Carl W. Kenney II is an award winning columnist and novelist. He is committed to engaging readers into a meaningful discussion related to matters that impact faith and society. He grapples with pondering the impact faith has on public space while seeking to understand how public space both hinders and enhances the walk of faith.
I’m upset with the comments of some black women popping up
in my Facebook news feed.I’m not sure
how to take it all.I mean, I’m a
man.I don’t know what it feels like to
carry all that comes with being mistreated as a woman.I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do my
best to understand.
So, help me understand why so many black women are defending
Bill Cosby?Why are they attacking the
13 women who accuse Cosby of drugging and raping them over the years?Why are they challenging the credibility of
those accusations because it happened so long ago?
Help a brother understand.
I recognize why the image of Dr. Huxtable remains fixated in
the imagination of those who grew up with Claire, Cliff and those adorable
children.Could it be that Cosby’s
television persona kindles memories that help us feel warm and fuzzy when we watch
those reruns? Are black women afraid of losing their model of marriage, parenting
and career success?
I get all of that, but help me understand why women are
throwing other women under the bus.This
troubles me for numerous reasons.Top on
my list of confusion regards the number of women I have dated who have
experienced sexual assault.
Get this.I can’t
think of one woman who hasn’t. Not one.I’ll confess I’ve dated more than enough to draw an adequate conclusion.
Many of those women have experienced multiple rapes.Some have been drugged, beaten and raped. One
escaped in the middle of the day while running with no clothes to cover her
body.Many were raped by family
members.It’s a long, pathetic list that
exposes the ghastly ways of men.
All of them are black.They represent the vast experiences of black women.Some are highly educated. Others are high
school graduates with amazing careers. In other words, it doesn’t matter how
much money they earn or where they received training.Black women, from all walks of life, catch Hell
from men. And, it’s not just black men who use the bodies of black women for
Given the common experiences of black women, help me
understand how a woman can’t understand why a woman refuses to speak up after
being raped.The women I know didn’t
speak up.They kept it to themselves for
a variety of reasons.Some feared
retaliation.Others felt no one would believe
them.A bunch of them merely wanted the
nightmare to go away.
They didn’t want their names dragged in public space.They didn’t want their friends to know.They dreaded being labeled.You know, it’s because of the way you
dress.You carried yourself like you
wanted it.You’re not innocent – you’re
a whore who asked for it.
Why wouldn’t they believe all of that?Isn’t that the common encounter of those who
yell their truth?Help me women! Isn’t
that what happens? Isn’t that what happened to you? Isn’t that the reason you
kept it to yourself?
I’ll say it again, I’m not an expert on how it feels to be a
woman, but I am when it comes to doing my best to carry the burden of a woman I
love.Loving a woman means listening and
embracing everything she has experienced.
What does that look like?
It means standing for any woman who screams rape.It means fighting on behalf of all victims of
sexual assault.It means not calling her
a liar when she says he drugged and raped her, and she was afraid to speak.
Yes, I’m aware of all the liars who make it hard to
stand.Yes, I’m still pissed at Wanetta
Gibson for fabricating a story that landed Brian Banks in prison (see
Rev-elution: Brian Banks not only victim
of Wanetta Gibson lie, June 2013). I accept the hostility people feel
towards Crystal Magum for accusing members of the Duke Lacrosse team of sexual
assault.That stuff is real, but none of
that has any bearing regarding a case involving the claims of 13 women.
Help me understand black women.Is it because most of the women are
white?Is it because you refuse to
believe your television dad would do such a thing?Is your refusal to accept the possibility of
guilt rooted in a need to claim racial solidarity?
I’m not refuting your right to cling to support, but help
me, please help me understand.
If anyone understands being screwed, it should be you.So help a brother out.
"A properly functioning democracy
depends on an informed electorate," is a quote often attributed to Thomas
Jefferson.It’s a shame we can’t find
the statement in the writings of Jefferson.
There are other quotes I wish I could tag
"The end of democracy and the defeat
of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of
lending institutions and moneyed incorporations," is a good one, but there’s
no proof it comes from Jefferson.
