My celebration of Black History month continues with a reflection of Song of Solomon 1:1-7. I chose this text because this whole book is about love and a lover’s conversation. While Jewish scholars have interpreted this book as God’s love for Israel, Christian scholars have interpreted it as God’s love for the church. In this text, the bride comments on her appearance as Black but beautiful to the daughters of Jerusalem and likens her Blackness to the tents of Kedar and the curtains of Solomon. Some theologians believe she made a statement about the state of her heart while others think she is describing her skin tone. I believe she was speaking about her skin tone.
God’s Black is about loving a people who some might consider unlovable. There are some movements in the west that are not grounded in love towards Black people and do not reflect the love of Christ. Black people are made in the image of God and God’s Black is beautiful. It is important for that message to be shared with all generations and nations.
I grew up in an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. I was blessed to see and hear Congress woman Shirley Chisholm, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Representative Andrew Young, and Sis. Rosa Parks. As a young Black girl I was encouraged and repetitively told that I was young, gifted and Black. During my senior year of high school my guidance counselor told me I would never get into college. She suggested that I consider being a ‘domestic engineer’ – a maid. I worked around her and received acceptance letters into colleges. I did not show them to her.
As a Black woman living in New England I have come to recognize some keys that were given to me by the previous generation. This knowledge kept me free in Christ and helped me understand that God’s Black is beautiful.
Key #1 – Know the pain
Pain is defined as a physical feeling caused by disease, injury or something that hurts the body. Pain can also be someone or something that causes trouble or makes you feel annoyed or angry (Webster). Being Black in the west can sometimes be painful. The pain has come from systemic problems and from people who continue to uphold ungodly standards for Black people. I can tell you several stories from my childhood and adulthood that have annoyed or angered me because others did not believe that God’s Black is beautiful.
One story in particular occurred on a plane ride to a state in the midwest. A mother approached my row with two children in tow. Her son, about five years old began to cry and said “no way Mommy, I don’t want to sit there.” The daughter, about seven years old stated “it’s ok mommy, I’ll sit there, I like chocolate.” It was painful to know that these children were already being trained to see Black in a certain way. My response to the child was “I’m glad to see that your mother is teaching you to like chocolate.” She smiled and continue to chat with me until one of the airline stewards moved me to business class. The steward told me he overheard the conversation and wanted to upgrade me due to my experience on that airline.
Key #2- Know the game
Usually a game is played for enjoyment. Usually the rules of the game are explained upfront. Webster defines a game as: (noun) a physical or mental activity or contest that has rules and that people do for pleasure; an activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.
The game of racism in America is not played with clearly defined rules neither is it played for enjoyment. With the dawning of the twentieth century, Black America saw the development of institutional racism that was structural, systemic, and not always obvious. With every game there are built-in barriers. Seasoned people must teach others how to navigate the game.
When I ran track in high school there were several races on the same track. Longer races (called distance) were held first. Systems like slavery and the civil rights movement I would consider long races. There were certain dynamics in play that required a certain kind of runner. People who know how to pace themselves and look at things long term and have mastered the art of the long view do well with distance races. It takes time, labor and sweat to go the distance.
After the distance races took place the sprint races were held. Movements like Affirmative Action are what I consider sprints because they were meant to help Blacks gain access in a relative short amount of time. Many Blacks attained great success because of this sprint. This race also takes a different type of runner. Generally sprinters and distance runners have a different build, but both need a good stride in order to win.
While the distance and sprint races were going on, other events along the sides of the track were happening. Events such as the long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin were in play. Other movements like the Harlem Renaissance from 1910-1940, allowed for an expression against racism and social injustice through the creative arts. Black Consciousness, Black Nationalism, and other movements served in this stead.
Last but not least there were the relays. Some track meets are won or lost here. For example, Black Campus Ministries New England InterVarsity’s first leg was run by Dr. Alice Brown-Collins along with her husband Rev. Boris Collins. They came out of the blocks moving and shaking in New England to raise up Black college students as leaders on their campuses and beyond. They have many sons and daughters all over the world as proof of the fruit they started. As relay runners they ran straight out of the block. Their goal was to get out first, set the pace for the race and get us ahead. They did just that.
I believe there are movements yet to come from our sons and daughters that will be partially patterned after previous movements and inclusive of the Black church. A multigenerational approach will ensure knowledge of the game of racism in the west. Just as in the Civi Rights Movement, God has positioned partners from all nations to help in the struggle. Let us march on till victory is won.
Key #3 – Know the gain
Most of the wars going on around the globe are over the gain of land or territory, whether on earth or in space. It is important for Black America to know what is at stake for posterity. While I have not addressed the many components of Black in this article, know that I am aware and will speak on it in a later post.
Webster defines gain as something wanted or valued that is gotten; resources or advantage acquired or increased.
What does gain look like for Black America?
Growing up in Boston my family lived in a lot of homes with hard wood floors. I loved to walk around barefoot. As a result of this practice I would often end up with a lot of splinters in my feet.
Webster defines a splinter as a thin, sharp piece of something (wood, glass, etc.) that has broken off a larger piece. If you have ever had a splinter you know that once that once it enters your body it makes itself acutely known by immediate pain. The splinter sends a signal to the brain that states, “something foreign has entered our body; it causes pain and it must be removed before infection takes place.”
Initially I ran to my parents to help me get rid of the splinter. After a time of fighting with the tweezers or needle picking away at the skin surrounding the splinter, they were successful in removing the splinter. Soon, because I kept getting so many splinters, I learned how to remove them myself. Sometimes, if the splinter were only lodged on the surface, I could simply push it out. Others required a little more personal topical surgery with the tweezers. Sometimes the splinter decided to break off into smaller pieces in my skin. This required more skill, time and effort in removing all of the pieces that had lodged in my skin.
You see, there was never an option of allowing the splinter to remain. It had to go. I could not function to the best of my capacity with the splinter. Also infection was right around the corner if I kept that splinter in my foot.
I have used the word splinter in the form of a noun (describing a thing – a noun describes a person, place or thing). Eugene Robinson describes splintering as a verb – an action that has taken place in Black America. Yes, truly Black America has been splintered. Sharp pieces of Black America have broken off into smaller pieces. These pieces represent the economic, social, faith-based, academic, athletic, etc. parts of the Black community.
I believe Black America should adopt my childhood mindset about splinters: “it has to go”. We should no longer allow issues such as skin tone, or hair type to keep us from unity in Christ. We must all remember, God’s Black is beautiful! There are greater issues such as wealth, housing and education that continue to plague Black America that need our attention.
God’s Black is beautiful and ready to be included in the kingdom mandate in a fruitful way.