By Shivonne C. McKay
At a time when continued #blacklivesmatter protests seem necessary in efforts to highlight and eradicate racism, taking a stand for black women and girls has become a top political, and social priority. One may think that gender inclusion in the struggle for justice and equity would have automatically extended towards all men and women. Unfortunately, the experiences of black women and girls have been overlooked to the point where God is now seeking justice, reconciliation and redemption for her behalf.
As I ponder on what this year signifies biblically, politically, and socially for Christian and non-Christian alike, one might argue for or against the evidence of theodicy which can be evident throughout multiple aspects of the human condition. Theodicy reaffirms the justification and presence of God in the occurrence of evil. When examining particular racial and ethnic groups who have historically experienced oppression, the presence of God in the midst of human suffering is undeniable.
One may find themselves experiencing tension between what may be deemed as the presence or absence of God. The bible offers in the book of Romans chapter two verse eleven, “For there is no respect of persons with God.” Though God originally intended that humankind experience goodness and abundance, we also understand that the existence of forces which have sought to counter the divine will of God continues in this struggle. The divine will of God for God’s children is to prosper, live in peace, unity, and attain equity of God’s resources. God in his infinite wisdom established a plan for reconciliation to the disruption in social order before the foundation of the earth.
In this way God took a stand for what mattered. The stand was against the evil that coopted the human experience by way of sin. The stand was for God children’s to all have equal access to the graces and life available that came through acceptance, profession of faith, and obedience. It is no secret that in today’s culture, there is an outcry that resembles the prophetic witness of taking a stand for what matters. The stand is for there to be a stop to the demoralization, and untimely deaths of black women and girls. Black women and girls have not experienced the privilege of just ‘being,’ There are daily reminders even in the experience of success of all that needs to be overcame to attain security as defined by human standards.
Black women and girls have been burden bearers for everyone other than themselves since the beginning of time. From the time of living as some of the strongest and wisest African queens and princesses there has been a breakdown in community. This has undoubtedly created a pathology which has transcended generations among the oppressed and the oppressor. In a society where there is capitalization on the demise of a people, we must examine the how, what, and why that prohibits all persons across race and gender divides from standing together. With policies that support affirmative action on one hand and mass incarceration on the other, that which we raise our voices on and lend our resources towards supports the values that are upheld in our society.
Black women represent thirty percent of all incarcerated women. According to the statistics on domestic violence, nine out of ten black women are murdered by men or someone they know. When living in a world where a young woman in New York City suffers infertility due to a botched abortion, being a young girl in Ethiopia who was sterilized by the government all to exercise power and population control one might ask where is the presence of God. How could such calamity toward the pinnacle of creation be permissible one might surmise. The humanity of women is often not recognized as being half of God’s image. The hue of the female further evokes the inferior societal position in which women of color assume. Therefore, the need to stand with black women and girls is a call to action cross the Diaspora.
Genesis 3:15 “ And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” This offers a spiritual explanation to the perils that women face. Ancient African history informs us that Africa is the cradle of creation and the course of human existence. In this way the scripture is directly applied to women and girls of color. Is this why women and girls of color have had such a difficult experience? In this we know there has always been tension between black woman and the enemy. One could presuppose that this too was part of God’s divine design.
According to the liturgical calendar, this year marks the Year of Jubilee as referenced in Leviticus 25, and year of Mercy celebrated within the Catholic church. In the same way these celebrations symbolize freedom, and recompense for the ancient Israelites, it does for us also. God always intends for God’s children to experience an expected end to their suffering and to celebrate the joys of birthright privilege.
Faith leaders have the special obligation of bringing the people to the awareness of what is taking place in the spirit and its direct impact on public life and social engagement. We must stand for what matters not in an effort for self aggrandizement or popularity, but because the gospel calls us forth to do such.
Sometimes, taking a stand for that which counters the status quo is what is needed most in our mission. There does not always exist an opportune moment where we must enact the radicalism that Jesus Christ embodied when confronting empire. There is too much at stake and silence has proven deadly. As persons of faith, we can ill afford to inculcate the attitude of passivity or casualness assumed by those who do not believe that an investment in the welfare of black women and girls will be an investment in the greater good of humanity.
The Stand with Black women and girls is a national public education campaign that was spearheaded by faith-based clergy and activists who recognized the enmity against their race and gender. Through public propaganda and patriarchal perpetuity, black women and girls experiences have been undermined, and ignored. Their stories have been erased, experiences invalidated, and voices silenced. This is sinful in nature. If organizations like the United Nations could prophetically proclaim a “Decade dedicated to People of African Descent” which is envisioned to reclaim lives lost, then we who are faith leaders are called to do the same.
While God does place certain prophetic passions within each of us, to support our gifts for ministry in the contexts we serve, it would behooves us to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters when necessary. There should exist no bias based on faith tradition, skin color, race, class, or creed. The Stand for Black women and girls is not just another campaign that is an outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is a campaign that boldly reclaims the dignity of the black woman and girl. It seeks to call forth the injustices that stifle and ultimately kill a people. To eradicate violence and other atrocities, standing with black women and girls is a prophetic call to action to galvanize brothers and sisters where together we will be authentic to our spiritual and earthly mandate in standing for what matters.
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Shivonne C. McKay is known for her candor, confidence and passion for the ministry and gospel of Jesus Christ. Called to combine her strengths and talents for the expansion of God’s kingdom, Ms. McKay graduated May 2015 with a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Ms. McKay spent years working tirelessly in various capacities working on behalf of at-risk youth, education and victims of domestic violence. Ms. McKay has led teams and participated in several international mission outreach projects. Ms. McKay continues to serve her community in various capacities, including serving as Board Director for World Day of Prayer International. Ms. McKay served as the Pastor of Galilee United Methodist Church in Englewood, New Jersey. A native of Hempstead, New York, Ms. McKay seeks to expand the kingdom, by transforming lives one heart and one mission at a time.