This lecture by the Rev. Dr. Joan R. Harrell is a womanist critique of a longstanding racist campaign of domestic terror in the United States. It investigated the intersectionality of racism, in particular the racist acts condoned by religious communities and by the health care system. It gave special attention to the 40-year Syphilis Study at Tuskegee conducted by the United States Public Health Service.
The Rev. Dr. Joan R. Harrell is a womanist practical theologian and journalist committed to social justice. Her scholarship investigates the intersectionality of racism, sexism, xenophobia, religion, politics, media and public health inequities in marginalized communities. She is a Journalism Lecturer and the inaugural Diversity Coordinator for the Auburn University School of Communication and Journalism and Associate Pastor at the historic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Al.
OK. Good evening, everyone. All right. This working? OK. All right.
So first, let me just say, thank you so much for coming. We're so glad that you're here this evening for our seminar. I'm Wylin Wilson, and I am a senior fellow here at the Center for the Study of World Religions. And I'm also teaching faculty at the Medical School in the Center for Bioethics, where my teaching and research is at the intersection of bioethics, gender, race, and theology.
And I want to first say, on behalf of Charles Stang-- Dr. Stang-- the director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, he wants to make sure that he expressed his welcome and his deep, deep regrets for not being able to be here this evening. The center has so much dynamic programming here and abroad that makes it such a valuable resource. So he can't be at all places at all times. But he does want to really express his regret for not being able to be here with us this evening.
So I want to acknowledge a few people before we get started. First, Nicole Morris, she is a graduating MTS student here at the Div School. And I feel like she's more of a colleague than a student of mine. And we've really had a wonderful time, she's been an amazing interlocutor and partner in the work on womanism and theological bioethics here. And we've done a series of seminars, and keep your eyes out for other seminars-- we'll have a couple more seminars for the remainder of this semester.
And I wanted to also take time to thank the center's staff who have provided the logistical support that we have needed for all of the seminars that we've been able to have here-- Byron, Dory, Ariella, Corey, and Matthew, thank you so much. Because you guys have been amazing, and we appreciate you, and all that you do. And I want to request that you turn off your cell phones, please. And I actually will take time to turn off mine-- or at least silence it.
All righty. And just be mindful to not block the exits. And now, I want to do something that I think is really important for us before we start is acknowledged the indigenous people whose land this institution sits on. So we want to take a minute to honor the Massachusett and thank them for starting the land that we are now gathered on. And we also want acknowledge the history of enslaved Africans that contributed to the structure and maintenance of this place, and we honor them at this time. Thank you.
So now introduction of our speaker. the Reverend Dr. Joan Harrell is lecturer and diversity coordinator in the School of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. She teaches courses in religion, race, politics. She teaches news writing and reporting, magazine feature writing, coverage of faith communities, diversity, and democracy, and the intersection of media ethics and vulnerable populations.
Now, before entering academia, Dr. Harrell worked in local television markets as an award-winning journalist, including news anchor at ABC, NBC, and CBS television affiliates in Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri. She was a researcher and field producer at the ABC News bureau in London, England, the assignment editor at the CBS News bureau and C-span in Washington DC, associate producer for Alvin Perlmutter, and correspondent and associate producer for Bill Moyers in New York City. She was also the research associate and coordinator of the Womanist Scholars Program led by womanist Pioneer Dr. Jacqyelyn Grant. She is the former associate senior editor of the Journal for Healthcare Science and the Humanities, and a freelance writer for Essence magazine, Christian Century, The Huffington Post, We Talk. We Listen, and Sojourner's Blog.
Reverend Dr. Harrell was called to serve as the Director of Public Communications in the office of the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago during the historic period when Trinity was politically attacked because a parishioner, then US senator Barack Obama, announced that he was running as a Democratic candidate for President of the United States. So Dr. Harrell was responsible for crisis communications and developing liberation theologically-based strategies to defend the Trinity UCC Church and its members during the 2008 democratic primary, the presidential campaign, and post election of President Barack Obama.
She is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Church, founder of digital humanities project becomingthebelovedcommunity.com and she is a cohort in the Henry Luce Foundation Public Theology and Racial Justice Institute at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. She is the author of numerous professional journal publications and her scholarship focuses on the intersectionality of narrative ethics, racism, religion, vulnerable populations, xenophobia, womanist theology, and public health. Dr. Harrell has her Doctorate in Ministry from Chicago Theological Seminary, her Master of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, her Master of Science from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and her Bachelor of Science from Stephens College.
