Archive for May, 2013

Addressing the Crisis in the African American Community

May 31, 2013

Crisis in the Village

When it comes to the problems plaguing Black America often critics will say that the problems are rooted in the pathologies of urban Black culture, like crime, violence and out of wedlock births. Others place the blame solely on the door steps of broad socioeconomic factors like racism, poverty and unemployment. However, it is rare that one provides an honest, balanced assessment of what ails Black America, yet this is what Dr. Robert M. Franklin, former President of Atlanta’s Morehouse College, does in his book entitled Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities.

In this book, Dr. Franklin issues a call to strategic action to reverse the decline of families and children’s well-being, the moral authority of churches, and the moral drift in many schools and colleges. Dr. Franklin’s focus is rightly on the task of “child-making” because the future of Black children is at stake. Quoting statistics by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, he shares the following about Black children living in the U.S:

• Every five seconds during the school day, a Black public school student is suspended;
• Every forty-six seconds during the school day, a Black high school student drops out;
• Every minute, a Black child is arrested and a Black baby is born to an unmarried mother;.
• Every three minutes, a Black child is born into poverty;
• Every hour, a Black baby dies;
• Every four hours, a Black child or youth under twenty dies from an accident;
• Every five hours, one is a homicide victim;
• Every day, a young Black person under twenty-five des from HIV infection; and
• A Black child or youth under twenty commits suicide.

Unfortunately, Marian Wright Edelman’s timeline portrait of what’s happening with Black children is a vivid reality in our communities. Too many of our young people are dying early and the prospects for their future are bleak. So what must we do to address the problem?

Dr. Franklin says that we must work to reverse the decline of core anchor institutions in the African American community. These institutions are the family, the church and the school. He points out that if these organizations were aligned, healthy and working together, our young people would flourish no matter what the state of the economy or who is in the Mayor’s office or the White House.

In his study, Dr. Franklin says that Black families are suffering from a crisis of commitment. Indeed, Black marriage rates have declined significantly over the last several decades. According to a study done by Morehouse College, 80 percent of all African American children can expect to spend a significant part of their childhood living apart from their fathers. Children do best when both their fathers and mothers are involved in their lives. However, in order to make way for nurturing relationships between a father and his child, there is much to be done between fathers and mothers, men and women. Dr. Franklin says that despite the fact that urban mothers who attend church place a very high value on marriage, there appears to be an “African American faith and family paradox” that involves the coexistence of high rates of church attendance and unusually low rates of marriage. In spite of this, Franklin says that very few Black churches – only three percent — offer formal programs in marriage and parenting. Furthermore, only 5 percent offer programs targeting single-parents and singles and that more should do so.

Not only is there a crisis of commitment but Black churches face a Crisis of Mission. Dr. Franklin says the biggest threat is the “Prosperity Gospel movement.” This is a focus of the church on personal greed, obsessive materialism and unchecked narcissism. This stands counter to the social gospel tradition where the church is concerned about social justice and feeding hungry, and helping the prisoners, the sick and the poor. Franklin says that too many churches today are suffering from an “edifice” complex. They are spending more time building their buildings and local kingdoms when they should spend more time helping the downtrodden and working to ensure the future of our children.

Then finally our schools, according to Franklin, are suffering from a crisis of moral purpose. Franklin says that our schools are failing and that on a regular basis we are “reminded of the culture of violence, drug use, sexual experimentation and moral relativism plaguing many of our schools.” One of the answers to the problem is to foster collaborations with local schools and churches. To ask churches to incorporate educational excellence into their ministries and become centers of educational support. These centers would offer after-school programs, mentoring, tutoring, computer resources, and assistance with standardized tests and college preparation.

Dr. Franklin has issued a strong call for us to restore hope in the African American community by making our families, churches and schools stronger. Let each of us do what we can in our own realms of influence to heed the call.

Peace, Power, and Progress,
Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

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SCANDAL

May 17, 2013

scandal

This past Thursday was the season finale of the popular TV show Scandal. For those who don’t know, Scandal is an American political television series starring African American actress Kerry Washington. Washington plays the role of Olivia Pope, whose character is partially based on former Bush Administration press aide and public relations consultant Judy Smith. Pope works to free the President and other high profile characters from various scandals, and also happens to get caught up in a few scandals of her own.

