Category Archives: church

Poverty is More than a Mind Thing!

While doing research on building my business recently, I came across something that may help the masses of people, especially those of the African American experience who have been dumbed down, discouraged, depressed, despondent, and disappointed in trying to fulfill their potential. This is a short phrase from a business family, but mighty powerful:

“If you want to go fast, go alone… if you want to go far, go together” (Joel & Julie Landi of The Performance Group)

I was raised by a very determined woman. She had a husband, but sometimes things just don’t work out, and a woman has to do what a woman has to do.

Not many people around gave me much of a chance. I was smaller than many boys around me; had a speech impediment (stuttered and stammered); was made fun of; developed a very low self-esteem (whatever that is!); and began growing into a very angry young man on the inside while I tried to smile on the outside.  There is quite a story behind why I smile so often now, and have dedicated my life to help others.

By the time I was 11, my mother had become one of those very dedicated Christians. She was the daughter of a church planter and minister, but negative circumstances had affected her desire to be really serious about becoming a committed Christian. Coupled with her own personal powerhouse of determination to succeed, she constantly brought sunshine into what I thought was a strong poverty life. One day, she grew weary of my negative and “Woe is me!” attitude.  I had made the word “can’t” my daily diet.  I used to smile as a baby and young child, but over time, hurts from family members, school acquaintances, and being laughed at by others had crushed me—my smile left and I was a depressed sight.  I had said “I can’t” once too often that day.  My mom glared at me with those sharp black eyes surrounded by her long black hair sat atop a very diminutive body.  “That’s it!” she cried.  I had heard her sharp tongue much of my life, but this was different.  It was as if God himself was thundering at me.

“The word ‘can’t’ will no longer be used in this house!” she continued.  “You CAN read better!  You CAN speak better.  You CAN do better!” she thundered.  “I don’t ever want you to use the word ‘can’t again.  Do you hear me!”  Her thundering voice was so strong I was sure the entire neighborhood heard from our basement living conditions.  “Beginning today, you WILL smile!  Beginning today, you WILL believe in yourself!  Beginning today, you WILL read to me out loud and speak better!”

My mom spoke with such force, I was convinced that she and God must have become very connected!  My eyes opened wide; fear gripped my soul.  However, that day was a turning point in my life of thinking we would always be in poverty.  Of course, my mom NEVER considered us poor, even when we had to share an outhouse with the local pimps, prostitutes, drunks and others in a place where we used to live. She often worked two jobs, and even found time to take me to work in the agricultural fields wherever we lived.  We were seldom broke.  She would wash twice or more times a week to keep my few clothes cleaned and pressed.  And, we seldom missed a meal.  But, I would look at others and what they had, and often despised what my mom worked hard to provide for the two of us.

That very day of the thundering, my mom began me reading out loud to her.  Every morning she would check to see if I was smiling.  If not, I had to quickly put on a smile!  I went to church with her, became active in local and church youth programs, and slowly began to grow beyond my mind of poverty-thinking.

My speaking gradually improved.  I began to dream again.  Against odds, I finished college with several degrees, and was blessed to have had a wife who has stayed with me since 1965.  We have five grown children successful in their own right, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.  I am NOT rich—yet, but I have had the experience of working and learning from over 19 different industries!  This experience has helped me to become a consultant to politicians, ministers, business people, and to community organizations, helping others to dream, and find their niche in life.  Now, I wake up every morning with a smile on my face and looking forward to helping someone else, or making a positive difference in some organization or community.

This entire journey of mine could not have been as successful as it has been if I would have had to walk my journey alone.  Preachers, pastors, teachers, street people, business people, family members, and associates have helped me come this far in life—by being willing to go on the journey together—with others.

 

WINTER HOLIDAYS

I don’t know all of the winter holidays around the world, but I do appreciate the three holidays that affect millions in America, and many around the world.  Those three are Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.  I discovered much of this from Wikipedia, so take what I am sharing with a little salt!

