Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: When we cannot breathe


I Can’t Breathe
A guest post by Dr. Angelle M. Jones

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?” 
–Micah 6:8a (NIV)

America has been on trial and the verdict is in.

The murder of George Floyd before the world one year ago, and the trial the next, revealed the uncomfortable narrative of the pain and injustice inflicted upon Black America since slavery.

After the largest civil rights protest in years, former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

The victim, a Black man named George Floyd, became a household name while the world watched the White officer use his knee to render a neck compression restraint, with his hands in his pockets and a sneer on his face until Floyd took his final breath. Almost a year later, millions watched the broadcast of the trial, figuratively holding their breath until the verdict was reached. Although Floyd had heart disease and drugs were found in his body, the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. Restrained, Floyd cried out for his mother twice while breathlessly moaning, “I can’t breathe” in his final moments that left an indelible mark on the world.

During the trial, the defense attorney argued that Floyd’s crying, “I can’t breathe,” was a type of resisting arrest. The attorney went on to say that during the arrest, the officer acted with “objective reasonableness”. In other words, the defending argument concluded that because he fought against being handcuffed and shoved into the back of the squad car, the way the police officer restrained Floyd was warranted. Listening to the audio of the video, amidst the tussling you could hear Floyd crying out for help as he told the officer he was claustrophobic. With no evidence of a weapon causing the officer to feel endangered, he offered Floyd no help.

The idea that it was suggested that his death was because he resisted arrest or had drugs in his body revealed to the world the way policing in America works between officers and Black people. Based on history, there was still fear that the officer would be vindicated.

Floyd may have been accused of resisting arrest, but in fact, it is the resistance by White America to deal with the reality of racism, in policing as well as in every facet of society every day. The painful cry of Floyd for his mother while gasping for his breath could’ve been viewed as a depiction of the pain Black people have had to endure since slavery.

The nine minutes that he couldn’t breathe, while having his life slowly drained from him was a slow and painful enactment of the years of pain and suffering inflicted upon Black people as a result of systemic racism. The video clip shown over and over from May 2020 until May 2021, served as a bird’s-eye view of nearly 400 years of legalized punishment for being Black in America. The intersectionality between America’s painful past and the reality of the present, exposed the systemic racist police practices that have been used to dehumanize Black people since slavery. Until White America accepts African-Americans as human, the dehumanization of Black and Brown bodies will continue.

Since the murder of Floyd, the discussion of defunding or the intentional deconstruction and reconstruction of the police has taken a front seat. With some resistance especially since the trial, the world has shifted to the much bigger discussion of some type of police reform. The resistance ranging from those who think reform is not necessary, to those who believe it is imperative, reveals a panoramic view of a problem deeply embedded in American culture. While the breath continues to be literally and figuratively drained from the bodies of Black Americans, this country is faced with a decision. Watching the breath of Floyd stolen from him was a depiction of the countless Black bodies stolen as a result of police shootings today. The decision to not only be better as individuals, but collectively as a nation must be made.

In reflecting on policing and the loss of Black lives, I’m reminded of the scriptures surrounding Micah 6:8. The prophet Micah spoke to a culture very similar to that of America. A culture characterized by the sins of idolatry, immorality, injustice, and rebellion against worshipping God. Micah was emphasizing the importance of one not only knowing what to do, but actually doing it and living it according to God’s Word.

Micah proclaimed the coming of the Christ child, in the second chapter of his book (Micah). He told us about the One who could redeem humanity from the sin of racism. The One who could breathe life into this country with all its racist structures and systems. The One who could reform not only the system of policing but the police themselves. In Micah chapter 6, the prophet boldly proclaimed what was required of the people and nations identified as belonging to God. In Micah 6:8, he declared three practical requirements to exemplify God’s breath of life in a breathless society. The Scripture (Micah 6:8 NIV) reads:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

The first requirement was to act justly, a divine justice that goes beyond a law, beyond thinking laws alone would bring lasting heart changes. This was a justice of ethics and morals implemented in one’s daily lives, a justice that called for societal reformation. Today, this type of justice calls for police to be servants by doing justly to those they serve.