What amazes me about the show is how immensely popular it is with pastors, ministers, and other persons of faith as judged by their frequent postings in social media — Facebook, Twitter, etc. — about their love for the show.

Why is this show so popular with Pastors and other persons of faith?

I think it’s because as people of faith we are often daily crisis and scandal managers in the lives of our families, churches, and communities. Now these scandals aren’t typically White House level scandals, but they are scandals all the same.

Furthermore, the show is timely, because the Obama Administration has also gotten mired in a series of purported scandals including the attack of the US Consultant in Benghazi, the IRS’s alleged targeting of Right Wing political groups, and the Justice Department’s targeting of reporters.

What’s incredible about these matters is that many of the conservative politicians who are calling for the President’s head on these matters were silent when during the Bush Administration and other conservative administrations progressive groups including the NAACP and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were targeted by the IRS and other government agencies like the FBI because of their policies.

The bottom line, for us as persons of faith is that when it comes to scandals we must look to Jesus because He is the ultimate crisis manager. Indeed, when the woman was caught in adultery he said to her accusers, “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). He also didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery, but he did tell her to “go and sin no more,” (John 8:11) and this is a word for us all.

In the final analysis, Scandal fans know that what the show clearly shows us is that although we may try to hide it, sin is never private, and we all need to get right with God today!

Peace and Blessings,
Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

Celebrating Dr. Nannie Helen Burroughs

May 3, 2013

There is so much to love about the month of May including plenty of sunshine, flowers, trips to the park, the end of school, graduations and of course Mother’s Day, a time for us to celebrate God’s gift of mothers. We should also love May, because may is the birth-month of Dr. Nannie Helen Burroughs (May 2) and Dr. Burroughs contributed much toward bringing about the recognition of the power and influence of African American women in all aspects of American life.

Indeed, Dr. Burroughs was a prolific writer, educator, orator, businesswoman, and Christian leader. She was a woman who was ahead of her time — the Oprah Winfrey, Condelleza Rice and Michelle Obama of her day.

As background, Dr. Burroughs was born in 1879 in Orange, VA and Burroughs’ mother brought her to Washington, DC to further her education. She graduated in 1896 from DC’s Dunbar high school with honors and wanted to become a science teacher. However, she was denied a teaching job because of the darkness of her skin in a city — that at the time, favored light-skinned teachers.

Burroughs instead took a job in Louisville, Kentucky as a secretary for the National Baptist Convention, and while working with the convention at their annual meeting in 1900, she advocated for the right of women to participate equally in the ministry in a speech entitled, “How the Sisters are Hindered from Helping.” This speech was particularly insightful, because even to this day, 113 years later, African American women still struggle for equality to participate in the leadership of the church. As a result of Dr. Burroughs’ speech, Women’s Day and a woman’s division of the National Baptist Convention were established.

Upon leaving Kentucky, Dr. Burroughs came back to Washington, DC and founded a school for young women that combined qualitative vocational training with traditional Christian values. The school, The National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls, Inc., opened its doors on October 18, 1909, with Ms. Burroughs as President. The school’s motto was “We specialize in the wholly impossible,” and sought “the highest development of Christian womanhood,” through a curriculum designed to emphasize practical and professional skills. To help finance the school Dr. Burroughs created “The Worker” magazine, a publication which is still in operation today.

Dr. Burroughs also advised President Herbert Hoover and received an honorary Dr. of Laws degree from Shaw University. She passed away on May 20, 1961. However, the school, renamed in her honor, continued on and became a private co-educational Christian elementary school, training children to the glory of God in the tradition of Dr. Burroughs.

Unfortunately, today, Dr. Burroughs’ legacy stands in jeopardy. Due to tough economic times, last year, the school was forced to close. The good news is that the Progressive National Baptist Convention and several churches have stepped-up to the plate and have been working to retire the school’s outstanding debts with the goal of re-opening the school in the future. However, we could also use your help, and if you’d like to make a contribution to help secure the future of the Nannie Helen Burroughs School, then please contact the Progressive National Baptist Convention Headquarters at 202-396-0558.

This month, as we reflect upon our mothers and celebrate the educational efforts of our young people, let us also remember Dr. Nannie Helen Burroughs, a woman upon whose shoulders we all stand!

Peace and Blessings,
Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.