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No Black History without a Black Future

In the past few weeks, the mortal world lost two spiritual icons: South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu and Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Both leaders played transformative roles in global and domestic politics.

Each lived and taught faith as a fulcrum to be used to push society toward inclusion, liberation, and peace. Remembering their legacies in the context of Black History Month is a reminder that the path to a better future can appear, but only if each of us is willing to accept accountability for the past and to practice mindfulness in the present. 

As chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Archbishop Tutu facilitated a process by which whites and Blacks alike could look at their country’s history and at the same time process painful feelings like guilt, helplessness and fear. That process led to social transformation and a shared commitment to a more peaceful future for their country. 

Thich Nhat Hanh introduced the West to the power of mindful awareness. He knew 1,000 monks by name who were killed in the Vietnam War, and yet he came to the United States to model what it looks like to move beyond judgment, condemnation and hatred to practice universal love, compassion, peace and nonviolence.

As people of faith, we believe forgiveness is more than a divine gift to free us from the eternal judgment. It is a means of spiritual transformation that frees all parties to live in harmony without being laden by the weight of history and the freight of fear. Tutu and Thich showed us how to walk that path to freedom.In sad contrast, between last year’s Black History Month and now, leaders in the Texas State Legislature have used faith and other sources of influence to pass bills that foster or entrench exclusion, oppression and even physical harm. Passing a law that explicitly bans teaching about systemic racism in our schools denies accountability for our country’s history, which includes systemic as well as individual dehumanization, violence, inequity and injustice. Accepting accountability for historic wrongs could lead to a shared commitment among Texans of all races and ethnicities to a fairer, more peaceful and just future. Instead, our governor and other elected officials claim they must protect students from the feelings that, if unexamined, make it impossible to close the chapter on our ugly history of racial discrimination and write a more beautiful story. 

 

These same leaders passed laws to make it harder for Texans to vote, to gain access to health care, and to reform the criminal justice system, all of which disproportionately harm black, brown, and poor Texans. As a result, in 2022 Texas, the purpose of Black History Month is not only thwarted by censorship of the past, it is a challenge to celebrate it with confidence that things can improve. Insisting on hope is the first step if we are to forge a better future together.

 

Connie Razza and Solana Rice have suggested that it is not enough to observe Black History Month—we need to pair that observance with Black Futures Month. They say, “Black folks do not have the luxury of allowing ourselves to stay in survival mode. We can’t let what will be, be. Dreaming begets believing. Believing begets acting and building. And action and building together beget transformation. Imagining a beautiful future does not negate or distract from the current reality or current pain; it clarifies our destination, the tools and strategies to get there, and the crew we need to roll with. Our history is full of powerful dreamers, believers, doers—who seeded revolutions of expanded possibility and built our present. Futuring is a muscle we cannot afford to let atrophy. And the future is indeed ours to see and shape.”

 

This year during Black History Month we at Faith Commons join our Black brothers and sisters in their refusal to stay in survival mode. We will continue to study and learn from the past and to be held accountable for it as a precursor to reconciliation. And we honor the memories of dreamers and doers and pledge to join them, lending our weight to the side of inclusion, liberation and peace.

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RELATED LINKS
  • Prayer before the prayer by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
    • A prayer for the desire to forgive
    • "I am not yet ready for the journey / I am not yet interested in the path / I am at the prayer before the prayer of forgiveness..."
  • The Forgiveness Project | Desmond Tutu
    • "However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator."
  • Black Futures Month: Imagining Black Liberation, By Connie Razza and Solana Rice
    • "Futuring is a muscle we cannot afford to let atrophy. And the future is indeed ours to see and shape."
  • "Recommendation," a poem by Thich Nhat Hanh
    • "Man is not the enemy. Our enemy is hatred, anger, ignorance and fear."
COMING UP...

Rachel Mikva, a rabbi, scholar, activist and author of Dangerous Religious Ideas, is coming to Dallas this March.

Faith Commons is hosting a luncheon with Rachel Mikva, Thursday, Mar. 3, 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at Northway Christian Church. 
We will discuss the ways in which particular religious texts are used to connect or disconnect, heal or harm, and how we can get better at using them mindfully.

We are also cosponsoring a public lecture at Temple Emanu-El, Thursday, Mar. 3, at 7:00 p.m.

Register for the luncheon here!

Faith Commons has been facilitating intentional work with Valarie Kaur and her Revolutionary Love Project. We are looking forward to scheduling in-person events with Ms. Kaur in fall of 2022. Until then, we have held weekly workshops examining the revolutionary love compass. We have viewed her 2008 documentary film "Divided We Fall" with a brief introductory conversation with Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.

And now, we invite you to read her book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love. We will read along together, and discuss a third of the book in three virtual book club meetings this spring. More information is on our website along with registration.

  • You can see each workshop on Revolutionary Love here.
  • Purchase See No Stranger here.*

*If you are a sponsor, you will be receiving your two copies of See No Stranger shortly! 

Thank you to our sponsors for making it possible to bring Valarie Kaur to Dallas, and for engaging with Faith Commons to practice tools of revolutionary love and create a beloved community in Dallas.

 

Brenda Brand
Steve and Gail Brookshire
Communities Foundation of Texas
The DFW Sikh Community
Lauren Embry
Empire Bakery/Meaders and Robert Ozarow
Fellowship Southwest
First United Methodist Church
Friendship West Baptist Church
Mara Brim
Rev. Amy and Dr. David Moore
National Council of Jewish Women
North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church
Northway Christian Church
NTARUPT
Sarah and Lee Papert
Pathways to Ministry
People Newspapers
Retreat House Spirituality Center
SMU Baptist House of Studies
SMU Human Rights Program
SMU Maguire Center for Ethics
SMU Perkins School of Theology
Social Justice Task Force of Grace Presbytery
Temple Emanu-El
Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation
Thanksgiving Square Foundation
Wilshire Baptist Church

Before viewing Valarie Kaur's film from 2008, "Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath," documenting hate crimes following 9/11, about 50 of us gathered on Zoom to hear from Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.

You can view the film through Valarie Kaur's website here.
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