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The BEAUTY of an Illness:



The Amazing Grace of



Balancing Religion and Justice WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH


CONTENTS | MARCH 2013 F EATU R E S 18 Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds: Balancing the Scales of Religion and Justice 32

The Beauty of An Illness…MS


Bottom 47 | Rape No More: The Amazing Grace of Haitian Women

D E PA R T M E N T S 6

FROM THE PUBLISHER Shining the Light on Women, the Epidemic of Multiple Sclerosis


WRIGHTINGS | The Great Mind Challenge


A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR Thank You, Lord, For Creating the Black Woman

GLOBAL NOTES 12 Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage 16 Let Them Fight … Right? 22 Teenage Civil Rights Activist Sings Her Way to Womanhood: The Story of Bettie Mae Fikes SOUND ADVICE 26 Ask the Dentist… Cold Sores 28 Manage Your Money Well: The Ins and Outs of Cash PHENOMENAL LIVING 24 Burned or Bald, You’re Still Beautiful! 30 Behold Your Own Beauty: You’re More Than Your Hair SOUNDING ON 34 Loving Our Black Sisters 38 A Tribute to the Black Woman 40 BLACKWARDS African Woman | More than a Va-JJ REAR VIEW 42 Standing Alone: Chicago Baptist Pastor Supports Same Sex Marriage


PUBLISHER/EDITOR IN CHIEF Jeri L. Wright EXECUTIVE EDITOR Dr. L. Bernard Jakes MANAGING EDITOR Janet B. Wright COLUMNISTS Colleen Birchett, Ph. D., Erika Bracey, Marjorie Clark, Patryce Denson, Kim Dulaney, Melody Ferguson, Keenan Glover, Jazmin Hall, Dr. L. Bernard Jakes, Rev. Rae Lewis-Thornton, Terry Mason, M.D., Rev. Waltrina Middleton, Rev. Derrick Rice, Natasha L. Robinson, Esq., Dr. Susan K. Smith, Brenda Taylor, D.M.D., Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Chris Hedges, Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds, Jeri Wright ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER/DIGITAL SALES & MARKETING DIRECTOR Nakia Green CREATIVE DIRECTOR LaShaunn Tappler JERI WRIGHT AND REV. DR. JEREMIAH A. WRIGHT, JR. PHOTOS Rodney Wright/Image Makers Photography BOTTOM 47: RAPE NO MORE PHOTOS CNN Heroes FOUNDER Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE 939 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642 Nakia Green, Associate Publisher 312.646.2144 | |

Contents may NOT be printed or duplicated without prior written permission from Trumpet Newsmagazine.






s we move into the month of March celebrating Women’s Month, Women’s History Month, and coming to grips with the reality of MS being an epidemic in the African American community among women, I realized there was no way I could publish this issue without having my aunt’s voice in it, even if only a small portion of her story. Because my business partner was diagnosed a few years ago, she was looking forward to interviewing my aunt. As the time began drawing near to compiling articles for the March issue, I began playing telephone tag with my aunt, Cynthia. Knowing she was recently released from the hospital, I began to get concerned when it took longer than three days to receive a response to the last voice message I’d left. I then followed up with an email. I was introduced to Cynthia as God

more and more amazed by her spirit, her love for the Lord, life, our family, and her commitment to ministry, yet even in the

blessed my father (her

midst of her sometimes painfully uncomfortable reality. Cynthia

“brother from another

became my aunt and partner in media ministry while being

mother”) over 25 years

wheelchair bound, living in Moraga, California. She offered

ago with an angel

herself completely to the work of ministry as she helped make

whose love for life

my job as media director much easier. As we talked about the

and the Lord is simply

work I was doing, Cynthia took the responsibility of compiling

amazing! She entered my life as a woman living through what seemed to be the horrors of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Wheelchair bound, unable to perform any personal daily activities on her own, including getting out of bed or even moving from the bed to her chair, the wife of Ron Carter, a man who

a catalog of every sermon title my father had preached since 1981, as all his sermons on cassette tape prior to ’81 had been destroyed in a church flood. Through painful bouts and progressions of new symptoms, Cynthia never complained, and completed a catalog of over 5,000 sermon titles. Because Cynthia is who she is, a loving angel, full of life, positive energy and encouragement, performing monumental tasks as if she has full functioning capacity of her central nervous system, never disgruntled or showing any sign of negativity, and always displaying the love of Christ in all she does, I did not

loved her unconditionally until his

realize the impact MS had on her life because she lives as though

death and proved his love daily as

none of the major changes in her life have taken place. She is a

he took exceptional care of her,

support system and beacon of hope for many women, especially

Cynthia spoke life into everyone

younger women diagnosed and living with MS. Even in her

she encountered. With every encounter of Cynthia, I became


response to my email asking how she is doing, she still seeks to offer herself:

Jeri, I’m so sorry I just opened this, and must have

about it. You would be amazed to learn of the people you know

missed the 24-hour deadline. As you may know I’m

living with MS, who simply have not disclosed their diagnosis.

managing serious escalating MS issues, combined

In fact, there’s probably more education about MS encountering

with Narcolepsy, which robs a major portion of each

this disease personally or through the lives of loved ones than is

day by sleeping.

offered through current scientific findings.

Sweetheart, by the Grace of God, supportive family and friends at 70, I’m managing. Truthfully by giving an honest report of my current state, bowel incontinence—colon rectal surgeon isn’t sure I can live through abdominal surgery for a colostomy, recent hospitalization for inability to digest solids or liquids,

MS has really become an epidemic among African American women, and we need to take notice, become aware, and get educated about the disease…

and total requirement for assistance to transfer, as well as perform personal requirements. I sleep in my

As I encounter my loved ones living with MS, I have learned

Lift Chair, unable to transfer to a bed. Medicare does

more from their experiences about the multiple ways it shows

not pay for my health aide, or significant costs I’m

itself than any information I have found researching MS. I

experiencing, but I’m Blessed by having enough funds

continue to glean from the blessing of the women I encounter

to pay for them. These factors might depress others

with MS, as well as the love they display. In fact, it occurred to me

with MS, realizing “they too may pass this way.”

as I was writing some of Cynthia’s characteristics, these are some

It is manageable, and MS is aptly named—it hits “Multiple” people in “Multiple” ways. After being diagnosed in 1968, remission until 1973, and then

of the same characteristics of other living angels God has blessed me to encounter who happen to be living with MS. MS has really become an epidemic among African American

worldwide travel, married to a Fantastic Man Ron

women, and we need to take notice, become aware, and get

Carter in 1981, and in 1983 exacerbation occurred,

educated about the disease, what it looks like, the symptoms,

but remission remained until my health declined from

and the treatments. Have you or someone you love come

1989 to present. The Good News is it’s been a slow

face-to-face with MS? Keep your eyes open for the women in

process giving me time to adjust!

your lives showing or complaining of some of the following

Perhaps my health will improve, and I can contribute to another “Trumpet …“ Issue.


I didn’t

• migraines

realize “Trumpet…“ was being published. How can I get

• imbalance

a subscription?

• numbness in the extremities

Love You,

• tingling of the fingers/hands


• loss of memory • many other symptoms.

This is actually the first time Cynthia has communicated in

Although you or your loved one experiencing MS might

detail what she’s dealing with. How perfect the timing of her

not talk about what it feels like living with MS, presence and a

sharing and the words perfectly placed to share …MS is aptly

listening ear just might be all the support needed to make life

named—it hits “Multiple” people in “Multiple” ways. Since my

more meaningful during the process.

life-changing encounter with Cynthia, I have encountered more young women suddenly diagnosed and now living with MS.

Be intentional about honoring all the women in your life this month!


Because we generally do not take time to get educated about the disease until and unless we, or someone we love, are affected by it, I am grateful we pause to nationally recognize MS education and awareness during this month, the same month we recognize Women’s History Month. Knowing the cause of this chronic, often disabling disease is still unfounded is reason enough to take notice, learn the symptoms, and get educated MARCH 2013 • TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE | 7




his month we celebrate the end of the Lenten Season, the Passion Week, and the week that is called “Holy Week” in the Christian tradition. The fourth Sunday in March is Palm Sunday and the last day of March is Easter Sunday. During this Sacred Month, I am challenging our readers. Many of our readers are not Christians and do

Our Hollywood representations of the crucifixion have hidden

not recognize this month as a Sacred Month.

from us the fact that the dehumanizing and degradation of the

I realize that. My challenge, however, is to all

persons who were crucified was just like the lynchings carried

of our readers—Christian and non-Christian.

out by the Klu Klux Klan in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries!

Beginning this month, I challenge you to read at least one book a month about the African American experience. I

You and I have seen pictures with Jesus wearing a robe on the Cross, or wearing a garment that is draped across his privates. Crucified persons were not covered up like that for modesty’s

honestly believe that you have the

sake. They were butt-naked as they hung on their crosses to die a

ability to read at least one book a

slow, painful and humiliating death!

week; but since you are no longer in

Stripping the prisoner naked was meant to embarrass him, to

school (most of you), I will hold my

shame her and to reduce their humanity to “less than human.”

challenge to one book each month

They were treated like animals—left hanging out naked “to dry”

this year!

for the whole world to see! Dr. James Cone’s book will open

Now for those who have not read at least one book about our history, our heritage, and our Legacy in January and February of 2013, that means that you are playing “catch-up.” That is all right.

your eyes to the reality of crucifixion (lynching) and to the true meaning of the Cross of Calvary! Dr. Cone’s book will also open your eyes to the nexus

You have nine more months to catch-up and to make your total

of religion and politics. Because of our tendency to “spiritualize”

for the year 2013, twelve books read, digested, discussed, and

the story of Jesus, far too many of us think that politics and


religion have nothing to do with each other. Those who think

This month, since we Christians celebrate the last days of Jesus’ life on Earth, I would like for you to read James Cone’s, The Cross and The Lynching Tree.

that way are absolutely wrong in their thinking. Politics and Religion are inextricably intertwined! Ched Meyers’ book, Binding the Strong Man, and Obery

We have so “spiritualized” the story of Jesus that we have

Hendricks’ book, The Politics of Jesus, go into great detail to

divorced it from its context and done great violence to its true

show the average Christian (who does not have a clue) just

meaning. Jesus was lynched!

how political the life, the ministry, the birth, the death, and the

Jesus was lynched just like hundreds of African Americans were lynched in the United States of America. The Roman

Resurrection of Jesus were and are! (For those readers who are eager to accept my weekly

crucifixion in the first century was an act of terror committed

challenge, you can read Meyers’ and Hendricks’ books as your

by European oppressors in North Africa! Public execution was

other two books for the month of March!)

meant to terrorize the people under oppression!


Reading Aldon Morris’ book, The

For those readers who are Christians, my challenge to you is to become a

Origins of the Civil Rights Movement and

critical thinker in 2013. I want you to

Paula Giddings’, When and Where I Enter,

come to grips with different authors’

give you facts that the “sound bites” and

scholarly studies, run them through the

the reduction of Dr. King’s ministry and

data bank of your own life’s experiences

the entire Civil Rights Movement keep

and our collective experiences as Africans

from you!

in Diaspora, and see what it is that God is

Don’t worry! I am not assigning those

saying to us in this second decade of the

books for next month. These are just

21st century.

examples of the kind of critical thinkers I

To give you an example of what I mean

am challenging you to become!

(and maybe even a preview of articles in

We start this month with Jim Cone’s,

the coming months in 2013), consider

The Cross and Lynching Tree, but speaking

this: when you read C. Vann Woodward’s,

of lynching, how much have you read

The Strange Career of Jim Crow, and

about Ida B. Wells? Paula Giddings’, Ida,

Lerone Bennett’s, Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White

A Sword Among Lions, is also a “must-read” for those who would

Dream, what you will come away with is a very different picture

know more about this giant of a woman who led the campaign

of Abraham Lincoln than the picture that Hollywood gives you.

to stop lynchings of African Americans in this country.

Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” is an American historical drama

Did you know how Ida. B. Wells was ignored and “dissed”

film. It is not historical fact. It is a drama put on the silver screen

by the Black leaders of her time—including W.E.B. DuBois? Do

to make money. What Woodward and Bennett do is not to make

you know which Black pastors here in the city of Chicago stood

money; it is to make sense of a very complicated and complex

with Ida? Stood against Ida? Wished Ida would go away quietly

set of circumstances that forced Abraham Lincoln into doing

somewhere and just leave that “touchy issue” alone?

many things that he had serious misgivings about! Did you know that Abraham Lincoln never intended for the Black and white races to be equal? Did you know that Abraham Lincoln says that plainly, clearly, and is quoted and cited as having so said by both Woodward and Bennett? Have you ever read the Emancipation Proclamation? Did you know the 13th Amendment does not free all persons in this country? Next month we are going to be celebrating and remembering

(Dr. King was not the first national African American leader to have Black preachers in the city of Chicago who opposed what they were trying to do for our people!) Dr. Miles Jerome Jones, the Professor of Homiletics at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, said many years ago, “thinking people need to shout sometimes.” He also said, “shouting people need to think sometimes!” Translated into “everyday” language, Dr. Jones was saying those of us who are uninhibited in our praise of our God need to

the multiple meanings of April 4, 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther

read, need to think, and need to analyze the context in which we

King, Jr., was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel

live. He was also saying that those of us who do engage in critical

in Memphis, Tennessee.

thinking need to praise God every now and then, and stop being

Have you read the sermon he preached on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church, one year to the date before he was gunned

so uptight about praising God! I challenge you to take Miles Jerome Jones seriously. I

down? Do you know the difference between the Martin Luther

challenge you to use the mind God gave you. I challenge you to

King, Jr., who started a movement and the Martin Luther King, Jr.,

listen to and take seriously the words of Jesus—even if you are

who is now enshrined in a monument?

not a Christian. Jesus said that we were to love God with all our

Have you read the inscriptions on the monument and compared them to Dr. King’s stance against militarism, capitalism and racism? Do you know who the first woman was who was going to be

hearts, souls and minds! This year I challenge you to develop the mind that God has given you to the fullest by exercising your mind just like you exercise to build a stronger body.


the woman to challenge the Montgomery Bus Company and its segregated policies? It was not Rosa Parks! MARCH 2013 • TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE | 9


Thank You, Lord, For Creating the


R E V. D R . L . B E R N A R D J A K E S


arch is Women’s History Month. This time has been designated to honor the myriad of contributions made by women, both past and present. In keeping with this month, but adding my own contribution to the designation, I am using this as an opportunity to celebrate God’s greatest creation—the Black woman. As the Mother of civilization,

is, and the importance of her place in society—past, present,

the Black woman has always

and future. It is easy to begin with the Black woman being

shown herself as strong and

created as an equal partner of Adamah in the Garden of Eden.

determined, yet nurturing and

Her role, although reduced by those who seek to blame her

compassionate. God endowed

for the plight of humankind because of disobedience, remains

her with God’s image, whereby

critically important to humankind. If it were not for the Black

she is able to walk in the

woman, civilization would not exist, as I understand it in the

presence of royalty, because she,

history of creation. In the history of Black women in America,

too, is royalty, but also sit with

if it were not for her serving as midwives and nannies to White

those who have not been invited

people’s children, I dread to imagine what would have been

to the palace, because they

the outcome. The Black woman, while serving White people’s

live in shacks in shantytowns. I

children, continued to serve her husband, if applicable, and

surmise God has given the Black

children as well. She was notorious for making much out of

woman an added something that

little, and making sense out of things that were nonsensical.

scripture does not mention. She

She is, and continues to be, the backbone of Black society and

is enigmatic, but revealing. She

the face of how a society can overcome. The success of Black

is a symbol of strength, power, and authority, yet she is humble.

people relies heavily upon the Black woman. Moreover, the

She has created kings, princes, preachers, and politicians, but

success of historically Black institutions relies heavily upon the

accepts the role of being the means by which this Black man

Black woman’s support. The Black church is a testament to this

is supposed to shine and liberate his people. She compliments


men through The Order of the Eastern Star, while collectively

The Black church has found her supportive base in Black

serving with other Black women through Alpha Kappa Alpha,

women. When Black men would attend Black churches and serve

Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho. She

as respective heads of boards and committees, coupled with

works tirelessly through other civic and social organizations,

serving as pastor, the Black woman was supporting the church in

while also working silently within her community. The Black

time, talents and treasures. Her contribution to the Black church

woman is God’s greatest creation.

was ensuring the doors remained opened, and this was done

I am sure many would attempt to argue that the Black

through a myriad of fundraising efforts. It was Black women

woman is not God’s greatest creation. This may arise out of

who would prepare weekly meals, whereas the profits would

racism, sexism, or misinformation about who the Black woman

be allocated to take care of the church. It was Black women’s


laborious efforts that made church teas and banquets a success.

well as through the prayers of the Mothers Ministry of our local

In addition to fundraising, Black women would comprise the


majority of attendees on any given Sunday, and this remains factual today. It is for this reason why I cannot fathom the continual

In the Black women’s ability to lift with prayer, she couples that prayer with love. There is nothing more powerful than the love of Black women. Her love can often be misconstrued as

struggles in many historically Black congregations, as it relates

gullible, because she continues to keep the faith despite the

to women serving in all aspects of the church. Irrespective of

evidence set before her. Her love is so unconditional that she will

the historical understanding of Black men being “in charge,”

love to the point it hurts her. It brings tears, fears, complications

because the only place he could serve as head or leader was

and uncertainties. However, she understands that when she

in the church, many men-led Black congregations continue

ceases to love whomever she is willing to sow this seed, it can

holding fast to Biblical illiteracy, while maintaining a Neanderthal

have a damaging impact on the person’s life.

practice of holding women hostage. The truth, as I see it, is that many Black churches would close if not for the attendance and sweat equity of Black women. Amid the scriptural abuse offered to women across many pulpits in the Black church, Black women continue to remain steadfast and unmovable in their faith and their local congregations. This speaks to the Black woman’s

Her love is so unconditional that she will love to the point it hurts her. It brings tears, fears, complications and uncertainties.

relentless spirit to continue pressing forward, despite the obstacles placed in her path. I would be remised if I didn’t speak to the Black woman’s faith, whereas she has lifted her people

Much more can be offered about the Black woman and my

from the depths of obscurity through prayer. My personal and

gratefulness to God for creating her. However, due to the lack

pastoral experience has taught me that a praying Black woman

of space, coupled with her continuing to be instrumental in our

is as dangerous as weapons of mass destruction, because God

present and future, I will conclude by using the lyrics of Beyoncé,

honors her prayers. There is a special connectivity Black women

with an added twist: Who run the world? Black Girls! Thank you,

have with God, whereby God responds to the petition of her

Lord, for creating the Black woman.


heart. I have witnessed it in my own life through my mother, as MARCH 2013 • TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE | 11





Chris Hedges gave this talk Saturday night in Brooklyn at the People’s Recovery Summit.


he corporate state has made it clear there will be no more Occupy encampments. The corporate state is seeking through the persistent harassment of activists and the passage of draconian laws such as Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act—and we will be in court next Wednesday to fight the Obama administration’s appeal of the Southern District Court of New York’s ruling declaring Section 1021 unconstitutional—to shut down all legitimate dissent. The corporate state is counting, most importantly, on its system of debt peonage to keep citizens— especially the 30 million people who make up the working poor—from joining our revolt. Workers who are unable to meet their debts, who are victimized by constantly rising interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent on credit cards, are far more likely to

a life of perpetual debt. It soon becomes impossible to escape the mounting interest rates that necessitate new borrowing. Debt peonage is a familiar form of political control. And

remain submissive and compliant. Debt peonage is and always

today it is used by banks and corporate financiers to enslave not

has been a form of political control. Native Americans, forced

only individuals but also cities, municipalities, states and the

by the U.S. government onto tribal agencies, were required to

federal government. As the economist Michael Hudson points

buy their goods, usually on credit, at agency stores. Coal miners

out, the steady rise in interest rates, coupled with declining

in southern West Virginia and Kentucky were paid in scrip by

public revenues, has become a way to extract the last bits of

the coal companies and kept in perpetual debt servitude by

capital from citizens as well as government. Once individuals, or

the company store. African Americans in the cotton fields in the

states or federal agencies, cannot pay their bills—and for many

South were forced to borrow during the agricultural season from

Americans this often means medical bills—assets are sold to

their white landlords for their seed and farm equipment, creating

corporations or seized. Public land, property and infrastructure,


along with pension plans, are privatized. Individuals are pushed

the job insecurity means that workers are reduced to doing

out of their homes and into financial and personal distress.

little more than eating, sleeping—never enough—and working.

Debt peonage is a fundamental tool for control. This debt peonage must be broken if we are going to build a mass movement to paralyze systems of corporate power. And the

And, most importantly, they are kept in a constant state of fear. Ehrenreich writes: When someone works for less pay than she can live on—

most effective weapon we have to liberate ourselves as well as

when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more

the 30 million Americans who make up the working poor is a

cheaply and conveniently—then she has made a great sacrifice

sustained movement to raise the minimum wage nationally to at

for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her

least $11 an hour. Most of these 30 million low-wage workers are

health, and her life. The “working poor,” as they are approvingly

women and people of color. They and their families struggle at a

termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They

subsistence level and play one lender off another to survive. By

neglect their own children so that the children of others will be

raising their wages we raise not only the quality of their lives but

cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes

we increase their capacity for personal and political power. We

will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation

break one of the most important shackles used by the corporate

will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working

state to prevent organized resistance. Ralph Nader, whom I

poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to

spoke with on Thursday, has been pushing activists to mobilize

everyone else.

around raising the minimum wage. Nader, who knows more about corporate power and has been fighting it longer than any other American, has singled out, I believe, the key to building a broad-based national movement. There is among these underpaid 30 million workers—and some of them are with us tonight—a mounting despair at being unable to meet even the basic requirements to maintain a family. Nader points out that Walmart’s 1 million workers, like most of the 30 million low-wage workers, are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than

It is time to halt the sacrifice of the working poor. It is time to empower the 30 million low-wage workers—twothirds of which are employed by large corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s—to fight back.

workers made in 1968, although these Walmart workers do the work required of two Walmart workers 40 years ago. If the federal minimum wage from 1968 were adjusted for

It is time to halt the sacrifice of the working poor. It is time to empower the 30 million low-wage workers—two-thirds of

inflation it would be $10.50. Instead, although costs and prices

which are employed by large corporations such as Walmart and

have risen sharply, the federal minimum wage remains stuck at

McDonald’s—to fight back.

$7.25 an hour. It is the lowest of the major industrial countries.

Joe Sacco and I spent the last two years in the poorest pockets

Meanwhile, Mike Duke, the CEO of Walmart, makes $11,000 an

of the United States, our nation’s sacrifice zones, for our book

hour. And he is not alone. These corporate chiefs make this much

“Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We saw in Pine Ridge, S.D.,

money because they have been able to keep in place a system

Camden, N.J.—the poorest and the most dangerous city in the

by which workers are effectively disempowered, forced to work

nation—the coalfields of southern West Virginia and the produce

for substandard wages and denied the possibility through

fields of Immokalee, Fla., how this brutal system of corporate

unions or the formal electoral systems of power to defend

exploitation works. In these sacrifice zones no one has legal

workers’ rights. This is why corporations lavish these CEOs with

protection. All institutions, from the press to the political class

obscene salaries. These CEOs are the masters of plantations. And

to the judiciary, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate

the moment workers rise up and demand justice is the moment

state. And what has been done to those in these sacrifice zones,

the staggering inequality of wealth begins to be reversed.

those places corporations devastated first, is now being done to

Being a member of the working poor, as Barbara Ehrenreich chronicles in her important book “Nickel and Dimed,” is “a state of

all of us. There are no impediments within the electoral process or

emergency.” It is “acute distress.” It is a daily and weekly lurching

the formal structures of power to prevent predatory capitalism.

from crisis to crisis. The stress, the suffering, the humiliation and

We are all being forced to kneel before the dictates of the


marketplace. The human cost, the attendant problems of drug


and alcohol abuse, the neglect of children, the early deaths—in


Pine Ridge the average life expectancy of a male is 48, the lowest

administration of

in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti—is justified by the

purchasing power would periodically

need to make greater and greater profit. And these costs are

liquidate business enterprise, for shortages

now being felt across the nation. The phrase “the consent of

and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous

the governed” has become a cruel joke. We use a language to

to business as floods and droughts in primitive society.

describe our systems of governance that no longer correspond

Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a

to reality. The disconnect between illusion and reality makes us

market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such

one of the most self-deluded populations on the planet.

a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time

The Weimarization of the American working class, and increasingly the middle class, is by design. It is part of a corporate reconfiguration of the national and global economy

unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organizations was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill. The global and national economy because of this “satanic

into a form of neofeudalism. It is about creating a world of

mill” continues to deteriorate, and yet, curiously, stock market

masters and serfs, of empowered oligarchic elites and broken

levels are close to their highs in 2007 before the global financial

disempowered masses. And it is not only our wealth that is taken

meltdown. This is because these corporations have been able to

from us. It is our liberty. The so-called self-regulating market, as

suppress wages, slash social programs and bilk the government

the economist Karl Polanyi wrote in “The Great Transformation,”

for staggering sums of money. The Federal Reserve purchases

always ends with mafia capitalism and a mafia political system.

about $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities and

This system of self-regulation, Polanyi wrote, always leads to “the

Treasury bills every month. This means that the Fed is printing

demolition of society.”

endless streams of money to buy up government debt and toxic assets from the banks. The Federal Reserve now owns assets,

The disconnect between illusion and reality makes us one of the most selfdeluded populations on the planet.

much of them worthless, of $3.01 trillion. This is triple what it was in 2008. And while corporations such as Citibank and General Electric loot the Treasury they exact more pounds of flesh in the name of austerity. General Electric, as Nader points out, is a net job

And this is what is happening—the demolition of our society

exporter. Over the past decade, as Citizens for Tax Justice

and the demolition of the ecosystem that sustains the human

has documented, GE’s effective federal income tax rate on its

species. In theological terms these corporate forces, driven by the

$81.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits has been at most 1.8 percent.

lust for ceaseless expansion and exploitation, are systems of death.

