Cakes & Things

If I have learned anything as a budding adult it is that saying “yes” to some things requires a “no” to other things.

Classic example: sleeping in is saying “yes” to rest and “no” to an early morning work-out. It might vary on a different day; we are constantly making choices that fluctuate depending on our environment, our situation, and our needs.

I have found that since starting graduate school in January I have said “yes” to pursuing my dream to be a counselor and “no” to lots of other things – extra time with friends, more time write, and the ability to read books for fun. However, I would choose this “yes” a thousand times over so truly, no regrets.

One of the other sacrifices I have had to make is my deep immersion in the plethora of podcasts I listen to (CPR, The Liturgists, TED Radio Hour, Fresh Air, and Queer Theology). This means that I do not always have the most up-to-date news insights or analysis of current events. I am trying to keep up, but in full honesty, it is hard.

And so, the only reason I heard about the Supreme Court ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is because my news ticker on my computer alerted me right away – somehow, awhile back, I set a reminder to send me the ruling when it was released. And low and behold, it was decided this past week.

As I read the decision and court brief I was shocked. However, undeterred, I read more.

The case, was actually quite complex in the process to reach the Supreme Court, proposed two sides: the right to create (or not) “art” that is line with a person’s beliefs and the right for a person to not be discriminated in a public space (business).

Ultimately, the decision of the court was with Jack Phillips (Masterpiece Cakeshop) because of the hostility he faced from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (which certainly failed to remain impartial during the proceedings and ruling process.

However, even in the majority opinion, the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ were affirmed. I wondered, could this still be an advancement for the LGBTQ+ community?

Justice Kennedy, in releasing the majority opinion wrote, “Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The decision clearly states that it is a general rule that religious and philosophical objections “do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services.”

While the case failed to be a “win” in the traditional sense for the plaintiffs, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, there are undercurrents in the decision that I hope will bode well for anti-discrimination cases in the future (I am sure there will be many, many more).

After reading (and reading some more) about the case, I spent some time reflecting and honestly found myself slightly lethargic. Though the case may actually fuel protections for LGBTQ+ people, I feel a bit weary in trying to remind people that really, people are just people. It would be nice if we could all treat each other with basic decency. We do not have to agree. Not even a little.

I keep hoping that we can arrive at a place that acknowledges (no matter what you think or what politics that you hold) the humanity central to all of us.

We are all just people. I get that we have beliefs. We have ways of seeing the world. We have ideologies. But my goodness, if we continue to bicker about who we can (or cannot) sell cake too, I’m worried about how we can move forward in other dialogues and other forms of living together.

I guess this is a bit idealistic, eh?

I am no law expert, but I do rest on the fact that I would rather spread more love than not.

I would rather welcome more people than not.

I would rather say “yes” than not.

You can still hold your beliefs and decide to acknowledge the humanity in another human being. I promise, it is not impossible. What’s the worst that could happen?

When you have experienced exclusion, you know the pain and you know the hurt of being outside of belonging. Inclusivity, I think, propels us forward far faster than exclusivity. For this reason, and more, whatever and wherever I end up, I will press for the inclusion of everyone. This is the work of social justice.

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Last month, Our Bible App officially launched.

I first learned about the development of Our Bible App after Chelsea attended the Gay Christian Conference in 2017 (now Q Christian Fellowship) and learned about the project. The creator, Crystal Cheatham, was looking for devotional writers.

On a whim, I submitted a devotional and low and behold, it got published.

Our Bible App is a “progressive worship and meditation experience” that offers multiple bible translations and additional podcasts, video, and writings from pro-LGBTQ+ individuals and advocates for interfaith inclusivity. You can download it here, and is available in Android or Apple format.

The mission of Our Bible App is broad; the app “…supports the belief that spirituality is a spectrum and that faith is a journey. At its core, the holy text was written to be inclusive of all of God’s creation especially those on the margins.” The goal of the resource is to “untangle the binds that Christian colonizers have spread across the globe over hundreds of years.”

That’s huge. And, I’m grateful to have some small, teeny, tiny part. I’ve included my devotional below (titled “from, through, to“), but if you are interested in learning more about this work, you can read about it in Sojourners and via PBS.

Cheers.


 

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from   

A closeted woman, I carried the secret of my sexual identity for over 15 years until my aunt bluntly probed during a late, wine-infused Thanksgiving evening, “are you gay?”

