A few months ago, my daughter Charlotte said: “Dada, I want to make a video about Detroit for the Table Setters.”
My favorite part of this was that she started writing in her notebook about all the people she wanted to interview so there could be older and younger people, strangers, people who’ve lived in Detroit for a long time and people who are new, and she said, “I know, I know, I’ll definitely talk to people who look like us and people who don’t look like us.”
She decided to ask people what they like about our new city, because even at 7, she’s noticed that people tend to say many negative things about Detroit. Marvin helped her think like a director and an editor, and of course, we helped her learn how to use the iMovie program. She asked me to compose the music, and was very clear about how it should sound. She chose the titles and imagery, and I helped her find some photos to enhance the stories people were sharing.
Obviously, I’m proud of her, but I also think it’s important to note that our kids, (not just my kids, but all kids) can handle thinking about narratives and community and diversity even in grade school. In fact, most of the divisive mindsets people carry around with them originate at early ages.
Without further ado:
Marvin loves to do behind the scenes kind of extra footage, so we did this as a little promo. Of course, we did it on a Friday right after school, she was hungry, and you can see the weekend jubilation setting in. 🙂
Thanks for watching, feel free to share, and any comments you leave will certainly be shared with the producer herself.
Charlottesville. The United States of America. 2017. What follows is a collection of some of my Facebook posting, along with some friends who inspire me, in the after swirl.
In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. – Galatians 3:28, The Message
“We are not born with prejudices, they are made for us by someone who wants something…to break us into small (and conquerable) groups.”
If a politician or a pastor doesn’t call out the hatred of #WhitePower, maybe we should ask, might it be serving them?
We know what fascism is. We know what racism is. We must resist and we must wake up.(The clip above is from an anti-fascism film made by the US Government in 1943 called “Don’t Be A Sucker.”)
—– August 12, 2017
Dear European-American Christians: I take this moment to remind you that following Jesus and claiming Christianity are two very different things. Jesus called out the religious elite of his day for being in collusion with political and economic power as opposed to trusting the truth of God.
If your church does not make reference to the hatred on display last night and today, if someone tells you it is just the “fringe” of the Republican party, be very suspicious. #UniteTheRightRally is meant to divide and conquer.
If you’re happy that your church doesn’t bring it up, I implore you to read Isaiah. Read Jeremiah. Read any one of the four Gospels from start to finish. Take notes. Pay attention to how the leaders and kings lead and how they are confronted. Pay attention to who Jesus singles out as the protagonists in His lessons and the antagonists. Pay attention to the overall arc of justice that plays out.
I’m going to say it: 45 is a golden calf. Made by the white people, made for the white people, made as a substitute for God. We are witnessing a worship of a golden calf.
Awaken. There is hope in the Bible. It’s real to me and it’s being cheapened by politically powerful white America to a sickening degree. Jesus invited us all to the table. None of us are over or under welcomed, and none of us deserve it any more than another. #BlackLivesMatterwas a reflective response to the dominant #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter reality we’ve been subjected to since this country’s founding. As Andre Henry says: there is not room for argument here. You either accept that reality or you live in delusions.
Please, now, open your eyes and your ears and your hearts. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us all.
The passive and excuse-laden comfortability with the ongoing legal, social, and nationally supported systems of White Supremacy, both the overt and riotous, as well as the more insidious and hidden daily aggressions from well meaning white people (like myself, I admit), makes me want to knock shit over today. Thank God I’ve still got Angry Birds on my phone.
How in the hell do we move past this with integrity, equity, and effective consequences? How do I, as a Jesus-follower, contain my anger and find love for my current enemies to “heap burning coals” upon their passivity and reveal that God meant what he said when he challenged us to love our neighbors, and that heaven will be hard to get into if we are spiritually diluted by our privileges here on earth? People: I believe this tension is what it’s all about. Do we trust God enough to actually love and fight for our neighbors?
