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T.D. Jakes, C.T. Vivian, Harry Seawright Reflect On MLK and Racism Today; Say Black Church Must Lead if Nation is to Overcome Inequality

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n the 1960s, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led an army of pastors and activists who were attacked, beaten and bloodied as they pushed for equality and social justice across the South. Today, with racist rhetoric surging and many of King’s pastoral lieutenants gone, some see a need for new church leaders to revive the spirit of what was done then.

“The church is still the voice of the black community, but we need to reclaim our place,” said Bishop Harry Seawright, prelate of the African Methodist Episcopal Church for the state of Alabama. “Nobody wants to be the sacrificial (lamb), nobody wants to die, but if we are going to make progress, we must be willing to shed blood.”

In the 1960s and for decades prior, African-American pastors faced the threat and, often, the reality of violence in leading civil rights campaigns.

“In Selma, they called it Bloody Sunday because marchers left Brown Chapel AME and were beaten and bloodied for standing up at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on a Sunday morning,” Seawright said, referring to the voting rights march that was attacked by police on March 7, 1965.

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, one of King’s top lieutenants, described the activists’ strategy as “nonviolent direct action,” in which they would stage events in places where there was a good chance of dangerous confrontation.


“I almost got killed in St. Augustine,” Vivian said in a 2015 Washington Post interview. During a “wade-in” protest at that Florida city’s whites-only beach in summer 1964, a white mob was waiting in the water; Vivian was attacked by a man who held his head under the surface. Then gunfire hit a cottage where he and others were supposed to stay.

“I read in the papers that they found 16 holes in the cabin,” Vivian said.

Although King is often portrayed as the unquestioned, universally supported leader of the civil rights movement, other church leaders of the time often saw him as radical and out of step, especially after his April 4, 1967 speech criticizing the Vietnam War.

“He was killed one year to date after that sermon,” said Rev. William Barber, who is leading a modern Poor People’s Campaign this spring in the spirit of the one King planned but did not live to see.

“We need to remember that (King) found himself having to take on a society that had a neurotic sickness and a septic commitment to racism, poverty and war that was literally destroying the soul of this nation and ripping apart its moral promises,” Barber said in January at a prayer breakfast in Washington honoring King.

“When Dr. King rendered this diagnosis and committed to raise a poor people’s campaign for a moral revolution of values … he was declared even more an enemy of the state and a threat to the powers that be.”

“King was seen as a revolutionary” and wasn’t allowed to preach in many churches in 1968 because of his position on the war, said Rev. Grainger Browning, pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Maryland.

But 50 years after King’s death, the role of the black church and its dynamic pastors may be more critical than ever, given incidents ranging from the 2015 murders of nine people by a white supremacist at a black church in Charleston, S.C., to the death of Heather Heyer, 32, in Charlottesville, Virginia last August when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters opposed to a rally by white nationalists.

The power of the pulpit could be key in a general climate where incivility and open racism seem more prevalent.

“I believe the church then was more cause-driven. It had a stronger focus on reformation, as the oppression was constant and obvious,” says Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House, a megachurch in Dallas. He was 11 when King was assassinated and has vivid childhood memories of “separate but equal” accommodations in his hometown of Charleston, West Virginia, including his father having to go to the back door of certain restaurants if he wanted to buy food from them.

“The threat that keeps minority oppression continuing today is much more systemic as opposed to tactical — e.g., “colored” bathrooms and segregated schools, parks and restaurants, etc. Today we have entire communities subsisting with failing schools, black-on-black crime, poverty, drugs and drive-by shootings coupled with horrific conflicts between law enforcement officers and our black women and youth. … Systemic injustice is harder to prove but often has more lethal effects,” Jakes said.

“In the 1960s, people were more (involved in) civil rights because there was segregation in the schools. Today I don’t think people are as involved,” said Geneva Mays, 81, who as a marshal for the Congress of Racial Equality sat three steps down from King as he spoke during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice.

She says she was happy when Americans elected Barack Obama president, the first African American to hold the office, “but nothing has really happened in terms where we stand today. There is still racism, and it seems like it is more now. We haven’t progressed that much.”

A week after the Charlottesville incident, activist Al Sharpton, along with Martin Luther King III, Jesse Jackson and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson, led a rally at the Justice Department in Washington. After the event, they were asked about the next steps in a new civil rights battle.

“One of the issues in this country is that we have a challenged economy,” King III said. “Black folks, we are always disproportionally affected but there are a whole lot of white folks (affected) who are engaged in hostility. When people have jobs and opportunities, they are less likely to engage in foolishness. We have to create jobs and opportunities, and then we have to work to stamp out racism and all of the (other) ‘isms.’”

Organization will be as important now as it was for King and other activists in the ’60s, Sharpton said.

“The key thing is that we are going to organize voting rights campaigns and mobilize voters in the area and deal with state legislation around jobs, criminal justice reform. We need to organize from the ground up like the (conservative) tea party did,” Sharpton said in August.