The world stood still. I froze. I knew. “Yeah, yeah. I mean, yes, I’m gay.”

In the aftermath of her asking, however, I wasn’t yet ready to fully “come out.” Yet, though my journey ofopenness began here, I was still so far removed from any ounce of a freedom to be me.

I was stuck on one repeated worry, “what would God think?”

Though I could verbalize my gayness, living life openly (and liberated from fear) would take a lot more time – and perhaps a lot more conversation (wine included).

The taste of freedom for my half-opened gayness lasted one week. Then, like a tidal wave absorbing each grain of the sand, I fled from the truth, using the following year to try and “fix myself.” I tried believing that being gay was wrong and in a twisted expression of love, that my faithfulness for God could be conveyed through a path of righteousness – shame and doubt as the main forms of transport.

Denial worked, to a point, until I came upon the intensity and depth of the gospel. Instead of ignoring questions about who I was and how I was created, I began to ask them to God. I slowly sought to remove the voices of my head, the sound of religiosity flowing from my past, and to hear only the voice of the Divine. I could be vulnerable – not necessarily yet for others, but first, for God and for myself.

The gospel is a story of God’s people returning to who they were made to be. Our God does not desire or expect us to hide from Him; that “god” is a man-made, offensive, and manipulated version of who God is. God is wide, vast, loving, and able to exist within tensions and complexities that we can hardly grasp. This God re-writes the narrative that humans are only evil, malicious, and sinful people. God made us in His image[1], and hence, there are fragments of His character everywhere.

A return to God is less about a perfection of righteousness, and more about the righteousness that comes from Him, God. God created us as free, open, and genuine humans. When it comes to our identity this is even more pressing: if we are unable to see that all of us come from God then how can we celebrate the lives we have been called to?

My aunt always assured me that “God makes no mistakes” and until I explored, acknowledged, and celebrated my whole identity, especially being gay, I was unable to proclaim that indeed, I was no mistake. I’m not; my roots and origins are abundantly from God.

What God wanted, was me to be me. For me to live as His daughter, unashamed and copiously open to His love. When we are released of living into the shell of someone else, we are free. We are given grace. Like our identity, this is from Him. My prayer is that we can receive it.

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If all things, including our identity are from Him (God), then all things are also through Him.

Being a Christian who also happens to be lesbian is hard.

“Coming out” was arduous not because of the brave boldness that is required with others, but because an internal transformation of integrated identities is needed in asserting who you are.

Internal transformation shifts attitudes of fear to celebration. This kind of transformation occurs through Christ, the Messiah, that is God who meets us in human form. Repeatedly, I had to remind myself that as a woman, I was enough. I was wonderfully adequate. I did not have to change because an ideology or institution was telling me that I had to. I returned to the question, “what does God want?”

To live authentically with unyielding love for God and others – that’s the answer.

When I finally came out – to myself, most notably – I did not accomplish this through my own abilities. Christ’s love was flowing and alive in me. I could accept myself because I knew I was safe, and wholly loved with God. Christ infused belief and hope through me and brought me on a path I did not expect. I could be Christian. And, also, I could be gay.

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Accepting each part of our identity is our life’s work.

We never stop this process. As we take a broader look at our existence, our lives become testaments and offerings back to God himself. Not religious sacrifice, but of loving, genuine devotion and gratitude.

When I reconfirmed to the world that I loved Christ (and that I was gay) I began to have conversations I never could have anticipated. People reached out to me, thanking me for my sincerity, and in turn, shared the deep corners of themselves that they had previously hid. I met someone new. I healed from a broken heart.

When we allow our identities (all of them) to stitch together and form one, unique, diverse fabric, we are presenting ourselves wholly to Christ. God can admire the work that has been done, the beautiful blending of His fingerprints and our choices, and know that are made to exude, proclaim, and propel love forward.

Let us bring our identities from God, through God, and to God, with hearts full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and all good fruits that remind the world that being gay and being Christian are just one parts of a diverse fabric of God’s people.

[1] Genesis 1:27

The Next Big Thing

I knew at a young age that my bones, brain, and heart had been crafted in such a way that I was meant to help people. When my grandmother cooked chili and grilled cheese for dinner, I wanted to set the table. When my teacher had a stack of papers to grade, I wanted to make sure she had a full set of pens. When my teammate was hurt, I was first to make sure she had the proper medical equipment or medicines. More than just action, I knew and believed in the power of asking questions and helping people through conversation and dialogue.

