In Sunday’s Gathering we will proclaim the Good News of Jesus and the power of Christ – working in and through us – to overcome the sins of racism and injustice.
In this blog I’m promoting the voices of two black friends, Rev. Julian Hobdy and Embo Tshimanga. Rev. Hobdy serves on staff at First Methodist Mansfield and shared the following letter with his congregation.
Ms. Tshimanga is a social worker and UTA student who spent an afternoon with my family in December to help my wife and I to better understand how to support and parent black children. Her letter below was published in Relevant Magazine, a publication popular with Christian young adults.
Please take the time to read their powerful testimonies.
I have work to do. So do you.
Rev. Julian Hobdy
I have struggled over the last several days to find my words and my voice in this moment. In my life, I always to be a person that offers hope and help. My very nature tends to be other-centered. I’ve resisted coming on Facebook in this way, in part, because I wanted to have all of my ducks in a row and to present the most polished, hopeful, and hopefully transformative message I could. In light of recent events and a long history of racial indifference, racial ignorance, and racial hatred, I’m always interested in finding the sources and methods that would help to transform the racial inequities that so permeate our country. I want to change the world, and I want my words to build up and not tear down. See, even in that, my concern is more for you than it is myself.
I’ve had several conversations and encouragements from people I love dearly and trust even more. What I’ve come to realize, just maybe, my hurt and broken heartedness might be just as helpful as any proposed solution. If you know me, then you need to know that I’m hurting. Men, women, children that look like me and have a similar felt experience as me are hurting.
Let me begin this way. I am a Christian. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. Even before making a profession, I think I instinctively resonated with the Divine. I felt God as a child listening to the sanctuary choir at Brentwood Baptist Church in Houston, TX, led by Edward Bernard Artis and in which my mom was a force in the Alto section.
I am the child of two incredible parents, one of which died way to soon. I’m the middle brother to two incredible men — two of the best men I know who inspire me and challenge me to be better everyday. They all root for me, they’ve protected me, they’ve nurtured me, and they have stood with me in every victory, defeat, and all the moments in between my whole life.
I am married to one of the best humans on the planet, one of the best offerings from Silsbee, TX, and one of the most productive persons that Prairie View A&M University ever produced. We have three daughters—two of which between us, and those little women teach me everyday.
I am a friend, a fraternity brother, an associate, a student, and I am a pastor.
All of these things that make me who I am, I’ve come to know through the lens of being a black American. I came to know God in the black church. I was raised by a black woman in a time and place that was not always particularly kind to black people. In that environment, I learned that I must occupy at least two worlds. It informs, to this very day, how I make decisions in this world.
As a husband to a beautiful black woman who is a father to three beautiful black girls, I simply cannot afford to understand my reality in any way that is divorced from my blackness — nor do I have a desire to do so. There are many of my friends, classmates, and colleagues who would hear that and relegate it to the sphere of identity issues, but it is an inescapable reality for me. Being black is not my primary identity, but it does inform my experience. As such, I am inextricably, insolubly, and unashamedly tied to that experience.
Earlier today, I posted the following statement:
Today, I stopped distracting myself. Today, I cried. Today was the first time I gave myself real time to access how I’m doing with all of this, and it all fell down. I cried for Bro. Floyd and Bro. Aubrey. I cried for Sis. Taylor and Sis. Bland. I cried Bro. Rice and Bro. Garner. I cried for my brothers, Michael and Terence. I cried for Pam who has constantly cried and cried out for me. I cried for Willie who can’t cry with me. I cried for Jocelyn, Mya, Joi and Jordyn. I cried for Conan. I cried for Cecil, Cedric, Jermaine, Durrell, Darlene, Darla, BriSany, Courtney. I cried for Sean, Donovan, Daniel, Lawrence, Judy, Gherri. I cried for Caesar and Jabari. I cried for John, Stephen, Pop Hollmon and Jamahl. I cried for Carmen Chrishelle and Zariah Noel. I cried for Jamal and Roderick. James and Jay. Adrian and Joe and Nick. I cried for Calvin, Xavier, Quinton, Charles, Josh, Dontrell, Reggie, Eric, and Ashton. I cried for their wives, sons, and daughters. I cried for Alpha Phi Alpha and all other Black Greek Leader Organizations. I cried for Eugene and Kevin, Carlton, Gerrard, Willie, Travis, Chibundu, Jerrail. I cried for LaToya, Ashley, Thandi, Mary, Rev. C., Stephanie, Raechel. I cried for Brentwood and First Methodist Mansfield. I cried for me. I cried for you.
After I cried, I came to this conclusion. Dr. Howard Thurman was right when he said, “When I identify with a man, I become one with him and in him I see myself.” Until we can identify with one another, until there is a real unity and solidarity that doesn’t require unanimity, we will constantly find ourselves in this moment. It’ll be the same song, but a different dance. In truth, there are significant differences between us, but there can be oneness without sameness.
But in order to get there, you have to see my kids as your kids. In seeing me, you must see yourself — not seeing me as yourself, but seeing me in yourself. We share a common humanity with a diverse experience. But if we are all equally made in God’s image, then we are all made in God’s image. So any loss of life, particularly in the unrestrained, casual, apparently unremorseful manner that seems to keep happening in this country, is a loss for all of us. Whole communities are devastated right now, and that devastation belongs to all of us, whether we feel it or not.
This message has zero solutions. I wish I had the answer. I wish I could change all of it. All I offer is the hope that God is not far from us in this moment. God is present in our suffering, present in our tears. Moreover, the end of our story is yet to arrive. There are more pages to our collective book of life, and I have to believe that the We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. That means, for us, God’s work is justice work. As I see it, justice isn’t about just doing good; it’s also doing something about the bad. As such, I got work to do, and so do you.