Dr. Harrell, we thank you for being with us this evening. I often call her one of the front line foot soldiers for justice-- that is how I talk about her to my own colleagues. And I do mean that, because she truly is that. So thank you for being here to share with us this evening. So Dr. Harrell, Welcome.
Thank you, Dr. Wilson. If I can share, personally, Dr. Wilson and I met at the interdenominational Theological Center, known as the ITC, in Atlanta, Georgia. I was a first-year student and she was making her way on to finishing up graduating and heading on to her PhD program at Emory. So the world is small.
And so I thank you for this invitation. And in the absence of Charles Stang, thank you in his absence, as well as to the entire team. I don't want to miss anybody's name-- so to the entire team here at the Center for the Study of World Religions. However, I do remember one person's name, because has become, I'm going to say, my youngest sister in this work, and that is Nicole Taylor, because of her work. And she's been extremely helpful in this process. So thank you all. And I thank you for coming out in this weather this evening.
What I'd like to do first and foremost is to share with you-- and I'm still surprised when I'm introduced and I hear the work that-- and I'm going to say, because within the context of my faith language, the holy parent has allowed me to do, particularly within the intersectionality of journalism and black Christian theology. I'm very intentional about that when I use the term, because speaking from, as you heard, if you recall-- I've had the opportunity, after working-- Dr. Wilson did not say, but after working-- almost 23 years as a working journalist, starting out on local news and being able to work around the world, when I finally accepted the call to ministry, I had the privilege to work with Jacquelyn Grant. pioneer in womanist theology. And with that said, I can now say that I am a womanist practical theologian as well as a womanist journalist. Because I write from the lens of a-- listen closely-- dark-skinned woman of African descent, working in the intersectionality of media and what the world knows as Christianity, in general, but what I know in particular as liberation theology within the context of being a woman of African descent.
Are you with me? OK, great. That is very, very important, particularly as we take a critical look, going on. And this is an interactive and non-traditional lecture and critical conversation. Because I am also a journalist, so my lecture will include media, as well as there will be a point in time where I will engage you in this conversation. Because we cannot discuss becoming the beloved community without being inclusive.
The following definitions are very important for my work. The first is theological bioethics. Thank you to Dr. Wilson and to Ms. Taylor in setting up the framework for the definition of theological bioethics. As you can see, it is a methodological and praxis framework rooted in the experiences of black women and marginalized people and their experiences in health and health care as a lens toward justice and equity. Second, within the context as a journalist and practical theologian, I undergird my work with narrative ethics. And narrative ethics focuses on personal identity through story and particular events in the life story of the individual and/or to be community.
Personal identity, life stories, and particular events create a foundation for critical, ethical reflection and learning for individuals and groups. So what does that mean? And particularly, what does that mean today on February 11, 2020.
February 11, 2020, and we've already given reverence to the indigenous people who began to lay a foundation on this land known as Harvard University. In addition, we have given reverence to enslaved Africans. And I would like to call the names of the persons in my research that I've discovered, and perhaps you know them already, names that were acknowledged two years ago by the president of Harvard University-- the names of the enslaved Africans who worked during the 1700s for two presidents of Harvard University. And they were enslaved while they worked here at Harvard University. Their names are Titus, Venus, Bilhah, and Juba. So I'm honored to stand on their shoulders as we share this moment in our discussion.
What I'd like to do is, keeping in mind the two definitions that we're talking about, the discussing-- we will continue tonight to discuss and engage in the act of the oppressive acts by persons who moved to this country we know today as the United States to be able to, in their words, historians tell us, that they moved to what was known as the American colony so that they could have freedom of religion. And in this process of gaining freedom of religion, the instrument of slavery was also introduced, as well as genocide.
So I would like for you to take into consideration that as a womanist practical theologian and journalist, I posit that becoming is the possibility of change in a thing or a being becoming. In the philosophical study of ontology, it has taught that the concept of becoming was introduced to the world by Heraclitus, who was, in the sixth century, reported in the history books as saying-- again, let me say Heraclitus, he is quoted as saying, and this is during the 6th century BC-- "No man ever steps in the same river twice." "No man ever steps in the same river twice."