Both quotations would go a long way in
describing what happened during the most recent election.If those words actually came from Jefferson,
we could dub them prophetic utterance and blame the Republican takeover on an
ill-informed electorate and the deep pockets of corporations.
My colleagues in the press point to this
mid-term election as part of a longstanding cycle.For more than 30 years now, the party of second
term presidents gets brutalized during those elections.No matter how strong the economy or the state
of the union, the opposition party reaps the benefit of the low approval of the
It happened with Regan, papa and son Bush,
Clinton and now it’s happened with Obama. It would be helpful to insert
Jefferson quote regarding the intelligence of the electorate to explain the tradition
of mid-term disdain.Could it be that
voters lack the intelligence to interpret economic success when it dropping in
How do voters account for unpopularity in
the face of a decreasing deficit, lower gas prices, a stock market that has
reached all-time highs, dropping health care cost and soldiers coming home
after fighting a war many failed to understand?
We could blame an uneducated electorate on
the massive disconnect between the state of the economy and the lack of
confidence people have in President Obama. Or, maybe there are reasons for the
push to impeach Obama.Serious issues
like: he wore the wrong color suit, he held a cup of coffee instead of properly
saluting members of the military or he’s not from America. You know, credible
stuff that we, as a nation, simply can’t overlook.
Oh, he is black, but that couldn’t be it. Could
It would be much easier to credit Obama’s
pathetic popularity on an electorate with the IQ of a banana muffin, but we can’t
do that.It has to be something profounder
than a large mass of people ill-equipped to read between the lines of bullstank
peddled by both sides of the media wagon train.
Then there’s the money.
That second quote could, if it were
actually an authentic Jefferson statement, give credence to the claim that this
mid-election shift was purchased by the Koch Brothers. Both sides of the track
are guilty of depending more on cash than principles to influence voters.How else can we explain the $100 million
spent to elect a senator in North Carolina?
Read the prophecy one more time. "The
end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when
government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed
incorporations," says the quote that may or may not be Jefferson.
Democracy comes to an end when the money
changers take over the Church. Sorry, wrong convention, but it applies there
too. Things change when folks with big pockets use their money to influence how
people think.At that point, and darn it
we may be there, those who are either too lazy to find the truth, or easily
persuaded by the conspiracy theory linked to the President of the United States,
get in line to throw eggs in the direction of the White House.
You know we can’t trust big government.You certainly can’t trust a man who isn’t a
Christian, is actually a Muslim born in Africa who is in partnership with socialist
from around the world. We can’t trust him, and I know it’s true because I heard
it on FOX News.
You know the press doesn’t lie unless it’s
the commy liberal press over on MSNBC.They’re trying to destroy America. This is the point where you wave the
American flag with a Bible on your lap and an assault weapon in the other hand.
Yup, that’s America!
If those quotes were truly the words and
thoughts of Jefferson, we could argue it’s a combination of the two – an uneducated
electorate and corporate money.It’s
like an old joke – what happens when you take an uneducated electorate and put
them under the control of people with loads of money?
The answer is, beat the drum.
Shucks dang it, it’s the President’s fault.
Kick out everybody on his side. Punish all of them for siding with that
rascal.Impeach all of ‘em.
Freedom Summer Bethel Church 201 E. Old Plank Road Columbia, Missouri 65201 November 1, 2014 5:30 pm
to walk standing tall when each step lands in fear.Sometimes I wonder how the Freedom Riders travelled
on those buses while hate chased from behind.
November 1, Bethel Church will watch the Movie Freedom Summer. Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized
Freedom Rides in 1961 to test a 1960 Supreme Court decision that segregation of
interstate transportation was unconstitutional. The rides were modeled after
the 1948 Journey of Reconciliation which tested the 1946 Supreme Court decision
Morgan v. Virginia that ruled segregated bus seating unconstitutional.