This year, December 24, 2016, Hanukkah (sometimes transliterated Chanukkah, or spelled Hanukah) is a Jewish holiday custom based on facts, celebrated for eight days and nights, beginning  on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev.  This year, Hanukah begins tomorrow, on Christmas Eve.  The Jewish word “Hanukah” means  “dedication,” and is a reminder to commemorate the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.  The Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus wanted to kill any Jews who observed Judaism. To enforce the new religious law over Jews, a high-ranking occupation officer  ame to a village to enforce rules that Jews needed to worship Greek gods, and to eat the flesh of a pig.  The residing high priest stood his ground and refused, but another villager told the officer he would speak on behalf of the village and would obey.

This residing priest, Mattathias, killed that villager, killed the high-ranking officer, and his five sons and other resistant villagers helped to kill all of the other officers and soldiers of this occupation military.  When the Greek army invaded and retaliated, the high priest, his sons, and others went into hiding, but trained all who were tired and wanted to take back their land.  They eventually won their war, took back their land, and became known as the Maccabees, or Hasmoneans.  When they went to purify their temple that had been desecrated by the invaders who also worshiped pigs in the temple, they discovered it might be impossible to follow the ritual of burning oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days.  There was only enough oil for one day, but miraculously, the oil burned for the required eight days, leading to the celebration of lighting one candle in a menorah each night for eight nights, lighting one candle the first night, two the second night, and adding a candle each night until all eight candles have been lit.  Although there are many different types of menorahs, and from seven branches to nine branches, and many parents give their children gifts so they don’t feel left out of the Christmas cultural holiday time around many of them.  Much of the material for this came from these web sites: http://judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/hanukkah.htm, and from Hanukah’s videos from http://www.history.com.

The second holiday, Christmas, officially beginning on December 25th (but may be celebrated by merchants right after Halloween, or before Thanksgiving) is based on more fiction than facts.  This holiday, or holy day, was started by the Catholic Church, and is now spread over much of the Western world, and even celebrated in some form in many eastern countries.  The real (?) story began when a somewhat thin, tall, dark-skinned wealthy priest, Nicholas, would go around at night on a horse being led by a somewhat short, chubby fair-skinned servant.  Born in 280 AD, in a place called Patara, which is a city of Lycia in Asia Minor (now Turkey).  This amazing man was known as the gift giver of Myra.  He is also the patron saint of children, sailors, Russia, and Greece as his influence spread from Asia to Europe.

When Nicholas heard of three sisters unable to marry due to the low economic standard of their father, he arranged to get into their house and dropped bags of gold into their stockings that were hanging up by the fireplace to dry.  When the sisters awoke and found the gold, they now had a dowry so they could be married.  As this story was told across the globe, children became glad to get to bed early so that Saint Nicholas (later made a Bishop) would bring them a present (which became a family tradition for families to buy or make gifts for children, then for each other, and later, for others).

The name “Nicholas” became pronounced “Sinter Klass” by the Dutch who brought their traditions to New York (earlier known as Amsterdam).  Such a pronunciation morphed into Santa Klass, and then became Santa Claus. The clothes of Bishop Nicholas morphed from mitre, jeweled gloves and crozier into a red suit which we see now.  There is more history on how an emperor wanted him worshiped as a god, but Bishop Nicholas rejected the idea and went to prison for several years.  When he was released by Constantine, the new emperor, and power controlled by the Catholic Church, Bishop Nicholas continued his former work of giving to others; the Eastern Catholic Church recognized him as a saint in 800; France made December 6 a day of celebration in the 1200s; and by the end of the 1400s, Bishop Nicholas was the most beloved holy figure after Mary and Jesus with over 2,000 chapels and monasteries named after him.  However, the English people stopped seeing Bishop Nicholas as their saint and chose to give more loyalty to Father Christmas, ignoring the Catholic tradition that Christmas means “the Mass of Christ.”  It was also at this time that the Catholic Church used artists to create drawings, statues, and all art to depict biblical characters that looked more like them.  The Lutherans followed deceptions in their art, as did the Swiss Christians, the English Christians, the American Christians, and even the original Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) morphed from brown and black and other pigmentations of the Asians, Africans and others into colors that matched those who were more European-looking.  Thus, Christmas and much of modern Christianity is based on some facts, mixed with legends and fiction, which is covering most of the world. [based on information from several web sites, including Wikipedia]