Because of the way General Electric’s accountants play with

They know no limits. They will not stop on their own. And unless

tax liabilities the company actually receives money from the

we stop them we are as a nation and finally as a species doomed.

Treasury. They have several billion dollars paid to them from the

Polanyi understood the destructive power of unregulated

federal government into company bank accounts—and these

corporate capitalism unleashed upon human society and the

are not tax refunds. The company, as Nader argues, is a net drain

ecosystem. He wrote: “In disposing of a man’s labor power the

on the Treasury and a net drain on jobs. It violates a host of

system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological,

environmental and criminal laws. And yet Jeffery Immelt, the CEO

and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag.”

of General Electric, was appointed to be the chairman of Obama’s

Polanyi wrote of a society that surrendered to the dictates

Jobs Council. Immelt’s only major contribution to the jobs

of the market. “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural

initiative was to get rid of 37,000 of his employees since 2001.

institutions, human beings would perish from the effects

Jim McNerney, president and CEO of Boeing, who also sat on the

of social exposure; they would die as victims of acute social

Jobs Council, has cut over 14,000 jobs since 2008, according to

dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation.

Public Campaign. The only jobs the CEOs on the Jobs Council

Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and

were concerned with were the ones these CEOs eradicated. The

landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized,

Jobs Council, which Obama disbanded this week, is a microcosm

the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally,

of what is happening within the corridors of power. Corporations


increasingly terminate jobs here to hire grossly underpaid workers in India or China while at the same time stealing as much as fast as they can on the way out the door. As Michael Hudson has pointed out, financialization has created a new kind of class war. The old class warfare took place between workers and bosses. Workers organized to fight for fair

political control by the corporate state—is to raise the minimum wage. There are other solutions—forgiving mortgage and student debt, instituting universal health care, establishing a nationwide jobs program to rebuild the country’s Third World infrastructure, and green energy—but none of this will happen until we are able to mount a sustained mass movement that discredits the corporate state. This mass movement will arise, as Nader says, when we mobilize around the minimum wage.

wages, better work hours and safety conditions in the workplace as well as adequate pensions and medical benefits. But with a country of debtors and a government that must also borrow to continue operating, Hudson says, we have changed the way class warfare works. Finance, he points out, controls state and federal

We are bound with many chains and shackles. We will have to break them one at a time.

policy as well as the lives of ordinary workers. It is able to dictate working conditions. The financiers, who insist that cuts be made so governments can repay loans, impose draconian austerity and long-term unemployment to, as Hudson told a Greek newspaper, “drive down wages to a degree that could not occur in the company-by-company clash between industrial employers and their workers.” The former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying before Congress, was quite open about the role of debt peonage in keeping workers passive. Greenspan pointed out that since 1980 labor productivity has increased by about 83 percent. Yet real wages have stagnated. Greenspan said this was because workers were too burdened with mortgage debts, college loans, auto payments and credit-card debt to risk losing a job. Household debt in the United States is around $13 trillion. This is only $2 trillion less than the country’s total yearly economic output. Greenspan was right. Miss a payment on your credit card and your interest rates jumps to 30 percent. Fail to pay your mortgage and you lose your home. Miss your health insurance payments, which have been spiraling upwards, and if you are seriously ill you go into bankruptcy, as 1 million Americans who get sick do every year. Trash your credit rating and your fragile financial edifice, built on managing debt, collapses. Since most Americans feel, on some level, as Hudson points out, that they are a step or two away from being homeless, they are deeply averse to challenging corporate power. It is not worth the risk. And the corporate state knows it. Absolute power, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, depends on fear and passivity. The only way to break this fear and passivity is to organize workers to break the cycle of mounting debt. And the first step

The lowest-grade worker at the General Electric plant that makes high-tech health care devices outside Paterson in Totowa [New Jersey]—a pay grade known as the D 04—was just raised to $14,555 a year. That is under $8 an hour. The plant’s highestpaid hourly employee, known as D 16, earns $22,000. Immelt makes over $11 million a year. This vast disparity in income, and this wage abuse, is played out in every corporation in the country. No one in Washington intends to challenge it. Only 11.3 percent of workers in this country belong to unions. This is the lowest percentage in 80 years. And nearly all these unions, and especially the AFL-CIO, have been emasculated by corporate power. Nader is right when he warns that we are not going to be assisted in this effort by established unions. Union leaders are bought off. They are comfortable. They are pulling down at least five times what rank-and-file workers make. Nader says we have to mount protests not only outside the doors of Walmarts and General Electric plants, not only outside congressional offices, but outside the doors of the AFL-CIO. There is no established institution inside or outside government that will help us. They are all broken or complicit. But there are the 30 million working poor who, if we organize to break the system of debt peonage that holds them hostage, may be willing to rise up. We are bound with many chains and shackles. We will have to break them one at a time. But once we rise up, once we are able to threaten the corporate systems that keep us supine through fear, we will unleash a torrent of energy and passion that will confirm the worst nightmares of our corporate overlords.


Published on Monday, February 4, 2013 by TruthDig. Reprinted with permission from author.

to achieving independence from debt—the primary form of



Let Them Fight … Right? KEENAN GLOVER


hroughout history, women have shown their strength and resilience against injustice. They took a stand to be represented at the polling booths. Because of their tenacity, the nineteenth amendment allowed women of America to finally vote. Women proved they are more than capable to be part of the workforce when they took the place of men in factories during World War II. Moreover, women have advocated for better treatment for rape victims, thus yielding rape hotlines and crisis centers. Women have demanded equal pay for job positions. Women have exceeded old societal standards by holding public office, playing in professional “men’s” sports, and serving as chief executive officers. Even today, in the question of whether a woman should have control over child birth, they still fight. Almost 65 years ago, former President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981. This historical article of legislation ended all racial and gender discrimination, segregation and quotas

it was convincing enough to keep female soldiers beneath men who served. I’m sure that women, men, and those who believe in justice

within the United States’ military. Many rejoiced over the victory

sounded off in disagreement with this Pentagon policy. For

and hope of a unified nation was renewed. In particular, the

the most part, it went unattested. Not much attention was

gender roles of women were beginning to shift. They were now

brought to the rule until 2011 when the Military Leadership

able to fight in order to serve and protect the United States.

Diversity Committee (MLDC) conducted a study of diversity in the military. While they found that lower level ranks were racially

She put a dead soldier in a body bag and organized defense drills to lead the unit to safety.

and ethnically diverse, the same could not be said about the top ranks of the military - white men disproportionately obtained the highest positions. Some may argue that the numbers just happened to work out the way they did. Perhaps white men just excelled the best in the military. The MLDC took the opposition. They highlighted that women were greatly underrepresented in

In spite of this revolutionary Executive Order, women

the top ranking positions. The fact that women were excluded

encountered yet another setback. In 1994, a ban on women

from front-line combat—which is frequently a resource for

serving in direct combat was put into effect. The order directs

promotion-—seemed to be the cause.

that “women shall be excluded from assignment to units below

One solution to this quandary was to uplift the ban on

the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct

women in combat. With the belief that women should be able

combat on the ground.” Did those who advocated for this ban

to perform jobs such as infantry, armor and special services,

believe that women were physically incapable of fulfilling those

those with the pro belief wrote furiously to their elected officials.

duties? Maybe they assumed women could not withstand the

Groups dedicatedly lobbied Congress to sway legislation in

intense environments and activities combat soldiers endure.

their favor and hurry processes along. Gradually, awareness

One who supported the ban could have possibly supposed that

was spread throughout the nation about the issue. Many

females would slow down the combat unit as a whole, putting

supporters joined the fight for equality, and just as many took

the entire troop in grave danger. Whatever the concerns were,

the opposition.


On January 28, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

female counterpart. It is human nature for a man to help the

scribed the signature that ended the 1994 ban that kept women

“damsel in distress.” Of the 280,000 women who have served in

from serving in combat. This was not done without controversy

the War on Terror, over 1,000 have been wounded or killed. Have

and conflicting opinions, however.

any of the male comrades felt they were putting themselves and

Many believe this was long overdue. Why should women

others in danger by coming to the aid of a fellow female soldier?

not be allowed the opportunity to perform the same military

Why would it be any different than coming to the aid of a male

duties as their male counterparts? If one could prove to be

soldier? Perhaps during training, this mindset of emotions can

physically and mentally capable of serving a role, why should

be numbed so that the American soldier can be seen without

gender matter? Women should have the chance to whole

having a gender. For example, it is human nature to flee from the

heartedly serve their country as any other citizen of the nation.

sound of a gunshot. However, through basic training, one grows

Whoever meets the qualifications of the position should earn

accustomed to the sound, acquiring the inclination of drawing

it. This eliminates all gender predispositions and leaves results

towards enemy fire to eliminate the threat. Perhaps specialists

based on a participant’s performance. Dan Glass, a retired

can devise a type of training that would enable men to become

Marine Corps Sergeant, recalls fighting alongside a woman in

accustomed to fighting alongside women in combat, and vice

Iraq during an ambush. He says that “she took control of the

versa. There is hope that the integration of men and women on

situation.” She put a dead soldier in a body bag and organized

the frontlines can be regulated.

defense drills to lead the unit to safety. This shows the amount

Despite the conflicting views and arguments of the

of strength and courage a woman possesses, even in the context

affirmative and the negative, the uplifting of the 1994 ban is

of a threatening combat situation. With the ban lifted, women

revolutionary. It will change the fabric of the United States

will further be able to prove their leadership to fellow soldiers.

military and that of others. The Pentagon will be a busy place of

Consequently, more women will have the opportunity to move

business as officials try to apply the provision without stepping

up the ranks of the armed services.

on the toes of more people. While the dust has not settled yet

While there are those who believe the removal of the 1994 policy will prove beneficial, others believe that it is detrimental. Among those concerned are soldiers. Some deem that women will not be ready to withstand the physical taxing of combat fighting - traveling daily with 150

and no one can clearly see where this unbarring is going, we can expect great changes in due time. Personally, I am proud to say that years from now, if my daughter decides she wants to be a part of special services in our nation’s military, I

pounds of equipment on their backs,

can tell her that her dream

using makeshift restrooms, and using

can be her reality. n

baby wipes to bathe—to name just a few. Some say that men will be put in danger if trying to save their





ntil you come to the point in your life where you know you are worthy, you will never find the satisfaction you’re looking for. It can’t be found in other people, in a lifestyle, in a career, or in possessions. Once you have true self-worth, you will be released from the opinions of others and you will find the life you’re searching for. —Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds From being broken-hearted in third grade by the mother of her classmate who told her she was not going to have a bastard child at her daughter’s birthday party, then not only put her out, but slammed the door behind her, to a legacy of empowerment and purpose, Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds epitomizes the embodiment of true self-worth, living free from the opinions of others. This woman of substance recently took time out to share her essence with Trumpet Newsmagazine. Experience Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds as she details meaningful moments on her journey. A LONELY JOURNEY… “I received my call to ministry and went to seminary while I was on the bench full-time as a trial court judge. It’s amazing how God has managed to keep me, and the very unusual route I had to take, in order to follow Jesus. In so many ways, it was necessary for me to observe the many atrocities and injustices in our criminal justice system in order to give a true witness of need for people to be treated fairly. “It has been quite a journey for me; a lonely one at that. Lonely because the legal profession is one of logic and critical 18 | TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE • MARCH 2013

thinking, built on facts and evidence. Although the ministry is one that uses critical thinking, it relies on the premise of faith. The Holy Scriptures tell us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. The two professions, on the outside, seemed contradictory in so many ways, but not to me. It felt natural. I have always felt different. It is my differences that have allowed me to peer into both sides of the world of oppression. For those of us in ministry, the loneliness we experience, in terms of our walk, is a necessary component as we grow ever so close to God. It is a walk of destiny, one in which we’re almost compelled to take each and every day. “I saw the movie Crash, and my call came immediately after watching that movie. Scenes from my life began to flash across the windshield of my car, and tears began to fall. I realized in that instant everything in my life, in which I had lived through, was so I could live a life that included ministry in some form. I accepted my call. I knew I had to go to seminary. I went to seminary after my mother died at a young age, because I was not happy with God. I went to the academy in search of God and found me instead. I didn’t go into ministry because people thought I could preach well. I went into ministry to fulfill what clearly was my purpose. I ran from ministry for many years. I knew my calling was to be a jurist and have come to understand there is room in this life to do ministry on many different levels. “My call to the bench was a life-long dream. I went to law school for the sole purpose of becoming a judge. I came out of a vey deprived kind of childhood. My mother was a single parent, and both she and my grandmother raised me. We were poor but very religious. Her life wasn’t easy. My mother suffered the indignities of being disrespected and the victim of domestic violence. She loved people who weren’t worthy of her love. God allowed her to live long enough to hold the Bible I used to take my oath of office as a judge. Becoming a judge represented the fulfillment of what my mother couldn’t do in her lifetime because she didn’t have the strength or the will to do so. She poured everything into me. Being judge allowed me to right a great deal of wrongs that had been done to her and women like her. The profession became a part of my identity. “Initially, I resisted going into ministry. I wanted to prove to the world that my mother and I both were worthy. After all, how many people could hold the esteemed position of serving as a sitting judge? I didn’t see the ministry as a place of high honor. There were so many scandals and a vast sea of hypocrisy. It wasn’t until I spent time in seminary that I came to a complete understanding of the tremendous honor ministry could provide to me. Ultimately, ministry helped me to understand I couldn’t MARCH 2013 • TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE | 19

do enough to right all the

“I spend a great deal of time telling young girls and other

wrongs that had been done

women I mentor, the best is yet to come in their lives. Adversities

in the past. It was through an

really can make a woman stronger. It’s important to me for

understanding of the character

young women to understand the true meaning of womanhood.

of God, the true meaning of

I want women to find themselves on the world stage by

liberation as manifestation in the

accepting themselves for who they are and for understanding

life and teachings of Jesus Christ,

their true worth. I believe the hand of God is with us and God

that I was able to appreciate my

has a marvelous plan for our lives if we can trust God, believe in

true role in ministry.

ourselves, be willing to take strategic risks and work hard.

