Oftentimes we try to explain our frustrations to non-Black people we considered allies only to be told that our experiences aren’t valid. We have stories of being ticketed for breaking rules that were created the moment we were pulled over—to justify the “routine traffic stops.” We have stories of the injustices that occur in our workplaces—the unfair hiring practices, the exclusion, the unequal pay, the missed opportunities, etc. We spoke these truths for years, but it wasn’t until cell phone videos emerged in recent years that people realized the weight of our claims. They could no longer deny the truth.


Many people who desire to be allies and advocates ask what can be done to bring about change. Just as the problem can’t be addressed in one sitting, the same is true about the solutions. However, we have to start somewhere and it is the responsibility of all people.

Change will require that we use our ears to hear the concerns of our brothers and sisters who are hurting. We have to listen from a place of love with an empathetic ear. We have to put ourselves in their shoes and listen to understand concerns and fears. We need to hold ourselves accountable when racist or exclusionary thoughts rear their ugly heads in our minds. We have to use our voices and our platforms to speak against injustice. We have to correct our friends and loved ones when they say unkind or inappropriate things about people of different cultures and backgrounds. 

Change consists of doing all we can—walking together, petitioning together, financially supporting worthy causes together, being honest with our children about institutionalized racism and working to eradicate it, being fair in our hiring and promoting practices, making sure we raise our children in such a way that they build strong friendships (and relationships) with people of all different backgrounds. We have to work to change laws that unfairly target members of marginalized communities. We have to vote in officials whose values foster an inclusive environment where ALL PEOPLE are free to live, to be treated with respect, and to BREATHE. 

I was hopeful as a young child. My hope waned as I grew older, but in light of the recent unity I have seen across the globe, I hold on to hope once again. I believe the foundations are being laid and people are choosing to do the right thing—to stand up to discrimination, inequality, and injustice. People are choosing to fight for a brighter future for their posterity--and that makes me proud. Change won't come easy, but it will come and it will be worth it. As I do my part to make change a reality, I am determined to continue choosing love and I challenge you to do the same.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

A Small Exercise in Obedience

(I pulled this from one of my journal entries. It was written on September 10, 2018...)

Sooo…I see God. I see that He has been giving me small lessons in obedience over the course of the past year. 

The girls and I went to New Orleans for Labor Day weekend. Before the trip I visited the travel section in Target and I felt a prompting to purchase band aids. When it happened, I had a little back and forth with the Holy Spirit. I NEVER keep band aids on me. (I probably should, but I don’t.) Why on earth would I need them for this trip? Purchasing them would be a waste of a dollar. The prompting was so strong that I threw them in the basket.

While packing I struggled with where to put the band aids. I put them in a travel case I was checking and then I felt like I should probably put two in my purse, just in case.

I didn’t use or need a single band aid in New Orleans, which I was very aware of by the time I made it back to Cali. So WHHHYYY did I need them? 

Flash forward.

This past Friday at work, out of the blue Sarah (one of my co-workers) asked me if I happened to have a band aid. When I tell you…no one (besides my kids) has ever asked me for a band aid (that I remember), I mean no one. I was shocked. “As a matter of fact, I do.” I eagerly got it out of my purse and told her how I never just have band aids in my purse, but I felt like I needed to put two in there just a little over a week ago. I asked if she needed another and she said no…just the one.

Yesterday (Sunday) I was sitting in church. Shan was preaching. Out of the blue a lady named Porsha turned to me and asked if I have a band aid. (Somehow she had cut her finger.) I eagerly reached in my purse and pulled out the second band aid. She probably thought I was crazy because of how excited I was. “I have Neosporin in the car if you need that too…Do you need me to put it on for you?” (In hindsight, my reaction was hilarious.)

Sitting here writing, I realize that in both situations I offered more than what was needed. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing because I had a pure heart when I offered. I was just happy to be able to help and wanted the ladies to know it.

I’m so grateful for that experience and thankful that it all ended up making sense. No one in my family needed the band aids (praise God), but He had me get them for two of His children that He knew would need them and ask me for one. Wow!

I don’t pass all my tests, but I passed this one. I see that I need to get to a place where I don’t reason with the Holy Spirit at all—where I just do what He says to do without asking any questions BUT I am also happy to know that when I have strong promptings it is indeed Him. I also have a feeling that a bigger assignment is coming and that He is giving me small ones to show me how to recognize His leading when it happens.

I thank Him for the training sessions...

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Great Flood

When I was in middle school, I attended my brother’s high school graduation. One young man incorporated a proverb in his graduation speech that still resonates with me today—25 years later. It goes something like this:

There was a man who lived in Mississippi during the time of the great flood. Before the storm hit, newscasters warned residents of the destruction that would occur because of the storm, but that one man had great faith in God. He just knew that he didn’t have anything to worry about because God was gonna to take care of him.