The history of Kwanza, celebrated on December 26th is based on the travels and research of a former African American militant from the 1960s— Dr. Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett), July 14, 1941, the 14th child and the 7th son of Baptist preacher.  After helping his father with sharecropping duties, Ron later moved to Los Angles to join an older brother who was a teacher.  Ron attended Los Angeles City College (LACC) where he was active in several African American groups, becoming very interested in Black Studies and African History, connecting with Jamaican anthropologist and Negritudist Councill Taylor who contested the Eurocentric view of alien cultures as primitive. Ron was soon named the first African American student president of  LACC, earned BA and MA degrees at UCLA.  While in college and active with several African American and African organizations, Ron took the name Karenga (Swahili for “keeper of tradition”) and the title Maulana (Swahili-Arabic for “master teacher”).  He was awarded his first PhD in 1976 from United States International University (now known as Alliant International University) for a 170-page dissertation entitled “Afro-American Nationalism: Social Strategy and Struggle for Community,” and a second Ph.D., in social ethics, from the University of Southern California (USC), for an 803-page dissertation entitled “Maat, the moral ideal in ancient Egypt: A study in classical African ethics.”

Dr. Karenga verbalized a set of principles called Kawaida, a Swahili term for normal, and called on African Americans to adopt his secular humanism and reject other practices, including Christianity, as mythical.  He fell in disfavor with the Black Panther Party, but was a champion of the sayings and work of Malcolm X.  He was imprisoned for what he felt were injustices based on lies told by other African Americans, but was pardoned after four years of a ten-year sentence.

Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as America’s first pan-African holiday. Looking at Christmas, his goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” However, one might find some similarity between Kwanzaa and Hanukah.  Kwanzaa is inspired by African “first fruit” traditions, a name from the name for the Swahili first fruit celebration, “matunda ya kwanza.” The ceremonies of the holiday promote African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage” that Karenga described as “a communitarian African philosophy”:

  • Umoja (unity)—To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (self-determination)—To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (collective work and responsibility)—To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (cooperative economics)—To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (purpose)—To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (creativity)—To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (faith)—To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Dr. Karenga is the Chair of the Africana Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach. He is the director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies and the author of several books, including his “Introduction to Black Studies”, a comprehensive Black/African Studies textbook now in its fourth edition. He is also known for having co-hosted, in 1984, a conference that gave rise to the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, and in 1995, he sat on the organizing committee and authored the mission statement of the Million Man March. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Maulana Karenga on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

This is the only holiday of the three where the founder is still very much alive, and can be contacted directly.  Dr. Karenga still speaks at various functions and is available as a special speaker on things involving African history. [based on various web sites, including Wikipedia, and my own personal knowledge of this holiday.]

 

 

WHAT IF JESUS WAS REALLY BLACK—HOW WOULD THAT CHANGE HISTORY?

How about a little controversy today?

Back in 1954, I asked a very disturbing question with my Sunday School teacher, Sister Calhoun at the 7th Street Christ Holy Sanctified Church.  I hadn’t been in this church very long, and was somewhat of a newcomer, thus, to ask such a challenging question upset the other students.  They did not know that my grandfather was a church planter and fantastic Bible scholar with the Church of the Living God (PG&T).  He had come from a Baptist background, having a father as a Baptist preacher from Texas, and had asked many questions which challenged Christians around him.  And then, there was my mother, a church musician, who had taken me around various church denominations when they needed her services. She pondered many questions, was an avid reader, and had this close connection with the Creator.  They both tolerated my questions as I grew up, sometimes giving me direct answers, or telling me that I would discover the answers in time.