It started on
May 4, 1961 when 13 Freedom Riders – seven black and six white – boarded a
Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C. headed to New Orleans, Louisiana.They hoped to arrive in the Big Easy in time
to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of
Education decision on May 17th.
confrontation occurred in Rock Hill, South Carolina on May 12. John Lewis, now
a U.S. Congressman, and five others were attacked as they attempted to enter a
white-only waiting area. Two days later, a bomb was thrown into the bus after a
mob of about 200 surrounded the bus in Anniston, Alabama. Pictures of the burning bus and bloodied
riders appeared in newspapers around the world.
continued in Montgomery where a white mob beat riders with baseball bats and
clubs. That night, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a service at the First Baptist
Church in Montgomery. As more than one thousand gathered inside the church to
support the riders, a riot arose outside forcing the Governor to dispatch the
were arrested for trespassing. As the violence and arrest received international
attention, hundreds of new Freedom Riders joined the cause. The mobs and
violence did not deflate interest, it intensified the movement.
say that’s old news.Why show a movie
about events that took place over 50 years-ago?
can be garnered from ruminating the mean ways of those from recent
history?Shouldn’t we lock all of that
away and pretend we have drifted from the thoughts of those holding bats and
clubs not so long ago?
critical in this conversation is the church showing the movie.It’s not being shown by a congregation with a
majority black membership.It’s not part
of a discussion for Black History Month.Bethel Church, the congregation where I serve as an Associate Pastor, is
showing the movie.
membership at Bethel is overwhelmingly white.Besides me, there are only two blacks who attend.We are a minority within a congregation that
works hard to overcome and understand the hate from our recent past.It’s significant that Bethel Church is
willing to address this issue.Some of
them own the hatred and racism within their family.They have been willing to share their stories
with me - a black man wounded by racism.
willing to talk about the past. In doing so, they are aware that some of what hurts
still attacks the soul of the faith we share.It’s painful to face, but we have to stare it down and demand that the
grip of the past be cast to the gates of Hell.
On this past
Sunday, I preached a message about love within the context of hate.I shared the madness of that dreadful day in
Durham, North Carolina when a person called the office of the NAACP and left a
voice message threatening to bomb a local church.
among the congregation I served.Members
called me demanding that we cancel worship that Sunday.Some talked about memories of witnessing
black men dangling from trees like strange fruit. Some talked about memories of
black girls dying in Alabama while people prepared to worship God. Some talked
about the glares of white people when they walked in their direction.
Pain and fear
settled in like dry bones withered by heat.I had to decide what to do.Tears
overcame me as I faced my decision – would we cancel service or stand in faith
like those Freedom Riders?
“We want to
gather in a circle around the church and pray,” John Friedman, senior rabbi at
Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, NC, told me on the night before I faced
the fire. “While you and the
congregation worship, we will stand and pray.”
preached about love. I preached about loving the way you desire to be
loved.Love doesn’t judge. Love doesn’t
remind people of their mistakes. Love seeks a way to move beyond all form osf
division as we seek the emergence of a new way.
standing with those too afraid to stand on their own.It’s taking risk with those who face hostility
because of the prejudices some create.
Bethel Church is showing and discussing Freedom
Summer.It’s the congregation’s way
to own past mistakes while seeking ways to move past the wounds caused by
just maybe, there’s another message behind showing Freedom Summer.
Could it be Pastor
Bonnie Cassida and the members at Bethel Church are making a statement to
me?Maybe they are saying to me “help us
understand your pain.” Could it be their way of affirming my presence in the
room and a willingness to fight through everything, no matter how much it
hurts, to get to the other side of what it means to be an authentic community?
When you have
a voice that travels around the world people will do all they can to stop you
from speaking. Some people don’t take it
kindly when a convicted murder delivers a commencement speech.
Gov. Tom Corbett has signed a new law to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal was
convicted of first-degree murder in the 1981 shooting of a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
police officer. Once known as the voice from death row, Abu-Jamal’s sentence
was commuted to life without parole in 2013.
The new law,
signed on Tuesday, allows victims of violent crimes to sue the offender for “conduct
which perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim.”