After a recent birthday, Rev. Judge Penny reflected, “When

I spent my whole life searching, and living out a cause that was really from my own making.

“One of my greatest memories of God’s plan for our lives had

I turned 50 something clicked

to do with the fact that I would read your father’s magazine

inside of my spirit as a woman.

years ago. This was before I even thought of going into ministry.

It was a place of peace like no

Your father would be the annual revival preacher at the historic

other. It was a centering of

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA. My husband was associate

myself. I understood my worth.

pastor there and I remember thinking to myself, one day, I would

It gave me the opportunity to

be a part of the publication. Now, all of these many years later,

finally be open and not feel

God continues to remind me that God listens and the prophecy

the need to be in control of

was already in my spirit.

every single thing around me.

“I reflect on my mother, Deforest Marie Brown and I know she

I realized that I was never in

would be pleased at how the story of my life continues to unfold.

complete control anyway. I was

She did everything in her power to make my life better than the

finally willing to say to God

life she had. I am her dream. I have three sisters and we all are the

that I would go where God was

product of her hard work and her dedication to her children.

willing to send me. Now, I find

“I am grateful for the life I live and the contributions I’m able

myself in the position of seeing

to make. I can’t thank God enough. I can’t do enough. Even going

life as a series of unfolding

on television was a medium to be able to effectuate ministry,

opportunities. I will go wherever

while being able to stay true to my original calling.

I am called to serve. In the long

“One of the hardest lessons I had to learn occurred when I was

run, I’m no different than Peter, Matthew, or Mary Magdalene or

on the bench. Most African Americans have a story of when they

any of the other disciples. I am willing to go where God sends

were treated differently because of their race. One day while


on the bench, I put my robe on and went out to the courtroom

“I finally surrendered. I must confess, it was hard to do but

for a hearing. Everything in my life had finally come together. I

I finally did it. I became free from a place of oppression, to a

was no longer feeling disenfranchised because of my past. I had

place of freedom. I spent my whole life searching and living out

finally arrived. I sat down after the bailiff instructed everyone to

a cause that was really from my own making. I had to prove to

rise. Within minutes, one of the Caucasian lawyers who appeared

so many other people I was worthy. I was reliving my entire life

before me began to speak to me in a disrespectful manner. It

on the outside of the birthday tea party. I had to prove I wasn’t

was obvious it was racial in nature. After the hearing, I walked

the little girl looking out of the screen door, never feeling like

back into my chambers and cried. I remember crying out to the

I belonged anywhere. I used the power of education and the

Lord and telling God it wasn’t fair. I earned the right to be there.

shear will to prove to the universe that I did, in fact, matter.

I worked hard. The robe and the position were supposed to be

“The greatest aspect of feeling as I did was the fact that I was in tuned to the oppression of many other people who lived

respected. “God’s voice came down in my spirit and said, ‘My darling, not

on the other side of the screen door. Because of all of my early

your education, not your title, not anything you have will give

suffering, I have a heart for those who have been marginalized.

you what you’re looking for. Until you love the woman I have created, nothing will matter.’ I got up and at that moment, I was


There are growing images everyday in the media that constantly paint us as the angry Black woman. I will not participate in that image of Black Women. validated within myself. After that episode, I never looked to

started receiving calls from production companies offering me

anyone else to validate me. I never tried to prove anything else.

the opportunity to do a show, including an offer from Phil.

I had to grow-up in a totally different way. I realized the great

“I was completing my studies at ITC about the same time

equalizer in life could not be given by anyone who wanted to

and I saw the opportunity as an extension of ministry, but in a

oppress me. It is an important lesson for all of us to learn. We

different form. It gave me the best of two worlds, an ability to be

cannot look to those who want to keep us down and oppress us

on the bench, yet to a larger audience, while providing a positive

to give us freedom. They will not and cannot provide what is not

image of ministry on another dimension.

theirs to give. …TO A LIFE OF PRAISE! “After everything I’ve been through, I live my life on my own terms. I have finally achieved the peace of mind most people would give anything to possess. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for allowing me to have many options. There is no way a little black girl in the south, under the conditions I was brought into this world could be able to live life as I do. As an entrepreneur, I value the ability to be able to be self-sufficient and financially independent. As a dedicated public servant, I’m honored to serve and most importantly, as a minister, it is awesome to be able to help change lives. “There are thousands of women who want better lives for themselves and their children and they don’t know how to rise above their situations. Our challenge is not to forget about the people who weren’t able to get out from their circumstances. There are people with so many dreams that will never be realized because no one believes in them. I have created a foundation with a mission of restoring families though various programs, including educational summits, workshops and seminars on domestic violence, women’s health and empowerment, as well as HIV/AIDS awareness, and child empowerment activities.” Passing on a legacy of academic excellence to the next generation, Rev. Judge Brown Reynolds has provided scholarships for college bound high school students, for over ten years. Additionally, she founded the Girls in P.E.A.R.L.S. mentoring academy, teaching teens the principles of leadership, womanhood, and spirituality. Rev. Judge Brown Reynolds blesses millions of people through her syndicated daytime television court series. When asked about the series, Rev. Judge responded, “Family Court with Judge Penny came about after I did an appearance on Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil brought me on as a legal expert. After the show aired, I

“I decided to do a show contingent on the basis that I could own it. Rather than go with a traditional big Hollywood studio, I was in partnership with 3 other entities to produce the show. I served as an owner and Executive Producer. I am proud to say the show was Emmy Nominated. “The partners decided that it was not a venture we wanted to continue under the terms we originally agreed. I continue to own the show now running in syndication internationally. “It was a great business opportunity and allowed a different form of ministry on my part. Not many individuals on television can say that they owned their show. I have been very fortunate. However, television today has become somewhat of a dog and pony show with the domination of reality TV. There are growing images everyday in the media that constantly paints us as the angry Black woman. I will not participate in that image of Black women. “Profiting from the most irreprehensible behavior painting Black women in the ever-present stereotypes, with behavior perpetuated by indignities such as the use of vulgar language and fighting on screen, seems to be the new way to stardom. I think about the price my mother paid as a single mother and all the sacrifices made, for us to allow our legacy to be presented by a dishonest portrayal of who we are is not something I’m interested in participating. I believe not enough people are talking about it. “It is my hope, to the extent I do television again, it will be in a genre that doesn’t present a skewed perception of reality, but rather presents the reality of a true Black woman who knows where she came from and is proud of it on every level. I want to represent to the next generation of young women true success is possible when a woman works hard and dreams even harder. I represent a woman who overcame, against the odds, and still manages to have within my spirit a greater spiritual truth that we are only blessed so we can bless others.”




Teenage Civil Rights Activist Sings Her Way to Womanhood

The Story of Bettie Mae Fikes R E V. S U S A N K . S M I T H


he complaint is frequently heard that we don’t hear enough about the role, the very important role, women played in the Civil Rights Movement. Who knew, for example, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King first heard the cadence of “I have a dream,” preached by a young Prathia Hall Wynn, in her father’s church? Or who really knows about the tenacity of Fannie Lou Hamer as she endured being beaten and lost just about everything she had ever owned, and yet still refused to give up fighting for the right of Black people to vote? The stories of women in the Movement are fascinating, but one story stuck out this week, the story of Bettie Mae Fikes. Bettie was from Selma, Alabama, and, like many African American children, was shielded from racism as much as possible by her parents. Her mother was a gospel singer and they traveled greatly, she remembers, but she still didn’t know there were such major problems between Black and white people. “The white community, as far as I was concerned, was friendly to us. My godfather was a white man,” she said. It wasn’t until she “went North” that she experienced racial injustice. Her family moved to Detroit, and there, she saw it, tasted it and didn’t like it. Her mother died while the family was in Detroit, so she was whisked off to California, but eventually ended up back in Selma. Bettie said she didn’t know exactly what was going on when she got back to Selma, but she knew something was amidst and it wasn’t good. She could hear her relatives talking about the bad things happening to Black people, and she grew afraid. In the early ‘60s, Bettie Mae Fikes became involved in the Movement, not because she had any special affinity or fondness for what was being done, but because she just wanted to get out of the house “to keep from going to church so much.” She listened to people she didn’t know talk about “the Movement,” including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and grew interested, but not overly so. But then came a sense of urgency.


“All of a sudden, people are

“We had our jeans, sweatshirts.

coming to town and they’re

I had went [sic] to church every day,

talking about voters’ rights,” she

dressed to go to jail, protesting.”

recalled. “I didn’t know what was

The day she was arrested, however,

happening – that our parents didn’t

she was not dressed for jail. She

have the right to vote,” she said.

had on “my little stockings and little

“There were a few Black people

pumps and skirt to go take care of

who were registered, mostly in

business.” She was not supposed

Selma. Lowndes County and all

to be doing “movement work” that

these surrounding counties were

day. Her aunt had given her money

unregistered. So these are the

and told her to go pay the bills, and

things that brought me into the

that’s what she was poised to do.


But she stopped by the church

At first, Bettie says, she thought

and “the next thing I knew I was

the Movement, or being involved in it, was “just a good way to

leading a group of students out going to City Hall, protesting

get out of the house to keep from going to church.” But she said

and singing.” She says she was surprised when a state trooper

that her attitude changed before long. “…after things got serious

approached her and told her she was under arrest. “That was

– we was just being talked to at first, and we were going around

before Bloody Sunday,” she said. She said they had been taught

passing out leaflets, and that was fun, you know, for a teenager.

what to do, how to act, if ever arrested; they were supposed

Mass meetings started and I could sing. And I just thought that

to fall to their knees and make the police carry them to the

was all it was going to be like.”

busses that would take them to jail. If they stayed on their knees,

But she was wrong. In her own words, “things got nasty,” and

they were often branded with an electric cattle prodder. She

that’s when she saw the underbelly of the Movement. She began

didn’t want that; she and a friend of hers stayed on their knees

to see police brutality. “I had never seen it before; I just heard

as long as they could, but as the man with the cattle prodder

about it … I had never seen how the women, the older women,

approached, they got up.

the children, were disrespected, especially the older women.

She was taken back and forth to court during her three weeks’

And how people go in fear of their life. That’s what I mean – that

incarceration because she would not do as the court wanted her

it was serious. And when they were teaching us how to protect

to do. “They wanted us to say that Martin Luther King was our

ourselves, because we had to be non-violent, I didn’t figure it

leader so that they could charge him with ‘contributing to the

would (be) serious enough for us to be taking those types of

delinquency of a minor.’” Instead, they would say, when asked

lessons. Who would just hit you or beat me for no reason? Until I

about Dr. King, “Jesus lead me, and my mama feed me.” Back to

seen [sic] it happen. And once I saw that happen, I knew this was

jail they would go. Bettie found strength within she didn’t know


she had. She refused to say “yes sir” and “no sir” when questioned

She joined the Freedom Singers, and offered her rich, deep, velvety voice to the Movement. Freedom songs were energizing

by the judge. So she, in fact, did let her light shine. Bettie did not stop singing. Born in 1946, she is still singing,

for those who were on the front lines, and Bettie’s voice was a

still using music to bring hope and feed courage to people who

force to contend with. In 1963, she was jailed for three weeks

need it. She has sung all over the world, and in this country, she

for singing “This Little Light of Mine.” Historian Vincent Harding

has given concerts in places Blacks were once not allowed, even

points out the song was written as a way to proactively answer

to perform, including Carnegie Hall.

segregationists. The song said those in the Movement would

She has had a brilliant career, all starting from a teen who

let the light within them shine, no matter the evil they ran up

joined the Movement to get out of the house so she wouldn’t

against, and when Bettie sang it, as a teenager, it was enough

have to go to church so much.

to make one’s skin crawl. It wasn’t just a song. It was a message, delivered by a teen messenger. She hadn’t planned on going to jail that day, though she had trained for it. “I had been prepared for days to go to jail,” she said.

Bettie says, “I travel around the country trying to deliver the message that my grandmother passed to me: ‘I am too strong to be broken down.’ … All I can say is, we know where we’ve been, but we don’t know where we’re going.”




