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

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Being Black, Another Thought on Faith

Black folk — during the days of Harriet Tubman, shared folk tales via singing to describe Christ’s coming to save them from Egyptian bondage; it was Tubman (black Moses) who emerged in the days of the Exodus to guide the enslaved across the Red Sea into the northern region; she was guided by the northern star – the one followed by the wise me of Christ’s days. Such religious tales illustrated a “sense” of religiosity” that still exists among black folk, yet no longer carries the same fervor.

Edward Blum’s work speaks to the religiosity of Du Bois as a spiritual intellectual. Cornel West’s writings often discuss the soulful needs of faith and the church as a process of survival for black folks in a world dominated by white supremacy. In an age of reason, one that places too much attention on academics for profit, such as the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the norm of thought is that intellectuals lack a faith in God — particularly white academics. The thought of blacks being nonbelievers used to be uncommon, however, that has shifted in the post-civil rights age.

During the age of Jim Crow, black folks congregated in the black church, as many do today. For some it is a form of spiritual “togetherness” and a show of political and economic solidarity. The church once served as the center of political and social lifer for black Americans. Though still true for some, the rise of secular culture, academic life, science, and materialism has changed that dynamic.

What is different about black theology?

According to James Cone, “it is due exclusively to the failure of white religionists to relate the gospel of Jesus to the pain of being black in a white racist society.”

For nearly three hundred years, the enslaved house worker had been listening to their owners’ prayers and Bible readings….They were able to interpret their own inexplicable situation and give themselves reasons to stay alive. This notion has transformed itself from the plantation to the political arena as seen by such actors as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

While many African-Americans seem to belong to the general segment known as Baptists, the first African Baptist church began this trend in Richmond VA, in 1838 when the pastor and members of the First Baptist Church of that city debated its growing difficulty: What to do with the growing black population in the church. Perhaps one of the reasons so many African Americans today consider themselves Baptists is because of its orthodox and conservative nature as a branch of Christianity.

It is at this point one might see a division between those of religious academic type and those of a more spiritual devotion. The religious academic types see the church as a vehicle to bring about social justice in eradicating poverty, racism, and social ills that permeate society. This type of black folk tend to be far more progressive than those rooted in the deep southern tradition of the orthodox Baptist church.

My Classroom Visit

I spent my AM visiting the English Department. Steph Holmes — a friend and colleague invited me into her III rd form English class to discuss race and religion. Her students were great. She was great as she connected my talk to their study of the “Color Purple.”

Holm's Class

Above is a picture she shared and her thoughts on social media about my visit:

“A big thanks to Mr. Edward Carson for his lesson “Jesus was a Black Man from the Hood.” The conversation enhanced our study of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and more importantly, he challenged us to consider the relationships between religion and race, power, class, gender and sexual orientation–as well as the origins of those relationships, how they are depicted in art and literature, and the impact on contemporary American culture. You’re always welcome in my classroom, Eddie!”

Jesus, Race, and Ideology Lecture and Book Review

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I am excited about my talk at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge. This talk draws from my research in developing my American Jesus course. The above announcement recently went out; I am hoping to have a great conversation with folks who attend. The last lecture I gave there saw 20 – 25 people who attended. Here is my description of the talk: The Black Christian Communist in America starts with an address by the now defunct Knights of Labor’s Constitution, which opened with a biblical verse from Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread.” The workers believed Jesus Christ’s teachings promoted a central socialist narrative of love and sacrifice for all people – not one against socialism, the poor, and marginalized, which has long been a construct of American Calvinists, who purported that Christ and his teachings were capitalist. The historical transformation of Christ, as a blond haired blue-eyed capitalist, will be juxtaposed to a darker skinned Christ, who was a socialist and thus marched with the poor, with sinners, and communists. This engaging discussion addresses the relationship of the American church and religion, its members, and the importance of race and socialism in eradicating societal inequalities dating back to the black power movement of the 1960s to ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ in the 21st century.

book

H-AmRel (History of American Religion) invited me to write a scholarly review for publication of the book “Black Power in the Bluff City: African-American Youth and Student Activism in Memphis, 1965 – 1975.” I am excited about finishing this work and grasping the complex historical narrative of Memphis — as presented by Shirletta J. Kinchen.

Community Forum on School to Prison Pipeline

On Saturday February 20, I will be a panelist discussing the school to prison pipeline, as part of the educational community forum, presented by Power of Self Education. I will offer my expertise on matters of race, education, and societal inequalities. I am excited about this conversation, and how it might challenge the community of Haverhill and those surrounding it to take action against the inequities that places young men of color in prison. See information here.

Beyonce

 

I am struggling with this video by Beyoncé. On one hand it is powerful, yet on the other hand she is still a bit of a sellout to capitalist norms that exploits black sexual desires. Hence, an interesting paradox about cultural exploitation in the video. She will fool many; however, watch carefully and challenge the approach. Brother Du Bois often struggled with this too. I like that bell hooks reminded us of Beyoncé’s virtues and support of ideological ambitions that further the modern enslavement of black folks by empowering imperialism. This video is clearly present day and antebellum; it aims to heighten one’s awareness, while reminding us of white male sexual dominance of black women. Also, it shapes a southern black spirit I first learned in my reading of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”. We black folks have built a temple of idolatry comprised of black celebrities who prey on black folks financial campaign. I watched this video and I see a conflicting political message. Yes — like Beyoncé and other slaves to the industry, I am complicit in my contributions to the industry. I must admit that as an artist this is brilliant. It will challenge us for a while as we think about race, power, and the importance of feminism.

Excellent Read on Race and Ideology

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HAMMER AND HOE: ALABAMA COMMUNISTS DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION by Robin Kelly is a fantastic read. The KKK and those who supported white supremacy in the South and Southwest feared the rise of black communist, who organized with whites to eradicate oppression and hierarchy. This gathering was most noted in states like Texas and Alabama. Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison wrote about this narrative in their books.