BHM 2019 – Magic Negroes

Black History Month is a necessity that I wish wasn’t.  If our country lived out her creed and our educational systems were comprehensive and integrated, the need to celebrate Black History month would not be necessary .  If our country was honest about the sacrifices, contributions, heroism, and innovation of her darker siblings, this month long retrospective would not be needed. If Black people were not whited-out of the pages of our shared past, the highlight of the month may well be Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately it is not, and I don’t do President’s Day for obvious reasons.

It’s Black History Month, and I am happy to see so many brothers and sisters out here sharing knowledge and highlighting the contributions of our ancestors.  I typically look forward to any opportunity to expose the rich legacies that endure despite the concerted efforts of the dominant culture to bury them. Our Foremothers and Forefathers accomplished more with less than many of us will ever even attempt.  Our Ancestors did these amazing things under the specter of slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement, and the constant threat of violence. These should be celebrated, enshrined, memorialized, and imitated.

We have much to celebrate and much to be proud of, but I do wonder if we might approach things a bit differently.  I will try to say this as carefully as I can. In some ways, by emphasizing the exceptional individuals from our past and then leveraging them as examples of respectability and achievement, we may actually be validating the racism that makes our celebrations necessary in the first place.

Why do Black people have to be exceptional in order to be worthy of dignity?  Why must we jump through flaming hoops, and perform ridiculous fetes, in order to be counted worthy? Why must we be magical?  Why is it that, even in Black History month, it seems like we are angling toward proving our respectability?

European immigrants did nothing more than  get on boats and come to this continent by choice,  They do not have to jump these hurdles.  But our ancestors, dragged here in chains, enslaved, raped, degraded, and cut off from history, language, and culture – we must prove their worth and subsequently secure our own.  We must do our part. We must be exceptional if we will be accepted. Why?

We play along with the ‘song and dance’ (pardon the pun), we color within the lines, we play by their rules, we ascribe to their standards, we emulate them, all while simultaneously outdoing them in areas where we are not supposed to excel. We shine, but guess what?  They still hate us. Our attempts at respectability and acceptance have yielded little gains for us as a people.

I can hear Adolph Caesar’s words in the movie A Soldier’s Story, ‘They still hate you!’  I’m also reminded of my father-in-law, Robert Cunningham.   Bobby was a Bronze Star decorated Vietnam Veteran. He once told me a story of coming home to Monroeville, Alabama with his pregnant wife in 1970.  He told me of how proud he was of his uniform and light blue infantry cord. Expecting to be welcomed home, he was met with the harsh reality that despite his heroism, his country still did not accept him.  His pregnant wife was forbade access to the bathroom at the Trailways Station in his hometown. He was still referred to as ‘boy’ after having been drafted and sent to war for his country.

I tell this story because Black people have been playing this game for too long.  Some younger folks have become wise to it, and are frustrated with the process, and who can blame them? Black people must be exceptional in order to be accepted, and then, even then, it may not work out for you.

You see, MLK’s nonviolence was met with a government sponsored assassin’s bullet.   Muhammad Ali’s vocal expressions of his religious convictions cost him possibly the most productive years of his career.  Kap knelt peacefully and was met with scorn and a pink slip. Black men and women are murdered by the police and the response is ‘just comply and everything will be fine…’ except when you comply and still end up shot or hanged in a jail cell.  Ask Philando Castille.

Why am I saying all this?  I say this because I want us to re-imagine our approach to Black History Month.  Let’s celebrate black excellence, but let’s make sure that our children realize that it is not their ‘excellence’ that makes them worthy.  Let’s make sure to tell them that they possess inherent value just because they are! Let’s remind them that they are created in the image and likeness of God!  Let’s make sure that they know that they mustn’t be exceptional in order to be accepted. Let’s make it known that they are worthy of dignity and respect just because God created them.

So then, let’s carry on with our celebration of Black History month, let’s highlight our successes and contributions.  But let’s also remember that our value emanates from who we are and it is not simply as a product of what we do!

We are worthy just because WE ARE.  We are still here, made in the image and likeness of God! Let’s celebrate our beautiful Black History –but let’s be sure that we do not demean ourselves by subtly seeking after white respectability and acceptance.

Let’s remind our beautiful Black children  that they should expect acceptance.  It is not something to be earned.   Let’s teach them that we share an amazing, reach, deep, and spiritual past.  Despite this, however, let’s teach them that they needn’t be ‘magical’  in order to make it and they shouldn’t have to be.

Let’s remind them that:

We are worthy!

Love…

Real love

Deep, rich, and spiritual

Though affectionate

Is not inordinately sentimental….

