I do appreciate the responses to my first posting on sleepingmansbooks.com – Black America: The issue of culture. I also read comments about the posting on the Facebook pages of dear friends who are supporting my efforts to create a voice on the “blogasphere.” Thank you. I would, especially, like to thank Mary Roebuck who is prolific in her writing and building a community of friends and family who enjoy each others’ company through their writings and comments on Mary’s Facebook page. I aspire to follow in her footsteps. And I am also grateful to my dear friend, Stan Sneed, working behind the scenes to manage my web site and spread the word. Thank you, Stanley.
And as an aside, www.sleepingmansbooks.com’s logo is me sleeping on our living room sofa (My son, Govinda, takes great pleasure in snapping photographs of me sleeping). Why name this web site SleepingMansBooks is another story for another day.
I enjoyed reading comments posted regarding sleepingmansbooks.com – Black America: The issue of culture, because all three represent dominant voices in African American communities and the Diasporas. They speak to the current perception of African American religion and spirituality. . . . about our relationship, perhaps, with contemporary religion in general. Mary R. writes, I agree that we need to go back to bringing in the spiritual side into the household. It does not have to be a traditional religion, but a belief in a higher power; Ramona says, religion is a cover up for the reality of life and Virgin Islands Mbongi concludes by stating, I wonder if this conversation is really too daunting for the audience it seems to be targeting.
Of course many other prototypical voices in the ether, together, inform and drive our conversations about African American religion and spirituality, and what is perceived as its current condition. One striking voice that is absent, here, and
concerns me deeply is the pastor, preacher, or minister who proclaims that one cannot criticize the church – Black religion and spirituality – if one is not in the church, or the faith leader who dismisses the work of “academics” who they claim are intellectual snobs, criticizing the church and the community of believers.
I welcome all viewpoints if collectively we’re willing to dive deep; to engage in an ongoing and robust conversation about whether African Americans suffer from a spiritual disease; to examine the nature of the disease and how it finds expression; how we pass it on from one generation to the next and, most importantly how such an illness impacts African American youth and stunts their growth – especially, our young men and boys. Not to bemoan our condition as a people, but to explore ways together to end this malady – to bring health and wellness into our homes, schools, and churches; to become a race of self-actualizing people; to plant a seed in becoming spiritual revolutionaries as an emergent impulse in the hearts and minds of our children and their children’s children.
Now I’ve thrown this word around, spirituality, long enough without defining what I mean by the term, so it might be helpful to describe it here. I embrace Dr. Archie Smith, Jr.’s definition – a noted African American theologian and clinical psychologist I met at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley, California – who describes spirituality as personal growth towards wholeness. . . . Spirituality understood in dynamic terms as part of a total process of integration, growth, development and fulfillment of one’s potential in relation to others, to the ultimate purpose of life, and to the Ultimate. . . A person is always in a process of becoming, of moving backwards or forwards. . . . Such persons are ‘self-actualizing’ people. . . . Spirituality is the process of becoming fully human, (and whole) by moving or being moved to the edges and the limitations we ordinarily accept and discovering that there is more beyond.
Some readers may wish to rationalize or dismiss the idea that we have an obligation to our children – to pass on our collective wisdom on how best to become fully human as a romantic notion. But if we believe we have no such obligation or we haven’t a clue as to how to instruct them . . . no spiritual tools to pass, then as adults . . . as parents we’re truly faced with the stark reality – the collective expression of our spiritual disease as a people . . . reflected in African American culture. This, I believe, is the tragedy of our collective dilemma.
In looking at the face of the young boy in corduroy pants and felt hat there is no smile, but he smiles from the heart. He has the will to face anything. He is good enough to his goals. If he is sent to a better place having the possibilities for amassing opportunities, he will become so good. But if he is sent to another place of criminals, he will be notorious all over the area. He is a symbol of the time to which he is attached [the 1940s], but his time could just as well be our very own. He is vulnerable, too, for he is of the exact age when a new man is being evolved.
Don’t we owe it to our children and future generations to show them how best to build the human beings they wish to become . . . a way to move towards wholeness? How should we proceed? What do you think?