A (Complete?) History of our Sanctuary Ministry

A (Complete?) History of our Sanctuary Ministry

Our Sanctuary ministry began in the midst of Central American civil wars in the 1980s. As our own government was supporting the dictatorships that were creating exiles, University Church opened its doors to civilians whose lives were threatened. Out of this grew our Guatemala Partnership, which continues to this day, and since 2016 we’ve made Room 31 on our third floor available as temporary housing for a number of immigrants seeking asylum and support.

We are a member of the Sacntuary Working Group, through which we partner with agencies, other congregations, and generous individuals to provide safe temporary housing, food stipends, clothing and phone/internet; legal assistance; accompanying them to doctor appointments and help enrolling children in school; and opportunities for community and fellowship. We offer care and prayer, and we do everything we can to provide the stability, comfort, and confidence they need to navigate their new home. Once they are ready to go out on their own, we continue to offer support through rent assistance, ESL, or…whatever is needed!

We do this because we believe this is what God calls us to do. And we welcome volunteers and donations.

Here are the stories of those we’ve had a chance to support:

2016
We welcomed a Mexican undocumented immigrant…faced with deportation, even though he had lived here many years, had children who were US citizens, and had an open legal case arguing that he should be allowed to stay. “Abandoning my children is not a choice I can make. I live for them, and I will fight to stay with them,” said J. He remained with us for nearly 6 months. He won his court case and now has legal status.

2020
A Mexican LGBTQ young man…who had lost his DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status came to us after being released from immigrant detention. He decided to apply for asylum, because he was now subject to deportation, and the town from which his parents had migrated has a history of violence against LGBTQ people. He was with us for two months before relocating. He has won his court case twice, but the Department of Homeland Security has appealed each time. His final hearing has yet to be scheduled, but he and his lawyer just were given a filing court date for paperwork, so the process is moving.

2021
A couple from El Salvador…The woman’s daughter was murdered by Salvadoran gang members, who then threatened to return to kill her. They left immediately with almost nothing to apply for asylum in the U.S. They were separated at the border and sent to different detention centers, but eventually got out thanks to pro bono lawyers who became acquainted with their case. They were with us for three months before relocating to a place where the husband had relatives and a job offer. He has been granted asylum and work authorization. She has work authorization now and is a cook in a restaurant. She has a court date in 2024 for her asylum case.

A family of four (now six) from Honduras…The father was a bus driver. Gangs would shake down bus fleet owners by threatening to kill drivers if the owners didn’t pay a monthly fee. One of the father’s friends was murdered, and someone attempted to shoot the father. The family decided to seek asylum in the U.S. and lived at University Church for 6 months. They have stayed in Chicago and now rent their housing. Father and adult son have work. Their younger son is an A student, even in his second language, English. The mother gave birth to another boy in February 2022, and their oldest son joined them this summer. They have submitted their asylum application but do not have a court date yet.

2022-2023
A family of four from Cameroon…During the last election in Cameroon, a candidate from one of Cameroon’s many ethnic groups ran and lost against the President who has been in power for over 40 years. After the election was over, that President began arresting people from that ethnic group, and the father of this family was from that group. He and his family flew to Brazil, then went through 10 more countries to reach the U.S. They were with us for five months and have now moved into an apartment in the neighborhood. They are eligible and have applied for Temporary Protected Status and are also applying for asylum. The parents have completed the highest levels of ESL, and the wife passed a college-level English 101 course. They have received work authorization and are employed.

A Colombian man...After several of his family members were killed, he was put on a national list of victims of violence and moved to a different city. He started his own business, but one day narrowly escaped being kidnapped and decided to leave the country. He flew here with a visa from the U.S., but mentioned when going through immigration at the airport that he planned to apply for asylum and was immediately arrested and detained for a couple of weeks. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) confiscated all the documents and papers he brought with him to prove his case; he has written to them asking that they be returned and has heard nothing. He lived at the church for a little over a year and now rents an apartment on his own. He has applied for asylum, received work authorization, and is employed.

A Venezuelan man…A well-traveled merchant seaman who has had his own experience of hosting migrants, in the form of Cuban refugees heading to Venezuela.  But now life had become intolerable in Venezuela, in terms of both the economy and security, so he headed north. He spent some time in a migrant shelter, just north of the border, where he was well liked for the friendly way he volunteered to help others, but he needed to move on. He lived at the church for a little over a year and now rents an apartment on his own. He as applied for asylum, received work authorization, and is employed.

2024
A Venezuelan single father with 3 sons…The oldest son was born with spina bifida, and Shriners’ Hospital in Chicago was able to provide him with free corrective surgery to prevent a further degenerative condition. The family is currently living at the church and working with a lawyer to file for asylum and work authorization.

EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS, and if you want to get a sense of what this takes…
$500 = 1 month of groceries and meals
$100 = 1 month of toiletries and personal items
$105 = 30-day Ventra/CTA pass
$80 = monthly utilities (gas, electric, WiFi—goes to the church)
$40 = monthly phone bill

Go to our GIVE page to donate, and indicate “immigrant support” on your donation. Or you may support the Sanctuary Working Group immigration fund that provides assistance to those living in our church and others throughout Chicago.

Stewardship 2024: You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

Stewardship 2024: You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

MATTHEW 7:16
You will know them by their fruits…

November is Stewardship Month at University Church. By Pledge Sunday, which is November 19, we are invited to turn in a pledge card (or PLEDGE ONLINE here) affirming how we plan to support University Church time, treasure, and talents in 2024.