Burned or Bald,

You’re Still Beautiful! ERIKA BRACEY


he words chemotherapy rippled through my spine when my Oncologist said them to me. Nausea, fatigue, hair loss? The idea of accepting I had cancer was one thing, but to face the possibility of a mastectomy, cancer, radiation and chemo all in one serving is a bit much even for an extraordinary woman to digest. Surely, I would need my bible and a wonder woman’s cape, because only a super hero could endure that kind of mental mayhem. My aunt Sis always told me, “Your hair is your glory!” I never

house. When she was all done the house went into a roar with

made the correlation, but the thought of giving up my glory was

whistles and claps. Champagne was flowing as glasses clicked

devastating. Then I met Elizabeth Rivera. Talk about a fighter!

together in toast to Lessie. She looked beautiful and super

Four months after we met I was standing in her living room

chic. We led her to a mirror and watched as she looked at her

waiting in a line for my chance to snip off a piece of her hair. She

chopped mane. Her head tilted to the right, then the left as her

had a haircutting party and it was off the chain. About 25 of her

fingers ran through her hair, “I love it!”

close friends and family gathered to celebrate her life. She had

Four weeks later the remnants of her hair were gone. Her

begun taking chemo and decided to cut off her hair before it fell

head was completely bald, but she still looked like Lessie to

out. I tell you, she’s a brave chic, because I don’t know if I would

me. She was still the same girl I met four months prior who was

have had the courage to do that.

dealing with more than cancer, mastectomy, and chemo. Lessie

Finally, It was my turn and I was so nervous. The room was

was dealing with a divorce. Her now ex-husband, never called

noisy, but the only thing I heard was India Ari singing, “I am not

her, visited her, or even went to a doctor’s appointment since the

my hair” in the background. It was a humbling experience for me

day she told him she had cancer.

as I took a piece of her hair and neatly tied a strip of pink ribbon

CHEMO knocked Lessie down and deceived her into thinking

around it and cut a patch out of her head. Butterflies swarmed

she wasn’t strong enough to make it through. She was ready

throughout my stomach, but Lessie didn’t flinch. She was calm

to give up, but in God’s quiet way, God stepped in and allowed

and at peace.

Lessie to rest her pain and problems on God’s lap. God took

One by one her guest snipped a piece of her glory and tucked

away the wickedness and deception and replaced it with faith,

it away in small zip lock bags. After the final snip Lessie closed

hope, and self-worth. She put on her makeup when she could

her eyes as the humming of the clipper’s rolled across her head

and did not miss a beat. I admire her beauty and endurance and

cutting off years of baggage. I saw pain, hurt, resentment, and

the way she placed value back in her own life. Most of us would

fear fall off her head that day. There was not a dry eye in the

have fallen down and never gotten back up, but Lessie walked through the valley and made it out and now her story, her testimony of life will help someone else. I recently threw away Lessie’s lock of hair because once I snipped it out her head it was worthless. It could never be a part of her present, only a part of her past and right now she is not looking back. The phenomenal woman you now see is a phenomenal woman by the name of Lessie. Always know your worth!






old sores also commonly known as Fever Blisters, are clusters of fluid filled lesions. The most common place you can visually see them with the naked eye is on or around the oral cavity. But, they can occur inside the mouth, the cheeks, chin area or inside the nostrils. The causative agent of cold sores is the Herpes Simplex Virus-Type 1 (HSV-1). In literature, you may see reference to cold sores as Herpes Labialis. HSV-1 unsually enters the body through a break in the skin near the oral cavity. It is usually or commonly spread when a person has direct contact with the fluid of the lesion, kissing, or sharing eating utensils. Although not as frequent, it can also be spread by oral sex. More than half of the United Sates population will experience an outbreak by the age of 20. Although cold sores are self-limiting,

contain numbing agents will briefly provide

meaning they usually heal within two-three

relief and have to be applied often. An example

weeks, the HSV-1 remains dormant in the

would be Abreva. Prescription medications for

body, concentrated in the facial nerve and

management of HSV-1 are classified as anti-

will periodically reactivate creating new

viral medications and are prescribed for the

sores and symptoms often in the same

more severe and painful lesions. The anti-viral

areas. There is no cure for the HSV-1 that

medications speed healing and provide pain

causes cold sores. Once it enters the body,

relief. Examples of these are Acyclovir (Zovirax),

it will remain your lifetime.

Famciclovir (Famvir) and Valacyclovir (Valtrex).

Outbreaks may be influenced by stress,

The latter is more expensive, but clears the

menstruation, excessive sunlight, sunburn,

system faster. Another prescription medication

fevers, dental surgical procedures and

that dentists often use is an elixir compound,

other surgical procedures that manipulate

generically called Mary’s Magic Mouthwash. It

the oral and facial tissues, such as lip and face tattooing and

is equal concentrations of Benadryl: Visocus Lidocaine: Maalox.

Dermabrasion. Cold sores may be swollen, red, painful and sore.

The Benadryl is for swelling, the Lidocaine for numbing and pain

The lesions inside the oral cavity are most painful and may cause

relief and the Maalox coats the lesion to soothe irritation.

one to avoid eating and drinking. When the lesions leak fluid, the

Some effective measures to prevent contamination are

outer rim of the sore may form a crusty scab. If you experience

consistent hand washing with warm to hot soapy water for at

these symptoms or similar ones described here and are not sure

least one minute. Avoid touching an active outbreak site, abstain

what it is, or you have not been previously diagnosed, consult

from kissing and engaging in oral sex with an infected person.

your dentist or primary care physician, who can make the

Try to monitor stress levels and incorporate relaxation and


meditation techniques in your daily routine. Eat foods that boost

Treatment for cold sores is palliative and includes over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications. One should also avoid spicy and acidic foods. OTC creams and ointments that


your immune system, consume plenty of water, exercise weekly and lastly get plenty of rest. Be Healthy!







ou probably understand that managing your money is a brilliant plan, but you may also decide that if you handle paying your bills on time, you are doing very well. Unfortunately that may only be slightly true.

Ignoring, the bigger picture of your income, expenses, net

worth and debt can put you in an unexpected bind when you decide you are ready to take on large financial responsibilities such as buying a home or sending a child to college. Managing your money doesn’t mean creating a strict budget

financially in retirement, affording a good down payment on a home or paying for a college education without loans. Learn to understand and value money in an effort to reach your own financial freedoms. Financial independence is accomplished by what you do with what you make, not by what

and giving up the lifestyle you enjoy. What it does mean is that

you make. Let’s evaluate some unrealized secrets to reaching

when making decisions about what to spend your money on,

true financial independence. Complete these thoughts based on

you might want to consider how the spending will help you

your own experiences:

reduce your debt and accumulate more funds in the future. Even a conscientious person, who uses a lot of effort in

1. I make a lot of money, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I will …

managing their personal finances, may still disregard their

2. By the same token, I don’t need a lot of money to …

income and spending as a form of cash flow. They may never

3. My Financial Independence requires me to respect and

even use the term and possibly think it is a term reserved for businesses only. But every person also has cash flow, and figuring out whether it is positive or negative is very important to effectively managing your money. Look at it scientifically as the positive flow (+) and negative flow (-) as in the energy of a battery. The constant movement can be termed the ins and outs of your money which makes up your cash flow. For instance, when you deposit your paycheck, money is coming in; when you buy something, money is going out. The difference between the two determines whether you have a positive or negative cash flow. To further demonstrate this concept, consider that for a year or so you earn approximately $50,000 in wages and spend approximately $40,000 in expenses. What you would have, as a result, is a positive cash flow of $10,000 because your ins was more than your outs. But if you spend $55,000, your cash flow is negative $5,000 and needs serious attention—an adjustment to the management of your money, so to speak. Having a positive cash flow means you can pay your bills on time and cover any other immediate expense, plus have money remaining to spend as you please. Most important to your financial future and its security is having and maintaining a positive cash flow that allows you to save for long-term goals. Included in these types of goals are being comfortable


appreciate money by … VALUING MONEY MODEL • Nicole earns $500,000 per year but only saves and invests $2,000 a year. At that rate, by the end of 10 years with approximate 8% growth, she’ll have only $29,389 in savings. • Janice earns $75,000 per year but saves and invests $10,000 a year. At that rate by the end of 10 years with 8% growth, Janice will have $146,945 in retirement/savings. • Janice will have accumulated wealth of $117,556 more than Nicole despite Nicole’s greater earnings! In this paradigm, it is clear that Janice respects and appreciates her money, regardless of the amount she earned, while Nicole took what she earned and diminished its value, totally misunderstanding its purpose for her future. In order to gain financial independence, you have to become eager enough to see what the future embraces for you. You could benefit financially by following these very simple, yet serious, steps: • learn what goes into your cash flow and how to make sure it remains positive; • grasp the concept of valuing money by understanding how it works; and finally, • take action by managing your money so well that your future thanks you in advance.




Behold Your Own Beauty



ver the past five to seven years, there has been a movement by women of all backgrounds to get back to natural hair. Not simply ceasing the use of harsh chemicals that straighten the hair, but adopting the use of more natural products that contain no silicone, parabens, phosphates or any of the other chemicals that we can not pronounce. There are entire websites and blogs devoted to helping women make the transition from chemically altered to natural hair. In response to this need, an entire industry that was word of mouth has now gone mainstream, touting products that will not only make the “transition” a smooth one, but will help in the management of natural hair. Over a year ago, I was introduced to one of these products by

understand why. I had cut my hair before, so what was the big

a close friend, and after trying it, I too decided to go natural. So,

deal? Then, I remembered. The last time I had cut my hair was

I swore off the creamy crack and vowed to embrace the natural

when my grandmother died. Cutting my hair was my way of

hair with which I was born. As the weeks passed and more of

grieving. This time, though, I was not grappling with a life-

my natural hair grew in, I started reading some of the blogs in

altering event, so I asked myself: Why am I holding on to this hair

which women chronicled their hair journey, and the one thread,

as if my life depends on it? My answer came immediately: Because

that tied them all together, was how going natural was such an

hair equals beauty. But more poignantly, long hair equals beauty.

emotional decision. At this point, I did not understand why or

For centuries, society has dictated what is and should be

how going natural was so emotional because, after all, it is only

considered beautiful, and this notion of beauty has varied from

hair. Right? Soon, however, after a trip to the salon, I would begin

region to region. Unfortunately, however, these beauty standards

to understand the very thing to which these women referred.

were not attainable by all. In centuries past, it was always the

As I sat in the salon and explained to my stylist that I was no

aristocracy who determined what was beautiful. Whether it was

longer relaxing my hair, I was going natural, she looked at me

the use of a lethal combination of vinegar and lead by women in

and replied, “Okay, I was wondering why your hair was looking so

the Elizabethan Age to make the skin porcelain white, or binding

fluffy.” Now, in my estimation, the word fluffy is used to describe

the feet of upper-class young girls in China, what is beautiful has

a cloud, a pillow, a towel or a poodle, not someone’s hair! After

always been dictated to us in one form or another. While many of

that, I became much more aware of the different textures of hair since I stopped relaxing it, and I came to the conclusion I would eventually have to get all of the relaxed hair cut off, but I decided I would do it gradually in an effort to retain as much of my length for as long as possible. I was not ready for the “big chop.” Weeks went by and then

these old standards of beauty have died out, for those of us here in America, our beauty standards are alive and well. Long flowing hair, thin bodies with long legs, small waists and round perky breasts are the criteria of beauty in our society. Moreover, having a light complexion, thin nose, light eyes and silky, not kinky, hair are even

months, and I still refused to

more important when it

cut my hair, and I could not

comes to determining who


So, after nine months of indecision, I finally decided to cut the very thing that gave me a false sense of true beauty. I finally let go of everything I thought beauty to be and decided to embrace my inner beauty. is beautiful and who is not. As a result, generations of women,

raised a family, it was not only the beauty in her determination,

African American women, have grown up believing they are not

but the beauty of her accomplishments that showed me I, too,

beautiful because the standards by which beauty is assessed in

can do and be anything I choose.

our society are not attainable. Beauty was, and still is, seen through celebrities, so our

Still thinking of my mother, I began to think about all of my “aunties”—my mother’s band of “sisters”— and the community

great-grandmothers compared themselves to Greta Garbo and

of support they have been for one another. I thought about their

Marlene Dietrich. Our grandmothers compared themselves to

gab-fests and their prayer circles, but mostly, I thought about

Ingrid Bergman and Rita Hayworth, and our mothers compared

their confidence, both individually and collectively. During the

themselves to Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Granted,

late ‘70s and early ‘80s, my mom and her cohorts all donned

during the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, African American women were

short, cropped hair at a time when it was not seen as particularly

also among those who were deemed beautiful. Women like

flattering on a woman. The beauty in their confidence, in their

Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker and Diane

defiance of what society considered beautiful, showed me

Carrol were not simply known for their beauty, but for their

“I Am Not My Hair” decades before it was something I could

talent as well. Still, despite their talent and intellect, their beauty

understand or accept.

was highlighted due to their European features. While this does

After seeing all of the beauty I had been surrounded by

not overshadow their talent or diminish their accomplishments

throughout my life, I did not have to think another minute about

and the contributions they have made to the African American

my hair. So, after nine months of indecision, I finally decided to

community or African American history, this goes to show how

cut the very thing that gave me a false sense of true beauty. I

our notions of beauty are deeply ingrained in us and in our

finally let go of everything I thought beauty to be and decided to

society. Even into the ‘70s and ‘80s, women like Farrah Fawcett,

embrace my inner beauty.

and Bo Derek, along with Brooke Shields, Madonna . . . get the

“Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” is an old adage we have

picture? It wasn’t until Pam Grier appeared as Foxy Brown and

heard many times, but seldom take the time to truly understand

Teresa Graves appeared as Christi Love that African American

its message. While society may set the standard for what beauty

women and African American little girls, like me, began to see

is, we as individuals do not have to accept what society presents

in the media true representations of themselves that validated

to us. If we are unable to see the beauty within us, look at the

what they saw in the mirror everyday.

beauty that surrounds us. We should look to our mothers,

Despite all of this, for nine months, I struggled with the idea

fathers, grandparents and siblings. We should look to our aunts,

of cutting my hair until one day I had to take a long hard look

our uncles, our best friends and our children. Look at the things

at what beauty meant to me and decide who was going to set

that endear them to us; look at what makes them an integral part

that standard for me. That’s when I began to think about my

of our lives and our hearts, and focus on how they enrich our

community and all of the women who helped me become

lives, and make our lives more beautiful.

who I am. I thought of my grandmothers and the many hardships each

Does this mean we should not focus on the outside at all? Absolutely not! So, go on and get your hair done, get your mani

had to overcome in her life. I thought of the strength it took to

and your pedi. Put on that little black dress with your cha-cha

raise a family in a segregated city and not be deterred by the

heels and paint your face nice and pretty, but while you are

limits society set in place. It was this beauty in their strength that

doing all of that, know your true beauty comes from within.

helped me realize what others thought of me was not nearly as

Because when you become the beholder of your own beauty,

important as what I thought of myself.

everyone else will see it too.