August 15, 2017
To be clear:
I am not against white people. I am against white dominance, and anything that seeks to support white dominance as “all-powerful” or “most preferable” is deeply problematic. I actually grieve for white people who are consumed by maintaining “whiteness.” I have seen this destroy more white people than I can bear to mention. It has caused me depression and anxiety. I believe it is because it was never God’s intent for any one group to believe themselves better than any other. This is not about guilt. It’s about hope.
Yes white people have had to work hard. I’ve never denied that. But why is it so challenging to accept what I’ve seen, from years of teaching in European, African, Asian, and Latino-American school contexts: the kids I’ve taught with browner skin have had to work much harder to achieve similar levels of success, than their lighter skinned peers. I am not making that up, it is real and it is a problem. Why is that so hard to accept and so tempting to dismiss as “emotionality,” or “playing the race card,” or whatever else has been said to discredit what those of us who’ve crossed boundaries know to be true?
I lament the fear of “the other.” I believe when Jesus challenged us to trust God and love all our neighbors, he meant that. In my life, I have found that learning from people in races and cultures and socio-economic classes other than the one I was born into has given me an ever-clearer picture of the kingdom of God. The diversity helps to paint a fuller rendering of how amazing God is. So I strive to learn more, and I trust the experiences of first hand stories more than news stories framed and reframed for profit and ratings.
I may be using social media more than is healthy at times, but social media, for me, is a way to generate dialogue that is hard to have on a daily basis. Of course, it’s easy to get stuck in a loop, so we all must encourage one another to take these important conversations into our face to face interactions. We don’t have a precedent for how to best use this medium, so we are all learning as we go.
I believe people do change, when confronted with the right stories in the right contexts. I’ve also seen great hope in my family and my friends. I mean, isn’t that what the entire walk with Jesus is meant to be? A place to continually move your life more and more in line with His? If we don’t believe people can change, then it’s a pretty shallow Gospel.
I make mistakes all the time. Some kind old friends recently pointed that out to me. I’ve been guilty of trying to save all the poor black kids and I’ve gotten my ass handed to me over a warm cup of Gumbo. I’ve engaged in fights that should’ve ended in more prayer and walking away. I’ve been called the “white devil” as well as “racist against white people.” But let me assure you, these are not the worst things that can happen. These are survivable.
What is not okay to me: turning a blind eye to actual suffering, especially when doing so out of convenience or uncomfortability. True, we can’t fight every battle and it would be arrogant to think otherwise. But I’ve been deeply troubled by the lack of concern for the ongoing systems that support one group’s pursuit of life and liberty over another’s, especially from within the Church when there are ample passages decrying economic structures of oppression. I feel we must stand strong. Whiteness is the problem with race, whiteness invented the current structure of racial hierarchy in this country, and it works hard to support itself. It wants to rule economically, morally, and culturally. It is the distraction that I feel called to stand against. It is not the only problem we Christians are expected to combat, but it’s the one I feel God asking me to focus on, through how I was made and how life has shaped me along the way. (Original post, with comments, here.)
Everything from our physical being to our intellectual prowess of street culture, medical innovations that were tested on our persons without our permission, to breeding us for selling. All this for the financial gain of others, mainly Anglos. Moreover, from the “Ghetto-izing” (Ghetto-*) of our culture, to overtly gobbling up everything we had the boldness to wear in the ghetto. From our style of hair, dress, music, dance, and other abilities that were stolen in some form and sold. So now we come down to history, our history as African-Americans. It is American History. So who gets to tell it? We live in such divided communities (redlining*) that it is a sensitive subject when it comes to, yet again, exploiting our stories for financial gain. The gap between the everyday experience of black and white people in this country is as broad as a suburb of Detroit with all white people and a great educational environment due to property tax dollars in wealthy areas and the struggles of a large amount of minority youth who are not in school in Detroit (and other urban cities) with high levels of crime in most areas due to lack of education and unemployment. Cities like Chicago (less in Detroit) is so out of sorts that having less than eight murdered on a weekend is considered a low number. Also, Detroit, even though it is starting to address there situations and have honest conversations with representatives from all areas included in the discussion still struggles with their narratives of what really happened. But honesty is not always represented well, or the full story told in narratives that involve telling “our stories”. And frankly, it pisses me off.