Well, this evening, I posit that humans, in particular patriarchal men and other persons who are intensely focused on wealth and the evil of excluding others, can step into the same oppressive river twice and cause pain, death, and suffering. So it is on this day that we know as February 11, this would be the 91st year of the celebration of African-American History Month, as well as the beginning of the 401st anniversary of the enslavement of black people here in what we know as the United States.
I want to begin to engage you, and for you to intentionally consider the fact that enslavement of black people, people of African descent, was horrific, brutal, and I will posit, that because of the history of the enslavement of African people here in what we know as the United States, the remnants of slavery, the brutalization of slavery, continues within the contextual presence of driving while black. It is estimated that every three seconds a person here in the United States or somewhere around the world dies because he or she or they have not had enough food to eat. And according to the World Health Organization, the majority of those persons who die every three seconds because of the lack of food are persons of color.
What I'd like for you to do is to engage with me for a moment, so that we can gather-- began to think collectively about the presence of the original sin, which is racism. And to help you to engage with me, Nicole, I think I may need your assistance. If you could go to the video. I would like for you to intently watch a-- actually, the next one-- video-- yes, thank you-- of a collage of pain and suffering, that represents the history of pain and suffering in the United States, what we know now as the United States.
Now, when the music that I have selected-- in my research, I've discovered the song "We Need You Now," which was written by Donny Hathaway, a rhythm and blues singer, who within the context of womanist theology. would say, because he was raised by his grandmother, like Howard Thurman who gained his understanding of who God is in the midst of suffering, Donny Hathaway, unfortunately, who died early at the age of 33, in his lifetime, was able to witness the pain and suffering of poverty in the ghettos of Chicago and St. Louis. And he actually wrote this music before he unfortunately committed suicide.
And the words that I would like for you to keep in mind is-- these are the lyrics from his music that you will hear as you began to watch the images. "We need you right now. There's no one else to turn to but you. So master, won't you please come down, cause we need you right now."
I ask the question, do we need the holy parent? No matter what your faith language is, do we need spiritual health right now? Are we engaging in evil because of materialism, because of our need to have our cell phones, because our cell phones contain coltan, which are a part of slavery in the Congo that are impacting people of African descent?
As we sit in our lovely location tonight, on the other side in Dorchester, and Mattapan, and other locations in the Boston community, people are shielding themselves from gunfire. We are in the need for a beloved community, some would say. Others would say, we are experiencing the beloved community. But I posit to you tonight, that if we were in living and experiencing the beloved community, I would not be presenting to you tonight. You would not be here to listen to me talk about what is becoming the beloved community.
I find myself working in the state of Alabama, which historically has been one of the heaviest populated states of people of African descent. According to the Alabama census from 1860, Macon County, Alabama, where Tuskegee University is located, 20 minutes away from Auburn University, Macon County, Alabama, was considered to encompass more than a million slaves. Macon County, Alabama is known also as one of the largely populated areas for plantations in the state of Alabama.
Macon County, Alabama became the site of one of the first internationally known institutions, the Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University, founded in 1881, because of relationships between people of African descent as well as Native Americans the Poarch Creek Indians, who were later a part of the Trail of Tears in what we know as the United States. Tuskegee, I posit, because of its large population of descendants of slaves, became a laboratory for eugenics, which is known as the science that study the sizes of bodies, and compared, in particular, the sizes of bodies, of brains, of heads of children in Tuskegee, Alabama.
As well as it is the site known for the infamous United States Public Health Service syphilis study, which was officially named the Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. And when you read the information about the study that was conducted by the United States Public Health Service, the official documents read that the scientists as well as the doctors never had intentions to provide medication for the over 600 men that were in the study. And in this process, it was determined that because of the high poverty rate, the dire need for physician treatment as well as medicines, that the medical community at that time took advantage of the families of the descendants of slaves who lived in Macon County.
And because they were men, women, and children living in poor health conditions, the majority of them, it was decided that the United States Public Health Service would go to Macon County, Alabama, and tell the men, women, and children there that they were living with bad blood. And at that particular time, simultaneously in the United States-- States all of the United States, not specifically or particularly the Negro people, as they were called at that time-- the entire United States, syphilis was at a very high rate. And the United States government was trying to find out what was the cause, how they could cure syphilis. And it was decided that because there was a high rate of syphilis in Macon County, as well as in other parts of the United States-- but it was this community of descendants of slaves that the United States Public Health Service decided to go in and to take advantage of the Institute at the time, Tuskegee Institute, as well as take advantage of the people who made up the community who were descendants of slaves.