I thought of my mother and the determination she displayed while pursuing her education. As she worked, went to school and



Appears on India Arie’s 2006 CD Testimony: Vol.1 Life & Relationship



The Beauty of An Illness… NAKIA GREEN



ave you ever found yourself in the midst of a situation where you were suddenly surrounded by illness? Illness, as defined by, is an unhealthy condition of body or mind. Illnesses can be debilitating and often times, life-threatening.

I would hear her talk about having a headache, pain in her legs, and being tired. She still managed to push through without anyone ever knowing her secret.

of life, hilarious, kind, and such the go-getter! I couldn’t believe that she suffered with this illness. She does not look sick at all! Just about 30 days later, I too was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t look sick either. My best friend’s Mom has been dealing with MS, practically in silence. I watched her daily routine of going to work, raising three kids (plus me), being active in church, and being a loving wife and friend. We have been friends for 16 years, and it probably wasn’t until the last six years that I have known about her battle. She endures pain daily, and still manages to wear a

The beauty of an illness occurs when the outcome is life-

smile. I would hear her talk about having a headache, pain in her

changing verses being life-threatening. The real beauty shines

legs, and being tired. She still managed to push through without

through when the unhealthy conditions of the body act as

anyone ever knowing her secret.

drivers to completely enhance the disposition of the mind.

A newly transferred employee had a mother who walked with

To some that can appear as an oxymoron, however, I have

a cane, when we first met. A few short months later, she was

experienced it! I have experienced it through my encounters

wheelchair bound. I saw her often and we even went to the same

with an onslaught of revelation of one loved one after the next

hospital. We began to build a relationship. Each time I saw her

disclosing their experiences with Multiple Sclerosis. In every

it was draining for me. It literally made me sick. Not because of

aspect of my life, I am experiencing the beauty of an illness, as I,

anything she did wrong, but because I could not deal with the fact

too, am faced with the same life-changing diagnosis.

that I could also be wheelchair bound. I could also one day, what

MS was hitting me in my personal life, school, and work. My

I now see as a privilege, not be able to walk around in six-inch

best friend’s Mom has been battling MS for years. One of my

heels all day! (I am very proud of that!)☺ I could not stand to see

employee’s Mom was suffering with a progressive form of MS

anyone that had any form of ailment as it relates to his or her legs.

that caused her to be wheelchair bound, and one of my good

I saw her push through, and continue to have a sense of humor.

girlfriends was diagnosed a mere 10 years earlier. The interesting

However, I was not prepared to watch so I had to remove myself.

part of this story is that within a year each of the three diagnoses

My beautiful friend Kem, she, by design, is called by name.

was revealed to me. Most people don’t walk around shouting

Kem was the person that told me the truth, dragged me to c

their ailments from the rooftop. Instead, they keep the secret

onferences about MS, made me talk about it, first introduced

until it is time to share. They all have shared their experiences

me to glutton-free cheese, told me that I needed to work out,

with me. My good friend, Kem, was the last person to share with

I needed to change my diet, and I needed to get some rest. She

me about her illness. I remember it like it was yesterday. We sat

got on my last nerves!! “Kia, you need to listen to your body,” she

in an Italian restaurant drinking wine, confiding in one another

would say. When I couldn’t give myself injections, and was lying

about the troubles we faced, and then she told me. I looked at

to my family about whether or not I took my medicine, she not

Kem and I couldn’t believe it! She is beautiful! She is vibrant, full

only tried to help me through it, but threatened an intervention


with my family every chance she got! Jeez! She got on my nerves! Kem, as my Godmother so aptly put, is my hope. She has been the consummate example of how to live this life with MS, take control of it, and not allow it to take control of her. As we honor women during National Women’s Month, I celebrate these women. These women have never met one another, but all carry the same torch kept lit by their strength, courage, love, and determination. It is a fire that can only so divinely be placed inside of the belly of a fighter by the hands of God. I celebrate these women! I have been blessed to have women in my life who epitomize what it means to be a woman. I have been blessed to be taught how to honor and affirm the gifts and talents of all of God’s children. I celebrate that even though their bodies have been afflicted with an illness, their minds and spirits have not. I celebrate the gift they have been to me! I recall the evening my Doctor called me at work, and demanded I come in right away. It was at that moment where I first experienced the beauty of illness. It was in this moment where I first heard the voice of God. The first time in my life where I can identify God was speaking directly to me. I heard God say to me, “You will be able to handle this, I got you!” I held on to that. I believe that. At least I like to believe I do. I normally don’t talk about it at all. It was brought to my attention the only time I do is when I am using it as an example to help other people. Today, I share it, just as those strong women shared with me. As I was preparing my article, I had no intentions on writing about this. I was all prepared to talk about the fabulous women in my life, and how they are one of a kind. I have a long laundry list of those women, so it was going to be great! However, God decided other wise. My Auntie Bud would say God wrote this article, and I would have to agree! Never in a million years did I think this would be how I would begin my own healing. Four years after being diagnosed, I finally have said it out loud. I have Multiple Sclerosis. I am not sure what’s next, but I anticipate and happily wait my healing. I await to experience, yet again the beauty of illness. 



LOVING OUR BLACK SISTERS N ATA S H A L . R O B I N S O N Dat man ober dar say dat woman needs to be lifted ober ditches, and to have de best place every whar. Nobody eber helped me into carriages, or ober mud puddles, or gives me any best place and ar’n’t I a Woman? —Sojourner Truth


I’m a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman. That’s me. — Maya Angelou Bitches ain’t s*** and they ain’t sayin’ nothing, A hundred motherf****** can’t tell me nothing. I beez in the trap, bee beez in the trap. — Nicki Minaj

f someone were to ask me to name the eighth wonder of the world, I would unequivocally state, “the Black woman.” I believe with my whole heart no other creation has accomplished more, withstood more, endured more, and overcome more than the Black woman. As a Black woman, I know I stand on the shoulders of those women who were beaten, whipped, spat on, raped, marginalized, misunderstood, overlooked, and underappreciated. I stand on the shoulders of those women who have been celebrated, uplifted, encouraged, worshipped, admired, and adorned. The creation of the Black woman is arguably one of God’s greatest creations. This world, as we know it, would not exist without the Black

existence of the Black

woman. Black women have been leaders, fighters, queens,

woman, all in their words.

inventors, innovators, teachers, mothers, daughters, sisters,

By no means do I

and survivors. Black women have presided over countries and

suggest this is all there

colleges, fought for civil rights and against civil wrongs, birthed

is to how Black women

babies and bequeathed dreams, created something from

feel about

nothing, and managed to let the tracks of their tears be their launching pads as they travelled upwards and onwards. Despite the rich and resounding legacy of the Black woman,


there still remains the mystery of why there is still a struggle

or how they

in viewing her as the wonder she is. History shows how Black

are depicted.

women in this country were victims of the double whammy:

Nevertheless, I am

they were Black and they were female. It took a considerable

strategic about the

amount of strength to balance both racial and gender identities,

quotes I selected.

yet the black woman has been a formidable force in both,

Listed above are quotes

suggesting to many they will not be forced to choose whether

from a female Black

they are Black or whether they are female, but they are both. The

abolitionist, a world-

accomplishments achieved by Black women seem to suggest

renowned poet and

victories that benefit both their racial and gender counterparts.

author, and one of

But for every victory, there remains an opponent that has yet to

the highest grossing

be conquered: how Black women view themselves.

and arguably influential

I opened this article with a modest representation containing a continuum of thoughts relating to the experience and 34 | TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE • MARCH 2013

entertainers of this youthful generation. Why is there such

a disconnect between how we as Black women view ourselves,

Black woman who

how we value ourselves and each other? To answer these questions, we must engage in some truth telling. bell hooks, renowned teacher, author, and speaker on the politics of race, gender, and class, states in her book, Sisters of

graduates with a 4.0 G.P.A. from Howard University the same

the Yam: black women and self-recovery, “commitment to truth-

truth of the young Black woman who dropped out of high

telling is . . . the first step in any process of self-recovery.” Poet

school to care for her newborn? Does the word “bitch” mean

and essayist Audre Lorde echoes this sentiment. In her book,

the same for the Black woman who was a child of the Civil Rights

hooks quotes Lorde, who writes in the essay, “Eye to Eye,”

Movement as it does for the Black woman who is a child of the

We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of Black women for each other…As we arm ourselves with ourselves and each other, we can stand toe to toe inside that rigorous loving and begin to speak the impossible—or what has always seemed like the impossible—to each other. The first step toward

Hip Hop generation? What is “the truth”? And to whom do we tell it? In this month’s issue of Trumpet, we honor and celebrate a woman’s worth. In sounding on, I join that salute to Black women. I would add, all Black women need to be celebrated. All includes the educated and uneducated, the poor and the rich, the refined and the rough-around-the-edges, those who believe

genuine change. Eventually, if we speak the truth

in the Lord and those who live life by their own religion, those

to each other, it will become unavoidable to

who refrain from using any language other than language for


the uplifting of their Black sisters, and those who use the word

Both women mention the concepts of truth and truth telling. In light of

“bitch” about as often as they take a breath of air into their lungs. Why would I suggest this? I do this because I believe it is high

all of the experiences and realities of

time we rid ourselves of the ideology of supremacy, the belief

an innumerable amount of Black

that there are those who are better than others. No one life is

women, what is our “truth”? Do

better or more expendable than another life. All Black women,

we have a singular “truth”? Or are

regardless of their lot in life, are valued and worthy! I do not have

our truths varied in time, space,

to believe in what you believe to honor you and celebrate you.

and location? Is the truth of the Black woman who has AIDS in South Africa the same truth as the Black woman who lives on the south side of Chicago with no education and three children? Is the truth of the Black woman billionaire who owns several homes around the world the same truth as the

We can agree to disagree, but that does not give me the right to disown or disvalue you! You are my sister and I am yours! I can shout to you all day long that there are ways in which to behave and the use of derogatory words and actions are beneath who you are and Whose you are. I can sign petitions and I can boycott the misogyny of Black women in society all I want, but if I have no love toward you, then my actions are meaningless. My Black sisters, we need the kind of reformative and

Black woman who

restorative love that changes, not simply chastises. We need to

stands in line

bring each other into the fold rather than cast each other onto

for hours,

the margins of society. As you reflect on this article, think of the

waiting for

ways you can be more loving to your Black sisters. Celebrate their

food to be

worth and their meaning in your lives. Encourage them and let


them know how you feel about them. Embrace them! Love them!

to her

Of all the revolutions I’ve read about, the ones that produced

and her

long lasting results were the ones where love was at the core and

family? Is

served as the foundation and impetus for change. So I say to you:

the truth

love’s in need! Let’s do our best to meet that need, one loving

of the

encounter at a time.




