Archive for July, 2013

This letter was delivered as a sermon on July 8th 2012 to The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Plattsburgh NY

Dear Husband,

I really want to talk with you about this thing that has been blowing my mind since last Tuesday. I was at the Links convention last Tuesday, listening to a presentation given by Dr. Jane Smith from Spelman College and she said that Black people will be extinct by the year 2060. Damn! I thought. At first I didn’t want to believe it but then it all started to make sense.

She started off talking about our percentage decrease in the population between 2000 and 2010. While South and Central Americans are celebrating their growth in North America, Black Americans (specifically those of us with the legacy of American Slavery) are slowly dying.


I spent the rest of the week looking for someone to blame for this…

At first I blamed it on genocide. Genocide is defined as the deliberate or systematic destruction of a racial political or cultural group. Surely we can think of the various ways that the act of genocide has been inflicted on our black brothers and sisters. We have been hated, to death; Feared, to death; objectified, to death – And at the very least, studied to death…

I sit in the halls of a criminal justice PhD program as we speak. All we talk about are black people, how depraved… How wild and unruly; “They” who don’t know how to raise their children to be contributing men and women in society. Criminal Justice might as well be renamed to African American Studies; we function as if crime doesn’t happen in any other culture. We don’t talk about white collar crime, or crime against the government… or the people– no we just talk about street level crime. Prisons are being built for our little black boys as we speak. Yes we will be studied to death and incarcerated to death. And yet, there is no responsibility taken for the generational pain inflicted upon us; the structural disparities, poor education, poor healthcare and sheer hatred.

But then I thought about suicide as well. French Philosopher Emile Durkheim said that in a society, if one cannot identify a clear path to success then they are likely to commit various forms of suicide. In other words, Durkheim talks about how different levels of social integration condition suicide. I see this also. Black people are committing suicide – not in the literal sense, but sort of. We are eating ourselves to death. Metaphysiscist, Louise Hay, says that over-eating is a protective mechanism, if you feel that the world is unsafe, you eat. That makes sense to me. And we are killing ourselves with drugs, addiction has everything to do with brokenness and untended emotional wounds – I get it. But so many of us are like zombies in the streets now. And the massive addiction problem creates a competitive drug- economy, a way for our little boys and girls to grow up and achieve financial success when other doors are closed to them, They can sell drugs to make money. But they end up killing each other in the process…

We are committing suicide by killing each other, through street violence, and gang violence, and domestic violence, and sexual violence. You know… “Pain gets turned into anger, anger gets sent through the chamber…” We as a people are dying more quickly than we are reproducing.

And on top of all of that, not only are our guns and drugs and drug economies killing us, but our mentality is killing us as well. I remember working at the women center in Trenton and women were refusing our help. They didn’t want to change the way that they lived, they didn’t want to change their world view. We fight desperately to debunk the myth of the welfare queen, taking advantage of the system. But if I am honest, I met welfare kings and queens, living comfortably with no ambition or dream. Lord have mercy on us we are dying.

Who could I be mad at, the system that created this culture: institutionalized Racism, intolerance, or do I blame a culture of people that this system created – often times hopeless, unmotivated, angry and reckless. I don’t know. It still doesn’t help that so many of our children are being under educated today. What options do they have now? Marianne Wright Edelman says that our poor black youngsters are being pipelined directly into prison. They build prisons now based on third grade test scores…

I was in a prison once where a young black man said that “if you were to pull the roof off of this place, it would look like a slave ship. The way that black bodies are piled on top of each other in this place…” Our black men are there…

go see.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this relationship between genocide and suicide last week, and then another thought came to mind as well. The third piece of the equation: That of evolution.

The last reason that came to mind was this concept of evolution. Evolution will also be a contributor to our impending extinction. Black people are the least partnered race in our society – look at me, writing to an imaginary husband. Do you even exist?