It was here where I felt most energized.

This deeply earnest part of me was like a seed that grew (and grew) as I got older. Helping in many ways, became a way that I felt most apt in communicating love.

And yet, growing up becomes more complicated. As I ventured into my teens, and young adulthood, I had to learn the necessary (but at times painful) process of also accepting, receiving, and engaging with help. I had to learn to ask for it, and I had to learn that it was healthy to acquiesce to it. Being helpful certainly doesn’t make you invincible. When I was stranded, someone always showed up. When I needed extra money, a check always came my way. When I was sick, someone always filled in as my caretaker. When I was heartbroken, someone was there to rub my back.

At 29, I recognize fully that there is no way anyone can do this – life – alone.

We need each other.

By knowing the power of relying on one another, I have been able to find a great deal of healing from pain in my past. Healing, I know now, requires us often to go back to places of suffering. Instead of pushing against my own feelings, reflections, or experiences, I have chosen them. I have acknowledged them. I have reconciled with them.

This has been grueling, and it has not come quick or fast. Yet, through this process, I know that I can now fully, authentically, genuinely help others. This realization has been life-changing for me – now, I know that I’m ready to take the next step in my professional life because of the work I have done in my personal life.

Often, the notion of my career has included education and advocacy for people who need it the most. Now, knowing what I know, and believing what I do, I am pursuing to be a Licensed Professional Counselor through the School of Education & Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver. Because I do love helping, and because I love people, I would like to apply my life experiences into a professional path that creates access to healing for anyone – and everyone. For the next 3 years, I will be training with other Counseling candidates to become certified and work on behalf of those needing mental health services.

The University of Colorado Denver is unique in how they structure the Counseling program; with multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion at its core, all of the methodologies, theories, and therapies that I will be learning will hold tightly to these values. I will learn how to be not only a counselor, but a counselor that has to consider privilege, difference, and oppression as we work for social justice. Our world needs this.

I want to be a counselor because I want to help people understand their lives better, to know themselves, and most importantly, to know they matter and that healing is possible. I want to be a counselor because I believe that this service is too often inaccessible for many people in our society. I want to equip individuals with the mental help and wellness they may need. Whether it’s refugees, the elderly, or LGBTQ+ people, I want to be a part of a movement that brings mental health services to ALL.

I want to create a safe space – even if it is the smallest of spaces.

Becoming a counselor has been a dream of mine for many years. And yet, it has never been the right time. Other things were in the way, I had too much to work through, or I was abroad. They say timing is everything – and they’re right. Now, it is the right time, and I am beginning a path that will not only fulfill a professional desire, but a personal one, too.

I will help people, and in turn, I recognize they will help me too.

Here’s to the next big thing, with lots of dreams, love, work, hope, and papers. Always papers. This new journey begins on January 17th, and likely will take 3 – 3 ½ years to complete.

I’m in it for the long haul and truly, I can’t wait to get started.

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Woman, Why Are You Crying?

“Woman, why are you crying?”

Mary Magdalene, outside the empty tomb of Jesus, in the Gospel of John, faces this question twice, in the midst of her visible, open process of lamentation and despair. The first time, she answers to two angels, seated where His body had been.

They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.

The second time, she answers to Jesus Himself – unknowingly. Thinking the inquirer is actually a gardener she replies, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.

Jesus, in the flesh, softly says to her, “Mary.”

Instantly, she understands it is Him. Jesus. He calls her, gently and tenderly. And she knows, in the depths of her soul, without a doubt, that she is not alone anymore.

Redemption has been made possible.

*

This week has felt like one large, collective grieving process. Our grief isn’t about “my team” losing an election. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. Nor is this a pity party for not getting what I want.

Friends, this is about the flagrant, blatant, no longer concealable brokenness of the world.

Hate, fear, separation, division, isolation, racism, poverty, anger, misogyny.

Injustices that Jesus warned of are currently and actively alive, celebrated, and promoted. With every fiber of my being, this breaks my heart. I recognize that many individuals don’t believe in the rhetoric, act, or spread of hate. But, given the circumstances of our society, we must ask ourselves, with raw, vulnerable transparency, “what are we actually doing about it?”

Friends, what do our lives stand for?

