gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative

there’s been so much pain, anger, grieving, and the reminder (once again) this week of the many injustices the black community endures on a regular basis in this country. i have been asking myself this week what i can personally do in response, in addition to the collective joining of voices on social media and caring well for my family, friends and church folk. the more i thought about it and the more i’ve read comments, articles and watched the crazy videos, i want my presence and voice to extend beyond helping to prove a point through sharing an article on twitter, or commenting “i hear you” or debating white privilege with “friends” on Facebook. in fact, i personally realized early on, from the moment my parents struggled with my black friends, black church and later my biracial husband, that prejudice and racial bias begins with the fundamental ways we are formed to see.

how we see people affects how we understand people. how we understand people affects how we respect people. how we respect people affects how we engage people. how we engage people shows how [much] we love people. and, how we love people is EVERYTHING.

to see rightly – the image of god in every person – is foundational to every action that follows. this was key for me, too. **confession: i used to see koreans as racists and elitists – only looking out for their own cultural best interests in the pursuit of purity and assimilation, even at the expense of their own children. i had good reasons to justify this claim, until i made the hard choice to see rightly. to see truthfully. to see more than the singular story, or even 70 stories for that matter. in this journey over the years, i’ve discovered healing in confession and transformation in repentance. i have found friendships and new levels of trust with koreans that i never had before. god has truly redeemed pain and disappointment into possibility and freedom.

the need to adjust our eyes and to see rightly is so critical. that’s why i’m tired of seeing certain images of black bodies/lives strategically portrayed by the media and hearing the words used to describe their presence as dangerous, thugs, criminals, lazy, poor, gang bangers, and so on… TI-RED!

i think about the season of advent that we’re in right now and i’m pressed to remember that in jesus’ very body – god incarnate – he invites us to re-imagine all bodies. the birthing of god’s body through mary was not to be served; the maleness of his body was not to exert power; the jewishness of his body was not to exclude; and his body witnessed in the margins was not to police and control.

there are too many ill-formed narratives and images about black lives/bodies that are spoken (and dare i say seared) into our hearts and minds. i want to do my small part in changing that narrative. I invite you to re-imagine, to see rightly and to see truthfully the beauty in a community that i call “my people” and my family. so, everyday in advent, for 25 days, i will share a story of someone i love and respect. and, i’d love to hear yours as well!

day 1 – november 30
alaina brown

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alaina was my maid of honor and a dear friend i met in college. she is the quintessential diva, an amazing opera singer and someone who made me laugh so hard i would pee my pants sometimes!! i still can’t listen to mariah carey’s christmas album without thinking about how we KILT those songs on blast in our dorm rooms! she brought me great joy in the midst of so much pain after my mother passed away. i’m so grateful for her life and her joy!

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