Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday Dance Party!

I'm really jazzed for tonight's Ash Wednesday service at 747. B-Buss, ever-flowing fount of creativity, really out-did himself this time.

Just as a heads up for my non-ashy friends, Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of the season of Lent, a season of preparation that leads up to Easter (similar to the way that Advent leads up to Christmas). It's a contemplative time, during which we are honest with ourselves about the way that we are in the world, in relationship to God and our neighbors; a time that we take to re-align ourselves with the Love that gives us new life. Today we are invited to cast into the fire all that holds us back from responding to this Love with grace and justice: our self-hate; our mistrust; even our dreams of immortality, for the recognition of our mortality keeps us honest and faithful to God here and now. All of this is burned away to ashes, which is why you see folks walking around with ashes on their forehead-- it's a good reminder when they look in the bathroom mirror.

Incidentally, the Taizé Book of Common Prayer calls Lent "a celebration of the joy of God's forgiveness," which (in my mind) calls for a dance party! ...OK, I was really looking for a good reason to play David Bowie's hit "Ashes to Ashes." Actually, because of some silliness on YouTube, no David Bowie videos can be embedded, so the version below is the cover by Tears for Fears. Still, it's a pretty good one.

And, if you haven't seen the David Bowie episode of Flight of the Conchords, you absolutely must.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Been a long time gone

[Photo by soartsyithurts]

I haven't written for a couple weeks, and I wanted to touch base about that. As is the case for many, when life is full and crazy blogging is down. Much has happened in the past couple of weeks, including:
  • The memorial service for my friend Brittney
  • Visiting the Lutheran seminary in Philadelphia and coming out to my parents about discerning a call to ordained ministry (DACOM, as my friend Zac calls it)
  • Coming to terms with the facts that I have some more discernment to do
  • Reading Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls" and loving it
  • A week-long service trip in Costa Rica with a group from church, from which I just returned yesterday
  • Reann Ballslee, drag queen extraordinaire, being crowned homecoming queen (I voted for her!)
  • My great-aunt Bessie's 95th birthday
  • An amazing, musical worship service about love at Convergence, a church for artists in Alexandria, Virginia
(Actually, the last two were just today, which gives away the fact that to some degree I am using them as filler.)

In the next week or so I'll hopefully process at least a couple of these (top of the list includes the love-themed service, Costa Rica, and seminary). However, this week is full and crazy as well: Ash Wednesday, Peter Rollins, and a Lost and Found concert, in addition to school and work. I'll see what happens, I suppose.

Blessings, peace, and a good night's rest to all!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This is why I am anti-racist

Lately I've been missing-in-action on the web. Life is full of good things, like work and friends and amazing moments of grace. There is a lot to write about from this last week, but right now there is something buzzing in my brain that I need to share with others.

For class tomorrow my Race & Ethnicity professor is having us watch this video, A Girl Like Me from the Media That Matters Film Festival. It's short, so watch it.

The scene with the doll test made me stop breathing; I just couldn't breathe as I watched the little girl push the brown-skinned doll towards the camera. "Can you show me the doll that looks bad?" Of course she can. She's probably not even eight-years-old and our society has given her the reason: "Because it's black."

"And can you show me the doll that looks like you?"

No. Don't. Please. I'm looking at the little girl, dreading the choice that she is about to make. But I'm really pleading with her culture-- my culture-- to leave her alone. Don't. No.

We are killing our children.

For the same class we read an article from Tim Wise, a noted anti-racist activist and author who address white privilege. A friend forwarded me one of his articles this summer (Your Whiteness Is Showing) and during the last leg of the election season I stumbled upon This Is Your Nation on White Privilege. It's good stuff, in my opinion. He shows the glaring inconsistencies between logic and practice, in which the latter is skewed by the social sin of white privilege.

The piece we read for class, Famous Last Words: Exploring the Depths of Racial Socialization, was similarly heart-breaking. In it, Wise's recounts how his strong, progressive grandmother succumbed to debilitating Alzheimer's disease to the point where she could not remember anything about her life... except that her African-American nurses should be addressed by the N-word. Wise writes that "resisting socialization requires the ability to choose," and that the disease that sapped his grandmother's soundness of mind took away her power to resist after a lifetime of standing up against oppression. The point is this: our society is so steeped in white privilege and racist attitudes that all of us-- Wise, his grandmother, the little black girl, you and I-- have been planted with the seeds of oppression. Untended they grow, and because of this part of our humanity is stolen from us.

Part of our humanity is stolen from us. Part of our humanity is stolen from us. Part of that little girl's humanity is stolen from her. Part of my humanity is stolen from me.

Wise cautions against white guilt, which is paralyzing and so does no good. And even though this isn't the first time I've felt the knife twist in my heart (it won't be the last, either) I'd like to take a space of time to mourn. Which doesn't mean that I'll stop working to resist racism, or that I won't celebrate the human spirit alive and well where I find it, or that I won't be thankful for the healing of human souls and social systems. But as I have found over time, the ones who mourn are the ones who are blessed (I'm lifting my language right out of Matthew 5:4, btw). By not suppressing the horror and sadness that come out from seeing that little girl push the doll towards me, or reading about Tim Wise's grandmother, or listening to the choreopoem of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls / Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf, I'm holding on to what humanity I have.