Leaders should reflect the values, vision, and hopes that we carry. It felt, in the deep corners of my heart, that the selection of a man that campaigned on exclusion, judgement, and malice affirmed this kind of approach to leadership.

Tears fell.

They continue to fall, like Mary, because though I know redemption is possible, there is murky water to sort through first.

First and foremost, we must process and recognize our own ignorance, privilege, and perpetuation. How can we advocate for our brothers and sisters without considering our own existing fortune, predispositions, and assumptions?

Then, we must actively engage. Participate. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Not shy away from the beckoning challenges of brokenness. It’s easy to hide in our bedrooms, busy schedules, or commitments. It’s tempting to fill days with echo chambers, simply living a comfortable life because we can. But, in doing so, we miss an invitation to grow, to change, and to speak out for what is right.

As we begin conversations, we must enter with peace. With compassion. This could be the hardest murky water to dive into and swim within. Compassion requires a willingness to see from a perspective of another. Willingly, we remove our own blind spots in exchange for empathy. This is what makes real love so damn radical.

As this repetitive, painful process of pursuing social justice occurs, I think – I hope – this kind of courage will lead us to deeper healing and optimism and also, justice. Real, living justice. The kind, I think, that Mary is crying for when she is searching for Jesus.

Needing a burst of sunshine and energy in my heart, I called a former of student of mine, Zahara, on this slow Sunday morning. As I sipped my lukewarm coffee in a bold-red adirondack chair, she told me of her recent success in school and how she would soon be starting student-teaching with a group of nursery students in a small, rural Rwandan community. For the sixth-straight day, I cried, because she is living proof that when justice occurs in the practical lives of our people, the joy is unescapable, the transformation indescribable.

Zahara also spoke of a current famine taking hold in the Eastern part of the country. Her mother,  a subsistence farmer, is having difficulty finding food. The seeds have been planted, but it’s not clear when they will grow and harvest can take place. Her words echoed exactly, I believe, what our country faces in the aftermath of our political process. She said, “It is difficult to see the food. We are trying. We are cultivating something.”

We are cultivating something. But, what will it be?

Innumerable phone calls, text messages, hugs, emails, and conversations filled my week, and for that, I have reason to hope that we are not alone. I also made a list in my journal called “We Are Going to Be Okay” with ways in which I can see God moving and promising something better than this pool of hate that has been accepted. My list included snippets of moments with refugee women throughout the week, meals shared with loved ones, and the beauty of the trees all around us. For those that reached out this week, I say thank you. Thank you for your love, your resilience, and your grounding pursuit of standing together, even in times of uncertainty. 

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Lastly, in just another example of the hope we can hold onto, I heard a small portion of Maya Angelou’s inaugural poem for Bill Clinton in 1993. Later, I read the entire text (see below), and realized that her word were my prayer. And so, I share it in earnest, hoping that you too, even in tears, will continue to believe in us.

I’m sad. I’m broken. I’m concerned. But, I am not done. This, well, this is only the beginning. May love be our sword, may hope be our compass. Let’s do this.

A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon, The dinosaur, who left dried tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow. I will give you no hiding place down here. You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness Have lain too long Face down in ignorance. Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter. The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me, But do not hide your face. Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come, rest here by my side. Each of you, a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege. Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast. Yet today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more. Come, Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the rock were one. Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing. The River sang and sings on. There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock. So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African, the Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The Privileged, the Homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree. Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River. Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River. Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for. You, who gave me my first name, you, Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of Other seekers — desperate for gain, Starving for gold. You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot, You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought, Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream. Here, root yourselves beside me. I am that Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved. I, the Rock, I, the River, I, the Tree I am yours — your passages have been paid. Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream. Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands, Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings. Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness. The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out and upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country. No less to Midas than the mendicant. No less to you now than the mastodon then. Here, on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister’s eyes, into Your brother’s face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning. – Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning” 

Queen of Katwe

A not-so-secret secret: I’m a total sucker for biographical sports dramas. Especially when they showcase the triumph of an underdog.

Case and point? During my senior season of field hockey at Hendrix, each player on the team wrote an inspirational quote of their choosing on a large piece of tape. Then, almost ceremoniously, each of us shared our selected pieces of wisdom and pasted the piece of tape on the flat-side of our sticks. We did this so that in moments requiring rugged grittiness – like in the last quarter of the game, in overtime, or in the final sprint for a goal – would have some kind of tangible marker for inspiration.

