Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Christian Prayer of Thanksgiving and Remembrance in the Yellow

A Christian Prayer of Thanksgiving and Remembrance

Let us pray and give thanks to God for our bountiful lives.

On this day, where family and friends gather to eat, drink and give thanks for all that we have, let us also remember those among us that have less to be thankful for.

While we give thanks for this food, let us remember and pray forthe farm workers whose labors made our meal possible.

Let us remember and pray for the poultry worker, the canner, the truck driver, the grocery store clerk, and the cooks who made this meal and all of our meals possible.

And while we pray in thanks, let us pray all people receive enough through their labors, so that all can live in security, and that no one go hungry for lack of decent wages.

Let us seek and find ways to share our nation’s bounty with all those in need.

In Jesus’ name,

Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer in the Yellow

An Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer

This reading is appropriate for use by families, groups or congregations before a Thanksgiving meal. Before reading together, please select two people to serve as leaders one and two. Part of the reading is from Psalm 100, verses 4 and 5. Please note the justice action opportunity listed at the end of the reading.

Leader 1: We give thanks for the ability to come together this day as friends and family.

All: We celebrate the times when we share food and friendship with one another.

Leader 2: We know that it is right and good to give thanks to God for the abundance that God has given.

All: We remember the words of the Psalmist, who repeatedly urges us to “come before God with thanksgiving.”

Leader 1: Over the years, our nation’s leaders have recognized the importance of setting aside a day to give thanks for all that God has given us.

All: It is a day to share food with friends and family, and to seek ways for sharing God’s bounty with those around us.

Leader 2: We recognize that food did not just magically appear.

All: We give thanks for the farmers and farm workers who planted and harvested our food.

Leader 1: We pray that all immigrants who come to our nation, including the many who plant and harvest our food, will be treated with respect and hospitality.

All: We give thanks for the workers who process and package our food, in turkey processing plants, and in canning and vegetable packing plants.

Leader 2: We pray that these workers and all workers will be paid wages that allow them to put food on their own tables.

All: We lift up grocery store workers, who enable us to purchase our food at nearby stores.

Leader 1: And finally, we lift up the hands that prepared this food,

All: The cooks, the assistants, and all those who helped put this food on our table.

Leader 2: Food and the sharing of food is the work of many people.

All: For this we give thanks.

Leader 1: As we pause today before we eat, let us seek new ways

All: To enjoy the special times with friends and family.

Leader 2: Let us find new ways

All: To share our nation’s prosperity with all who labor.

Leader 1: And let us pledge ourselves anew

All: To be a people of sharing and a people of thanksgiving.

Leader 2: Today, we enter God’s gates with thanksgiving.

All: We enter God’s courts with praise.

Leader 1: We give thanks to God.

All: We praise God’s name.

Leader 2: For God is good.

All: God’s love endures forever.

Leader 1: God’s faithfulness continues through all generations.

All: We give thanks for food, for friends, for family, and for the opportunity to share with one another.

Leader 2: Let us enjoy the food before us.

All: Amen.


For those who wish to encourage sharing and support workers, Interfaith Worker Justice invites you to communicate with your elected leaders about moving quickly to raise the federal minimum wage. An increase in the minimum wage would raise wages for many who process, sell and serve our food, and would enable thousands of families to put daily food on their tables. Set aside a time during your Thanksgiving sharing time to write letters to your Congressional Representative and two Senators. Write letters by hand or send letters from IWJ’s Web site. For more information, sample letters, or to send letters online, visit

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Remembrance in the Yellow

The Interfaith Worker Justice organization challenges us to remember workers in our prayers and especially as we celebrate holidays--many of which wouldn't be possible without the toil of their hands. The next three posts are prayers or litanies you can use as you reflect on and celebrate God's many blessings in your life.

A Prayer of Gratitude and Remembrance

God, we come together today to oer prayers of gratitude and remembrance.

We thank you for the gift of life, and remember those who are no longer with us.

We thank you for the company of family and friends, and remember those who cannot be with theirs.

We thank you for the wonderful meal before us, and remember those who toiled to make this celebration possible.

God, you have given us so much this year and the years before, and we pray that you bless us with the generosity to share what we have with those who have very little.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Poetry in the Yellow

"Poem for Some Black Women" by Carolyn M. Rodgers in How I Got Ovah: New and Selected Poems (1976)

i am lonely.
all the people i know
i know too well

there was comfort in that
at first but now
we know each others miseries
too well.
we are
lonely women, who spend time waiting for
occasional flings

we live with fear.
we are lonely.
we are talented, dedicated, well read

we are lonely.

we understand the world problems
Black women's problems with Black men
but all
we really understand is

when we laugh,
we are so happy to laugh
we cry when we laugh
we are lonely.
we are busy people
always doing things
fearing getting trapped in rooms
loud with empty...
knowing the music of silence/hating it/hoarding it
loving it/treasuring it,
it often birthing our creativity
we are lonely.