As Sister Calhoun was teaching, I kept looking at the pictures of the biblical characters and was struck with how pink-looking they were.  I had discovered earlier in life that when white people spent time in the sun, they often tanned, or turned red.  I kept looking at the pink-looking biblical characters and could not understand how they could have spent so much time in the sun, living where there was so much sunshine, and still look pink!

When Sister Calhoun took a breath, I had my hand raised and asked my question.  “Why are these people in the bible so white?”  Sister Calhoun’s jaw dropped; the students murmured their displeasure—no student was supposed to ASK questions; we were supposed to just listen and be prepared to answer questions during a review by the Sunday School Superintendent, Deacon White, or some other respected adult.  How dare I, a church new-comer, stop the flow by asking such a dumb question!  Some students mentioned something that’s was just the way it was.  Other students voiced why was I so dumb.  And, others chatted their displeasure that this new person was stopping the flow of how things progressed.

Sister Calhoun looked at me after she had regained her composure.  She said, “Well, we buy our material from a white Christian publishing company, and I guess they just thought that the bible characters were white.”  I didn’t like the answer, and asked another question, much to the chagrin of the other students, now busily complaining about this newcomer.  “Why don’t we have our own material?” I asked.  Sister Calhoun quietly responded with, “Well, it takes a lot of money, and white people have the resources, and we don’t.  Now, let’s get back to our lesson so we can do well when the class is reviewed.”  “Yeah!” the other well-dressed students shouted, more in anger than in a mere consensus.

I had a lot more questions throughout my Christian journey.  Often, my questions were met with jeers and frustration from others who had been trained to not question God, and not to question the way things were.  As I grew older, I learned to somewhat fit in with the status quo, but more questions kept popping into my head, and I began more reading, researching, and questioning God.  I remembered how I felt as a 12-year-old asking questions.  I asked my mom, who gave me good answers, or said she did not know the answer, but that I could ask God.  I remembered feeling God asking me if I would be willing to go against almost 2,000 years of accepted Christian history, and go against thousands of years of Jewish and Hebrew and early civilization history.  I pondered His question, and said “No!”  However, the questions kept popping inside my head, causing me to write the publishing company that produced the Sunday School material I questioned as a 12-year-old.

Jim English from the David C. Cook Publishing Company replied to my inquiry.  During our communicating back and forth, he received permission to have me come and bring my research and spend a week with this huge publishing company.  I met Joseph Bayly, one of the Vice Presidents, and author of “The Gospel Blimp and Other Modern Parables.  Those I met listened to my questions with an open mind.  Then, one of the researchers showed me art work the company use to use in the 1880—all of the biblical characters were blonde and blue-eyed.  He then compared that to their current art work, mentioning that they had changed hair color, eye color, and skin tones to more closely match the characters.

When I protested that the current artwork was better, but was NOT authentic, giving them some of my research, they agreed.  However, they said, “It would not be wise to all of a sudden show Jesus and other bible characters with darker skin and darker hair.  Most of our customers are white Christians, and would be shocked at the art, and would stop purchasing items from us, which would not be a wise business decision.  However, probably in the next 100 years (this was in the late 1970s), I am sure that publishers, including our company, will show Jesus and all bible characters with more authentic skin tones, etc.”  This time, I dropped my jaw!  So, this was about business. Then, someone asked me a very challenging question: “If black people had the resources and controlled art and publishing, don’t you think they would create biblical characters in their image?”  Reluctantly, I had to agree.  Then, I was introduced to the art director—he was an African American!

When I questioned the art director, he explained that he gets the assignments, oversees the work, but since all of the artists and photographers were white, his hands were tied, and he was not about to jeopardize his future quibbling over more color for the biblical characters.  Then I asked those over him why they didn’t hire more African American researchers, artists, etc., they explained that they had tried, but the Elgin, Illinois area was not conducive (at that time) for Black people to feel comfortable living in the area.  Plus, they could not match the salary that African American artists were offered by Ebony and other African American publications.  Now that several African American publications had become more successful, those publications were able to compete very well with Anglo American publications for artistic talent.