With little hesitation, I used a quote from Coach Bill Yoast in Remember the Titans: Leave no doubt!”

Remember the Titans – and films like it – are my jam.

So, earlier this summer, when I first saw the trailer for Queen of Katwe, to no surprise, I immediately put the release date in my google calendar. Lupita Nyong’o? Chess? Uganda? I’m so there.

With salted popcorn in hand, I saw Queen of Katwe on Monday and it was hardly what I expected it to be. Certainly, the story-line included soft spots about the rise of Phiona Mutesi’s chess game, queuing all the inspirational music and all the cheers. Throughout the story, chess is used as a larger metaphor for life. One of the Phion’as team members, when teaching Phiona how to play, says, “…in chess, the small one can become the big one.”

However, unlike a lot of Disney (or sports) films, the deepening of the story wasn’t hinged upon the sport and the victor’s success.

In actuality, the film showcased Phiona – a rising Chess champion from a poor community, Katwe, in Uganda – and the plethora of moving parts in her life. True to many communities in East Africa, the life of an individual is never just their own. Phiona’s success became her communities’ success, too. On the flip-side, her and her families’ struggles, at times, seemed insurmountable.

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I ached for the determination of Phiona’s mother, Harriet, as she struggled to find any kind of income for the family. When Phiona’s brother is in an accident, the family is soon after forced into eviction from their home. Scenes show the family walking the roads, homeless, and it’s impossible to ignore the injustices that people face every, single day. As Phiona’s story unfolds and she begins to attend chess sessions, Phiona’s sister leaves her family so that she can pursue a relationship with a man that will take care of her – until she gets pregnant. The particular challenges of being a woman, too, come to light, and it’s hard to process and fully capture in the allotted time.

Frankly, for the duration of the 2-hour show, I was a mess. Dabbing my eyes with a handful of tissues, I hadn’t quite expected the emotional, visceral reaction I had.

You see, by writing and producing a movie that focused not only a sports champion, but the tensions of their background, home life, and family, larger issues like poverty, racism, and opportunity come to the fore-front. That’s a really, really important thing to be done.

There are poignant moments, like when Phiona’s mom, Harriet, slowly acquiesces to the idea that her daughter has a chance for success. To show her support, she sells valuable fabric that she kept from her own mother so her daughter can purchase petrol for reading chess books with light when night arrives.

Another riveting scene occurs when a notorious East African rain storm devastates Phiona’s home. They have no roof and water rushes in, pulling the soil, dirt, and their belongings together like an after-thought.

The director of the film, Mira Nair, is an Indian-American woman (living part-time in Uganda) who decided to adapt the film after making a documentary about Robert Katende, Phiona’s chess coach and sports director for a local ministry. I found her portrayal of Katwe intriguing because it was neither denigrating nor romantic. Refreshing, considering Africa-focused media tends to err on one side or the other.

Sure, sports movies present some kind of climatic issue, but typically, it’s resolvable. In Queen of Katwe, though, the issues raised are pressing issues of justice. They don’t have easy answers, and yet, it’s incredibly important to consider, think about, and move to discussion and action by them.

I thought of my girls in Rwanda, who struggle frequently with the notion of where to be.

Robert Katende: [to Phiona] Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong. Where is that for you?

Should the girls pursue their academics with all their rigor, hoping to find a way to university? Or, do they return home to take care of their family?

Sometimes, these are the kinds of choices that are mutually exclusive, even when they shouldn’t be.

Brokenness isn’t just over there, though. Injustice has a lot of different faces. We can’t assume that viewing injustice (say, extreme poverty, for example) in Queen of Katwe is non-existent in our “world.”

Our “world” might instead be wracked with income inequity, systemic racism, or limitations on civic freedoms.It might be a wrong-doing from a neighbor. A difficulty in your family.

What I liked best about Queen of Katwe was its unapologetic look at the complications of families, success, mobility, and hope.

Additionally, it re-calibrated my heart, back again to what is important in life. I think we all need a steady reminder of this from time to time.

Check out the movie, when you can. You won’t be disappointed.

solidarity

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

With every headline of violence, bombs and gunshots; with each story of continued injustice; with repeated syllables of hateful rhetoric, my heart breaks all over again.

Last month, on a visit to Washington D.C., I had the opportunity to touch the glass that protects the foundational documents of our country: the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. My fingerprints left a stain and smudge; layered over thousands of other visitors who did the very same thing.