Robust and resilient

Vibrant and luminous

Rapturous

Compelling

But not sentimental…

She is beyond feeling

And often beyond word

She is creative force

Building and gathering

Ever transforming

Her objects into subjects…

She is the tree beneath

Which we find shelter

Hopeful rest

Healing repose

Hearty nurture

And peace…

She shades us

Simply by being…

Alas but where are the

trees in a desert?

There are

No streams to feed her…

None save the One

As she bears

Her strange fruit

At Calvary.

A.Mixon, 2018

Growing up jazz…

Growing up jazz…

With the soulful tragedy

of the blues

And the decadence of

the symphony

Hand-me-downed

Holy shoes

Gourmet meals

On a Coleman Stove

No lights or heat

Water or phone

Beautiful artistry

By candlelight shone

I grew up jazz

Days punctuated by

Violent syncopations

Drunken confrontations

Staggering gesticulations

Against shelves of books

Ebony encyclopedias

African histories

Next to Hemingway

And Elijah’s lessons

On how to eat to live

Coltrane plays…

Days bruised blue

And tears make rain

Smile away the pain

Taj Mahal sangs

Hunger pangs

Proudest shame

A masquerade

A game?

Nah, Jazz is my name.

A.Mixon, 2018

for that brotha named clarence…

 

birth of a nation?

cultural genocide

annihilation

in a god’s name

gentrification

ass-imilation

gotcha

ass-imitatin’

bowin’, scrapin’

adulatin’

ingratiatin’

ass-kissin’

emasculatin’

herit-images

amputatin’

psychologically

castratin’

freedom dreams

decapitatin’

black souls traded

raped and degraded

4th of july celebratin’

and gettin’ faded…

while some fool

steppin’ off the boat

hollas… ‘We made it…’

 

(nods to Frederick Douglass… the 4th of July for the Slave)

Response-Ability?

Responsibility is the ability to respond to a situation or circumstance and not just react. At least that is my definition.  In my devotion this morning, it was about abandoning blame.  I’m always leery of those who eschew what they consider to be ‘blame.’  Especially when the one railing against it appears abusive or oppressive.  That type of stuff can quickly devolve into victim-shaming, excuse making, and an overall lack of accountability.

Part of taking power back after someone hurts, abuses, or objectifies us, is the difficult work of taking responsibility for our own circumstances – whether we created them or not.  As a victim of abuse I understand the psychological hurdles that must be overcome.  We may identify root-causes but at some point we have to determine how we will respond.  Injustice is not fair!  Sounds redundant, I know.  But the point I’m trying to make is that we live in a corrupt, unjust, fallen world.  Injustice is not surprising.  So if it is not surprising then we can in some ways prepare ourselves for and bolster ourselves against it.  We can be responsible – that is able to respond.

This got me to thinking, about my people… Black people… I got a question for us…

What things help us to be response-able?

Education.

The more we know about something the better equipped we are to respond to it.

Resignation.

There are some circumstances that befall us all that we did not ask for or create – such is life.  C’est la vie!

Determination.

The fact that we did not cause or create our circumstance, does not absolve us of the reality that we still (and always) have choices to make.  This is not to say that our ‘choices’ are easy or palatable but we must make them! We didn’t cause or create ‘it’ but we must control our responses. C’est la guerre!

Orientation

How we respond to our circumstance determines whether or not said circumstance defines us or drives us – we choose the direction.

Actualization

We can learn from our suffering.  We can instrumentalize it (I know that sounds like a made-up word but you get my drift).  Our suffering may well temper, refine, and strengthen us – that is give us the tools to overturn – that is to create the revolution that finally conquers and dismantles the very systems (people, circumstances) that wounded us.

Response Ability? The ability to respond.

My inclination to demand personal responsibility from the people I love and serve does not undermine or preclude the need to address the corrupt systems and structures that place and keep people in bad situations.  Don’t misread me.

These words are actually half of a conversation that I must constantly have as a black preacher.   I must speak truth to power, but I must also speak truth to my brothers and sisters:

The system is not fair.  The deck is stacked against us.  It was not created for us or by us.

We’ve got to live and function in this system. 

Faster, smarter, stronger, wiser, more ethical – that is the demand – we must accept this responsibility.  Fair or not, we must respond. The legacy of our ancestors bears witness.

We are greater than this system.

While we work to reform the existing system, we must also work to create alternatives for ourselves – this is a very long game – and it will not afford an ‘either-or’ approach.  While we seek to reform and exploit this existing system, we are actively engaged in erecting a new system.   Why?

We are better than this system.

We must be willing to do what’s necessary for the protection and prospering of our people – for the future of our families and children, and for the advance of our communities.  We must pursue every avenue that will promote this good.

This was never the goal of the existing system.