The men were approached at their churches to participate in the unethical study. They were also approached at their places of business. When you read the book Bad Blood, you will discover that employers would actually tell the descendants of slaves-- and I'm using language specifically-- tell the descendants of slaves, if they worked on their farms, or their meals, or at their stores, that they to go to find out what was this bad blood that they had. And no matter what the medical person told them, whether they wanted to or not, they had to adhere to that person's direction. Well, there was an enticement that was given to the men. Because many of the men did not have access to a doctor, so they were told that if they participated in this unethical study-- of course, they did not know it was unethical, but they were told that if they participated in the study-- that they would not only receive free health care, but their families would receive free health care, including their children. In addition to, each time that they participated in the study, that they would received $25, as well as a hot meal.
What I'd like for you to do is to take into consideration-- did we lose it again? Yes, here we are. This is a documentary-- the only documentary that has been produced about the unethical United States Public Health Service syphilis study. And I'd like for you to engage in watching this documentary, and I'll play it for some minutes, and then we will continue on and I will provide a more undergirding explanation of why it is critical for me as a scholar to continue the work in Macon County, as we are still in the process, but more at a greater extent, when you talk to the people, the voices, and you see the poverty that they're still living in, and the fact that there's no hospital in this community. People have to drive at least 30 minutes to even get to an urgent care facility.
So this documentary was actually produced by PBS, and the title of it is The Deadly Deception. You can go up-- if you have not seen this, it is on YouTube. As it continues to buffer and we get assistance here, what I'd like for you to-- I would like to give you the following facts, that the men in this study were told that they needed to have a spinal tap. And they were given the spinal tap, because, according to the physicians and the researchers, the spinal tap was a form of medication.
In addition to being told that the spinal tap was a form of medication, the men were also told that if and when they would die, that they would not have to worry about their burial costs, because this was a gift to them from the medical community.
So when the Public Health Service came asking for help, it was difficult to say no.
It was difficult to say no. I suggest, if you have not watched the entire documentary, that you go to YouTube. It is 58 minutes. It is a critical foundation for the condition that we find-- the health condition that we find in the descendants of African-Americans today. It was the study that lasted for 40 years, to our knowledge.
In addition to-- within I'm not going to take the chance because of how our technology is working tonight, but I will now paint the picture for you-- this study allegedly ended-- started in the latter part of 1931 and ended in 1972. 1931-1972. There were stories written by researchers-- respected researchers-- as well as medical physicians who wrote this information in the American medical journals, as well as international medical journals. But no one ever found the need to ask the question, why is this unethical study occurring in the 1930s, '40S, '50S, '60S, and '70S.
When the whistle was finally blown, well, accept it. Because the first time, also within the context of being a descendant of African slaves, earlier on in the late 1960s, a group of African-American researchers and medical practitioners at the Centers for Disease Control discovered that this was occurring. They sent their information to the Washington Post, but the story was never covered. Years later, a person of European descent overheard a conversation about this tragedy that was occurring at Tuskegee, and when the whistle was blown by him in 1972, then the world began to find out about the unethical syphilis study.
So at this point you're asking, well, why Joan? How is this a part of becoming the beloved community? I'm going to ask you to think about this for a moment. The state of Alabama had one of the highest populations of slaves in Macon County, Alabama. And Macon County, Alabama is 30 minutes away from Montgomery, Alabama. And there is one person who's originally from the state of Alabama, but I won't say his name at this time. But take into critical consideration that in the state of Alabama, one of the highest populated slave states, 30 minutes away, going south of Tuskegee, there was one of the first private women's hospitals for white women in Montgomery, Alabama that was founded by the father of gynecology, Dr. [? Francis ?] [? Marion. ?]
Dr. [? Francis ?] [? Marion ?] would purchase slaves from slave owners in the general east Alabama area-- purchase women's slaves. He even gave them names. And he would conduct research on the women slaves without giving them anesthesia, so that he could solve the gynecological problems of white women, not only for white women in the state of Alabama, but for the rest of the world. We couple slavery with the treatment of women as guinea pigs during slavery, and we intersect that with the eugenics study that was carried out also in Macon County, and we intersect that research project-- unethical research project-- with the unethical syphilis study at Tuskegee, all occurring in the state of Alabama.