Clerical alliances crossed racial and denominational lines in the 1960s, with white ministers joining black ministers to present a united front against injustice. The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh — president of the University of Notre Dame, member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the primary architect of the Civil Rights Act — joined hands with King at a 1964 rally in Chicago for a now-iconic photo. Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb even gave his life for civil rights: He was beaten to death in Selma just after Bloody Sunday in 1965.

Jakes and others see a need for church leaders to return to a level of commitment that includes risk.

“We must work on social justice for all people as a national project and not just a cause that is championed by blacks alone,” Jakes said. “The civil rights movement in the ’60s was effective because it rallied diverse peoples around the ideals that created unity rather than working in silos.

“Building consensus and coalitions across racial and political gulfs is the only way real progress can be achieved.”

SOURCE: Hamil R. Harris
USA Today

Culture

Jaden Smith’s JUST Water company brings mobile water filtration system to Flint

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FLINT, Mich. (WXYZ) — Jaden Smith is helping the residents of Flint through a new initiative. The rapper, actor and co-founder of the eco-friendly company JUST Water has partnered with a local Flint church to deploy a mobile water treatment system.

The system is called “The Water Box” and it filters out lead and additional contaminants in water, according to a press release.

Flint’s water crisis began in April 2014 after the city’s water source was switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River, which resulted in city-wide lead contamination of public drinking water. First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint has been on the front line of the battle to restore drinkable water in the city. The church has also given out over 5 million bottles of water to local residents.

In 2018, the free bottled water program set up by the state was ended under former Gov. Rick Snyder. However, a recent announcement by newly appointed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer states that the program will be reinstated . Bottle donations for the city have declined and accessing clean water continues to be an issue, which is why JUST Water stepped in to assist, according to a release.

“This has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences for me personally,” Smith said.


“Working together with people in the community experiencing the problems and design(ing) 
something to help them has been a journey I will never forget. We are planning to deploy more water boxes in 
Flint and other communities facing similar challenges.”

The Water Box will produce up to 10 gallons of clean drinking water per minute. The water is tested each day with use, as well as every few weeks by an independent and certified laboratory.

Residents will be able to fill any container of their choice with the clean water. The filtration device will be available through the church with set distribution times.

“We are committed to serving the community in which we worship in.” said Ezra Tillman, pastor of First Trinity Baptist church.

Jaden Smith and his partner Drew FitzGerald are the co-founders of JUST goods and of 501CTHREE.org. The Water Box initiative is also in partnership with The Last Kilometer, Rethink H20 with help from Black Millennials For Flint.

WXYZ Detroit 

 

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Landscaping business owner helps fatherless kids through non-profit in Ennis, Waxahachie

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WAXAHACHIE

Justin Chappell grew up without a father. Much later in life, he did find his heavenly father and now helps other fatherless children to do the same.

Chappell is an Ennis resident who runs two businesses in Ellis County – Bama Landscaping in Ennis and Chappell’s Copieshop in Waxahachie. Chappell said he works tirelessly throughout the week for both of his businesses, but he runs the two to fund his real passion: Bloodz For Christ, a non-profit he founded in 2009 to support and minister inner-city youth in low-income communities.

He said the goal was to help the next generation through one-on-one mentorships and relationships some of them might not have had at home.

“I donate probably about 85 percent of whatever profit we make to my nonprofit to keep these kids off the streets,” Chappell said. “My business is pretty much the only thing funding my nonprofit.” ″


But years before he even thought of starting BOC, Chappell had a bleak past that was filled with drugs, gangs and jail bars. He said he was able to overcome it with God’s help, and he hopes to help show others how to do the same.

FROM ALABAMA TO TEXAS

Chappell was born Jan. 23, 1984 in Birmingham, AL. Chappell said he didn’t have a father, and he got into it with some of the wrong people, which included a few gangs.

“Alabama is real bad,” Chapell recalled. “My buddy got kidnapped. They killed him. I was honestly scared.”

Chappell got away from Alabama and moved to Corsicana, where he received a scholarship to play basketball at Navarro College. He later transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington before suffering a career-ending injury.

Chappell said he got depressed. So, he attempted to fill the void through unconventional means.

“In Texas, drugs are cheap,” Chappell said. “So I started trafficking, living that lifestyle. Not having any other avenue as a black man, the easiest thing for us to do is to sell drugs. It’s right there. We can all do it, and you got people to train you.”

Chappell said his mother kept discouraging him from drug trafficking and kept pressing him to go to church. He didn’t listen, and he paid the price much later when he was arrested for drug possession.

He said his bail was set at $150,000. His mother didn’t have the money.

“It was my rock-bottom,” he recalled. “I remember praying to God, and it was like ‘God, if you get me out of here, I will go to that church my momma has been telling me about. I promise.’ I just kept begging him.”

That same week, his stepfather won a lawsuit he had been fighting for about a decade. Chappell’s freedom was bought and paid for. He was 22.

Chappell said he messed up big time, but God was watching him and leading him on the right path.

