“Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, and for the rights of those who are left without help. Open your mouth. Be right and fair in what you decide. Stand up for the rights of those who are suffering and in need.” Proverbs 31:8-9(New Living Translation)
Open your mouth for those who cannot speak …. I read this hearing the voice of George Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” as the police officer knelt on his neck until he could no longer breathe. This reminds me of the silenced voices of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all of those who have been victims of violence against Black and brown people. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still wrestle with the pandemic of systemic racism, which has lasted for centuries.
As African Americans, it is exhausting.
“How are you doing?”
“How are you feeling?”
This season these questions hit different, whether I am asking it or answering. The answer may differ from moment to moment. Nowadays when I ask it, I intentionally pause and allow the person to process. Sometimes, the words flow out easily; sometimes it’s answered in tears. This is the same whether I ask it or answer. One of my friends said, “Rev. Sheila, I am feeling everything all at once. My heart aches, and I’m so angry!” At that moment I was flooded with memories from my journey to Ghana and the words from a worship experience. I told her that I knew exactly how she felt and said “Feel your anger …. and use it!”
I told her that about the sermon that pastor preached on anger that impacted me deeply. These were his words.
“Be careful with your anger and protect it. Everyone does not deserve or is worthy of your anger. Save your anger for injustice, poverty and for unfair treatment of the innocent. Let the anger light the flame of change, let it rise up in you as a motivating force to make a difference in the world.“
His sermon reminded us that anger can be used as a catalyst for change. I think of all the movements, ministries and organizations that were founded because of an outrage and anger at what was happening in the community and world. Jesus was angry when he saw corruption of the merchants in the temple court and literally flipped some tables (read John 2:13-22). We need to remember that Jesus. It was a righteous anger. This is the anger that ignited people to birth movements for change. It is the anger that propelled our ancestors to fight for the rights they would never live to see, but they did it for us. The pastor shared if we allow anger to smolder and fester inside us, it will destroy us. But, we can use that anger to rise up within us to make and impact and change. It is this anger that can make us push on towards our goals in the face of problems and barriers. This is my prayer.
One of my elders taught me, “Sheila after you pray, put legs on those prayers and walk in the direction of what you prayed for.” After you fortify yourself with prayer, rise up and do the work that God has called you to do. If God has called you to pray with your feet by marching, do that. If God has called you to be an artist, use your words, music and art to express and inspire. If God has called you to use your platform, spheres of influence and community to speak truth, do that. If God has called you to offer spiritual and financial support to others, do that. If God has called you to offer care and support to others, then do that. There are multiple ways that righteous anger can be the flame that ignites change. Sign up for the ‘Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington: A Digital Justice Gathering’ on June 20. This event is part of an effort that seeks to address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism and poverty.
“Let the anger light the flame of change, let it rise up in you as a motivating force to make a change and a difference in the world. This anger can birth change and shift systems”
Feel your anger and use it …
Open up your mouth ….
Blessed to be a blessing to you,
Rev. Sheila P. Spencer