Invariably, in the lives of virtually every Christian of African descent, there comes a time where you have to reflect upon the ways that white supremacy have made their mark on you – all the more so if you are a pastor. In our second post celebrating African Descent History month, this week’s author, Rev. Kwame Pitts (LSTC, 2015), shares some of her own powerful journey in her inimitable poetic style – and how she mines the richness and vitality of her African spiritual roots in her work as a Christian and Lutheran pastor. Read, comment, and share!
Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”
“By re-recognizing a pagan understanding of our origins and the dynamics of culture, cultivation and worship and by returning to a connection with our roots and origins, we might begin to reestablish a sacred immediacy as the foundation for an equitable, universal, and human global society, one with its feet on the ground and its head challengingly but no less compassionately in the heavens.” (York, 2003).
This, more or less is confessional,
This is not your typical,
“Let me share with you,
Why I am proud to be Black.”
This, is not your typical theological insightful blog post,
Because for the life of me,
Not sure why,
The Creator has me simultaneously
Dancing down dual pathways
Last January, as a part of African Descent Month, Chicago Theological Seminary hosted a lecture, film showing, and worship surrounding the Yoruba culture and religion. The highlight for me personally was the lecture given by Dr. Tracey Hucks on the subject of Yoruba Religion and its intersectionality with African American culture and experience. In her book Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism, she states “The religious nationalism of African American Yoruba would proclaim a new epistemology of the sacred and provide an important reflection upon the past.” (Hucks, 2012)
As people of African Descent
Who We Are
But we shy away at how She connects
As African Americans
Have had to be creative,
Fashioning from the unmalleable life we were handed
Something new here
Born from the ashes of violence,
Occupying our sacred bodies
From the erasure of our sacred tongue
From the silencing
Of our Rites,
Our communing in the midst
Of spiritual mysteries
Began to transform
In hostile lands
To try to siphon off the poison of the status quo
The dominant white culture
As African Americans
Could reclaim our humanity.
The lies remained.
The questions that Malcolm X addresses in this scene is whether the original disciples were Black
Whether Jesus was Black.
How often have we,
As people of Color,
Been surrounded with portraits
Seeing God as white,
And coming to the conclusion
That is why God has not heard our cries
And has abandoned us
Because God obviously did not look like us.
These are Lies.
Fed through the lens of Christianity,
In the hands
But the Creator has not abandoned us,
Because we are Children of Nature,
Children of the Light
The Creator of All
Has given us…
This is where many of you will disagree with me.
I am not asking you to abandon the faith of those beloved mothers and fathers
I am asking you to dig into your roots
The Creator by Ancient Names
I am asking you to listen to the drums…
And when you hear them
Will you respond?
“The African understanding of the supreme deity as Creator and preserve of all that is implies divine order and harmony both in and among the realms of spirit, nature and history. In the realm of spirit that hierarchical relationship among the supreme deity, the subdivinities, and the ancestral spirits is the paramount exemplar order and harmony, and African peoples seek to emulate it in their familial and tribal communities.” (Douglas, 2005).
And yet, our ancient ways of celebrating and worshiping God have been demonized.
If we are to celebrate African Descent History month, we must lift up all
Because the institutionalization
Of white American Christianity
Attempting to snuff out the LIGHT
Of a People.
“The West’s progressive turning away from functioning spiritual values; its total disregard for the environment and the protection of natural resources; the violence of inner citites with their problems of poverty, drugs, and crime; spiraling unemployment and economic disarray; and growing intolerance towards people of color and the values of other cultures…will eventually bring about a terrible self-destruction.” (Somé , 1994).
There is the confession
I fear for us,
The Children of Light,
Children of Nature
Are trying to erase our presence
And therefore I am at this crossroads,
I am dancing along two paths.
There are t-shirts being sold on the internet that say-
“I am my Ancestor’s dream”
Let’s not allow these dreams to fade,
The Rev. Kwame Pitts, a LSTC alum (M.Div, 2015) dances with the both/and: Serving her Call to be a prophetic Witness of the Gospel as a Rostered and Ordained Pastor in the ELCA; causing chaos whether it is through voting rights (#ELCAVOTES) or contemplating how everyone should be visible in the institution of the Church, especially as the status quo attempts to quell the presence of many voices (#decolonizeLutheranism). When not challenging the institution of Christianity, she has entered the fray of theology/academica once more (S.T.M) in the fertile ground of Chicago Theological Seminary as well as deepening her ties to her Ancestors and exploring the empowering life found in Ifa and Vodoun as resource and a source of liberation theology for the here and now.