Black Family Survival/Freedom
One of the most profound contributions of the Black Power Movement was its challenge to Black people to show how they could be black and Christian at the same time. Black Muslim called Christianity a “white man’s religion”, that had nothing to do with the spiritual heritage of African -Americans. Black worldly thinkers argued that Christianity was an unscientific, irrelevant, and counter-revolutionary illusion that only hindered the liberation of Black people. Pan-Africanists distanced themselves for Christianity because in their thinking, it obscured the reality that black people were part of the African Diaspora.
Black Christians in the 19th through the 20th century were not willing to concede Christianity to its White abusers. Their faith called them to believe that their Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, and Children would one day be free. Black Christianity survived because of the hope and liberating nature of the Gospel. Their belief that they would one day be free was sustained by the relationship between God and Black people (Dr. James Cone/Wilmore, Black Theology).
With the donning of the twenty century, Black people’s connection with African was more evident in black religious life than anywhere else. Black Christians Identified with the biblical people of Israel. That is, Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God’s promise to give them a land they could call home.
Black people placed their faith in God who identified with their oppression. God who actually experiences their suffering (human experience was divine experience). God’s presence in their lives, participating in their suffering and oppression (their suffering became divine suffering) filled them with the promise of liberation and freedom from suffering and oppression. In this way, Black Christianity has deep roots in the enslaved and oppressed Africans (our ancestors).
African Concept Of Human Existence
John Mbiti says:
In traditional life, the individual does not and cannot exist alone except corporately. He owes his existence to other people, including those of past generations and his contemporaries. He is simply part of the whole. The community must therefore make, create or produce the individual; for the individual depends on the corporate group… Only in terms of other people does the individual become conscious of his own being, his own duties, his privilege and responsibilities toward himself and towards other people. When he suffers, he does not suffer alone but with the corporate group; when he rejoices, he rejoices not alone but with his kinsmen… Whatever happens to the individual happens to the whole group, and whatever happens to the whole group happens to the individual. The individual can only say: “I am, because we are: and since we are, therefore I am.”
Matthew 10: 34-39 says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus came to prepare us for the breaking in of the Kingdom of God, and how the Kingdom of God ushers in a new kind of household. Blood relatives were no longer the decisive standard for the new Household that God and the Kingdom of God made possible.
Thus, Matthew 12:50 says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). There is a different for determining who family members are in the Kingdom of God.
Present in the text a profound message; it would appear that there is a need to recognize and appreciate kinship beyond blood relations. And, it’s interesting to reflect on the fact that the nuclear family model (father, mother, and children) no longer represents the household pattern of many Black families. The text above endorses the extended family and designates it as a kind of figurative kinship. Jesus reveals the Kingdom of God is concern with the quality of relationships in a family.
In July of this year I attended my wife’s family reunion. Her family gives the family reunion every two years; it was an experience that provided food for the soul. And in todays world where Black families have been systematically targeted for annihilation, we survive because of leadership in our ranks.
The stories of Samson, and Moses come to mind when I think about the black family and its leaders. In their efforts to preserve and free the Black family are the lives of Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, and the clergyman, Rev. Nat Turner. There were others working for the Black family, abolitionist Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. What these freedom fighters (and many more) had in common was the struggle and liberation from oppression, suffering, and the inhumane attack against Black families, Black life.
When a family reunion takes place, it is the culmination of hard work and planning. And it begins and ends with leadership. Larry Batson was in charge of the family reunion; he did a job that the ancestors would have been proud of; likewise, I was proud and grateful to be in attendance.
Because I live in California, and the family reunion was in Texas, some of my relative who live in Texas volunteered to drive from Huston to San Antonio so we could visit; distance prevents us from getting together as ofter as we would like to. Even so, they were welcomed and allowed to attend the banquet, where we sat together and enjoyed one another. They were made to feel welcome as was the case with me.
Numbers 27:18 says, “ The Lord said to Moses, Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.”
Indeed, the Lord was with this family, and Almighty God showed up and showed out in the leadership of the event. And, after four days of site seeing, eating, drinking, and fellowship; it was banquet time, and at the banquet Larry asked those who would give leadership to their next family reunion to stand up and be acknowledged, then he and passed the baton, charging them with the responsibility to organize the next family reunion. It reminded me of when Moses anointed Joshua to take over and lead the family into the promise land. May God bless our families with strong, talented, wise leaders for all the days to come.
In conclusion, let me say Black is beautiful, Black is wonderful, Black people must stand up for truth, and justice, we must treat one another right and help one another live better. Together we stand, together we are strong. Black people have a spiritual heritage, it is a heritage full of hope and expectation for today, and tomorrow. Let use hear the call of our leaders, and honor their hard work.
May the Lord God, in the words of the Book of Enoch 11:20, “And cleanse thou the earth from all oppression, and from all unrighteousness, and from all sin, and from all godlessness; and all the uncleanness that is wrought upon the earth destroy from off the earth.”