Bottom 47



Malya Villard-Appolon, co-founder of KOFAVIV – Commission for Women Victims for Victims. Image on Page 37: CNN Heroes



race is a wonder. Grace is sweet. Grace is powerful. Grace is a gift from our Creator. It is a weapon in which those who face insurmountable difficulties can tap to endure, overcome, and be transformed. Grace has its own energy. It is Heaven’s trembling, and to that end, in Grace, all things are possible. Grace empowers us to do anything, endure anything, and see the best in the most desperate spaces. Grace exposes ignorance

Rights in a country in which, since the earthquake, violence against women has escalated.

and Grace amplifies hard-won joy. Grace is the thread that binds

I was told a story about a man who endured unspeakable

hope in souls that are thirsty. And Grace is the crown that covers

abuse at the hand of his father. As a child, the man remembers

the heads of Haitian women as they fight to strengthen Women’s

many beatings. The man stated that, as a child, he wondered,


where was God and why did God let this happen to him? He even questioned God’s love. One day, when his father was in one of his tyrannical rampages, in keeping with custom, the boy’s father began terrorizing the young boy. The father shoved the

change in the rape laws for Haiti. In 2005, KOFAVIV cofounders Malya Villard-Appolon and Jocie Philistin worked to bring attention to Haiti’s leaders with a first-time-ever law that sanctioned rape in the region.” Because many of these women lost

boy. The boy fell to the floor, curled

everything during the earthquake,

up in a tight ball; the young child

including their homes, they were

began to ready himself for what was

left precariously vulnerable to rape

to come. Only this time, God granted

and sexual assault. Meanwhile, more

him a gift. It was the gift of grace to “see” something he hadn’t seen before. What the little boy “saw,” as his father was beating him, was miraculous. The now grown man states that, as

women and their families found themselves in tent cities where violence against women proliferated. Thus, women’s safety has become a huge issue. Subsequently, KOFAVIV provides safety courses as well

his father was beating him, he could see Jesus descending. He

as whistles and flashlights to help deter would be offenders as

then saw Jesus cover his body while he was being beaten by

women go about their lives.

his father. Hence, the man, as a little boy, saw Jesus taking the

KOFAVIV also provides services such as medical, health,

beating for him. The little boy got the beating, but also realized

therapeutic and social support. They even offer micro lending

he wasn’t alone and Jesus was with him, even in that place that

to help women lift themselves from poverty. In Haiti, women

was so dark. There is something very therapeutic about knowing

make up nearly 50% of head of households. This means that they

we are not alone.

are disproportionately the ones, along with their children, most

While reflecting on this particular story, I thought about women all over the world enduring things that only deep

vulnerable to poverty and abuse of all kinds. “In 2011 KOFAVIV, with international partners, worked to

inaudible groans might articulate. I thought about my sisters in

bring more reform to Haiti’s rape law, where inconsistencies

Haiti who everyday wake up fighting for their lives, fighting for

in the application of the law caused slow progress with the

a place to call safe. I thought about how I might do them justice,

sentencing of rape crimes. While this is a victory for Haitian

albeit a morsel, by telling one story, or bringing awareness,

women much has to be done to change political and social

about an organization that’s on the frontlines, working for

attitudes surrounding violence against women and rape. To

social change.

paraphrase Ms. Appolon, it’s slow, it’s not easy. Effecting change

More and more women are organizing at the grassroots level,

is rather difficult, yet she still believes in the women she serves.

and empowering themselves to partner with other organizations

It’s obvious that Ms. Appolon operates under a blanket of Grace.

regarding women’s rights. One such organization is KOFAVIV,

As women, we know when we are in the flow of Grace because

founded in 2004 by Mayla Villard-Appolon, a CNN Heroes finalist

it compels us to keep going. It’s Grace that empowers and

for 2012. KOFAVIV is a grassroots organization whose mission is

furnishes endurance. It is Grace that refuses to allow potential

to help rape survivors find peace and justice. KOFFVIV partners

in young girls’ lives be lost by one devastating moment.

with human rights groups and other women’s groups to bring

Ms. Appolon shows us she is expert at using her weapon of

attention to the inequities in Haitian law as it pertains to rape

Grace. Her life’s work calls her to an unforgiving country to help

and violence against women. Appolon, a rape survivor herself,

Haitian women and girls keep sight of their personal Grace.

has made it her life’s mission to help rape survivors find dignity,

Tragedies oftentimes are opportunities for trajectory.

again. The organization operates on the premise that rape

Shout out to all of the women around the world and in our

survivors make the best supporters to victims of rape. Since the

back yards, quietly making the difference with Grace secretly

women of KOFAVIV have experienced similar acts of violence,

abounding. Grace, how sweet the sound! Grace - always looking

rape victims are being helped by women who know firsthand

to see what hasn’t been seen before, to endure, and finally, to

what the victims are going through. This element has been vital

save. Ms. Appolon is on fire!

to the organization’s impact. “This type of peer-to-peer advocacy works. It also worked to help bring attention to the need for

n cnn-hero-finalist-malya-villard-appolon/ MARCH 2013 • TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE | 37


A Tribute to the




wondered what I would write this month when faced with the task of writing something about women. And, as only God can do, during the last week, several experiences reminded me of my love and appreciation for strong Black women. I was reminded that across shape, size and shade, era or expertise, the efficacy of strong Black women far supersedes the seemingly standard context of their role as loving and caring mothers. In one day, alone, two experiences reminded me of the layers of love I have for strong Black women that far supersede the

seemingly standard context of loving, caring mothers, or even beautiful wives or boos.

seemingly standard context of loving, caring mothers, or even

Later, on that same day, I ran across a poem penned by

beautiful wives and boos. Early in the day, a good friend, who

another good friend, Dr. Gerry White. Dr. White wrote a tribute

is a successful entrepreneur, posted on Facebook, pledging to

to Black women that reminded me again, of the layers of love I

choose work over people-pleasing in an effort to be prepared as

have for strong Black women who move well beyond seemingly

she plans to stand in her son’s college tuition line…ALONE! The

standard contexts. He wrote:

layers of love I have for strong Black women far supersede the From dark chocolate, black, brown, caramel, coffee to cream God new just what to do when he created the colors in you; And if blackness had a smell my sisters I’m sure that it would be The sweet scent of jasmine blowing through the summer breeze. Prima donna of the present, Cleopatra of the past, The rhythm of your strut and stride tells the story of our pain and glory. And so I rise to take this literary stand and to give the Black Woman a strong black hand. So stand up Black Moses I shall forever keep you in my heart, Mother Rosa Parks, And your words are just what we seem to need So I say, thank you, Maya Angelou, Jane Pitman and Phyllis Whitely; For your actions I admire, and determination inspires, It was no one but you, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, who would let them know We were sick and tired of being sick and tired. And all the mass lynching of Negroes would no longer prevail, For when all the dust settled the world knew that it was Ida B. Wells that has given them hell. Now, I do appreciate the Black man, and I know that we’ve come to be From Malcolm, Martin, Marcus, Mandela, all the way across to me. But long before their great impact, dynamic speeches and other historical facts, They all lay resting, runny-nosed, teary-eyed and ashy knees, on their mothers’ and grandmothers’ laps. Yet, I know throughout history, man has never given you the proper due So during this literary expression, I pay tribute and salute The Black Woman in You.


I AM CLEAR...WE ARE SURROUNDED BY STRONG BLACK WOMEN, EVERYWHERE! In one day, alone, these two experiences reminded me of the layers of love I have for strong Black women that far supersede the seemingly standard contexts we are conditioned to use

and when you see these characteristics (I know you will) in the women around you, pay tribute to them. It’s very clear to me that Deborah knew God’s voice. This

when we consider women … loving, caring mothers, or even

sister was bold enough to tell Barak (read the story) to fight his

beautiful wives and boos. I thank God for strong Black women,

oppressor even though his resources seemed to be less than

who have the uncanny ability to comfort and console, while

enough. Listen to what she told Barak even though he had no

simultaneously correcting and codifying, like my mother. I

chariots, no weapons and the enemy had over 900 hundred

thank God for sisters, like my sister, who indelibly etch pictures

chariots… She said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you,

of enlightenment, encouragement and excellence on the soul,

‘go, take position at Mt. Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the

psyche and minds of children who are willing to learn every day!

tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera,

Beyond seemingly standard contexts, strong Black women have

the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the wadi Kishon with

been known to build up what’s been torn down, strengthen

his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.”

the weak and hold up what many times, desires to fall down. I

She had to know God’s voice! I thank God for her spirit and her

thank God for strong Black women so determined by yesterday’s

connection with God because I now can no longer ignore the

defeats that their lives illuminate prophecies of tomorrow’s

same driving trait that motivates sisters to push on, despite the

possibilities, not only for themselves, but the entire community!

opportunities the world calls odds.

The biblical witness of another strong Black woman, Deborah,

Deborah’s character trait that most impresses me is much like

the sister in the book of Judges who served as judge and

the trait that most Strong Black women get far too little credit

prophetess for the children of Israel, helped me, and I pray it

for. Deborah knew how to work with a brotha! ☺ There are many

does the same for you, identify often overlooked, yet quite

Strong Black women who know how to work with brothers, but

common, characteristics of the majority of strong Black women.

the news doesn’t report that. Barak didn’t want to go to war,

Deborah, like contemporary strong Black women, was more than

even though it was his responsibility to do so. And instead of

a wife or mother who loved her family.

blasting him—on Twitter or Facebook—Deborah decided to

In case you’re not familiar with Deborah, the Bible says she

work with this brother. Barak told her, “If you will go with me, I

sat beneath the fan-like leaves of a bow-backed palm tree

will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” Even though

somewhere between Ramah and Bethel in the foothills of Mt.

she could have suggested he was too weak for her to work with,

Ephraim. She was a well-respected woman of wisdom who was

listen to a strong Black woman’s response. She told Barak, “I will

open and approachable. Dr. Cain Hope Felder calls Deborah an

surely go with you.” Instead of withholding her partnership,

African Shemite prophetess. If you ever take the time to read

Deborah said, “I’ll go!”

her witness, you’ll find Deborah, in a real sense, was the engine

Deborah, like many strong Black women today was: strong,

that kept her entire community running. She was able to judge

like Shirley Chisholm, saying, I’ll Go! and blaze the trail in public

and discern righteousness and then do justice according to her

office for Black women! She was courageous, like Francis Harper,

findings. Deborah was a woman of divine intellect and passion

saying I’ll Go! and chart a crusade against the lynching of our

for her people—like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Reverend Dr. Iva

people during reconstruction. She was brave, like Augusta

Carruthers. She was powerful like the late Reverend Barabara J.

Savage, Katherine Dunham and Mahalia Jackson, saying We’ll Go!

Allen, Jarena Lee, Julia Foote, Vashti McKenzie and Meta Fuller, all

and birth artistic traditions that will change the world. Side by

rolled into one.

side, strong Black women have fought to make lasting change in

So, when Israel found itself oppressed by the king of Canaan for 20 long years, after they had survived 18 years of the same

our lives and communities—and continue to brave that battle! I thank God for the day I was reminded of the layers of love I

oppression at the hands of the Moabites, Deborah was the

have for strong Black women that far supersedes the seemingly

engine that helped deliver her people. And amazingly, if we pay

standard context of their being loving, caring mothers, or

close attention, her characteristics are on display whenever you

even beautiful wives and boos. I thank God for the witness of

encounter a Strong Black Woman today. Take a look at Deborah

Deborah, because I am clear about the fact we are surrounded by strong Black women, everywhere! 








rying to raise a daughter in these contemporary times can be challenging. What she can, cannot, should, or should not do is prescribed for her, even before birth. The moment her little anatomy is decipherable and the pronouncement is made — “It’s a girl!” — everything around her kicks into its role of shaping her towards “womanhood.” It is a robotic system of support all based on, and in response to one small segment of her being—genitalia. If she is vagina-gifted, society has structured itself so that she will, for her entire time on this earth, be seen as, and responded to, as nothing more than that—a vagina: a baby VA-JJ, then a child VA-JJ, then an adult VA-JJ, an aging VA-JJ, and finally, a deceased VA-JJ. In fact, it’s no wonder there has not yet been the development of a VA-JJ stamp, irremovable, broad, and clearly distinguishable which could simply be steam pressed across a female’s forehead, in the birthing procedure, just before the snipping of the umbilical cord. This birth gender branding could eliminate the need for all of the other societal branding mechanisms, which can be quite tedious, time consuming, and costly. For centuries, people have gone to great lengths to ensure the vagina, more commonly referred to as the female, or woman, is aware of what she is and how she is to exist, in an earthly

undeniable gift of birth, lest she and her innate and inescapable wickedness might be deemed expendable. That is the primary narrative accepted by most folks. Again, it

realm. There are thousands, possibly millions of creation stories,

must be noted, this is only one of many creation stories, though

but none as popular and as widely accepted as the one recorded

most have similar core characteristics: there is One supreme God;

in the Bible. Through numerous and varied translations and

God created all things; at some point God is made manifest in

interpretations, it remains absolute that In the beginning God

some relatable form; and God is all powerful and reigns over all

created… and it was good… then He saw need for MAN, and

things. These points are consistent in the creation stories I have

so MAN (in his dominion over all things God made) would not

been exposed to, which include the Bible and many African tribal

be by himself, God put him to sleep, took a piece of him, and

creation stories. In fact, the only blatant inconsistency I found in

fashioned woman from that. Then it was woman, in her piece-

the Bible and other creation stories is the understanding of the

of-person, who created weak, yet, wickedly irresistible state,

“woman” and all that is implied about her and her roles, etc.

was responsible for the introduction of sin and corruption of

Much like race, most gender assignments are fallacies

perfect order, when she convinced Adam to eat the forbidden

given credence and made real by powerful, unrelenting social

apple. From that point to this, woman/vagina has been the sly,

structures built into the formations of current societies, for the

deleterious force at the core of all things gone wrong.

benefit of a few, at the cost of many. People blindly subscribe and

If you still yourself and listen closely, you can hear her sweet,

support these fallacies, never giving thought to the authenticity

yet deadly hiss. Her only reprieve is the fact that she was the

of the premises that created them. Men don’t cry. Ladies aren’t

vessel used to bring God, manifest in flesh, to earth through

loud. Boys do manual labor. Girls are too emotional. That’s just the

immaculate conception, and ultimately, birth. So then, birth

way it is. Everybody knows it. Right? Well, maybe not.

is good, and the woman/vagina is good for birth, and in that regard she is a spiritual being. Praise God for her unique and 40 | TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE • MARCH 2013

In her book titled The Invention of Women Making An African Sense Of Western Gender Discourses, Oyeronke Oyewumi

explains she “came to realize that the fundamental category

“Yeah, yeah… now you will finally get the message: cain’t [sic]

‘woman’ – which is foundational in Western gender discourses –

no girl – mhhhh – beat a Man!” He shouted “Man” directly down

simply did not exist in Yorubaland prior to its sustained contact

my eardrum. It echoed throughout my body, and it, the whole

with the West.” She asserts, “in Western societies, physical bodies

thing, was over. I knew it, and he should’ve known.

are always social bodies… As a consequence, there is really no distinction between sex and gender, despite the many

My body relaxed, went limp. He choked harder. Spoke louder. He was full of resolve. Victory was palatable!… “You made me do

A SYSTEM OF SUPPORT BASED ON…GENETALIA attempts by feminists to distinguish the two.” Recognizing the monumental difference in ideology and the social mandates

it! When will you learn your place, Girl! Huh?! Huh?!” Silence. Breaths… then, out of nowhere…“Ahhhhhhh!”

attached to definition and understanding, Oyewumi takes

Like a madwoman. Drum-busting! Siren-sounding! No words.

issue with the basic assumption that Western understanding of

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” I peeled his fingers loose, pried his arm away

“woman” is an absolute worldview. To put it simply she writes,

from my body in slow “Popeye-after-spinach-like” form.