30 minutes away, again, in Montgomery, Alabama, a woman of African descent, Rosa Parks, who was actually from where? Tuskegee, Alabama. She found herself sitting on the bus in the 1950s, and because of her sitting on the bus in defiance of the Jim Crow laws, she became a symbol for civil rights. And it is on the day of December in 1955, when the court system announced that the Montgomery bus boycott protest was legal and that Negroes would have the right to ride buses. It is on that day that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King reintroduced to society the concept of the beloved community.
Because the concept of the beloved community was actually introduced to the world by Professor Josiah Royce. And in Dr. King's description-- definition-- of the beloved community, he stated, quote, "The end is reconciliation. The end is redemption. The end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of all," he said men, and I will say people.
So we ask this question within the context of East Alabama today in the year 2020, what is the beloved community? What does a beloved community look like from Auburn to Selma? Well, from Auburn, going south, to Tuskegee, to Montgomery, to Selma. It is within that context that we discovered-- I've discovered-- that women and men who live 20 minutes away from each other, between Auburn and Tuskegee, Alabama, have not been or do not acknowledge each other in existence because of the stigma of the infamous United States Public Health Service syphilis study at Tuskegee.
In the concept of becoming the beloved community, for the first time in the existence, from what we can tell, the history of the syphilis study and the relationship to Auburn Alabama, I present it, an intentional dialogue that would bring the people of Auburn, Tuskegee, Montgomery, Dadeville, as well as Selma together, in an intentional dialogue, asking the question-- and first of all, making the statement, intentional listening-- how to love your neighbor in the midst of domestic terror.
Well, you may sit here and think, well, that's unusual, that people living in a 60 to maybe 80 mile radius of one another would not have had this conversation. But on September 26, 2019, for the first time in the history of the counties of Macon, where Tuskegee is located, Montgomery, and Lee County where Auburn University is located, at the First Presbyterian church, which has a history of enslavement, for the first time, people gather to talk about their relationships. There was a person-- and I am using anonymous names, because I did not receive approval to share their names at this time-- John Davis, who is 82 years old, sat at a decorated table filled with the colors of yellow-- and it was a multicultural potluck-- and he said, this was his first time talking to a person from Tuskegee, Alabama. Tuskegee, Alabama was 20 minutes away.
When he was asked, why didn't he know when you went from Tuskegee? He said, you know, they have syphilis don't they? My parents told me I should never go there, and I've never gone there. I've gone to Montgomery, because I had to pass by Tuskegee to get to Montgomery on the interstate, but I've never gone to Tuskegee. Do they still have syphilis there? That was September 26, 2020.
Evelyn Stewart is talking to a woman at a different table. This table is decorated in pink balloons. And Evelyn Stewart, who is a descendent of sharecroppers, a white woman, talks to Daisy Davis, who is a black woman. And they discover that both of them are descendants of sharecroppers. However, Daisy Davis is able to tell her white sharecropper friend about the wealth they've acquired-- her family acquired-- because they were black sharecroppers.
But this was not a good feeling for the white woman who was a sharecropper-- descendant of sharecroppers. She started to cry. And she said, you're not supposed to have more money than I have. September 26, 2020.
When I started this interactive lecture-- and I apologize, we did not know that we would have the issues of buffering. But I hope that you've been able to-- you were able to see at least three of the real persons who were in this study. In particular, Charles Pollard, who was the gentleman who filed a lawsuit against the United States because of the syphilis study. And I also want to add that, until 1972, when the whistle was blown-- approximately two years later, when the whistle was blowing about the study-- for the first time in the history of the United States government, it was required by physicians, it was required for scientists and physicians to have the consent of individuals to participate in the study.
So you ask, well, what does this have to do with becoming the beloved community? Becoming is a philosophical term, again, that was introduced to us within the context of philosophy by Heraclitus, who posited that becoming is in meaning anything that is in existence, a being or thing that will implement or can cause change. During this research, for the past-- I started working with descendants of the syphilis study in 2013. Today, we are witnessing and talking to descendants of slavery, as well as descendants of the syphilis study.