being soft and being hard
supporting our selves, earning our own bread
knowing that need must not show
will frighten away
knowing that we must
walk back-wards nonchalantly on our tip-toesssss
if only for stingy moments

we know too much
we learn to understand everything,
to make too much sense out
of the world,
of pain
of lonely...

we buy clothes, we take trips
we wish, we pray, we meditate, we curse, we crave, we coo, we caw,
we need ourselves sick, we need, we need
we lonely we grow tired of tears we grow tired of fear
we grow tired but must al-ways be soft and not too serious...
not too smart not too bitchy not too sapphire
not too dumb not too not too not too
a little less a little more
add here detract there

Post Racial Hair and Hope in the Yellow

Wigging, Weaving and Burning Away Blackness: Post-Racial Hair and Hope

Dr. Maulana Karenga

Let’s not pretend Chris Rock’s recent film, “Good Hair”, revealed any well-concealed secrets about how Black people, especially Black women, conceive and do their hair. The name of the chemicals have changed from “conk” to “creamy crack” and the irons have been transformed into new technological toys. But the urge and aspiration to alter one’s ethnic image and to parallel, if not embody, the Eurocentric paradigm, is as old as enslavement and racism and as deeply rooted and enduring as their evil effect. Indeed, Chris Rock’s daughter’s distress about her misdefined hair tells us not only about many among us with a racially problematized conception of themselves, but also about a pathological and pathogenic societal context that cultivates and sustains this conception.

The movie tends to focus on how we do our hair, but how we do our hair is, in itself, one of the least of our problems. However, the reasons we do our hair the way we do can be and often is a problem of serious significance. Thus, to discuss simply what we do to our hair without a credible engagement with the reasons we do it turns out as another diversion in the sense of both distraction and entertainment, done at considerable cost to a dignity-affirming conception of ourselves.

The “good” and “bad” hair issue is a question of how we see ourselves as a whole and how society reinforces or undermines our sense of self and worthiness in the world. Without this educational and corrective thrust, such a film easily moves from documentary to “mockumentary”, again presenting racial pathology, real or imagined, as a perpetual source of society’s entertainment. Indeed, it becomes just another way to reveal and bemoan another source and sign of pathology among us without any intent or expectation of correction. Under the oppressive gaze, judgment and treatment of a racist society, Frantz Fanon tells us a person and people can go thru at least four stages of psychological disintegration of self: self-doubt, self-denial, self-condemnation and self-mutilation. It begins, then, with self-doubt—doubting the worth of ourselves, hacking ourselves into unworthy pieces and constantly condemning ourselves.

We begin early to suspect a racial deficiency and set about questioning the worth and appropriateness of our physical presence, let alone our mental capacities. We question our skin color, nose, lips, hair and the life-affirming loudness of our laughter. We are, something evil tells us, too Black, our hair too tightly curled or our nose too bold, or our lips too large with loveliness and our laughter too loud and celebratory of life. We must restrain and restrict our Black selves, not speak ebonics, do the second “d” in “didn’t” and not concede the deep-structure tendency to change “th” to “f”, saying “Roof” instead of “Ruth”. And we are to take a knife to our nose, chop off our cheeks and wig, weave and burn away the Blackness of our hair and overall self-presentation. In this context of post-racial fantasies of White hair and the hope for ethnic invisibility, irrationality and self-injury run rampant.

Clearly, there is something seriously sick about a society that would cultivate even in successful, wealthy and otherwise highly-educated people the desire to dismember, disfigure or in any way “racially” correct themselves. This is a spiritual and ethical problem, especially for those among us who believe that humans are made in the image of the Divine and who at the same time believe we were made inherently unequal in Divine physical and mental endowment.

The contradiction is easily understandable, if we realize we are dealing with one of the greatest problems of our times—the progressive Europeanization of human consciousness and culture. This means the systematic invasion and effective transformation of the cultural consciousness and practice of the various peoples of the world by Europeans. This pernicious process is essentially achieved thru educational transformation, media messages and models, and technological dominance and deformation.

This produces three interrelated results. First, there is the progressive loss and replacement of the historical memories of the altered peoples. Secondly, there is the progressive disappreciation of themselves and their culture as a result of a conscious and unconscious assessment of themselves using European standards. And finally, it results in the progressive adoption of a Eurocentric view not only of themselves, but also of each other and the world.

This, in turn, leads to damage, distortion and diminishing of their sense of their own humanity and the increasing degeneration of the cultural diversity and exchange which gives humanity its rich variousness and internal creative challenge. Examples of this are also reflected in Asians and Latinos altering their eyes and noses; yellowing their hair; lengthening their legs and other self-redesigning in the image of Europe. It also means preferring European culture to their own and diminishing interest in their own classics. And it means European things become normal and normative, something toward which compliance rather than questioning is the proper and rewarded response.

