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Last year, I compiled a list of resources for Jesuit Volunteers on racial equality here. It is interesting to look back on what I referred people to, and the snapshot in my thinking on racial justice at the time. Some things have changed, others have remained the same. I don’t focus so much on bookmarking articles, for one. I’m more interested in taking action with communities.

This year, I compiled a list of resources for Jesuit Volunteers on justice in St. Louis as well. These resources were inspired by a driving tour we did to prepare them for service in St. Louis. We have some woke folks, including people who asked about black-owned business, how to invest in North City without swooping in unwanted, and how to engage in the Movement for Black Lives. We talked about payday lending, food deserts, redlining, private security firms, state surveillance, and police brutality. There is more work and learning to do.

Let me know, what would you add?

Anti-Racist Events:
Sun 10/23 1-5p
Sun 10/30 6-7:30p
Organizations:
Metropolitan Congregations United http://mcustl.com/  
Metropolitan Congregations United is an interdenominational, multi-racial community organization of religious congregations in the St. Louis Metropolitan Region that are working for a common purpose: to create a better life for all residents.
 

HandsUpUnited is a collective of politically engaged minds building towards the liberation of oppressed Black, Brown and poor people through education, art, civil disobedience, advocacy and agriculture.

Organization for Black Struggle http://obs-onthemove.org/

THE ORGANIZATION FOR BLACK STRUGGLE was founded in 1980 by activists, students, union organizers and other community members in order to fill a vacuum left by the assaults on the Black Power Movement.

Latinos en Axion STL http://www.latinosenaxionstl.org/

Latinos En Axión STL is a grassroots organization created by and for Latino immigrants. We seek to promote individual transformation while we teach community engagement for social and economic justice.   

Palestine Solidarity Committee http://www.stl-psc.org/ 

Saint Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee (STL-PSC) is a project of the St. Louis Instead of War Coalition. We began organizing against Israeli Apartheid and the Israeli occupation in 2009 in response to the calls of Palestinian civil society for organized action against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

CAIR-MO http://www.cair-mo.org/

CAIR-MO vision is to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding.

Our Mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

International Institute https://www.iistl.org/

With America’s population now drawn from virtually every corner of the world, our nation must grapple with both the promise and risk of being a global society. In addressing this challenge, the International Institute of St. Louis and other members of the century-old USCRI network serve as valuable resources to national policy makers, local communities, governmental bodies, and human service agencies.

Black/Pro-Black Business:

Progressive Emporium & Education Center https://www.facebook.com/ProgressiveEmporiumandEducationCenter/

Bookstore

SweetArt http://sweetartstl.com/

Cafe & bakeshop & art

Diner’s Delight 1504 S Compton Ave, St. Louis, MO 63104

Soul Food, visited by Obama

Cathy’s Kitchen 250 S Florissant Rd, Ferguson, MO 63135 

New Orleans, Mexican, American… based on food from owners’ travels… and it’s all done well. Cathy will take a picture with you if you want. There are desserts in glass jars. 

Blank Space STL https://twitter.com/blankspacestl

We host concerts, art shows, film screenings, parties, meetings, lectures, classes, discussion groups, game nights, and MOST things that draw people together.

Master Pieza http://masterpieza.com/

Pizza, owned by my friend’s husband. So good & crispy!

One Dish Wonders http://onedishwonderful.com/

Started by Ms. Annie Magny, One Dish Wonders is a casserole baking business that offers families home-cooked meals. Check out her catering options as well!

Journalism 

Sarah Kendzior https://sarahkendzior.com/

St. Louis American http://stlamerican.com/

Recommended Education

Forward Through Ferguson http://forwardthroughferguson.org/ 

We Live Here http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/we-live-here-st-louis-coded-conversation-about-race-and-class

Ferguson and Faith http://www.chalicepress.com/Ferguson-and-Faith-P1541.aspx

I was research assistant for this book.

Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion http://fergusonamerica.com/

The Griot Museum of Black History www.thegriotmuseum.com/

 

I ride the bus everyday. During the week, I wait at bus stops near Sts Peter & Paul Catholic Church, a church that feeds people at 5pm from Monday through Friday. And I have some stories. Names edited for confidentiality.