The truth is:
The film Detroit, as timely as it is, is a narrative that misrepresents black folks based on who was allowed to tell the story of one of many American Tragedies when it comes to the African-American community. Is it timely, yes? Well done, I am sure it is. Accurate, in some instances, yes. Creative license taken? Of course. However, I believe, just like Selma (Ava Duvernay re-wrote 60% of script, no credit given) that from a perspective of an African-American filmmaker (like myself) the story would have been vastly seen through a different lens. However, that was not the case. Due to the extensive racism that exists in the Hollywood “studio system” of who gets to tell their cultural stories, or any story for that matter, this was not a productive film that forwarded any of those discussions. Nor did it forward the conversation of who has the power to approve who tells the story. The black narrative is not only under represented in film and television (and in all narrative areas), but it is also unrepresented with perspectives from filmmakers who are black, or for that matter of Latin or Asian backgrounds. So yes, it is a sore spot with me. I do not subscribe for anyone to see the film. Also, the market place is bearing that out. Let me be very clear, it’s not the full responsiblity of the actors. An actor relys on the director for performance. An actor accepts a role. And considering the horrible path of blacks in cinema, they stand unscathed in terms of my disappointment in the filmmakers.
Mojo Film Tracking
Domestic Total as of Aug. 13, 2017: $13,421,464 (Estimate)
Distributor: Annapurna Pictures, Release Date: July 28, 2017
Genre: Crime Drama, Runtime: 2 hrs. 23 min.
MPAA Rating: R Production Budget: $34 million ( film must double its production cost to begin making money)
The Truth is:
I believe it is unfortunate that people of color do not trust our narratives with Anglos. I believe in working together, but the scales are beyond unbalanced. It is going to take a long time to balance the scales, which I doubt will happen in my lifetime. Seems like every endeavor when it comes to people of color will “take a long time.” Why? Because, once again, and my Asian and Latino and Latina people of color will back me up on this, it has been the entire history of this country (and continues to be in so many ways) that this obstruction of the narrative has taken place since 1776. Who tells the stories, who writes the books, who teaches in schools, who is the majority, and who is the minority? Even when the majority are the minority, when it comes to stories, it never works out for the minorities unless we are in charge of our own narrative. It actually saddens me to make that statement, but The truth is, it’s true.
The Truth is:
As someone who has a non-profit that preaches sitting at The Table, this subject tests me the most. However, we need to continue to try and talk and discuss at length who gets to tell our narratives as people of color, who gets to decide that, and better yet; how can we get people of color to step up and not be dismayed by the powers that be and still tell their own story? I can tell you personally that the frustration in not being heard is overwhelming to the point of not wanting to even attempt to be heard. However, I am personally committed to telling my story, my way. I am determined to stand at the gates of financiers, independent film companies, foreign film entities, and domestic studios to pitch and tell my story and to have an opportunity to tell my story my way. I do expect and welcome collaborators with me of all ages, race, and genders to join me in telling those stories that I deem significant. Also, hopefully, someday, someone in power (that looks like me and doesn’t look like me) to see it that way. I am optimistic. So then Detroit throws me for a loop. I am sure it has thrown Kathryn Bigelow, the only woman to win an Oscar for directing, for a loop as well.
The Truth is:
If you’re not a person of color, it is a hard and awkward position to understand, and most Anglos simply don’t! Mainly due to a lack of conversation about why we, as black folks (and others of color), would feel the way we do. Also, there is a fear of saying the wrong thing which also stops the conversation from happening. Fair? To some extent, it is not fair, but neither was the Transatlantic slave trade, auctioning of human beings, breeding and selling people (my ancestors), centuries of murdering our brown bodies, followed by Jim Crow, and many other forms of systemic racism (school to prison pipeline). Life is not fair, we all learn that. Black folks did not cause this, but we do have a responsibility to change this narrative. How?
