Feb 25 2014

What is the value of an African American male?

Is the worth of an African American male priceless or is it comparable to meaningless matter, insignificant and cheap?  For centuries the value and worth of the black male in society has come under question, as if God didn’t create everyone equally.  Who are we as a society of brothers and sisters to determine otherwise?

As I sat in my room and watched the Michael Dunn verdict, I immediately reflected on the question: What is the value of an African American male?  The jury convicted Michael Dunn on four of five charges against him, but were indecisive concerning the murder charge.  How can you be uncertain when 17-year-old Jordan Davis was unarmed and was unable to protect himself from the rage of Michael Dunn?  Furthermore how could you shoot into a car because of loud “thuggish” music and then go home as if your actions were normal?  A mother and father have lost their son because someone felt threatened by the face of difference rather than seeing the heart of similarity.  A split jury, some who will never see the black experience, has decided that a mistrial is better than convicting a man who killed out of malice towards someone different.  Is it a matter of changing the laws or changing the individual who views African Americans as inferior second-class citizens?

One could pontificate that the laws need to be amended, but the world will always have its stance on the value of an African American male.  This ongoing sense of injustice has continued to be a huge problem within our society.  Some may deem that we should worry about other issues.  Some may revert back to the argument about black-on-black violence, but is this a mechanism to cover up the overall injustice towards African American men?  Should we ignore these new Jim Crow laws and modern-day lynchings of African American men?  Several African Americans have been mistreated by the judicial system that is only designed to work for people with privilege and power.  Brothers such as Emmet Till, Oscar Grant III, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Danroy Henry, Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and several others have been victims of an unfair system that judges based on “the color of the skin rather than the content of character.”

When personal bias and bigotry enters the soul, it damages the very fabric of what it means to be alive in this world.  Being alive in the world means waking up everyday acknowledging that God created everything well without blemishes.  Personal difference is not a blemish but rather it is the gateway to exploring the essence of God.  I am not a blemish and I am not an enigma.  I am an educated black man who may be different on the exterior because of my skin, but I breathe the same air as those from other cultures.  I am a black man who longs for the moment when we all walk down the hallways of schools and jobs with love towards one another.  I am a black man who wants people to see my rich value rather than my skin tone.  I am not a monster.  I am human.  We all are precious in the eyes of God and we should cherish the fact that we are worth more than silver and gold.  With our seminary experience let’s change the world so that everyone can be treated equally and fairly.

–Lawrence Waters

Lawrence is a second-year MDiv student at Candler, a student ambassador, and president of the Black Student Caucus. He is a licensed minister in the American Baptist Churches (USA) and has served as a youth pastor for several years.


Feb 18 2014

Chaplain on the Hall!

prison“101, Chaplain on the hall!” I call out, as the officer on duty buzzes me through the second of two doors leading to a long corridor. As I enter the hallway illuminated by fluorescent lighting, another officer sits on duty in the first small room to the left. I walk further down the hall and observe the many doorways; each door containing ID cards giving the names and faces of two inmates residing within. As I move deeper into the heart of the passage, I catch a glimpse through an open door of two obviously pregnant women dressed in prison attire, confined to a room and serving a sentence. Somehow, these pregnant women have landed in the Georgia Department of Corrections. Then the realization occurred to me that I came to seminary and now I have somehow landed myself in prison.

The past six months or so, I have spent time as a chaplain intern at the facility that houses all the pregnant female inmates in the state of Georgia. My time has consisted of building relationships with a group of marginalized women and offering a pastoral presence in the midst of unsettling circumstances. Candler’s Contextual Education program has provided an avenue that intentionally placed me in the path of the marginalized and facilitated authentic relationships through community with strangers and peers.

Reflecting on the ministry of Jesus reveals that he was on the move. Where was he going? Towards the Cross. What was he doing? Intentionally placing himself in the midst of the marginalized. For example, Jesus encountered the Syrophoenician woman who because of the status of her daughter and the fact she is a woman would have been considered twice marginalized. He cured the deaf man—another marginalized person. Among many examples, Jesus continually placed himself among the hurting and oppressed.

The opportunity as a seminary student to serve prison inmates who seem cast aside by society has helped me see the presence of God and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of these women. The reality is that our world is indeed dark at times and yet, through this journey, God’s presence has been manifested through genuine relationship and has become ever so clear during my journey as Chaplain over the past months. What has become even more evident to me is the worthiness of these women and the reality that each woman at the facility is a child of our Creator God. There is not a soul on Earth that is not worthy of the Grace of God.

Mark 8:34-35 says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it.”

So, let’s get movin’, friends!  We’re all going somewhere—I challenge each to take the scenic route in life and see the unmistakable richness of God and experience wholeness through community with one another.

–Emily Edwards

Emily is a first-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler. She lived and worked in Ocala, FL, before relocating to Atlanta.