The law was
fast-tracked after Abu-Jamal delivered a commencement address at Goddard
College in Vermont. Abu-Jamal obtained a bachelor degree from Goddard while
behind bars in 1996.The law allows
victims and prosecutors to sue felons in prison or after they have completed
their sentence for conduct that the law says “perpetuates the continuing effect
of the crime on the victim”.
the law is intended to mute the “obscene celebrity” status of convicts like
Abu-Jamal, the Associated Press reported. Corbett signed the bill within
footsteps of where Daniel Faulkner was killed. Faulkner is the officer Abu-Jamal
was convicted of murdering.
“The law was
inspired by the excesses and pious hypocrisy of one particular killer,” Corbett
find it difficult to curb Abu-Jamal’s celebrity status.The administration and student body at
Goddard College embraced his speech for reasons some can’t understand.They believe in his innocence.They are moved by his message behind prison
walls.They are inspired by his
None of that
will go away.
taken away when he murdered a police officer in the line of duty,” Maureen
Faulkner, the widow of Daniel Faulkner, told Fox News. “It seems like our
justice system allows murderers to continue to have a voice over the public
airwaves and at college commencement. It’s despicable,”
Is that true?
Can one forfeit their Constitutional right to freedom of speech by virtue of
being incarcerated?Is that stated in
the Constitution, or do we allow for a provision that grants people the right
to punish people for garnering support and popularity?
any action by an inmate or former offender that could cause ‘mental anguish’
could be banned by a judge,” Reggie Shuford, Pennsylvania ALCU director, said
in a statement to the Associated Press. “That
can’t pass constitutional muster under the First Amendment.”
at Goddard College aren’t happy that a law was passed due to their acceptance
this law is suggesting that people are not capable of making choices about what
speech they will listen to and how they will react to that speech,” Samantha
Kolber, a spokesperson for Goddard College, told the Patriot-News of Central PA
.”That we wonder how libertarians and free-speech conservatives feel about this
action, and we also speculate about how far this diminishment of free-speech
rights will go.”
has vowed to continue to broadcast Abu-Jamal’s words.
Prison Radio has dozens of notable people ready to stand in for and read
Abu-Jamal’s work if the District Attorney or Attorney General sues Abu-Jamal
recorded over 3,000 essays, published seven books with two more to be released
in 2015. He has three major broadcast and theatrical movies in which he is the
subject. His work has been translated in nine languages.Mumia:
Long Distance Revolutionary is currently airing on the STARZ Network.
I doubt if
the threat of a lawsuit will stop Mumia Abu-Jamal.Listen to what he has to say.
[Meg Hegemann, pastor at Wilkes Street United Methodist Church, Columbia, Missouri, challenges a police officer to reprent.]
As fans on both ends of the state cheered for their
baseball team to win playoff games, clergy showed up in Ferguson, Missouri with
a desire to be arrested. They peacefully and intentionally pressed through the
crowd hoping they would be taken to jail.
The St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals
made the front page, but the real news was at the police station.
A seasoned white minister did his best to break
through the line as a police officer yelled at him while pushing the minister
with his baton.
“I was instantly scared that the minister would be hit
with the baton,” said Katie Jansen Larson, an organizer with Missouri Faith
Voices. “My first reaction was to look for a peace-keeper but I quickly
realized that a peace-keeper couldn't do anything to stop a police officer from
hitting that minister.”
Larson began to wonder how far the officer would go to
“And then I began to panic as I thought if he hits the
minister will he hit someone else? Will he hit me? I'm not safe. And the police
who I always turn to for protection are the ones threatening my safety,” Larson
said. “My body told me to run. I didn't run, but I moved much closer to my
colleagues and watched their faces for signs of panic.”
42 people were arrested during the Moral Monday
protest in front of the St. Louis County Police Department. Monday was part of “Ferguson
October” – four days of social action and civil disobedience fueled by the
killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO.
“We respond to call ourselves to heed and join with the
witness to the cry that Michael Brown’s life matters,” said Deb Krause, dean at
Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Krause cancelled all classes at the United
Church of Christ seminary to allow students to participate in the protest.