We must invest every ounce of our social, political, intellectual, artistic, and spiritual capital in advancing the cause, restoring the dignity, and liberating the bodies, minds, and spirits of our people.

We must be bold and courageous in speaking truth to power.  We must be tough and unsentimental in demanding responsibility from our brothers and sisters.

We must do both in the name of love.  Because we believe.

GOD is greater than this system.

tha prophet…

tha prophet

my verse is ill

when I spill it

like verbal cards

i deal it.

pickin’ prose

like figs

i peal it.

makin’ paralytics

feel it.

a fisher of men

i reel it.

dipped in holy

water, i heal it.

makin love

outta words

truth,

i reveal it.

with two lips

hands clasped

i pray and

i seal it.

amen

© amixon

tha preacha…

tha preacha

the feeder of sheep,

fleecin’ the sheep,

keepin’ us sleep,

tryin’ reap..

from the sweat of others,

pimpin’ sisters, and mothers

narcissist lover

spiritual bloodsuckers

hustlin’ the Good News,

like the crack of the Hebrews,

sippin’ communion

with cheap booze

unholy dope slingin’

abusers…

got people payin to pray

you playin’ with faith

sealin’your fate

leavin’em twitchin’

and itchin’

fancy tickled

and broke, chokin’

on the lies that you spoke,

pushin’ false hopes,

golden ropes –

strands

and glorious bands,

promised lands

just beyond the river.

by and by in

the mornin’

the kingdom

judgment’s comin’

but when you wake

to slither you snakes,

prophetic fakes,

you’ll be livin’

in a house on the lake,

of fire and flames

cuz Jesus says,

‘I never knew ya…’

©A.Mixon

Genetically Engineered

I was genetically
engineered inadvertently
in an effort to break me
My ancestor’s owners
Subjected we
to the worst atrocities
Unaware that what did not kill we
strengthened we
Terrified they see our resiliency
Jealously observing our creativity
How we dine on adversity
Scraps turned soul food nourish we

Strong growing we
Feast before our enemies…
Shackled and bound yet,  sing we
Soulfully deep

Spiritual, and rhythmically
Sing we
Blistered and whipped
Sun-beaten and stripped
Dance we
The strength of our stance
Smiling de-fi-ance
Taken for ignorance,
survive we
Through subtle resist-ance

They take the gold
But we get the glory
We break the molds
And tell our story

Stolen Man

Stolen lands…
In our songs, our dances,

Our laughter, and stanzas
Avert we

an African holocaust
hope unexhausted

faith undaunted

We be the new griots
Artistic soldiers
Waging cultural war.

They say the hate us

But always want more.

We live… We sing… We dance… We laugh… We win…

© AMixon 2018

Disruptions? (just thinking)

Sometimes the scariest thing in the world is change.

Most of us are creatures of habit and there is certainly some level of comfort that we develop in our routines.  Doing things differently or being forced to deal with interruptions or disruptions in our schedule can become frustrating and unsettling.

I wonder, though, if the disruptions and interruptions of life might be the very substance of faith and the foundation of creativity.

What monotony and boredom would ensue if all faded into gray, indistinguishable patterns of repetition?

I’m sure there is a certain beauty in redundancy but what if there were no wrinkles in the plan?

What if the stone dropped in the pond caused no ripples?

What if the blueness of the sky was never broken by a bright white cloud or midnight fractured by the light of the stars?

Perhaps change and transition, interruption and disruption are our opportunities to see differently – to see more – to grow – to imagine – to live beyond the specter of the ordinary in the shadows of the mundane…

I wonder if our patterns and routines – our comfort zones – are no more than comfortably padded manacles tethering us to an average existence somewhere short of truly being…

So… if you run across something odd today, or someone interrupts you while you are working, or when your child gets in the middle of some chore you want to finish, or a friend calls at an inopportune time, give pause… slow down…  see… feel… listen… and be grateful… all these make life beautiful…

Broken Mirrors

A mirror before

A mirror behind

Distorted visions

Twisted lines

Future and past

Interwined

Consummating

Present times

What was… what will be

What is – ‘tis mine…

~

A mirror before

A mirror behind

Reflection or projection?

Mentality binds

Ascent or descent;

A fall or a climb?

Progress or regress?

A doubled-mind

Frozen with fear

Sightless and blind…

~

A mirror before

A mirror behind

Shattered them both

Abandon design

[What was is not what is and what is is not what will be]

Forsaking causality

Destiny redefined

[I am not what I was and what I will be remains to be seen]

Grace is the key

The secret to life

No mirror before

Or mirror behind…

I’ve broken them both

As I look to the sky…

©A.Mixon, 2018

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,  forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14