The next requirement was God calling for His people to love mercy. Not to only show mercy but to love it to the degree that they extend to others what they don’t deserve. If mercy had been extended toward Floyd for trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill, he could’ve received a simple pardon instead of a death sentence.

The third requirement is to walk humbly with God. Walking humbly grounds our walk with the Lord. Humility is the grace needed to do justice and love mercy. Floyd needed mercy, not death.

Let’s Pray:
Lord, I humble myself in prayer asking you to breathe on America and heal our land. Help us to see you in our brothers and sisters and to love one another like you love each of us. Help us to acknowledge racism in our country and to do our part to eradicate it from our hearts, our country, and our world. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words” 


Dr. Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively.

Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc., she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012, Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.

In 2016, Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready, which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.

Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.

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Connect with Dr. Angelle:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angelle.m.jones.5
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/abundantgrace1/
Website: www.globalifetransforms.com
Email: globalifeconsultants@gmail.com

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: How a pastor's dream changed America


A Pastor’s Dream that changed America
A guest post by Kristen Terrette

He was a pastor first.

This sentence has run through my mind for years.

After working on the manuscript since early 2016, my Young Adult novel, See You Monday, released on April 30 with Elk Lake Publishing. That’s five years of writing, editing, and rewriting. It’s also a long time to mull over a certain scene.

Parts of the novel slip back into the early sixties. And one scene takes us to August 28, 1963—the day the March for Jobs and Freedom was held in Washington D.C., and where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

I want to discuss this day and this great man but decided an excerpt from my story will help me explain. In this part of the story, we’ve just read about 10-year-old Sandy (who’s now a grandmother) watching the news coverage of the March and Dr. King with her family. Now, back in “present day,” Grace (Sandy’s 17-year-old granddaughter) can’t believe her grandmother witnessed the speech on live TV.

Excerpt from See You Monday:

~ Grace ~

“Mimi, I can’t believe you watched the speech live.”

“It was fantastic.” Her hand went over her heart.

Grace turned to her mother. “Mom, we talked about it all last week on its anniversary.” She turned back to Mimi. “Apparently, there were like 250,000 people there. The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was voted the most well-known speech ever. Dr. King even won the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Mom poured herself another cup of coffee. “I had to read and watch it in school too, you know. Back in the nineties.”

“Dr. King spoke with such passion.” Mimi took the plates from the table and walked to the sink. “I’m shocked to find we, as a society, forget a major part of his background.” The plates made a clanking sound as she put them in the sink. “Remember,” she pointed at Grace, “he was a pastor first. We forget his speech was laced with many Bible verses.”

Mimi took a deep breath and gripped the sink’s edge. “I’ve read interviews from people who were there in the crowd, and I’ve watched his speech many times since I was a child. Did you learn he veered from his typed-out, prepared speech about twelve minutes into his, roughly, sixteen-minute talk?”

Grace interjected, “Yeah, and we learned Mahalia Jackson, you know the famous gospel singer, yells to him around the twelve-minute mark, ‘Tell ’em ’bout the dream, Martin! Tell ’em ’bout the dream!’”

Both adults hooted at Grace’s high octave voice. Mom said, “My, how Mahalia could sing.”

Mimi started again. “Yeah. And Clarence Jones, a good friend of Dr. King, is quoted numerous times recalling how he turned to the person next to him and said, ‘These people don’t know it, but they’re about ready to go to church.’ And King’s speech, from that moment on, was completely adlibbed using the ‘I have a dream’ phrase, which he had used in a few other speeches before. Clarence Jones said Dr. King’s ‘whole body language changed.’ He went into preacher-mode.”

She came to the table and sat down. “If you watch it, you’ll see Dr. King doesn’t look down at his typed speech once he utters the words, ‘I have a dream.’ His words even speed up.”

