By The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
Because I am working on 100 Days of Homegrown Prayer my summer reading list has so many prayer books. I believe prayer has transformative power, that it changes us as we ask God to change the world, and so here’s a photo of my current stack of prayer books intermingled with anti-racism books that I’ve pursued during the twin pandemics of COVID and racism (both life threatening, as Otis Moss points out). Below are four summer recommendations for further exploration in our common work of anti-racist action (long read, short read, podcasts, and a video).
Long Read: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
When I moved to Chicago in 2004, I worked at the theological library while in seminary, and spent hours at the circulation desk with Black women whose families were intimately connected to the Great Migration, their parents having moved up to Chicago from further south: St. Louis, Memphis, rural Alabama and Mississippi. At the time, I had no idea their lives were part of a mass migration of more than six million African Americans from the rural south to the urban north in the 1900s. When I read Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, I immediately connected with Ida Mae Brandon Gladney who moved from Mississippi to Chicago in the 1930s and you might too, if you are familiar with the geography, history, and people of our fine city. Be intimidated. It’s a 600 page tome. But it’s worth the ride. Wilkerson’s prose is thick and beautiful, dripping with a storied past (that impacts our present) narrated through the lens of three people who risked their lives to make a new home in a place where they might (as Richard Write says in his book Black Boy) “drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns and, perhaps to bloom.”
Short Read: From Woe to Wonder by Aracelis Girmay
Last month I had a gentle, honest, heart-open conversation with a wise church friend about what it might mean to raise a white boy in a Black Lives Matter world. Neither of us knew, really, except that it’s hard, it’s tender, it’s a sacred task that involves a holy hope to mend what is broken about this racially unjust world. And then she sent me this article From Woe to Wonder by Aracelis Girmay, mother of a young black son, just months older than my own white son. Tears ran down my face as I read her current-day rumination on Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1977 words “You just might consider that when a black boy runs…” If you have heart enough to hold out until the end of the heartrending article, you’ll hear her dream to protect her children (no different from my own dream), and her strategy (so much more life-bendingly urgent than I could have ever imagined).
Podcasts: 1619 by the New York Times
Without a commute, my podcast listening has been slim-to-none, but I did squeeze in time to listen to the 1619 podcast this summer—a convicting look at the consequential history of slavery. Tracing American slavery back to the 1619 sale of two dozen living breathing heart-mind-soul-and-strength human beings at Point Comfort (of no comfort to those sold) 157 years before the founding of our democracy. Though European trade of enslaved Africans likely began in the 1400s, slavery in what is now known as the United States of America existed from 1619 until June 19, 1865 when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally proclaimed “free” (whereas Great Britain abolished slavery in 1833 and the French colonies in 1848, a good 20 years before the US). Slavery began 400 years ago. It lasted about 250 years. It’s only been eradicated about 150 years. It leaves a lasting legacy on our lives. The podcast is an easy entry into history through good journalistic storytelling.
For less of a historical overview, and more of an in-the-moment reflection on race, check out Code Switch, especially their most recent one called Why Now, White People? (a question I am wondering about myself just now).
Theological Storytelling: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery by Otis Moss, III
Otis Moss, III is an unparalleled preacher-theologian, and speaks with conviction from his pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ at 95th and the Dan Ryan. I’ve taken confirmands to hear him preach, and while our whiteness no doubt signals our passerby status, we are greeted with friendship and welcome, and Moss’ theological conviction, stem-winding sermons and use of pop culture metaphors that captivate fourteen year olds means that there is much to talk about at lunch afterward. Anything on their YouTube channel would be worth a watch, but in particular I hope you will find his masterpiece, The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery, a way to connect to the divine as well as a tool to learn more about our racialized history in the United States. I will use this video along with James Cone’s 2011 theological text The Cross and the Lynching Tree for my contribution to our Anti-Racist Study Group on Monday, July 20 at 7 p.m.
May our God of love, justice, and mercy summon and move you as the world continues to change.