The A.M.E. Church’s loss is a loss for all us

I’ve been told this will appear in the Salem (MA) News on Monday. SO this is for y’all who are not on the North Shore of MA.

According to the U.S. Census Massachusetts may not be as diverse as some other states, but if you live, walk, drive, work here then you can clearly see the great diversity of our Commonwealth. The U.S. Census reports that of those who completed the Census in the Commonwealth 8% are Black, 6% are Asian, 10% are Hispanic. 15% of our residents were born outside of the U.S. and 21.9% speak a language other than English in their home. Hispanics and Blacks together own 6% of firms in the Commonwealth. When immigrants go to a new place they often look to find a familiar church to seek support and comfort. There are ten African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Churches in Massachusetts. These churches have a strong historic significance and are important bastions of hope, service, growth, justice, equity, and unity.

untitledHistorically, for the African and African American communities the Church is one of the most important social institutions. The A.M.E. Church is one of the most important churches in the U.S. It is the oldest, most stable, largest historically black church in the United States and abroad. It has been the foundation for the creation of schools, colleges and universities, housing, and other social, intellectual and cultural institutions such as literary societies, fraternities and sororities. Since Reconstruction the A.M.E. Church Bishops and Pastors have served as Congressmen, Senators, City Councilors, Mayors, and School Board members. The commitment to civic engagement and justice has been evident for centuries and is enacted on behalf of the entire community. Ministers, Bishops, congregation members are often on the scene after racial incidents in Missouri, Baltimore, Texas and not just this year but since the inception of the Black Church.

The first settlers quickly established churches and as more people came from every corner of the world, more churches with specific languages and rituals and practices were created. Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, places of worship are sacred. They bring hope, unity, and solace to many. A place of worship is one of the first institutions new comers to the U.S. seek out when they arrive. Churches feed communities, offer safe space for meetings (AA, NA, boys and girls scouts, etc.). Churches feed our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Despite a lot of backlash from society against religion, religious institutions and leaders, most churches are places open to all without question. I know exceptions exist, but not within the A.M.E. Church.

Richard Allen was one of the key founders of the A.M.E. Church. In 1787, after being forced out of a Methodist Church in Philadelphia where they were praying Allen and others were inspired to have a church in which Africans could worship without discrimination. The first A.M.E. Church is called Mother Bethel and is located in Philadelphia, PA. The A.M.E. Church and its colleges and universities have always been open to all without discrimination or any kind of exception. It is not surprising that a young, Caucasian male sat in prayer with others at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in South Carolina without being questioned. It is a church that was implicated in the Denmark Vesey slave uprising/rebellion. The church was burned and its participation in that state banned. Today the Charleston community has come together in strong unified support of Emmanuel, their members, and their Pastor, the Honorable Clementa Pinckney.

Churches, in particular churches founded by immigrants and people of color are an important fabric of our society. They represent hope, progress, growth, justice, unity, and are a place where people from different walks of life come together in comfort and peace, or at least in theory they should be able to. Justice will be swift and hopefully served appropriately. Tragedy has struck within the walls of a house of worship that has historically fought for equality and social justice and it is a sad day in our society. In a time where race, race relations, and racial identity are hot topics, we should be outraged and work to protect all of our historic institutions and their missions.

I grew up in an A.M.E. Church. I was married in an A.M.E. Church. My mother was funeralized in an A.M.E. Church. The A.M.E. Church is partially why I have a Ph.D. I am deeply saddened by the shooting at Emmanuel A.M.E. in Charleston and I am disturbed by the rhetoric and dichotomies presented of the racial violence in our country. We must do better.

Our Lives Matter: Summer ecclectic blog post #2

familyMy son and I have the sweetest night time rituals. I hope that we can engage in these rituals for a long time to come, but I know that soon he will feel embarrassed by snuggling with me, and maybe he won’t tell me what was good and not so good about his day, and maybe he will get to a stage that he won’t even say “good night” to us before slipping into his room. He’ll probably also want the door closed and all the lights turned off. But for now I cherish our rituals.  Since the shooting of Trayvon Martin I’ve prolonged our rituals, I hold him tighter, and each night I am reminded what a miracle our boy is. He came late in our lives and after many challenges and losses (see other blog posts). He is the most precious person I do not own or control.  At 4 he is wise beyond is small self. He’s aware of skin color, hair texture, and facial features across races and nationalities. Without prompting he is aware that skin color matters. I did not expect to have to talk to him about his body language, clothing choices, tone of voice, etc until he was a teenager, but it’s happened now. Our son has taught me that children can be savvy and wise beyond their years; that it’s never to early to begin life lessons, and of course our son reminds me daily that HIS LIFE MATTERS.

In a similar fashion my husband’s life, the life of our son’s father matters. Our marriage is a work in progress! I think we do pretty good for two later in life getting married people. He has all the qualities I do not and then some and likewise, I balance and complete him. He was born outside of the U.S. and often tells me all kinds of stories about how he learned about the American system, especially the legal system and how to deal with police.  As if coming to a new country is not enough of a learning experience but as a man of color you also need to learn how to interact with the police in a specific way. Even though he is a smart adult with a calm demeanor I worry for him. HIS LIFE MATTERS.

Women are the fruit of the world. We bring forth new life. We heal. We bring peace. We nurture. WE MATTER. So finally, but not least of all the life of the mother of our son and the wife to my husband (ME) matters. No space for a history lesson on the abuse and exploitation of women of African decent all over the world, but suffice it to say that my life matters.  My son is learning love, respect, adoration, and care from his dad and I am appreciative of that. And they both show me that MY LIFE MATTERS.