“Gender, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.” So it is… I am not the only woman in the world to be socialized beyond the realms of Western rigid social fixings. I

He dropped his weight, drooping, attempting to will his arm into place using his whole being. Twists. Turns. Struggles. It lasted for several seconds, maybe even

thank God for my place in the birth order in my family, and my

a minute. Moments later, while still gasping for air we lay positioned

brother and male cousin for trying to equalize themselves with

on the floor, barely moving… me catching breaths I needed and

the power my age endowed me with, in accordance with my

had too long been denied, him trapped between my legs, back and

parents African-remnant-centered rearing style. Since I was only

stomach parallel to my thigh bone/bars – the Scissors! That’s what I

a few months older than my brother and cousin they didn’t like

called them. Every time I cut his breathing. Scissors!

having me as their leader. They challenged my power when and

“When will I learn?! Huh?! When? Huh?!”

wherever possible, and it was a pleasurable game that taught me

Press. Cut. Squeeze. Breathe. “Scissors!” Cut. “When YOU gon’

to exercise all aspects of my person. I’ve relished and repeated the story so often its recollection is

without effort. I see it clearly at this very moment.☺

“Uhhuu hhh mmhh”… His grip tightened. “Www-whhhen are”

learn?! Boy!!” He was yellow red, looked like his face would explode and death would take us both. “When?! You wanna know? Huh?” When you stop believing

—his locked hand slid up his forearm squeezing mightily… tighter

in Santee Claussss, lil’ BIG boy! I almost said it. If the sound of

and tighter, inch by inch closing the space between his inner

my father’s voice, in the other room, didn’t carry with it the

elbow and my throat. “-Youuuu gonna… mmmhh, learrrrn?”

memory of his belt’s sting I would have blurted it... fresh off of

I wiggled slightly, testing my ability to move—at all.

confronting my dad, demanding my intelligence be respected,

“I’m stronger than you. Mhhh-” His words and warm breath

and assembling the toys he, my challenger 18-month-younger

seemed to singe my right ear. He was a lefty and athletic and

brother, and all the rest of my siblings still thought Santa

strong. I should’ve never let him grab me from that side. I could

delivered… I would have told him: I’ll stop believing I’m stronger,

feel the blood locking in my face.

when you stop believing in fairytales!

He grunted and breathed heavily. I said nothing; maybe I couldn’t. He pulled my silence back, closer to him, releasing a low

Release. Lift my leg. “Now go lift some weights.” Shove his back. Watch for tears and attempts at revenge. Pull my leg from beneath him. Watch. Stay ready. “Come back after you catch

pocket of air from my opened mouth and clinched teeth. “I keep

some more footballs, or sum’n.” Breathe. Back up. Smooth my hair

telling you. I’mmmm the man!” His arms were locked. He held me

back into place. Turn. Skip away singing Annie’s song: “Anything

with sure and sheer masculinity, the weight of his torso hanging,

you can do, I can do betta, I can do anything, betta than you…”


draping on me, and anchoring him. I struggled. Each gathered burst of energy doused and thwarted by his solid muscle.





he State of Illinois is on the cusp of being the tenth state to legalize same sex marriage. On February 14, 2013, the Illinois Senate approved same sex marriage by a vote of 34–21. The measure will be presented to the Illinois House of Representatives, and if approved, will be signed by Governor Pat Quinn, at his own admission. This highly debated, highly publicized movement has

many declared same sex marriage was against God’s will,

sparked waves across America, particularly in the Christian

while others stated it is not scriptural, and many agreed that

faith. Although a hot topic of debate in times past, the move

all who engage in the act, whether the couples or those who

to legalize same sex marriage found a national platform when

officiate their wedding, are in danger of going to hell. The debate

President Barack Obama declared his support, while offering

within Black Christianity was so entrenched throughout the

his rationale behind the same. The admittance of support

United States (U.S.) that Congressman Emanuel Clever II (D-

by President Obama was the fuel needed by Republicans to

Mo.) hosted a roundtable discussion on the Black church and

engage the public in a debate of Christian ethics and morality,

same sex marriage, during the Annual Legislative Conference in

while many in the gay and lesbian community, coupled with

Washington, D.C., in October 2012. From the voice of the many

heterosexual supporters, rode the momentum to further

in attendance, it was clear that same sex marriage had no place

the agenda on equality for same gender loving couples. The

in the Black church, as well as the nation. The stance of anti-same

conversation and movement on same sex marriage was of

sex marriage was clearly supported by many Black clergy, until

particular interest to the Black church.

other members of Black clergy began to arise and declare their

It is no secret local Black churches have benefitted from gay and lesbian members, as well as staff people, but the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was, and continues to be, an unwritten understanding of those who are in the lifestyle. In the Black church, men who are gay and women who are lesbian are allowed to direct the choir, sing in the choir, play the instruments, etc., but they are not allowed to share their lifestyle choice publicly; moreover, if they are in a committed relationship with a member of the Deacon Board or Usher Board #2. I digress. As the movement pressed for recognition of same gender loving couples to be treated with the same dignity and respect of different gendered couples, i.e., married couples, the Black church became offended at the notion of two men or two women being united in marriage, especially in a Christian ceremony. Once President Obama made his declaration, the Black church, including her spiritual leaders, chimed in, and 42 | TRUMPET NEWSMAGAZINE • MARCH 2013

opposition with those who stand against marriage equality for same sex couples. The Black pastors and clergy that stood in favor of marriage equality included, but is not limited to: • Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, Mount Enon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD • Rev. Dr. Donte Hickman, Southern Baptist Church, Baltimore, MD • Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, Friendship-West Baptist Church, Dallas, TX • Rev. Dr. S. Todd Yeary, Douglas Memorial Church, Baltimore, MD • Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Operation PUSH and Rainbow Coalition • Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network • Rev. Dr. L. Bernard Jakes, West Point Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago, IL


These men, along with other unmentioned men and woman of

challenged clergy and laity from the same Bible they were using

the Christian faith, faced criticism, vilification, and reprimand from

as the oppressive tool against same gender loving couples. My

colleagues, both publicly and privately.

argument was simple and succinct. If they are holding fast to what

Nonetheless, as the adage states, If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. However, if you are going to stand, make sure you are standing on a firm foundation and not quicksand. As the debate of same sex marriage made its way to Illinois,

the Bible says, as it relates to marriage, then the entire Bible must be honored. Therefore, women must relinquish any authority in their local congregations. Likewise, for those who sit in Springfield or Capitol Hill, if they are holding to the letter of scripture, each woman must resign if she holds authority over a man. Therefore,

which found movement in the sanctioning of Civil Unions, the

much to the chagrin of my pastoral colleagues, as well as those

conversation among Black clergy and laity was highly contested on

who lay claim to Christianity, and even some of the sheep God

Gospel radio stations, as well as being tried on the Church of Social

placed in my care, I publicly supported marriage equality for

Media: Facebook. The ethos did not differ from other Black clergy

same gender loving couples in Illinois. The support was made

and laity around the country: same sex marriage is wrong, and it

public when I chose to sign an Illinois Unites for Marriage letter,

is against God’s will. When I was asked to support the movement

where prominent African American leaders stated their position

against same sex marriage in Illinois, I declined, because I did not

on marriage equality; moreover, marriage equality for same

believe in the movement, or the spirit behind the movement.

gender loving couples. This letter was presented to legislators in

The spirit, in my estimation, was fueled out of bigotry and not

Springfield, Illinois, with the hopes it would inform, and encourage

Bible. As the case was being made regarding Biblical authority, I

them to perform the act of voting in favor of marriage equality.


The information presented to legislators is the information I have shared with many of my pastoral colleagues, as well as members of my congregation. Marriage equality for same gender loving couples is a matter of civil rights. In the body of the letter it states: We remember that not long ago, some states defined marriage as limited to people of the same race. We were told marriage between people of different races was “unnatural” and that society would be eroded if marriage changed. The truth is, marriage has evolved throughout history to reflect the needs and progress of society. As much as the Christian community would seek to superimpose their faith on society, the reality is we live in our faith, but we live under the law. My faith is what drives me, supports me, and keeps me connected to God. My understanding of The Holy Bible is what supports my faith. I, too, have a view of marriage. However, my understanding of The Holy Bible, coupled with my faith and my view, should not prevent others from engaging in a state sanctioned, legally binding ceremony, whereas they are afforded the same civil rights as different gendered couples. Within the truthfulness of the matter, many of the same gendered loving couples love Jesus as much as I, and they believe in scripture with the same fervor by which I believe. Their only legal lot in life is they are prevented from sharing in a life-long legal commitment with their partner—many of double-digit years. This is what makes it a matter of civil rights. The media recently reported that Jim Nabors aka Gomer Pyle, and his partner of thirty-eight (38) years, Stan Cadwallader, were married. This marriage affords Jim and Stan legal protection under the law, as it relates to their shared estate, as well as their health. Without marriage, had something happened to Jim or Stan, their families would be entitled to, or could legally challenge the will of Jim or Stan. If either were presented with making a decision regarding the others health, the family or next of kin would have the final decision on the lives of either Jim or Stan. A shared life of 38 years could be reduced to a family member who may not know or even care about Jim or Stan. This is not right or fair, and it is because the law decrees same sex couples cannot be legally married. It is against the law to deny American citizens their civil rights, which includes marriage equality, while using the Bible as justification for nullification. This same tactic was used against enslaved Africans in the Diaspora, while many sought to seek citizenship for Black people born on American soil. How soon we forget! My support of same sex marriage is not a defiant stance

It is against the law to deny American citizens their civil rights, which includes marriage equality, while using the Bible as justification for nullification. against scripture, although many use scripture to justify their disdain of same gender loving couples, and the justification is rooted in mis-education and misunderstanding. My support is rooted in the belief that all U.S. citizens deserve their inalienable right, and that right is protected under the law. Although I support same sex marriage equality, I do not intend to perform sex same marriages in our local church. And contrary to scare tactics used by those in opposition of same sex marriage, faith institutions, under the Illinois House Bill 1826: Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, will not be forced to recognize or sanctify relationships they oppose.1 Therefore, a same gender loving couple cannot force a local congregation to perform a civil union or marital ceremony if it contradicts said congregations system of beliefs. It is for this reason I do not intend to perform same sex marriages in our local congregation. As pastor, I serve the congregation through preachment and teaching, while also entering a covenant that adheres to upholding the polity of the local congregation through her bylaws, Baptist systems of belief, and the contractual agreement between this local body and me. My personal opinion may differ from the opinion of our local church, and this happens with more than same gender loving marriages. However, my personal belief should not superimpose the polity of our local congregation. The majority of the congregation would need to support same gender loving ceremonies taking place within our worship center. As a congregation in transition, it is not certain our local congregation would acquiesce to same gender marriages being held within our local church. This does not, however, suggest our congregation would disrespect or dishonor same gender marriages held outside the local church. It does mean, however, the ceremony would not be held on our campus. As a side note, disagreeing with same gender marriages should not be received as not loving those who will be married; it is simply a matter of belief. Nonetheless, same sex couples deserve the right to be married under the law. As previously stated, we live in our faith, but we live under the law. If our local church, The faith family of West Point Missionary Baptist Church, is to continue her mission of being a justiceseeking congregation, this cannot be limited to those whose lifestyles we agree. With liberty and justice for all!



Trumpet Newsmagazine March2013  

Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds Balancing the Scales of Religion and Justice

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