As of late, I feel as though my approach to life and humankind has been a little gray. I have hope in the promise but have found it hard at times to pick myself up and keep going. The idea of grief or loss is a hard thing to unpack especially for people you’ve never met but have had such a large influence on you. John Lewis was already a hero. I didn’t know that Chadwick Boseman was too. Of course, I knew him as The Black Panther, that had a huge impact on so many people. But as I was reflecting, I realized that for like the last 10 years of my life he was a constant presence, he brought so many figures who had already passed away alive again and felt so lifelike that you could touch them. Both losses were unexpected.
John Lewis was a giant. If you ask my sister what people I quote the most, he’s definitely on that list. His loss was devastating because it seems that right as Black Lives Matter was gaining momentum again, he leaves. But his words still hold true and they continue to inspire me. In his final letter to us all, he said this,
“You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.”
Such powerful words from a person who in his youth did so much to change America for the better. So I’ve taken his advice. This summer I’ve been reading, learning, protesting; all in the pursuit of truth and justice. Yet I’ve wrestled with the truth which only God can provide, a truth that certain parts of this present moment chooses to accept and chooses to ignore.
As a Christian, I feel often conflicted because somewhere along the road we were taught that our silence was obedience. To not question God or to demand society to give us an account on injustices was sinful and wrong. Judgement is not some abstract concept that only occurs after we’ve fought the good fight of faith. Sometimes justice can only come with judgement and sometimes judgement can only come through accountability. It is my belief that God wants as much human participation in His process as we are willing to have. Just like God consulted Abraham and Moses, he can consult us about different things He desires to do in the earth; different injustices that he knows we experience daily.
I was sitting with my parents watching the speeches of John Lewis’ Funeral. While watching Bill Clinton’s speech, I cringed when he spoke about Kwame Ture (formally known as Stokely Carmichael). My parents took issue with my response (mind you, if you are up against them it’s like David and Goliath- you most likely will lose) and when presenting their perspective my dad said,
“Well Bill Clinton is basically black.”
At that moment I knew the discussion was over because now we have a generational divide on our hands. My parent’s generation were my age when Bill Clinton was president. He was fresh, he was exciting and many people at the time saw him as Black America’s president because he could play the saxophone and had amazing chemistry with Black people. But today is no longer Bill Clinton’s America. When I see Bill Clinton, I see Monica Lewinsky and the numerous women who have sexual assault claims against him. I see his association with Jeffery Epstein who notoriously molested and sex trafficked young girls. I see him as part of the American I am actively trying to change. Where a white man is no longer given the platform to speak for Black people, but where we take up those spaces and speak for ourselves.
“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”Isaiah 43:19
So, this summer I find myself praying, crying, and processing like I never have before because I know God has more for us than this. It is time for my generation to rise up and demand better than what our parents had because our parents are not going to do that for us. The death of a King in Black Panther which is a cultural icon represents this radical moment that he represented. The death of another real-life icon in John Lewis, in my opinion, represents that a new time has come. Although it’s difficult, we must continue to press forward.