The first time I noticed Frank, he was carrying a chair. Over his shoulder, a wooden chair with teal vinyl cushions, a cane in his other hand. It was impossible not to notice him. Who carries a damn chair out and about on the sidewalk? Where did he get that chair? Did he carry it every day?

“Hey beautiful, I brought this chair for you.”

Like hell you did. You don’t even know me.

“Want to sit down?”

“No thanks,” I smile big. It’s my policy to smile big when I turn someone down, especially if they are nice about asking. No matter how gross or weird I feel about the request, I smile big. It reduces the likelihood of violence. It disarms people. It’s expected.

Except when they are rude. If they are rude, I wear a flat affect. That comes from the time I worked in a state psychiatric facility. Flat affect means there is nothing to react to. Resting social worker face.

“Okay then,” he replies. And sits.

The next day, he is sitting in his comfy chair again. “Do you want to sit down?” he asks.

“No thanks,” I smile big.

“Okay then.” Time passes. My bus is taking a while. He ambles over to me, an earnest expression, his ruddy face gets in my space. I bristle but stand firm. “What’s your name?”

“Karen.”

“My name’s Frank.”

“Nice to meet you.”

He sits back down.

“Karen, let me show you something.” He reaches into his duffel bag, pulls out an envelope full of pictures.

“This might be weird to show you… but I want you to see something.”

Oh dear.

He pulls a photo of him and a young woman. The young woman has his face, but with blonde ringlets. She looks chipper. He looks chipper. When was this?

“Now look at this picture.”

He pulls out another photo. The young woman is mirrored.

“Are they twins?”

“Yes, they are. They’re my daughters. Can you believe it?”

“Yeah, they have your face.”

“When I see you at the bus stop, I think of them.”

The day after, there he is again. He’s on the bus bench, a black bench with hostile anti-sleeping dividers. His comfy chair is behind the fence, broken, collapsed by the dumpster.

“What happened to your chair, Frank?!”

“Someone vandalized it. They broke it,” his buddy answers for him. Frank looks serious, crestfallen.

“It happened this morning. Isn’t that terrible?” Frank inquires.

“Yeah, that’s awful. I’m sorry.”

“Ah it’s alright. Hey, you want to sit down?” asks Frank.

“No thanks,” I smile big.

“She’s always going to say no,” says Frank’s buddy.

“And I’m going to keep asking,” Frank answers.

“And she’ll keep saying no!” exclaims Buddy.

“…or maybe one day she’ll say yes,” adds Frank’s other buddy.

“And maybe another day she’ll say no,” responds Buddy.

“But it’s up to her isn’t it?” Frank looks at me.

Buddy 1 and Buddy 2 look at me, too, expectantly.

“Yes it is,” I answer.

The bus arrives, beeping its way down. I take out my bus pass and walk into the bus, ushered by a chorus of goodbyes.

“Bye Karen!”

“It’s always nice to see you Karen!”

“See you later Karen!”

 

Readings and sermon, with full acknowledgement that it might feel a bit weird/silly because this is recorded with a webcam, rather than with an audience. But sounds fine audio-wise (although there are a few minor hiccups/misreadings)!

Alternate titles include: You Can’t Stop the Revolution and The People United Will Never be Defeated.

Food for thought:

Han & Minjung Theology –

Minjung Theology: A Korean Theology of the People

Minjung Theology: A Korean Contextual Theology – A. Sung Park

COINTELPRO –

The FBI’s Covert Program to Destroy the Black Panther Party

Democracy Now! COINTELPRO

Why the Government’s Monitoring of the Black Lives Matter Movement Should Come as No Surprise

Gentrification as colonialism –

Documentary – Gentrification: The New Age of Gentrification

Gentrification: The New Colonialism in the Modern Day Era

Where the White People Live

False solutions to pain –

Apartheid

“Not in our Name!”

Border Walls

Pope Francis: Building Walls is Not Christian

Highways

Highways Jammed through Poor Neighborhoods

Municipalities

Let it Go: Time to Disincorporate St. Louis Municipalities

FOCUS St. Louis on Municipalities

Charter Schools

A dozen problems with charter schools

Don’t renew TFA’s contract with SFO- From a former TFA teacher

Teach for America Undermines the Fight for Racial Justice

Tenant farmers as rural, disenfranchised whites –

Trump Supporters Aren’t Stupid

Misc –

For the Sake of All

Dr. Jason Purnell & Reinhold Neibuhr Award

Forward Through Ferguson

Thank you:

Melissa Sternhagen – For being a kindred spirit and being thoughtful about what it means to be a white co-conspirator… and understanding that never in a million years would I want to “pulpit-jack” you!