Hundreds gathered in the rain with a willingness to go
to jail.Rev. Cassandra Gould, pastor of
Quinn Chapel in Jefferson City, MO, was one of the first clergy to protest the
death of Michael Brown.
“The biggest shift I have witnessed has been on the
part of the clergy as many of us realize we have more to learn from the young
people than we have to teach them,” Gould said. “Initially what I observed was
the natural inclination and well-intended actions of faith leaders that
resembled the colonial missionary model, of ‘let us bring you what we have, let
us show you what to do in this case.’"
Gould has noticed resistance among clergy to protest
“This is not due to lack of passion but it is evident
we were ill-prepared for this situation,” Gould said. “Yet considering St.
Louis, in the words of the young people, ‘has a church on every corner,’ it is
evident that the prophetic and sustainable witness that is needed is not for
every woman or man of the cloth.
Larson, a white woman, said Monday’s protest taught
her an important lesson.
“I realized that this is what some people -
specifically most African American men - experience every single day,” Larson
said. “We can't change our assumptions or imagine a new way to be together if
we don't know each other - if we allow current barriers to exist.”
Eyes closed hoping it will all go away.
Eyes open now. It’s worse than before.
The pain keeps mounting higher as seeds of rage,
planted long ago, bear the bitter fruit of hostility.
Welcome to Ferguson, Missouri.
The pain is too deep to cover with simple prayers. It’s
been there too long to sing away with lyrics laced with the promise of
overcoming someday.My shovel is too
small, and I lack the strength to carry the mud alone.
Help me hold my shovel as I dig deep in search of
Florida means land of flowers It was on a Christmas night. In the state named for the
flowers Men came bearing dynamite It could not be in Jesus’ name Beneath the bedroom floor On Christmas night the killers Hid the bomb for Harry Moore Langston
“I have to go
to law school for me,” a friend told me after months of reflection. “I have to
do it not for others, but because it’s the right thing for me.”
struck a loud chord.I told her I’ve
never been able to make that statement.Everything
I’ve chosen has been for others.None of
it, when it comes to the work I do, has been for me.
I wonder if
this is the consequence related to being part of the post Martin Luther King,
Jr. generation.Those who entered
ministry after the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Harry and
Harriette Moore, Malcolm X and King did so out of a deep allegiance to the
sacrifices they made.We entered this
work committed to continue what they started, and we did so knowing the costs
associated with taking those bold steps.
Ours was no
cheap grace with promises of mega-congregations and massive expense
packages.We did it for the people we
served.There was work left undone, and,
we believed, God was calling us to finish what the ancestors started. My friend’s
words reminded me of the enormous burden that comes with saying yes.No, we weren’t carrying crosses that fed an unhealthy
martyr complex. We didn’t bring dysfunctional emotional baggage to the work of
ministry.We regarded the calling, and
work of ministry, as the continuation of work started long ago. We felt and embraced
the pain that stirred revolts led by Gabriel Prosser in Virginia in 1800,
Denmark Vesey in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822, and Nat Turner in South Hampton
County, Virginia in 1831.
the model of theologically trained ministers like Henry McNeal Turner, the
first southern bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church after the Civil
War. Turner was elected to the state legislature in Georgia in 1868.We took pride in his accomplishments, and
sought ways to follow his footsteps.
We did it for
the cause. It came out of a sincere commitment to the work behind us and the
enormous challenges ahead.This, we
believed, is what it means to be called.We walked away from more lucrative professions.The pay in ministry was derisory comparative
to other options.We said yes to the
I say we with
the assumption I’m not alone.When I
consider the sacrifices of the men and women who mentor me to this day, I’m
reminded of why we do this work.As I
read the emails from Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., who ministered in Oakland,
California during the turbulent years of police brutality, I recall what it
means to sacrifice.When I read letters
sent to me by Jeremiah Wright, who taught people in Chicago, Illinois to say it
loud, I’m black and I’m proud, I’m grateful for the positions he took during
This is what
it means to serve. It’s about standing for right even when it could result in
conflict.We’re reminded of why we say
yes to this work.Never should it be
said we do it because of ourselves.Our
being called means doing it because we are called to make a difference, not
because it’s the fastest path to fulfill our personal agenda.