These men, women, and children who live in Macon County, Alabama are still living with the stigma of the syphilis study, in addition to it is one of the largest food deserts in the United States, as well, as I stated earlier, there is no hospital, even though the Tuskegee University owned its own hospital. But it has now closed. There's also what was the first Veterans Administration hospital for Negro people in Alabama and for the deep south, even though the Klan protested for the hospital to be built there.
It became into existence, and men and women from around the country, people of African descent, would go to the veterans hospital. But today, although it is a more than 100-bed facility, those services are not offered to people in the community. It is still in the process of becoming a beloved community.
The descendants of now slaves and the Tuskegee what is known as the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study, and you witnessed Dr. Vanessa Gamble, the historian of medicine, who was also the first director for the Bioethics Center for Research at Tuskegee University, she was very intentional to begin to change the title of the study from what is known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study-- that is the incorrect title. The correct title is United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee.
Is that a process of becoming? Or we have to ask ourselves, what is becoming if Macon county is considered one of the poorest counties in the black belt portion of the state of Alabama? The black belt area counties in Alabama is not a metaphoric term for the amount of slaves who worked on the plantations. The black belt is actually known for-- it depicts the color of the soil. The darker the soil, the richer the ground for growing for growing products for the farm.
But within the context of stigmatizing the color black, the black belt now is also colloquially termed as the having the highest population of black people in the state of Alabama. The highest population of black people in the state of Alabama, descendants of slaves-- who are descendants of slaves-- also have one of the highest rates of poor public schools in the state of Alabama. Are we in the process of becoming or are we a beloved community?
One week before the Thanksgiving holidays, a noose was found on the campus of Auburn University. And in this process, students shared, many of them from black belt communities, as well as the other portions of the state, that-- some stated that they were afraid. Others said, there's nothing to be concerned about. Because even though we know that there has been an electrical cord tied into a noose in a major portion of a noted dormitory, there's nothing to be afraid of. Are we the beloved community, or are we in the process of becoming the beloved community?
So I want to share with you that in this process of becoming the beloved community, if you can assist me, Nicole, that we have developed, working with journalism students and media students at Auburn University, a digital humanities site entitled Becoming the Beloved Community. And in this site, students have written stories about what current relationships that are happening now because we are holding these intentional dialogues, again, continuously asking-- I can show their pictures. But remember when I talked about-- hopefully, this is the black woman sharecropper-- descendant of sharecroppers-- and seated next to her is the woman of European descent who is a descendant of sharecroppers.
And so we are holding these intentional dialogues in different locations in East Alabama to begin to bring people together within the context to ask them, what is the beloved community, as well as, do you-- hopefully, this will go back. No? Yes. As well as, for the first time, we're discovering that people are now holding conversations with each other that they've never thought about holding a conversation.
Here is, again, not saying names, but I can say that this person is transgender and this person is a white evangelical. Because at these dialogues, we provide information. We share a tool wherein they have social identifiers, and sharing what is critical to them in terms of how they note themselves or identify themselves. And so without saying their names, as you see they're on the website, these two persons are now in communication with each other, because the woman to your left admitted that she did not understand why a person would be transgender. So we're beginning to hold these conversations at places of faith and outside places of faith, asking the question, what does becoming the beloved community look like?
What I'd like to do, and to momentarily to invite you to this dialogue, I'd like for you to take into consideration, and I have a few questions that I want to pose to you so that we can engage in conversation. In the midst of domestic terror in the United States, what we frame as becoming the beloved community is only rhetoric, because our society accepts language that some persons who say they are Christians-- and again, I'm working for my faith language that I work in-- believe that-- and my work, again, is in the intersectionality of media, politics, religion, and liberation theology-- as we saw this week at the prayer breakfast, believe that our current president is quote, which has been stated by an evangelical Southern Baptist minister, "that our president is the chosen one, sent by God to do great things." Yet he discriminates against people of color, persons who are physically challenge, mocks the sacred ritual of prayer, and does not respond when children are caged like animals and die.
To say the words beloved community are only words. But to say that they're being implemented so that we can all become the beloved community, do we have any evidence? As a human community, we need to start an intentional conversation and ask ourselves, as well as our neighbors-- and we have to ask ourselves-- what is the meaning of love within the real lived experience that we in this room, outside of this room, allow domestic terror to continue to occur in our communities? What is the meaning of love within the real lived experience that we allow domestic terror to occur within our communities? I invite you to join me in this intentional dialogue.