a building used for public Christian worship.
"they came to church with me"
synonyms:place of worship, house of God, house of worship; More
take (a woman who has recently given birth) to church for a service of thanksgiving.
Last night, in the middle of a lightning storm, I woke up with these words in my head,
These are the words to a song I sang in my high school gospel choir. I guess someone knew I would need them in the morning.
Because when I did, I woke to the news that 9 people were shot and killed in a church in Charleston. 9 Black people in a Black Southern church were shot and killed during bible study in 2015.
You see, I have a complicated relationship with religion. I consider myself a questioning Christian because I have lots of...questions. But my mother is a born again Christian and often ends tales of her past indiscretions as "before she knew Jesus". This is not to say that she does not think critically about religion, because she does, we just have different approaches.
She attends New Providence Baptist Church in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina. Not unlike "Mother" Emanuel AME Church where the massacre occurred last night, New Providence was founded by enslaved people. So when I read about the hate crime this morning, I was hit in the gut. This was murder in my mother's church.
My mother is a proponent of slave history. Some may even say she's obsessed with slavery. Her retort? "No one ever tells the Jews to just 'Get over' the Holocaust! So I'm gonna keep talking about slavery." So in February we did a "dramatic presentation" on church and slavery called "How We Praise". This is a selection of a text that was read that Sunday morning.
These people stole away to the basement of their church to use prayer and Scripture to ease the hurt and build a buffer against the pain of this world in the same way that their ancestors did hundreds of years prior. And armed with nothing more than religious books, holy affirmations and their holy Black spirits, they were murdered. In the same way that their ancestors were hundreds of years prior.
Denmark Vesey built and helped to found their original church. The same Denmark Vesey that organized a slave revolt in Charleston in 1822. He, and 36 enslaved people, was hanged for it. Then the church was burned down. So they worshipped underground until 1865. Underground. Like in a basement.
There is supposed to be safety in these tabernacles built with sweat and perseverance and hope. Structures built to allow space for love in a world that doesnt always love us. A place to shout and cry and dance and dream and loose our demons. To get closer to that spiritual freedom that has yet to be found in the flesh. For many, the church was a way to create the world we wanted to see. Which is why the people welcomed the killer into their house with open arms. Because God's house is for all; even if "God's country" is not.
Today I pray a prayer that my people have been praying for hundreds of years.
Lord, hear the cries of your people. We are praying for freedom and peace. Even if I dont live to see it, make this ground fertile soul for my children and my children's children. Amen.
By now I'm sure you've heard about Rachel Dolezal. If not, just Google and read because there is an astounding amount of commentary about it. But it boils down to a white woman pretends to be a Black woman and is president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. Not an Onion article. Not a joke.
I had a 4 hour car ride with my mother to discuss it and I think most of my anger has subsided. And now I am left with a question: How does one perform Blackness?
For Rachel Dolezal that meant textured hair in ethnic styles, tanned skin, Africana studies and the NAACP. Is that the Blackness starter pack? Methinks not. For some folks, Blackness is Blonde weaves, Jordans and front stoops. For others, its red clay roads, tent revivals and biscuits and gravy. And for others, its cotillions, Black social organizations and etiquette classes. And for many, it's a mix of all of these and so much more.
But Rachel knew that in order to be undetected she must craft an identity with an undeniably Black aesthetic. And to this I say shame on us! Shame on the content creators that have been so historically lazy, showing a monolithic Black experience that this person was able to pull from Black trope column A and Black trope column B and present to the world Rachel, Woman in Black.
I did an interview for TCG's blog and I talked about diversity being a major issue (I'm always talking about diversity in American theatre). We need diverse representation! I will say it again, WE NEED DIVERSE REPRESENTATION! We need to see alternative Black girls and nerdy Black boys, Queer Black Folk and Black folk with disabilities, Black folks that agree and disagree. We need complex Black characters that both live up to stereotypes and completely shatter them at once. No one should be able to don some Senegalese twists and Kinte cloth and think they have the right to claim Blackness. It is more than that. I am more than that. And it's time that we show that!