The truth is:
We must metaphorically act as if we were at The March on Washington where Dr. King gave his speech. Or Bloody Sunday on Edmond Pettus Bridge (Selma) with all those people marching. In other words, we must flood the streets with story tellers in all forms. From filmmakers, authors, photographers, orators, and teachers, who stand at studio offices, TV executives, and publishers doors and demand to tell our stories ourselves with manuscripts, scripts, photographs, art works, speeches, and poems ready to go. So lest you think this is an exaggeration, it is not. The gap is wide as miles 1–14 in Detroit!
The Truth is:
Here are the numbers that prevent narratives from being told by people of color concerning the film and television business. I have not even discussed numbers for my Latin and Asian folks. Without even looking I can tell you they’re worse.
Film Directors: 8–1 white, Writers: 3–1 white (that gap is closing, thank goodness), Film Studio Heads 94% White, 100% Male. (same, if not worse for film studios)
The Truth is:
This brings me back to Detroit, the movie. It is uncomfortable in so many ways. How ironic that a town that somewhat balanced out the middle class by creating jobs (the auto industry) that evened the playing field without it being a sport where brown skinned people could be treated a little bit fair. Most families, even if they didn’t live in the same areas (and they didn’t because white people would not allow it) could at least have somewhat equal pay, a good job, and put their kids through their schools in their area of 8 miles or below. So why has this movie got me riled?
The Truth is:
Well, the fact is, we could see it coming 8 miles away. The movie posters plastered all over every major “urban city” depicts cops standing off against brown folks, with the tag line, “It’s Time We Knew.” It’s time we knew what? That “some police” (not all, as I have friends and family that are officers) have been brutal murderers and abusers to people of color? And who’s time is it to know? Certainly not people of color, we’ve been knowing! And I’ll dare you to actually put in a voice over in the trailer for this film that “we will reveal the truth!” That misrepresents the blood spilled by my ancestors who made it a point to discuss every incident that seemed to mostly fall upon deaf ears. The Detroit tragedy, as awful as it is, sits in a line of many since the inception of this country which racism was truly The Birth of A Nation called The United States of America!
A small list of atrocities: Slavery itself, Tulsa Town Burning, Rosewood Town Burning, Emmitt Till murder, hangings, draggings behind trucks, seven Nation of Islam people shot in Los Angeles, Black Panthers murdered in Philidelphia, Watts Riots, LA Riots, Rodney King….
The truth is:
America does need to know the truth. I call all story tellers of color and people who want to help us tell our story with us in positions of leadership and power to affect the viewpoint of the story; it is time! Detroit proves it. Even in comedy, a film like Girl’s Night is a prime example of great collaboration. Yes, I saw the movie, it is a riot, and the box office reflects it. Go see it!
Domestic Total as of Aug. 13, 2017: $97,139,980/Foreign Total, $9 Million & Counting. Predicting 120–150 million domestic, 15–20 million foreign=Total 135 to 170 million. Production Budget: $19 million
A must See Interview, then watch the trailer:
The word “ghetto” comes from the Jewish area of Venice, the Venetian Ghetto in Cannaregio. However, there is no agreement among etymologists about the origins of the Venetian language term. The various theories trace it to: a special use of Venetian getto, or “foundry” (there was one near the site of that city’s ghetto in 1516);Yiddishget, or “deed of separation”; a clipped form of Egitto (“Egypt”), from Latin Aegyptus (presumably in memory of the exile); or Italian borghetto, or “small section of a town” (diminutive of borgo, which is of Germanic origin; see borough). By 1899 the term had been extended to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups.