Lorren Buck & Korla Masters – For interrogating the text with me and wrestling with its troubles.

Chelsey Hillyer & Amy Stark – Moral support and being human together.

Harrison Sand – For putting up with my external processing.

Mama – For reminding me to read the Bible.

Testimonials:

Your sermon rocked! It was the best damn sermon about rocks I have ever heard.

“It’s great when you can smack people upside the head and make them laugh at the same time!”

“Praise is political… praise God!”

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Photo Credit: Bryce Krug

Reading the Signs of the Times

Regina Purnell-Gray, Kevin Kriesel, Deborah Krause

Excerpts from “Forward through Ferguson,”
the report of the Ferguson Commission

In 2013, as we prepared to celebrate St. Louis’ 250th birthday,  leaders debated whether or not to engage in community-wide planning, in a wide assessment of the region. Increasingly, civic leaders said no, and it didn’t happen. But on August 9th, young people said yes. We have a Commission because our region’s youth, through their actions, demanded that we rethink things. Youth voice brought us to this moment.”

Mothers and fathers, extended families, faith communities, neighbors and leaders need to be there to support their hopes and dreams. We want to see our children and every citizen living peaceably, protected and safe without harassment. This requires intentional action to build positive relations between community members and police.”

To be faithful to this moment, we must respond and work together with young people to bring about change for their generation, and the next. Leaders are dealers in hope. The commission’s challenge to the leaders of this region – no matter how, where, or who you lead – is to engage in the hard work of creating real hope.”

*Scripture Readings

Toni Crigler

           Psalm 118:19-24 CEB

 Left:            Open the gates of righteousness for me

so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord!

Right:                    This is the Lord’s gate; those who are righteous enter through it.

Left:            I thank you because you answered me,

because you were my saving help.

Right:                    The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone!

                   The Lord has done this and it’s amazing to witness!

Left:            This is the day the Lord acted; we will rejoice and celebrate in it!

        Mark 12:1-12

12 Jesus spoke to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. When it was time, he sent a servant to collect from the tenants his share of the fruit of the vineyard. But they grabbed the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again the landowner sent another servant to them, but they struck him on the head and treated him disgracefully. He sent another one; that one they killed. The landlord sent many other servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. Now the landowner had one son whom he loved dearly. He sent him last, thinking, They will respect my son. But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

“So what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10  Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 11 The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?”[a]

12 They wanted to arrest Jesus because they knew that he had told the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

One:            Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Many:          Thanks be to God.

———————

Sermon: Living in the Plot Twist

Pastoral caregivers know that sarcasm is the language of anger, and if we are to believe Mark, Jesus is pissed. After all, Jesus is steeped in han, described by minjung theologians as what you feel when your people have been exploited, brutalized, and killed by colonizers for years. That bitter-hot feeling of rage and resentment that makes your blood boil, twisting your insides into knots, overwhelming you with the need to fight for justice or risk being eaten alive from the inside by han, this inherited sickness that you get when you have been sinned against throughout time and space, across generations and across the diaspora.

Han runs through Jesus’ veins as he tries to organize a liberation movement with the Roman Empire’s COINTELPRO tracking his every move. He’s fighting for the people, but the people get on his nerves. They ask, “Isn’t this the bastard son of a working class man? Where did he go to high school? Nothing good comes from that neighborhood.” Just as Jesus’ temper is really getting out of control—he cursed a fig tree for failing to bear fruit when it was out of season and he flipped a bunch of tables in church—the religious establishment cranks up the heat, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”

Jesus claps back: “Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing to witness?”

The story of oppression says that our world is defined by the builders, those with greater privilege and power, who create and guard our systems and institutions, who decide which stones can remain in the vineyard and which stones are to be rejected. The story of oppression says that God planted our world and went on vacation. You’re born into your position and your story of oppression: whether you are servant/slave, tenant farmer, or landowner’s child. Servants and slaves might be in the best position to be prophets, but are dehumanized and exploited, at risk for being brutalized or killed. They ask, “Why are things this way?” Tenant farmers might be able make a living off the land, but are fearful of being exploited or becoming the lowest rung on the social ladder. They ask, “How can I make sure I am never the slave?” The children of landowners might be able to inherit wealth and status, but are vulnerable to being killed by those who have little to lose and much to gain. They ask, “What can I do to put distance between myself and those people?”

