Sunday, August 8, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Upholding the Oppressed

Called to Uphold the Oppressed
A guest post by Dr. Angelle M. Jones

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 
– Psalm 82:3-4 (NIV)

I am a racial reconciler. Networking and bringing races together is what I’m called to do. As a reconciler I live in community with a diverse group of people who I am grateful to call friends.

What I’ve learned about being a reconciler is there is a cost. Whether Black or White, friends and family often don’t understand the call. Especially in times when we’re in seasons of racial tension they don’t always get it. It is in these times, that it most brings me joy to move about doing the work of God with different races, ethnicities and cultures, of God’s people.

As a Black American, I have often been confronted with the question, “Am I a Christian who happens to be Black or am a Black Christian?”

I used to struggle with the question and at times felt conflicted to even try to answer. Today, not only do I not struggle with the answer, I finally realized it’s a question I don’t have to answer. I am a Black woman. I am a Christian. Most importantly, I am a container of God’s voice, striving to be all of who I am. As a Black woman blessed with a gift to write and speak and teach, I carry the responsibility to share my gifts in social, cultural and academic contexts. As a Christian woman I carry the responsibility to speak God’s word and to teach God’s people. No matter where or when I speak, I hope to be a vessel of God’s love. In whatever context, I have decided that whether to Black or White people, I will speak. Whoever has a voice, let him or her hear.

I recently had an encounter that called for a reckoning with a young Black man who was obviously inebriated, mentally challenged and oppressed. While friends and I were walking and talking on the way to our destination, the young man stopped and asked me why I was with them. (I quickly assumed he meant my White friends). I said, “They're my friends.”

This young man then told me they're the enemy. He called them “White devils” and told me that I shouldn't be with them. He began calling them very derogatory names. He looked at my friend’s daughter and called her “Karen”. He said that all she had to do was to start crying and a Black man would go to jail. He then accused me of not caring about him as a Black man, because I was friends with them. He was irate and angry. He was obviously oppressed. 

Of course, we were all shaken and I could've followed as they walked away, but I knew I couldn't. My friends continued walking which they should've, but as wrong as he was, I knew I had to address him. More importantly, I needed to acknowledge his pain. I knew that as much as he needed reprimanding, he also needed to be shown God's love.

In my study of God’s word, I have noticed the intersection between the use of the word “oppression” when discussing the plight of Black people in this country and its use in scripture. Acts 10:37-38 says that Jesus was anointed to heal the oppressed. In relation to the pain and plight of African-Americans, I believe it will take the anointing and grace of God for America to heal from the sin of racism.

I could've argued to try to prove to the young man that I knew the history of White supremacy and why as Black Americans, we’re in the situation we're in. Instead, I quietly prayed and got him calmed enough to talk to him about God's love. I reminded him that God loved him and has a purpose for his life. I told him that if he wanted to ever see it fulfilled, the one thing he needed to do was to allow God's grace to help him to forgive.

I explained to him that we cannot blame every White person for racism. Most importantly, I reminded him that if he wanted to continue to live, he'd better think twice before walking up to White women saying the things he did to my friends. Thank God my friend’s daughter wasn’t a "Karen" or he would've been dead! I had to be very hard on him because he's convinced himself he doesn't care. Sadly, he feels it doesn't matter if he lives or dies.

Thankfully, I was able to get John (I asked his name) to finally settle. Like a child, he actually sat down on the ground and crossed his legs Indian style while looking up at me as I continued to talk to him. I took the time to encourage him to seek the Lord to help him to stop drinking. From what I’d learned about the demographics in Seattle, I’m almost certain that John was homeless. Because the liquor was definitely in control, I’m not sure how much he'll remember about what I said.

As a Black woman, I could empathize with his oppression. More importantly, I realized that he was oppressed not only as a Black man, but also, although created in God’s image, one who was also spiritually oppressed. As a Black man trying to survive in a society that makes him feel like he has nothing to lose or to live for, I could see the trauma that has grown roots inside him. I could see the hopelessness in his eyes. In the end, John gently grabbed my hand and kissed it.

No matter what color. No matter what socio-economic status. When given the opportunity in the midst of a Divine moment, what do you think you would do? As a Black Christian woman called to uphold the cause of the oppressed, hopefully I did what Jesus would do.

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.

Connect with Dr. Angelle:

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