The Role of the Black Church

The Communist Party USA published my reading/presentation of an essay I wrote on the Black Church for African American History Month. This is an early part of my research addressing the shift of Black folk from religion to atheism, and the Black class struggle. “What was once called the Negro church in the course of the struggle for equality has emerged as a major force advocating, equality, democracy and social change. How did the transition from the Negro church to the black church take place; what were the class and social forces that helped shape it; how did these issues relate to the broader society issues in the U.S. during the 19th and 20th century?

The Communist Party and Working Class Liberation

This NY Times article is worth a read. It notes,”Communists believed that organizing the working class would work only if white workers realized that their liberation, too, was bound up with the fate of black workers. Facing this threat, anti-Communists and segregationists worked hard to sustain the fractures. They blamed Communists for fomenting “race mixing,” evoking sexualized fears that social equality would mean black men having sex with white women….The party inspired loyalty for reasons beyond simply an affinity for Marxist ideas. It was the campaigns Communists ran against police brutality, the practice of lynching and the Jim Crow laws that made their politics relevant to the lives of ordinary people.”

You can read it in its entirety here.

Brooks School Community Narratives

 

As part of a community narrative through portraits — conducted by an amazing graduating student, she reflects a number of narratives in the pictures she took. She lined Main Street with over 100 of them, where folks shared an unknown thing about themselves. I stated that I survived a brain aneurysm due to a benign brain tumor. My image reflects what W.E.B. Du Bois once stated — the problem of the [21st] century is mass incarceration of Black and Brown people. Hence, our color line matter is due, in part, to the New Jim Crow.

Confederate Monuments

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New Orleans started the process of removing Confederate monuments. Over the years I have discovered that folks know little about historical actors like Jefferson Davis, who was not a great leader. I wrote an essay below for The Christian Century Magazine with a colleague as we noted, “[W.E.B.] Du Bois observed how little had changed in America from his mid-20th-century perspective. Perhaps the conjunction of the #blacklivesmatter movement with challenges against Confederate monuments can help bring about some change in our own day.

See essay here: Confederate Monuments and American Citizenship

Black Consciousness

Black consciousness is complex for many Black folks, and is often an unknown entity for white folks unaware that some Black people struggle with being Black. This struggle with racial identity is a curse for Black people, who see what is portrayed as good and normative as white. Unfortunately, Black folks who come to an understanding of Black consciousness too late struggle with acceptance, empowerment, confidence, and the will to resist the racist structures for them. I worry about this population. But…Black folks come to consciousness at different stages in life.

The Emergence of Black Atheists in American Culture

I am hoping to get some feedback on a research project I am in the process of conducting. Below is a rough abstract to a paper I will deliver on a panel this summer.

The church — both the Black Protestant and white church cannot fully reconcile their racial differences, due to the barrier capitalism poses toward social and class progress. After 1970, capitalism transformed the Black church from an agent seeking radical change, to one procuring cultural materialism, as noted by a consumer-driven culture that seeks status and measures of wealth. As a result, the Black church continues to fall short of being a revolutionary change agent for Black folk, in the dawn of the 21st century, as self-interest and wealth have usurped the Gospels. Such measures of self have not only divided the Black and white working class from their achievable class interest, but have furthered intra-racial division due to commodification and economic inequality.

W.E.B. Du Bois contended that the white church was incapable of mending the color line, but the Negro church, though flawed, provided hope for Blacks, as it held onto the roots of Africa, which were transported to North America. Du Bois also noted that the Negro church presented challenging divisions among its fellowship. Though he did not delve too deeply into the nomenclature of class division within the Negro church, he took a systematic approach in understanding the notion of faith – and Negro religiosity. Du Bois did, however, write about apathy and self-care, as they pertained to the church. And while Du Bois saw the Negro church as a cultural center and fixture for Black congregants seeking rescue from a racist society, he examined the paradoxical nature of religion and individual values. Carter G. Woodson expressed grave concerns when he noted that the Negro church “suffered from a generational divide, a class divide, and regional one but ultimately from a division over ideas”. By the 1950s, the Negro church evolved into the classical Black church, as E. Franklin Frazier published a scathing critique of the Negro church, he noted it no longer existed; as the Negro church died…it was reborn.

This paper offers a lens to critique the historical and emerging shift away from the Black church and religion. My research furthers that notion, as many within the Black community continue to showcase their religious conservatism and belief in God, while others have slowly drifted away, often due to greater economic opportunities at the expense of the Black community. Due to integration, this post-1970 Black bourgeoisie progressed from the Black church—as well as from religion. With black educational attainment and hence the rise of the Black middle class, more and more Black people are reflecting their values by asking, Do I believe in God? Can I afford to believe in God? This shift, in part, reflects the stark class differences among Blacks by the 21st century. This class divide and shift in faith morphed by Blacks to reflect an emerging non-churched bourgeois attitude. Through countless interviews, observations, demographic studies, and discussions with Black atheist network leaders, my research looks at the rise of Black atheists, and the importance of class and materialism, over the church in the age of Black Lives Matter. For some racial identity will be sacrificed, while for others the loss of religion will advance a new consciousness.