I have a Ph.D. in biblical studies. Yet, I was not there as a scholar. I have ordination standing in the National Baptist U.S.A., Inc. and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denominations. However, I was not representing either body. I recently attended the Lessons from Ferguson: National Black Scholars Gathering, as a mother. I took my teenage son with me to Ferguson. Why? Well, because a teenage African-American male is becoming an endangered, if not deemed dangerous, species. He needed to plant his feet on the soil that soaked up Michael Brown's blood.
The small gathering of about 200 activists, scholars and religious leaders participated in conversations around the need for such tripartite collaboration. Activists help to kindle the political fire. Scholars explain the sociological and philosophical nature of the fire. Religious leaders are essential to keeping the theological fire burning. We all risk getting burned in the fire. It would be worse if the fire consumed or subsumed us.
From Brittney Cooper's "politicizing" bodies to J. Cameron Carter's "churchicality" as the new means of inclusion, the weekend long sessions reminded us that not much has changed since Michael Brown was killed August 9, 2014. A year later there have been at least 10 Michael Browns in the St. Louis area alone.
The numbers national wide have increased exponentially: #SandraBland, #KindraChapman, #DarriusStewart, #FreddieGrey, #SamuelDuBose, #TamirRice, #WalterScott, #ChristianTaylor, and the list goes on and on and on. One cannot help but notice the overarching number of male victims. Again, I took my son to the conference in Ferguson for a reason -- #hislifematters. He and two teenage girls sat on the front row the entire time -- #theirlivesmatter.
Yet, what spoke with stentorian resolve was the age demographic of the activists. Three millennials with the boldness of Ella Baker shared their struggle with and in the struggle. These women under 30 with a fight of Fannie Lou Hamer revealed why they thought it not robbery to say something, do something about the injustice Black men and women are facing. They reminded us that there was an edginess, an urgency to the Black Power Movement that is apropos today. Therefore #blacklivesmatter, over against #africanamericanlivesmatter.
For these Generation Y leaders, now is not the time for exclusivity. They want the church to be involved. Yet, they are willing to go without such holy sanctions made impotent by patriarchy, homophobia, sexism and my-God-is-better-than-yours thinking. They want scholars from all disciplines to provide reading tools and strategies. Nonetheless, they are determined to find their own way, storm the dais and hold hostage whatever public forum does not affirm that #blacklivesmatter, #allblacklivesmatter. Now is the time for all hands on deck -- no excuses, no exclusions, no exceptions.
This #blacklivesmatter movement may not be our parent's or grandparent's political modus operandi. It is not far from it. It has benefited from it. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee stirred young people to become change-agents. Ella Baker had the wisdom. They had the energy. It is the image of a young, sanguinary John Lewis that appears in timeless photos from Bloody Sunday. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not even forty when a bullet stopped his heart from beating. There is something about youth, restlessness, and social dis-ease.
No, the #blacklivesmatter movement may not be our momma's or daddy's movement, but it is on the same civil rights movement continuum. One used social gatherings at homes. The other employs social media. This new force may be a little different from Nana and Papa. In the end, one would not exist without the other. They each can sit in the student-teacher, teacher-student chair. Truth is an invisible scepter, an unspoken baton serves the same purpose.