Or take someone like Condoleezza Rice. I sat at the Links convention last week next to Condoleezza rice, we had lunch together. She is lovely and brilliant and she has great family stories to share. But Dr. Rice is also un-partnered and she has no children. And she is not alone in that.Take Oprah.. There are so many bright and brilliant black women and men out there that have so much to offer the world but so many of us are un-partnered and have no children. There will be no future generation. And our kids today, so many with no identity, no Black consciousness. apathetic. dry. empty. depressing.

Yes these are to blame: Genocide, Suicide, Evolution…

I want to blame!

But I cant. You see I remembered that thing that Elaine Pagels told me about blame. That blaming someone or something makes you feel powerful. Or maybe a little less powerless. What good does it do for me to to blame this on any one thing, it won’t stop what is happening? It won’t make me more powerful.

This is just something that is happening. It is something that is.
I cried a little when we sang the Black National Anthem at the convention. “sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, sing a song full of the hope that the presence has brought us…”

Hope. Hmmm….

As Jane Smith continued on in her lecture, after breaking the news that black people are nearing extinction, she said that what we all need to be concerned with now is legacy building.

So I spent some time thinking about that too. What will they say about the Black people 100 years from now? Who will tell our story? Will the headlines of today get to determine what history says about us tomorrow? Will they talk about how we kept this country honest? Will they tell the stories of Emmit Till and Traynon Martin? Or Eric Garner and Micheal Brown? – and what about the nameless others?

Will the truth be told about the realities of slavery, convict leasing, lynching, black laws, mass incarceration? And will they talk about our strength, our great beauty, our music, our poetry, our food, our flavor, our culture, our gorgeous women and our strong beautiful men? What will be said of the African Americans after we are gone?

You see, something happened to me when I heard that message last Tuesday. It freed me a little. It freed me to be just a little bit more healthy and just a little bit more strong, it freed me to stop resisting so much. I remember so vividly fighting tooth and nail to save the community center that I ran in Trenton NJ. I fought and fought to restore our funding and in the end not only did the center still close, but I missed the fact that my boyfriend – KESNER – was also dying in the process. I lost both at once, because I was resisting the flow of life.

But I realize now that this thing that is happening is like the giant concrete ball in the Indiana Jones movie. I don’t know that I can change the generations of racial bias and fear of black people that pervade the psyches of so many who are not black. And I don’t know that I can change generations of self-hatred and ingrained inferiority that pervade the psyches of those who are. I don’t know that I can change the education system, or mass incarceration, or the destructive lyrics in many commercial rap songs. And I’m not sure that I can change the mantra “get rich or die trying” or “Live hard and die young”…. Are we speaking these things into existence?

What I can change is me. I can be whole. I count it such a privilege to be a Black woman because I can walk into so many spaces. And I will go into those spaces and I will tell the truth, because that is my calling. You see being whole helps me to understand that I am here on earth for a purpose.

I do not agree with Jane Smith that we will be totally gone by 2060, I think there will be a remnant: The last of the African-Americans. An evolved group who will tell the story, with the help of concerned others.

They will talk about us.

So this seems to be where we are heading… One day African Americans – Black Americans (those of us with an American slave legacy, those of us whose ancestors are the only non-voluntary immigrants to this country, those of us who have been here since 1619…) One day our people, our soul, our flavor, our swag, will be a memory….

I sat outside in Plattsburgh on the evening of the fourth of July and I pondered how I would share this story with the UU Fellowship on Sunday. How can I just make the statement that African Americans are a dying race and just drop the microphone after that? It’s such a big thing to say. Surely there would be resistance, shock, sadness… But it’s come to me now, as I type this letter, that I am meant to preach this letter that I have written to you. This is my sermon. Why not? Last week I preached from a blog post, it makes sense to keep it interesting… And creative… Thank you Husband, for being my inspiration.

Whoever you are.

And as for the African Americans, thank God for our story. We are not the first and we will not be the last, many great civilizations have lived and then died. Perhaps our extinction will be the final gift that we leave America with; without a fully oppressed people, the ethic of inequality will have to change here. And I think “whiteness” will have to change too, for what is white without black? There is evolution happening there as well.

So I am grateful, and a little sad. And my concern now is telling the truth, preserving our history and celebrating our legacy.

Love Kim

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