I am no CJ scholar. I am a social work professor who is all about social justice. I am a woman of color living in America. I am a mom and wife to men of color. I teach all my students (CJ students included) why race matters AND why ALL lives matter AND how learning about others, developing acceptance and respect helps us in that process. No individual is perfect, but there is still a lot of teaching & learning that needs to be done with police systems across the country.  I often feel as if I am living in my grandparent’s generation. How much changes yet stays the same. I am originally from Pasadena and am a contemporary of Rodney King (may he rest in peace).  The issue of inappropriate policing, police brutality, etc is not just a passing hot topic it is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed and changed NOW. WE MATTER.

THE BRUTALITY AND DISRESPECT MUST STOP. WE MUST VALUE ALL OF OUR LIVES.

Tell me how your city or town rates on cultural competency within the police force?  Does specific diversity training exist? Is there training to deal with people who face mental health challenges? What do you see in your community?

Our police does a pretty good job. The hiring is getting more divers and I know they are actively involved in our community in positive ways. They also have learned and continue to learn about specific immigrants groups which make up the majority of our city: http://lowellpoliceacademy.com/

Installation #1 of my eclectic summer blog.  This is about food, farms, food insecurity, food uncertainty, sustainable agriculture, urban gardening & farming, social and economic justice, and a little bit about youth empowerment.

BootsFoodProjectThose of you who grew up in countries where farming is a part of daily life, may laugh at my great and sudden enthusiasm. I am a city girl, a mall rat, a prissy princess in pink…until I had my son.  I however have always been about justice and my mom’s life work (read some prior blog posts) was about child and youth welfare.  I’ve attempted four times in my entire life to plant my own garden, each time more successful than the last attempt, but no attempt has been truly successful in my eyes.

Imagine my luck to be involved in 2 events/activities in one week that allowed me to experience urban farming, youth development, and justice all at once. Do you know where your food comes from? How often do you eat fresh from the farm fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, or meat? Do you go to your city or town’s Farmer’s Market? Do you participate in a CSA? I’d love to hear from you! I must admit I am a slacker but am re-inspired to do better. Especially because I want our son to have a good model for eating well, knowing where his food comes from, and understanding the issues many face related to food insecurity and uncertainty.

I worked half a day at the Food Project in Lynn. http://thefoodproject.org/ Along with having 3 farms (Lynn, Beverly, Hamilton/Wenham, MA) they empower youth to farm, learn and speak about food insecurity and social justice issues.  They take volunteers and it’s not just a “come and pull weeds and move compost” experience.  There is some learning involved. They have a farmer’s market, CSA, deliver some meals to elder agencies. Check them out. FoodProjectsign

I attended a fundraiser for Mill City Grows. http://www.millcitygrows.org/ It was called Farm to Cocktail. We got to drink cocktails made from ginger, beets, strawberries and other farm-grown goodies. They support urban farming/gardening, a Farmer’s Market, mobile farmer’s market, classes, CSA, etc. It is a great example of urban and community gardening and helping immigrants retain their culture in a new land. We also got a dance to the Party Band!

Farm2CocktailFinally, the Farm to Cocktail event was held in the UTEC event space. https://www.utec-lowell.org/ UTEC is the United Teen Equality Center. They empower youth to be well, stay in or return to school, find jobs. They do workforce training. They do advocacy and work on policy issues. They recycle mattresses….and so much more!! They have a yummy café open to the public with some food supplied by Mill City Grows.

 

My short blog cannot do justice to the importance of fresh food, learning about & helping those who do not have access to or cannot afford fresh food, or justice to the issue of empowering youth. I could write a thesis on all of the above, but this alas is a blog. LOOK around your community. How can you get involved? What can you do to make a difference? I am going to learn more about farming (my husband who grew up working farms thinks it’s funny but knows it’s important to me), stay involved with the Food Project (service-learning for my students), Mill City Grows, and UTEC.  I plan to attend a gardener’s workshop so look for that blog and I will be developing a service-learning course that incorporates a farm experience so look for that blog also. My mom would not ever have farmed or gardened but she would have supported all of the above efforts! Do what you can!

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Being True to Me: I am an ecclectic sporadic blogger with average writing skills!

ecclecticIt’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ve had a lot going on – finishing the semester, getting the boy ready for summer, grieving, … Lots going on that needed to be settled and cleared.  I have spent some time pondering this blog.  I read a LOT of other blogs and know that the authors of blogs which attract the most readers (and make money) have a consistent theme/topic on which they write.  I contemplated finding one or two topics on which to write in order to be consistent and have dedicated readers.

I could blog about motherhood, academia, cultural competence, Alzheimer’s, being African American, being a mother to a black boy, being married to an immigrant, being a social worker, etc., etc., etc. Not one of those topic is more important to me than the next. So I decided that my blog will be an eclectic mix of the things that interest me.  Be prepared to read about our summer jaunts, my summer readings lists, my sabbatical, my volunteerism with the Alzheimer’s Association, my attempts to explain racial relations to my 4 year old, the adventures of my niece who will soon be here from Africa, our adventures as non-Catholics in a Catholic school, soccer, futbol, food, wine, and so much more!

Stay tuned. Be patient with my writing. I hope to post interesting stories and/or tips and I hope you’ll keep reading and leaving comments!