U. S. Representative Maxine Waters (and past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus) spoke to a full audience last evening at the 82nd founders’ anniversary of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People at the Durham Convention Center. I was unable to attend the celebration but heard from my church family this morning that she was inspiring in pressing the audience to consider higher and deeper levels of civic engagement. Anyone even casually following the political climate over the last few months has witnessed “Auntie Maxine” press forward for social justice, even in the midst of President Trump’s disrespect for her as a woman, a civil rights icon, and a highly accomplished politician. We have also seen her call for Trump’s impeachment! On the heels of Charlottesville, Durham, Chapel Hill and other protests revealing deep divisions and clashing ideologies, we all must respond to her example and reflect more deeply about what time, resources, and other sacrifices are required to maintain, let alone advance, human rights.
By no means is this a novel theme for African Americans. From our earliest days on US soil to the current day, our Black communities have found it necessary to resist the subtle to egregious forms of marginalization and oppression that contribute to our ongoing suffering and injustice in this land. Depending on our personalities, family and community subcultures, and geographic realities, we reveal diverse preferences for how we engage resistance. For some of us, the best way to blossom in the midst of the systemic “-isms” is to reach success through self-improvement and robust home training. For others of us, we find it vital to connect with community and/or church organizations to press for local to national change, be it through the school board, the city council, or state and federal legislators who create the policies that so deeply impact our communities. Sometimes we are actually calling the Church herself to action. For still others of us, our souls cannot rest until we have marched in the streets, gone to jail (as needed), and have become the literal embodiment of the urgency needed for massive, if not global, reforms. Wherever you may occupy this continuum, press yourself to take one more step toward making justice a reality for everyone. Sometimes our activism may take the form of canvassing neighborhoods door-to-door; however, we can also make a great impact through writing a newspaper editorial, conducting an online campaign, or otherwise raising awareness about a lesser known topic or issue. Becoming socially active around an area of your passion is not only consistent with our Christian ethics, but also necessary for the survival (and eventual blossoming) of our people. Just like Mary and Martha were busy supporting the establishing and blossoming of the early church, so, too, are well called to be engaged in major movements of our time. The spiritual referring to them seems to be speaking of end times when the archangels descend upon Jerusalem for battle, thus “rocking Jerusalem.” However, just like most other spirituals, there is a double entendre, or additional meaning, that calls for action now. What locale will you be rocking with your civic engagement? Think about it…
À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),
Tonya Armstrong, Ph.D., M.T.S.