This is my
frustration with the work we do.The
calling to serve has been supplanted by the desire to achieve.Lost in the quest to hear the voices of the
least of these, is the personal thirst for achievement.The calling to transform the world is
supplanted with ecclesial political maneuvering essential in remaining planted
within positions of power and ceremonial privilege.
Is that a
calling, or the ego interfering with a higher purpose?
Or, have the notions
regarding calling changed for the generation once removed from the deaths of Evers,
Hampton, Harry T. and Harriette Moore, Malcolm and King?
questions worth pondering.
As for me, I’ve
never been able to decide based merely on how it impacts just me.
I wish I
could, but there’s this thing we call a calling.
removed “Holy Ghost Remix” from SoundCloud and YouTube after T.D. Jakes
threatened to sue for the use of part of his sermon on the track.
Jeezy used Jakes
sermon titled “Don’t Let the Chatter Stop you” as the song’s hook.
under attack, but I'm still on fire
I got some chatter, but I'm still on fire I got some threat, but I'm still on fire I got some liabilities, but I'm still on fire If it's not amazing that I'm on fire I've been to hell and back, but I'm still on
responded on Facebook shortly after the song, also featuring Kendrick Lamar,
NOTICE: The 'Holy Ghost' remix by Jeezy featuring Kendrick Lamar was produced
without the knowledge or consent of T.D. Jakes, TDJ Enterprises, Dexterity
Music or its associated companies," the Facebook message from T.D. Jakes
Ministries reads. "We are taking the necessary legal actions to stop the
unauthorized use of T.D. Jakes' intellectual property."
lawsuit against Jeezy raises a set of theological issues related to the usage
of the intellectual property of a preacher.Do assumptions regarding the source of preaching press us into
considering potential contradictions in the way we communicate those views in
law is on Jeezy’s side.Using parts of
Jakes sermon, even without permission, is considered “fair use” and not an
infringement or theft, because Jeezy gave Jakes credit.
Jakes may be
offended by the way his work was used in the song.Or, it could be that Jakes is upset about not
receiving a share of the profit.Each
possibility presents a unique set of issues regarding how the words and
thoughts of ministers are presented in public space.
There is a
price that comes with being the poster Bishop of the Church.The glamor that comes with being the leader
of a mega-Church movement comes with being staged in public space in ways that may
conflict with the image one wishes to present.
Lord forgive him, you know he got that thug in him, we lust for alcohol and we
love women. ... Got the seats reclined and I be doin' the most in the back of
this Holy Ghost," Jeezy rhymes on the record.
Jakes didn’t like that.
Taking this matter
to court exposes a deeper theological issue that deserves consideration. Who owns
the Word? When preaching and teaching, can we claim that the message is the
intellectual property of the one delivering the message?
ministers promote preaching as the inspired Word of God.The message and movement of worship are ordered
by the Holy Spirit.Preachers and
teachers are vessels of God’s work.Jakes,
and most evangelical ministers, contend the Word of God is God’s word.God is speaking to and through preachers to
promote her will.
So, if the message
comes from God, how can it be the intellectual property of those who preach?
This lawsuit shifts the conversation from preaching as the instrument of God’s
work, to preaching as the property of the preacher.This asserts ownership and recompense for all
profits earned from that intellectual property.
This alters the
work and message of the Church. Rather than celebrate parts of a sermon being
used to impact those who listen to Jeezy and Lamar, Jakes, and his team, fight
to preserve their personal brand.Isn’t
the purpose of preaching and teaching to reach those beyond the idiomatic
expression of one’s own claims? Shouldn’t Jakes rejoice in the masses of young
people glued to his words and impacted in a way that could lead to change?Isn’t that the purpose of his work?
Or, is it
about the profit?Is it about
controlling the brand?Is it about more
than the calling he claims – to teach and preach to all God’s children?
Yes, God owns
our preaching. That is unless your name is Bishop T.D. Jakes.