What I Wish White People Understood About Being Black In America
By Embo Tshimanga
I’d like to take you through the past few months for me. Typically, my resting heart rate is 80-85 BPM. This is when I’m properly caring for myself, eating well and exercising. It’s high, due to childhood trauma. Sleep is so-so.The pandemic began. Quarantine set in. The sudden loss and lack of structure both amplified and illuminated my childhood trauma. Emotional flashbacks occur. Though all that happened in my childhood is over, I begin feeling it all as if it’s happening right now, even years removed from it. I’m now doing 18 hours of school from home and working 20-ish hours a week. My resting heart rate jumps up to 83- 85 BPM. I’m still eating well and exercising. Sleep is still so-so.
The video was on autoplay. By the time I realized what I was watching, it was too late. I couldn’t unsee it. I had to watch it 3 times to let it sink in. Ahmaud could’ve been my brothers. He could’ve been my future sons. It very well could still be my brothers. It could very well be my future sons. My already-present anxiety is exacerbated. Ahmaud’s birthday rolls around and I couldn’t will my feet to go past the threshold of my home, let alone run outside. Gyms are closed too. Fear. I’m only safe in my home.My heart rate stays at a steady 85 BPM. I’m eating well and staying hydrated.
She was murdered. Shot eight times.In. Her. Sleep.In. Her. Home.Her home? I can’t make sense of this. If I’m not safe at home, am I safe anywhere? Black women aren’t exempt from this. The first night after finding out about her murder I haven’t slept more than three hours. Meanwhile, I’m in the midst of final exams, work, and beginning my Maymester.
Birdwatching. He was so kind. I couldn’t help but think… will I ever be able to walk in a park again? Will I ever appear non-threatening to people? Will I ever be able to live? The confines of which I can safely live seem to be getting smaller and smaller.
He loved Jesus. He was murdered. In the last moments of his life, he called for his Mama. His mama. He said he couldn’t breathe and I was transported to 2016 when Eric Garner uttered the same words before he took his last breath.
The rock on my chest has metastasized. It’s a brick and my breath feel shallow. It doesn’t feel safe to leave my house without the shield of a white friend or family member. I still haven’t slept more than three hours a night. Meanwhile, I still show up to my everyday responsibilities. My resting heart rate is now steadying at 95 – 98 BPM. My body has kept the score. My body is keeping score right now. I’m caring for myself — eating well and staying hydrated. I’m doing yoga. I’m a healthy 22-year-old.
Racism has informed my experiences since before I was born. The systems, constructs, and schools of thought that were put into effect as America began. Over 400 years later, here we are. I was followed in a store last week. Don’t tell me it’s over.As a black woman in America, I’m required to consider the White perspective. Smile a ton or you’ll look angry. Lower your voice or you’ll sound aggressive. When you walk in a store, keep your hands out of your purse and pockets. Don’t forget to smile at everyone you see. You don’t want anyone to think they need to worry about you. Don’t wear a hoodie. You’re tall. Do everything you can to make yourself smaller and younger. You don’t want anyone to be intimidated by your presence.
America = white. It’s sad. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s true.
White people, can I ask that you consider MY perspective? Will you consider BIPOC’s (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) perspectives? Will you listen before you speak? Will you subvert your feelings to give way, voice, and space for black people & to speak? Will you acknowledge the privilege your skin encompasses? Will you acknowledge the power that comes with it? Not just see it. Not just have it but do something with it.
(Note: Your black friends are not your educators. Google is free. Asking your black/POC friends is costly. They’re not your guides. They’re not your racial compasses. While we’re at it, don’t burden your black friends with your feelings about current events right now. They don’t need the added burden of yours on top of their own.)
Show me by acknowledging your ignorance. You can’t know what you don’t know. I understand that. I have grace for that but right now, choose to not ignore it. Don’t ignore this. Black people have been groaning for over 400 years.
We matter. Black lives matter. My black life matters. My family’s black lives matter. We deserve to be heard.
Don’t tell me you’re sorry. Show me by being apart of the solution. Show me by educating yourself. Show me by listening. Show me by calling people out on their white privilege, white supremacy and racism. Show me by lamenting. Show me by repenting. Show me by doing.
Do a diversity audit of your life. Do all of your friends look like you? What authors are you reading? What are your kids watching? What are you watching? What does your Facebook feed look like? Your Instagram? Twitter? If they’re all white, follow those who don’t look like you.
Racism, white supremacy and white privilege are real. It’s trauma. It’s traumatizing. This is our constant always, but incessant right now. Racism is far from over. Its roots are deep. Treating symptoms won’t work. We need to get to the wound. We need to look at the ‘why.’ It can’t be just us.
The Church is eerily quiet right now. We can’t fight this fight alone. Show up and stand up. Spend your privilege. Silence is breeding violence. Being silent is a luxury I don’t have the privilege of having.
Friends, please join Dr. Bruster and me in making space to listen, learn, and discern how we can use our voices and our energy to make Fort Worth a more just and equitable place for people of all races.
Please join our study of Latasha Morrison‘s book, Be The Bridge where together we will begin the work of discerning how God calls each of us to act. Doing this work honors the dead, supports the grieving, and draws us closer to Christ.
Print copies of the book are sold out on Amazon; order at bn.com or through The Dock Bookshop to support a local, black-owned business. Click the link below or register at fumcfw.org/be-the-bridge to participate in one of our discussion groups.
Once we’ve determined our engagement level, we’ll reach out to you with possible dates and times. Go ahead and purchase your copy, and prepare to go on a journey of prayer, reflection, and action.Register Now
May God’s Kingdom come, may God’s will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.
Rev. Lance Marshall