Her full-on storytelling-mode had Mimi’s hands moving, and her elementary school librarian skills showed off in her voice, also echoing the mannerisms of great-grandma Johnnie. “I’m convinced if you were to ask Dr. King what happened then, he’d say the Holy Spirit took over. He recalled Scripture to pour out on, what … now 250,000 people? Did you know the sound speakers at the Lincoln Memorial were damaged right before Dr. King spoke? And Robert Kennedy ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to do whatever it took to fix them?”

Mimi’s voice seemed to heat up. “Dr. King was His.” She pointed to the ceiling. “God used Dr. King to inspire change. Change without violence. Change done with love.” Mimi took a long slow breath. “I’m sorry, girls. I’m a bit fired up.”

Grace released the breath she’d been holding. “It’s okay. I’m fired up, too.” If a rapid heartbeat is an indication. “And, you’re right.”

~ End of excerpt from See You Monday ~

Can you imagine the scene in D.C.? Witnessing the Holy Spirit pour out on 250,000 people in Dr. King’s words?

Having marched for miles in the sweltering heat and singing hymns together in large groups along the way, the captivated audience gathered at the base of the Lincoln Memorial and spread along its Reflecting Pool. They would have heard the soulful voice of gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, minutes before Dr. King took the stage. And, since they were a churched generation, they would’ve recognized the Bible verses uttered in his glorious speech. Frankly, they would’ve known Dr. King was preaching. They would’ve even expected it.

Because the people knew Dr. King was a pastor first.

Generation Z, which accounts for today’s high school and college students, are the most unchurched group ever. Studies show only 4% of this generation holds a biblical worldview, and 13% consider themselves atheists or agnostics. If you were to type into an internet search “Generation Z, unchurched, and/or spiritual,” you’d see numerous articles discussing this topic. They are the largest group in the world needing to be reached with the Good News of Jesus Christ. If you are a parent of a Gen Z’er, then your home is literally a mission field.

As I watch and read about more racial injustice and disunity, I can’t help but wonder how different our country and world would be if this young generation knew Jesus. If we, as parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, and family members did our job by helping these young people know God by getting them to church on the weekend, providing them with a biblical foundation, and guiding them into right relationships with other believers.

The momentum of the sixties faltered somewhere, but I believe it’s trying to pick back up again. This is amazing news, and I pray my children see change and are a part of it. In fact, this very generation (Z) is known for its desire for social activism and pushing for equality. But, in my opinion, all of this done without God is a failure from the start.

What are your thoughts? How can we be a part of helping Generation Z know God and push for the change Dr. King believed in?

And on a lighter note, where were you when you first heard Dr. King’s iconic speech? 

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Author Bio:

Kristen's passionate about storytelling and helping people take their next steps in their relationship with Jesus.


She lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. where she served as a Children's Ministry Director for many years. With the support of her husband and two children, she now stays home writing fiction and non-fiction.

She also serves on the women’s leadership team at her local church and writes for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved Ministries. You can check out her articles and novels at www.kristenterrette.com.

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Back Cover Blurb for Kristen’s new novel, See You Monday:

Senior year. The homestretch. 

Honor student, Grace Warner, had it easy. Popularity, friends, attention from her crush, even a soccer scholarship offer—if only she can figure out her senior project to graduate on time. Getting approval to write about someone’s life-changing event, Grace recruits her sassy grandma as her mentor who can’t wait to tell the crazy story from her childhood.

Events in the early sixties are words in history books to Grace, but her grandma lived them. She witnessed the civil rights movement in full swing, desegregation becoming a reality in her southern town, Martin Luther King, Jr. moving the country with his iconic speech, and the country coming to a halt when President Kennedy was assassinated.

Grace loves finding out her family history but didn't know the project would have her noticing hardships and prejudices at her school she hadn’t before. When the homecoming court is announced and new kid, Jacob Horton, is nominated as a colossal prank, it brings Grace to a choice, much like her grandmother years before her. God is about to use her in a miracle if she chooses correctly. If she fails, a life could be lost.

Buy See You Monday online on Amazon:

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Connect with Kristen:
Website - www.kristenterrette.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authorkristenterrette/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/KTerrette
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/kterrette/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16252020.Kristen_Terrette
BookBub - https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kristen-terrette
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/kterrette2/