The world is filled with exploitation and violence, greed and fear, death and destruction—Isaiah 5 says that when there is injustice, everyone is trapped in suffering. Privilege doesn’t save the landowner’s child and violence doesn’t save the tenant farmer. So often we think that the solution to all of this is to build apartheid walls, or border walls, or freeways and highways and municipalities and electoral districts and charter schools and suburbs and gated communities and “up-and-coming” neighborhoods that all essentially do the same thing… because gentrification is the new colonialism. We believe that threats always lie outside the fence and outside our borders, when in fact, Mark tells us that threats are on the inside.

With a clapback from Psalm 118, Mark writes a plot twist into the story of oppression: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing to witness. In Isaiah 5, the vineyard has been cleared of stones, but in Psalm 118, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Psalm 118 is a song for survivors who are chanting at the gates of righteousness, impatiently waiting for the Temple doors to open so they can praise God.

They’ve been distressed, so they praise God. They know that God is on their side, so they praise God. They know that haters gon’ hate, so they praise God. They know it’s better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals, so they praise God. They know it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in any politician, so they praise God. The military might of entire nations surround them on every side, so they praise God. They push hard and are falling, so they praise God. It feels like God is punishing them, but STILL they survive, so they praise God.

Find a neighbor and say, “Neighbor… praise is political.”

Find another neighbor and say, “So neighbor… praise God.”

The story of oppression says that the world is being cut apart by walls and fences, we are surrounded by death and destruction, and God is on vacation. But the story of resurrection is the plot twist that says, our world is being rebuilt by the survivors, the strong, stubborn stones that stayed in the vineyard, even after the builders of white supremacy, racism, and colonialism tried to cast them out.

The stones that the builders rejected have become the cornerstones. We will not be cut apart by walls and fences, but will be built up into a new kindom of God. We may be buried and left for dead, but in the spring, we rise. God is not on vacation, but God IS ordaining new management. In the stones the builders rejected, God is still speaking, and teaching, and learning, and listening, and building, and resisting, and dreaming, and fighting, and rising, and always arriving. Therefore we are not moving forward in spite of Ferguson, but through it. The Lord is doing this, and it’s amazing to witness! …so can I get a witness?

Amen. ————————————————————————————————-

Benediction:

May you go forward through Ferguson, out into the streets to let the survivors make disciples out of you, remembering that praise is political. The stones the builders rejected have become the cornerstones! The Lord has done this and it is amazing to witness! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Other reflections & acknowledgements forthcoming.

fig tree
A picture taken by my sister with me and a young fig tree, an offshoot of the larger fig tree to the right of the picture.

IMG_9276

And with the larger fig tree!

Some reflections with an imagination partner in response to my “What Commission?” sermon…

Imagination partner: I did get to thinking that…what if…Jesus was a spoiled “hangry” brat who discovered—as if for the first time—that his people had always lived among barren fruits. Outraged, he cursed, and the elders looked at each other to say, “The man-child doesn’t know that the tree has been dead his entire lifetime….” Perhaps it was this same so-called “holy rage” that engulfed Moses, such that he only knew to strike in the way of Empire…. Perhaps the choice is not the false binary between “now or later”…. Oy, if every day is kairos day, then every day is someone’s Good Friday and someone else’s Easter…?

Me: That is a wonderful “what-if” and opens up many postcolonial possibilities. I think you’re absolutely right, and we are challenged to be all the more vigilant in our discipleship (to be students of one another) as a result… in part of my research for the text, an author suggested that maybe the dead fig tree was a fixture in the landscape for a long time, and that the stories of Jesus and the fig tree arose from that, an illustration drawing from a common sight. I am now thinking that in such an old city as St. Louis, how many fixtures we see that we ignore and forget, and what it would mean to reexamine them…

…and similar to your previous challenge to me, who has lived in our communities as “fixtures” who deserve to be seen in their full life as a source of wisdom and knowledge about the past and the future…?

What are your what-if reflections?