“It was like a reality check,” Chappell said. “I cried, and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity. He could have sent me to prison.”

LIFE OUT FROM BEHIND BARS

Chappell started going to church, just like he promised. He said as he went, his whole outlook on life began to change.

“I started seeing a lot different,” Chappell said. “I changed my whole philosophy. God had a purpose for me, and I had to serve it.”

But life was difficult to adjust to after Chappell left the county jail. He said he was on probation, and people didn’t want to hire him given his criminal record.

He said he couldn’t find a job because of his circumstances.

Around that time, he explained, a close friend had just been released from prison after being locked up for the better part of 10 years.

When they were discussing what they could do, he asked his friend what he was good at. He said, “cutting grass.”

That was when Chappell had the idea of starting a small landscaping company, ultimately deciding to call it “Bama’s Landscaping” after his sweet home Alabama.

“I was doing this broke, making $500 every two weeks, a single father with a one-year-old and a three-year-old,” Chappell said. “It’s sad, but it’s motivation. I was still doing this.”

One thing Chappell realized quickly was how difficult it was for many former prisoners to find employment after release. To help others and his business, he offered jobs to former inmates once they served their sentence.

Chappell has since purchased six trucks and partners with the Ellis and Navarro County probation departments to find new workers.

“I open it up,” he said. “Guys that normally can’t find jobs, I’ll hook them up with a job and give them a truck. Then they’ll pretty much create their own business.”

“The business kind of took off on me,” he chuckled.

BLOODZ OF CHRIST

Whenever he was working, Chappell said he felt like he needed to do more for his community. He said he saw many kids in the same dangerous situations as he once was.

So in 2009, he founded BOC to instill the values in the next generation that he never learned himself. The organization partners up with the Boys and Girls Club in Ennis and supports more than 100 boys from Waxahachie, Ennis, Desoto and Dallas.

“Black males with no father, it’s like a cycle,” he expressed. “And I know the only way to break the cycle because I’m supposed to be a statistic. You mold them. You teach them. You show them how to make it.”

Chappell said he started the program with six kids. Three of them are now preachers. The other three, he said, have all been to prison, but he plans to help them whenever they get out by saving a job for them at Bama’s.

“I go to poverty-stricken areas, and I lay my smack-down,” he stated. “I gather as many kids as I can get, and they just come to me like a magnet. I’m like a celebrity when it comes to kids.”

Chappell said the BOC has several activities that the kids can participate in. He said the kids could be part of a Mime Club and join in dance-offs, can compete in a chess club and make their own music from Chappell’s recording equipment.

Plus, Chappell trains their youth basketball team on Sundays at the Boys and Girls Club in Ennis.

But the extraordinary moments for Chappell involve the BOC’s outreach efforts to the community. He recalled one memory when a woman was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, and the BOC went to the hospital to pray with her. Two weeks later, she visited one of the BOC’s dance-offs at their church and expressed her gratitude to them, saying that her own grandkids don’t see her as much as the BOC kids did.

She died two weeks later. Chappell said he was grateful that she got to spend some of her final moments with the BOC.

“They get to see this stuff,” Chappell said. “I get to teach them real-life lessons that school is not going to teach you – that not having a man in your life is not going to teach you. To see them to grow up and become ministers to the world. We fund that.”

Recently, Bama’s Landscaping won a customer video contest with Mulligan Funding, a privately owned family business in California that issues loans to small and medium-sized companies. The prize was a 60-second professional video animation produced by Mulligan Funding to be used for promotional purposes at the business’ discretion.

However, instead of the promotion, Chappell asked Mulligan if they would instead donate the money to the BOC. Chappell said Mulligan complied and gave $1,500 to the BOC, which Chappell said would last the non-profit about three months.

Chappell said he’s happy and grateful for the opportunities he’s been given to help guide these kids toward their futures.

“I’m doing something positive and feeling blessed from it,” he expressed. “We’re saving lives, man.”

If you would like to donate or learn more about the BOC, call 214-554-8358 or email bloodzofchrist@yahoo.com.

By David Dunn | ddunn@waxahachietx.com

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Deep Ellum Photo Changing Perception of Men of Color Now Going Viral

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A photo taken in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood is getting exposure far beyond North Texas.

The photo shows about 100 men of color, dressed in suits, surrounding 6-year old Harper Anthony, of Chicago. The boy also wore a suit, and without direction, put his fist in the air.

“It’s a great capture,” said NeAndre Broussard, of Black Menswear. “It shows that while you’re up next, we’re all behind you and pushing you where you need to go.”

Broussard started the Dallas-based Black Menswear social media campaign in an effort to change perceptions and narratives of men of color.

“It’s always like, go find the worst picture they can find,” Broussard said about media images of black men that often show them in T-shirts and hoodies. “So I started Black Menswear as a way to push out positive imagery, which for me, came through the suit.”


“This is gonna go viral,” is what photo coordinator and photographer Santos Paris first thought at the Deep Ellum photo-shoot. “People thrive off drama, but we want people to thrive off of positivity.”

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