In the United States, redlining is the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas. While the best known examples of redlining have involved denial of financial services such as bankingor insurance, other services such as health care or even supermarkets have been denied to residents (or in the case of retail businesses like supermarkets, simply located impractically far away from said residents) to result in a redlining effect.Reverse redlining occurs when a lender or insurer targets particular neighborhoods that are predominantly nonwhite, not to deny residents loans or insurance, but rather to charge them more than in a non-redlined neighborhood where there is more competition.
While it is frustrating, tragically so, to recognize that the prophetic words of Frederick Douglass from 1857 still resonate today when it comes to racial justice, we are choosing to see it as a light and an encouragement. We know that faith without actions is dead, just as actions without faith are often lacking in wisdom. We are better when we learn from one another.
For a little more on this video, here’s a promo we did with Ambar. Unfortunately, the patchy wi-fi of East Detroit renders Matthew’s portions a bit choppy, but that’s a story of systemic injustice for another day.
Table Setters are doing critically important yet hard work seeking to foster integration by bringing together peoples from different cultures and ethnicities to that common, universal experience of eating together at the table. Integration is, humanly speaking, hard because it creates personal anxieties, power struggles, losses, and calls forth spiritual disciplines such as surrender, openness, and trust. At the same time, it invites wonderful gains, such as joy, peace, freedom, love, laughter, understanding, and most especially belonging or community. Those of us affiliated the with PSGP pray God’s blessings upon The Table Setters and encourage them as well as our represented communities to invite their leadership and modeling of The Kingdom of God. – The Pastor as Spiritual Guide
I am who I am because of who we all are…I am because we are
I have learned much about the essence of being human through Tom Logan, co-founder of Marion Medical Mission. He and his wife, Jocelyn, have directed the Shallow Well Program for the last 25 years, helping to install about 27,000 shallow wells in Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia, Africa. Those wells have enabled three to four million villagers to have safe drinking water. Only a small number of them have ever had safe drinking water, “since the beginning of mankind,” according to one of the village elders my wife, Susie, and I met in Malawi last fall. We are proud to have assisted with 144 wells of the 2,754 installed in 2016, and we are planning to return to Africa in the future.
Notice I said “assisted.” Tom was very clear that the wells belonged to the villagers; we were only there to assist. They located the subsurface water source, dug the 15 to 25 foot well, formed and baked the clay bricks, laid the brick walls of the well, and created the concrete cap to keep the water clean and apron to drain away excess water. We Americans raised the $450 needed to pay for the cement, pipe, pump, and wages of the African field officers, well building supervisors, and installation supervisors. We Americans drove Toyota Land Rovers loaded with well parts over rough terrain to remote villages. Once there, we recorded the GPS location and construction data on an android, checked the quality and safety of the well, and celebrated the completion of the well with a dedication ceremony.
Only together, Africans and Americans, were we able to be who God created us to be. Only together did safe drinking water become available to thousands of villagers. Together, people of color and white people actualized a dream, became friends and established relationships, and served one another. Together, we sang songs and praised God for His goodness. The attached video is a gift of song to my wife and me for coming to their town in Malawi and assisting with wells. The verses are, “Who will enter into Heaven? Our father is there. Only the holy will enter. You are holy. Enter into Heaven. Our father is there.” Susie and I felt we had entered into Heaven for those moments of the song. I still tear-up when I watch that video. Gestures of love from God’s children are powerful. The people of Malawi have such open and warm hearts.
I write this story to illustrate how people who are different can effectively come together and achieve a dream. In this land the “American Dream” is at stake. The only way people of color and white people can actualize that dream is to become friends, establish relationships, and work together, as we did in Africa. The time for such an encounter is now; it is long past due. And, if we do not succeed today, what kind of world will our children and grandchildren inhabit tomorrow?
Ubuntu, I am who I am because of who we all are. Invite the Table Setters to your church, school, business, or community organization and allow them to facilitate relationship building. It’s diversity training on a personal level. Many of us know very little about people who are different. Come to the table; share at the table; stay at the table; and come back to the table. Only through relationship building can we learn who we all are and, as a consequence, learn who each one of us are. I am because we are.