The storm hit. It rained like never before. The man stood on his lawn and watched as the water came down. It had already flooded past his boots when a little boat came by and the man on the boat said, “Sir, the dam’s gonna bust. Get on board and let me save you.” The man with great faith in God refused. “God’s a-gonna take care of me!” he said in his thick Southern accent. And so the boat continued on.

About six hours later, the dam had busted and the man stood on top of his roof watching as the water came down. Once again the water had risen past his boots. A larger boat came by and the man on the boat said, “Sir…the dam’s busted. There’s no way you’ll survive if you stay out here. Get on board and let me save you!” The man with great faith refused. He said, “God’s a-gonna take care of me.” And so the larger boat continued on.

About an hour later, the rain was still coming down. The man stood on top of his chimney and watched as the water fell. He was looking for God to intercede in a big way!

A helicopter flew overhead and the captain dropped down a rope for the man. “Sir,” he called through his bullhorn, “the dam’s busted. Grab ahold of the rope and let me save you.” The man with great faith looked at him and said loud and proud, “God’s a-gonna take care of me.” The helicopter flew on.

The man with great faith ended up dying in that flood and when he made it to heaven he could hardly wait to talk with God. On that great day, he pointed a finger at the LORD and said, “What happened? I thought you were gonna take care of me.”

And God said, “You dummy, I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

I remember laughing out loud when I heard this. It still makes me laugh when I say it and use all the accents and sounds that I imagine. Oddly enough, I recited this proverb to a group of kids a few weeks ago. Shortly after that I was presented with a “great flood” of my own.

My daughter turns 16 in a couple months and she wants to have a Sweet 16. I’m a very frugal mom, so I told her years ago that I wasn’t doing anything big for any of her birthdays…BUT, I told her that she could have a really nice party when she turned 16. (And then 16 kinda snuck up on me.) :)

Anyway, one of my play sisters is helping me put everything together because she wants the day to be very special for Amari. She has been working diligently to solidify a location, decorations, and all that other good stuff. We had pretty much settled on one location not too far from where I live, but I wasn’t thrilled about the price. HOWEVER, it was the most affordable of the places she checked, so I told the manager of the venue that I would come in to pay the deposit in a couple of days.

As soon as I sent the manager that email, I cried out to God. I left the parking lot of my job and stopped at the traffic light between the parking lot and the freeway. While I sat there, I wondered how I would pay such a large amount for the venue without making unwise decisions with my money. I reminded Him that I am trying to be a better steward, but I had made a promise to Amari that I intended to keep. I thought about giving Him an IOU for my tithes money, but as soon as I thought it I reminded myself that God has been amazing to me and that was one area I wouldn’t compromise. I looked to my left and saw a 7-Eleven. The LOTTO, I thought. If I could hit that really quick…boom boom. Naw…that wasn’t it. Maybe I could ask my brother and sister if they wanted to make a donation towards her party. Naw. That wasn’t it. I thought about all the little treats for myself I would have to put on hold to make this make sense—my pumpkin spice fraps, my hairdos, my own birthday festivities. I didn’t want to make those sacrifices, but I would if I had to. The light changed and I begged God to work it out. I didn’t know what He would do, but I needed Him to do something. I got on the freeway and made my way to Amari.

Once she was in the car, we headed to the gas station and my phone rang. It was my play sister.

 “I have some great news,” she said. She told me that one of the places she had contacted had finally gotten back to her and the date we wanted for Amari’s party was available. It was less than half the cost of the venue I was planning to put the deposit on, and she was certain they would offer a bigger discount to paid club members. She also told me that we could rent the spot for the entire day and would not have to rush to set up or break down the event. She mentioned a few other perks, but I looked over at Amari and said, “I don’t know…That is a little further away and Amari really had her mind set on the place closer to us. Let me think about it and get back to you.”

I hung up the phone and said, “What do you think Amari? You look sad.”

She said, “Mommy…I look like this because I don’t feel well. It really doesn’t matter to me.”

I went back and forth with myself for a few minutes and then I realized that God was trying to take care of me and I was behaving like the man in the proverb. It had been less than an hour since I cried out and asked Him to help me—to make a way, and He had provided a MUCH more affordable alternative at a VERY nice location—one that is meaningful to me even…

The path He directed me toward wasn’t the “way” that I was expecting. I almost missed out, but I’m thankful I recognized His hand in the matter before it was too late. I called my play sister back and told her the story of the man in the great flood and how I could see that God was answering the prayer that I had JUST prayed. It would have been foolish of me not to jump on the opportunity. I asked her to go ahead and book the new location. I told her I would reach out to the initial place and let them know that we had found another venue.

(Side note: The next day, the initial venue reached out to me before I could reach out to them and said that the date I wanted wasn’t available after all. They had already received a deposit check from someone else and they were soooo sorry. I told them it was ok. We had already found another option. I SEE YOU, GOD. Wow…)

There’s still a great deal more planning to do, but I’m thankful to be taking this journey with God. He continues to work things out when I pray and then get out of the way and allow Him to do what He does! :)