There is no people without problems or practices which could not be called pathological, arguably insane or irrational and unquestionably self-destructive, even among the self-designated elite, elect, chosen and exalted. Therefore, when I lecture on various issues which self-designated superiors tend to see themselves as exempt from and above, I point out practices particular to them which bear considerable resemblance to ones they ridicule in others. After all, there are some self-designated superiors who strive to tame stringy hair, enlarge and pad insufficient lips, breasts, and butt, and seek color correction for an otherwise vaunted whiteness. Although this is not done because of a sense of racial inferiority emerging from oppression or a collective sense of deficient being, it nevertheless comes from personal perceptions of inadequacy.

This, of course, is said not to humiliate, but to impose a needed racial and religious modesty, shatter illusions of exemption and superiority, and conduct our conversations on the common ground of shared human weaknesses as well as strengths. Likewise, having made this point, I ask members of the so-called problematic and self-doubting groups to retrieve and embrace a more expansive conception of themselves and approach even serious problems in the most dignity-affirming and life-enhancing ways.

In this way, attempts at wigging, weaving and burning away Blackness become archaic and ethically unacceptable. And there is no need for fantasies of post-racial hair and hope of ethnic erasure. Instead, we confidently believe in the beauty of our own bodies; act in ways that define and deepen our sense of dignity; and clear space so that we can speak our own special cultural truth and walk in the world in the wonder and security of our own selves.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach, Chair of The Organization Us, Creator of Kwanzaa, and author of Kawaida and Questions of Life and Struggle: African American, Pan-African and Global Issues, [; and].

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Perspectives in the Yellow

Five Things President Obama Can Do For Black Men

(this article from The Milwaukee Community Journal)

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I was asked this week to appear on a CNN special about Barack Obama and his impact on African American men. When I was asked about my thoughts on Obama, I wasn’t sure what to say. I respect Barack Obama as a Black man, and it is my greatest hope that he is successful.

But at the end of the day, my feelings are mixed, because only time will tell if the true state of the African American male is going to improve as a result of our having a Black man in the White House.

On one hand, the symbolic impact of Barack Obama’s presence is clear: Black men and women around the world are inspired by his rise to power. He deserves tremendous respect for doing the impossible and giving us a Black president 100 years ahead of schedule.

There is another side to the debate, however, one that focuses on the two vitriolic demons that continue to plague the Black man in America:

The educational system and the prison system. If the president truly cares about Black men, he will do whatever is necessary to improve the systems, which impact men who look like him.

According to the National Society of Black School Educators, Black boys are five times more likely to be placed in special education than White kids.

What is inherently obvious is that our inner city schools have become feeder systems for prisons, the same way that the NCAA feeds athletes to the NFL. Our capitalist addiction to free prison labor has led to a reinstallation of slavery into the heart of America.

There are more Black men in prison in America than Joseph Stalin ever had during the height of the gulag era, and for a Black man to be in charge of such a holocaust of incarceration is disturbing. Obama did not cause the problem, but for this Harvard educated attorney and former community organizer to sit by in the midst of such a tragedy is morally wrong and should not be justified.

Here are some things that President Obama can do to favorably impact Black males during his time in the White House:

1) Find a way to fund inner city schools or at least supplement the programs so that children can be educated. Uneducated men don’t get jobs.

Men who don’t have jobs are likely to end up in prison. There should be no drug dealers who could have been pharmacists, and no bank robbers who could have been bankers. If we are not educating our children, we are failing them miserably.

2) Give United States Attorney General Eric Holder the resources to ensure that sentencing disparities are studied and that the public defender system is improved.

There are thousands of men who go to prison every year for crimes they did not commit, only because the over-worked public defender is all too quick to push for a plea bargain. This is worsened by the fact that harsh sentences are imposed on those who choose to fight their charges by utilizing their constitutionally-guaranteed day in court.

3) Stop prison rape at any cost. The spread of HIV can be directly linked to jails and prisons, and this is destroying Black families and killing Black women.

4) Make prisons a place of rehabilitation, not just punishment. Why we’ve decided that it makes sense to keep able-bodied individuals rotting away without giving them the incentive to educate themselves is beyond me.

That time in prison should be used in ways that will help these individuals emerge as productive members of society.

5) Create an avenue for reintegration into society. The idea that a person should be ostracized for life and unable to obtain job opportunities because of mistakes they’ve made in the past only gives them the incentive to make more mistakes.

A person who has been marginalized by our society becomes a threat to all of us and a missed opportunity to obtain productive outcomes.

On the recorded CNN segment, I gave the president a relatively weak “thumbs up” for the job he has done thus far.

His appointments of racially problematic economic advisors Ben Bernanke and Lawrence Summers implies that he may be out of touch with the economic realities of African American males, who experience unemployment rates as high as 50% in some urban areas.

But the truth is that I am hopeful that President Obama will earn his Nobel Prize by being a true leader and not just a president. The jury is still out on Barack Obama, and it is my greatest prayer that the verdict that returns is favorable.