I peered closely in the dim lighting to catch the words: all men are created equal

Sighing heavily, I wonder what power our words still have.

We hang our hats on freedom, and yet can’t swallow the idea of equality.

We raise the colors of red, white, and blue but become squeamish when we talk about the reality that #blacklivesmatter.

Diversity is welcome – but only if we can put a quota on categories and markers – as if a “token” individual for a given race is the solution to acknowledging the prevalence of power structures built and ingrained into the fabrics of our systems.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, National Mall, Washington D.C. 2016

Tears fall heavy tonight as I remember the simultaneous power and confusion I felt when I saw the documents that laid the so-called “foundations” of our country. How have we gotten so far off track?

Tears come unceasingly as I think about the families of people who have died – throughout our history – because of who they are.

I cry because though slavery has ended we are perpetuating slavery by another name.

We are killing each other.

I’ve held no gun, but there is blood on my hands.

For any injustice I have left unsaid; for times I have been a recipient of white privilege without even the smallest inkling of recognition; and for the assumptions I have at times built in my own mind about who people are because of the identities they carry –

I’m sorry.

My mom tells a story from when I was just 2 and visiting in the waiting room of a pediatric office. We walked inside and as we sat down, I looked across the way and saw another child, around my same age.

With glee, curiosity, and enthusiasm, I shouted to my mother,

“Look! A chocolate baby!”

I don’t tell this story because it’s endearing; I tell it because even as a young girl, I could see a difference and acknowledge it.

The difference isn’t necessarily the problem: it’s the reaction to it.

Blackness is something to be celebrated; a legacy of men, women, and groups of people advocating for necessary, mandated rights to be free in our country. It is an identity, one full of roots, history, and culture that is permeated with strength and the tradition of overcoming adversity. And yet, “to be black” in America today is not something I can even begin to wrestle with. “Black” is a socially-based racial term, used loosely and accepting the separation of equality that it brings.

Yes, uphold diversity, but do not diversify the value, respect, and civil rights that each person holds individually and collectively. 

It’s not as if being white isn’t an identity too, but understand that “being white” has been the norm for human societies since the beginning of existence. To “celebrate” whiteness is a lot like cheering for a proverbial NFL team that wins the Super bowl every, single year. It’s the norm and our society structure is built to support this.

As I grew into a young woman in my late teens and early 20’s, I would literally lose myself in books about social movements – especially the Civil Rights of the 50’s & 60’s. I cared far more about Rosa Parks than I ever did about the Spice Girls.

And when I began to become educated, not just in school, but in life and in my faith, I learned about the real oppression happening to other races outside of being “white.”

I saw it, I watched it, and I grew increasingly sickened by it.

To this day, Divine and I often talk about her skin color specifically; she was told on many occasions in her life that she was “ugly” because of her dark skin and that her beauty would never come from her physical appearance.

“To be white,” she once said to me while visiting her family in Rwanda, “is to hold many treasures and coins to life.”

When you hear something like that, you can’t help but examine your own fixed position in the world. You wonder, “why, why was I born like this?”

God has a plan, they say, and though we must live in the tension of not knowing everything, it’s true that we are in the places, times, and seasons for a reason.

So, why don’t we speak truth? Why don’t we take a stand? Why don’t we do the hard thing and look in the mirror, seeking our own bias and positions of power that we may have missed before?

I firmly, and resiliently believe that God does not stand for racial segregation, oppression, violence, separation, and hate. More than that, I think the same is true for anyone – for any living, breathing, human life. Yes, all lives matter, but we can’t acknowledge that fully until everyone – I mean, everyone – obtains real, living equality.

No more lip service. It’s time to stand in solidarity. It’s time to speak truth.

I have committed myself to retracting myself from this endowed, inherited legacy of privilege. It’s sticky. It’s messy. I don’t always know how to weave myself out.

But I will not stop.
I cannot stop.

Jesus’ greatest command was love. Our country’s greatest command was equality.

Can’t we strive for these together? Can we, together, recognize our brothers and sisters in the communities we live within?

Jesus,

Forgive our ignorance. Forgive our disunity. Forgive our separations.

I pray for peace. The kind of peace that trespasses all understanding – the kind of peace that can only heal these kinds of wounds.

Please, please, please come. Make this stop. Please. Make it stop.

We love you. I love you. 

Amen.