Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

We Belong to a Community

Rev. Barber: What We Must Do

Have you seen, heard, or heard of Rev. William Barber? He has been speaking out about structural racism. He has tough words for all of us interested in confronting race issues in our country.

He talks about why the white supremacists chose Charlottesville, a city with a rich history of racism. They were not simply defending the confederate statue, but making the point that all such statues should be defended.

Barber says that many of the confederate statues were built in the period from 1892 to the 1920’s. The civil war had ended decades earlier. The statues were erected, he says, to celebrate the return of “codified white supremacy in the law.”

The Supreme Court decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896 “upheld state racial segregation laws for public facilities under the doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’ ” Jim Crow laws became more widespread following the decision and operated for decades.

President Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson

Reconstruction had brought many Blacks into government positions. But their power was resented by many Whites who wanted to restore their hold on the reins.

He cites Woodrow Wilson who ordered his staff to end desegregation in government employment.

Rev. Barber spoke at the Unitarian-Universalist General Assembly in June 2016. I was in the audience as he brought us to our feet to applaud his message of our duty to be moral dissenters, to work against structural racism.

Barber calls for revitalizing Dr. King’s push to unite people of color with poor and working-class white people. He says there has been a deliberate effort to separate them by making White people believe they lose if Black and Brown people gain. But it’s not a zero-sum effort.

The work must be long-term and strategic to achieve results, he says. He wants to end the hate and fear by bringing people together to work for change. We should be a community of love, Barber says.

He has inaugurated a movement called Moral Mondays and is taking his message around the country. I love his use of the phrase “moral defibrillators.” It’s in earlier speeches as well as this. In the video he says, “We have to be the moral defibrillators that revive the heart of this nation.”

Megachurches in Nigeria

I wish the evangelical megachurches in Nigeria would be moral leaders and stand up against corrupt practices by political leaders. They do not seem to be communities of love.

But evangelical churches have been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few decades.

I remember when I first got to Nigeria the major evangelical group was the Aladura. They believed in healing through prayer. They wore white and met at Bar Beach in Lagos.

They mainly came from the Anglican Church. They still meet at Bar Beach, but in much larger numbers.

Today there are evangelical churches all over southern Nigeria, especially in the west. Many are very large. The article in The Guardian describes a city built by a church that is home to many thousands. It has its own markets, banks, hotels, and guest chalets in addition to homes.

The church service is held in a building that looks like a massive hangar.

Rev. John rededicating our Black Lives Matter banner

Rev. John rededicating our Black Lives Matter banner

Certainly the poverty in the country encourages membership in a church that promises riches. Tithing is encouraged as a path to heavenly rewards. But don’t people feel let down when they see that their pastor has his own private planes while many can barely afford a car to get to the service?

Black Lives Matter Banner is Restored

The Black Lives Matter banner that we put up at the Unitarian Church in Westport CT nearly a year ago was torn down, vandalized, a few weeks ago.

Yesterday the replacement was dedicated. Rev. John Morehouse said how important it was to restore it. He said there was an amazing outpouring of love from the community when the first banner was torn down. Enough donations came in to buy yet another if we need to!

Again the town’s mayor, known here as First Selectman, came and said a few words. Cass, the head of the Greater Bridgeport Council of Churches, addressed us. The Chief of Police was present. Our board chair Lynda welcomed people and I spoke on behalf of TEAM Westport. (Our TEAM chair Harold was away.)

You can read about the brief ceremony in WestportNow.

Our new banner

Our new banner

We Belong to Each Other

In the sermon during yesterday’s service Rev. John asked, “To whom do we belong?” We each want to know where we fit. We need to have a home.

He said that in his twenties he was a committed atheist. At a time of struggle he was encouraged to attend an American Baptist Church. Though he did not believe all the doctrine, he did feel the outpouring of love and realized the importance of being part of something.

Today he knows that, “We belong to each other,” he said. “We belong to this community.”

My Book About Community

I’ve sent my new book off to five readers! I gave three of them specific questions. Here are a few:

  1. I say the book is about Igbo customs that teach a sense of community and belonging. Do you think the book is about that?
  2. What is unclear or needs more or different explanation?
  3. Whose story or which chapter did you like best? Can you say why?

I am really eager to get their feedback. I wonder how much editing I will have to do.

I still need a title. Suggestions are welcome!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

6 Comments

  1. Well your church has had some experiences recently. Wow. I am sure it was a message about how racism is alive and well in Westport/Wilton too.

    So impressed with your commitment in doing this every week.

    Love,

    Col

  2. I got the email yesterday and heard the powerful message. Glad you posted it.

  3. Catherine, if you would consider me for a beta-reader, I’d be glad to. You know my background in writing and publishing, and although memoires and autobiographies are not specifically in my background of work, it would be an honor to lend a hand to my cousin. No pressure, and no offense taken if you decide otherwise. 🙂