Before I left this publishing company, they showed me plans to help African American churches have their “own” material.  The company would wrap the front and back covers, with the suggested African American pictures, around Sunday School material from Cook.  In fact, I was told, they were going to hire more African Americans to become consultants, and asked if I would be interested.  Although the money wasn’t that great, I served for a short time as a consultant, meeting up with African American Christian conventions, showing displays of publications, including those that were more oriented to African American churches.

I continued my quest of asking questions and observing other Christian groups, both black and white.  I spent a little time working with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and noticed that they had their own publishing company, but didn’t use a lot of art.  I spent time working with the Assemblies of God church, and asked questions about their history, and their lack of African American leadership in their upper ranks.  I asked questions and visited with Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Christ, Catholic, Church of God in Christ, and may other Christian, as well as non-Christian religious groups.  When I worked with the African American Baptists, I noticed that they had their own publishing houses and used more pictures and art depicting people of color.  Some African American publishers even created an African American Bible, but I knew that all of the characters in the Bible were NOT Black, or African.  Then I made a trip to Rome where I visited the Vatican.

At the Vatican, it was a very interesting experience as I began to see where racism against Black people came from.  As a tour guide was showing a group all of the art and statutes, I could not help but stop him and ask, “Did the artists and sculptures used authentic Jewish people as models?”  The guide gave me a very dirty look, and the other tourists acted like my 12-year-old Sunday School class.  When the guide said, “No,” I had another question.  “So who were the models for all of these paintings and statutes, and when were they made?”

By now, the murmurings of the other tourists grew louder, and the guide was very angry, but tried to give an answer.  He said, “We used Roman citizens, but they artists worked hard to make the art and sculptures as accurately as possible.  Now, moving on, let me show everyone…”  As he moved on, much to the delight of the crowd, I continued to look at the artistic lies that had been sold around the world.  Later, I would discover that such artistic lies were picked up by the Lutherans, the English, other European Christians, and finally made its way into the churches in America.  Now, I was somewhat more eager to stand against the artistic lies of the Christian churches, but still had that feeling that I really didn’t want to continue the assignment of discovering where so much racism against Black People came from—the Catholic Church, and most all other Christian churches, bible schools, and seminaries.

I began to examine the “Christian” and “Bible” movies from Hollywood, looking at the script writers, producers, and directors.  Many of them appeared to be backslidden Jews and Christians, or those who did not have a connection to the Creator.  They have continued to make “Christian” and “authentic” Bible-type movies.  Only a few in the last few years began to use authentic Black people in roles other than as slaves and servants.  One movie even showed Samson as a Black man.  This did not go unnoticed by Black people around the world.  Then two Christian brothers made a recent movie, “War Room,” where most of the main characters were African American, including the daughter of Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Fellowship, one of the greatest Bible teaching churches in America.

Dr. Evans is also one of the foremost African American Christian publishers in the world through the Urban Alternative. He didn’t just ask questions, and find answers—he began publishing his findings for over 30 years.  He was also the first African American to earn a doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Not only did he ask questions as he grew, but he went out and studied the material used by some of the top Christian pastors and Christian leaders.  This has allowed him to have a voice of reason on radio, television, and within the sports industry as chaplain for the NFL‘s Dallas Cowboys and is currently the longest serving NBA chaplain which he has done by serving the Dallas Mavericks for over 30 years.

Since I began asking questions about the racism falsely portrayed in The Holy Bible as taught by early Catholics and other Christians, I have discovered others beyond Dr. Evans also asked, answered, and published their findings.  This includes Dr. Fred Price, Dr. I.V. Hilliard, and many from Anglo American Christians like Dr. Joel Freeman, and Jim Wallis.  And, then there are those who don’t portend or pretend to be Christians who have compiled “non-Christian” research. At the top may be a somewhat unknown organization doing a lot of research that is very disturbing to most people of the Anglo persuasion, as seen by this website: http://www.realhistoryww.com/, and there are more similar websites and youtube videos uncovering history that was NOT taught in school, college, university, church, or seminary.  Stay tuned!