This year, the Finance Committee has asked us to meditate on the theme of “You will know them by their fruits” as we prayerfully consider our offerings for the coming year. These verses come from Matthew chapter 7 where Jesus is discussing how to distinguish true prophets from false prophets.

Our Pledges to University Church allow us to participate in bringing to harvest all the good fruit that the church produces. These fruits are seen in our church community as we worship and pray together and express love and fellowship. But these good fruits are also seen in our wider community.

As a part of our application to Illinois Solar for All to put solar panels on the church, we had to obtain letters of support from community partners. These letters brought home the extent of University Church’s impact beyond our congregation.

Letters came pouring in from groups including Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, South Side Together Organizing for Power, Maroon Tutors, ServSafe, the Blue Gargoyle, Boy Scouts, Restorative Justice Hub, and many others.

We can also see these good fruits in the current work that University Church has taken on in hosting and feeding asylum seekers who continue to arrive in Chicago.

Your Pledge for 2024 will allow University Church to continue to produce all of these good fruits.

—Stephanie Weaver
University Church Co-Treasurer

Strength in Chaos: Lent 2023

Strength in Chaos: Lent 2023

It was I who fed you in the wilderness, in the land of drought” -Hosea 13:5

Our Lenten theme

The image of “Wilderness” rarely elicits positive thoughts. For many of us it is something to avoid, and if we must go through it then the point is to go through it as quickly as possible. But when God sends the Hebrew people or Jesus into the wilderness, it is for a time of holy preparation. Something powerful is happening in the chaos we are desperate to avoid. From now until Easter we’ll spend time on the practices that fuel us in the places where we don’t want to be. We’ll spend time in the wilderness, knowing that God is there with us, and there is…

“STRENGTH IN CHAOS”

Sanctuary Décor

Throughout the Bible – such as with Job who wonders why bad things happen to good people, and with Jonah who wonders why good things happen to bad people – the use of ashes and the donning of sackcloth is seen as signs of one’s repentance. The symbolic use of ashes in this sense continues as many Christians participate in Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. As a Christian community we also put on our sackcloth in the form of the three Lenten banners that hang by the western windows. Each sackcloth banner announces a Lenten theme, moving us through “reflection” to “sin” to “repentance,” or as the 1985 South Africa “Kairos Document” teaches us: SEE ->JUDGE -> ACT, each step moving us closer to the cross. Many of the words were painted on these banners by the youth and young adults in this congregation, but, like the empty niches above waiting for your saints, there is room left on these three banners for you to mentally inscribe your sins and the sins that confront you, how you reflect on them, and how you engage in acts of repentance for them. In this way, through these three Lenten banners, we communally wear our sackcloth in line with our biblical ancestors before God.

In the center of all this, the table remains. We will return to it each week, and you are welcome to bring plants, offerings, and signs of life to the table each week.

Lenten Schedule

Every Sunday – 10:30am CST worship service. In-person + online (“University Church Chicago” on Facebook or uchurchchi.org)

Every Monday – “Godtalk” Bible Study – 7:30pm CST via Zoom (link on calendar on uchurchchi.org)

Thursday, April 6, 6pm CST  MAUNDY THURSDAY service

Friday, April 7, 5pm CST – “7 LAST WORDS OF CHRIST” by Théodore Dubois (a musical journey through Good Friday)

Sunday, April 9 – EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE at Promontory Point (~6:30am, in-person only), and EASTER WORSHIP AT UCHURCH (10:30am CST, in-person and online)

WE LOVE YOU…SEE YOU SOON!!!

Advent, Business and Christmas!

Advent has begun! Our annual Advent Festival will NOT happen this year. With more people worshiping in person but not quite ready to gather together over food in the dining room, and others “Zoomed out,” we decided to instead add some fun to our Annual Congregational Meeting as a way of connecting more safely while reflecting on 2021 and planning for 2022.

The Annual Congregational Meeting IS happening Sunday, December 12 at noon. If you’re in the sanctuary for morning worship, plan to stay for the meeting. If you’re worshiping on Facebook Live, join us via Zoom (you’ll find the link on the calendar). It won’t be all business: we promise to work a little festiveness into our time together. Never been to an annual meeting at University Church? Then find out what it’s all about! (Spoiler alert: we’ll do a brief review of activities during 2021, vote on board members for 2022, and review and approve the 2022 budget. )

If you need a little nudge to get you in the Christmas spirit, music might be just what you need. Charles Hayes will direct the Chatham Choral Ensemble and University Church’s Bunton Sanctuary Choir at a free Christmas Concert Sunday, December 19, at 4:00 PM in the sanctuary. Masks are mandatory, and distanced seating will be enforced. If you’d rather watch from home, the concert will be live streamed on Facebook Live.

To settle our spirits into the wonder and awe of the birth of the Christ child, we’ll meet together for our special Christmas Eve Eve service on Thursday, December 23 at 6:00 PM in the sanctuary. The service will also be live streamed on Facebook Live.

Join us every Sunday at 10:30 AM in person or on Facebook Live for our weekly worship service. We will celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa during our morning service Sunday, December 26, with reflections, music and drumming.

For last minute stocking stuffers, Barb H will be selling a few Fair Trade items in the library after the worship service December 19, including coffee, tea and chocolate.

We look forward to seeing you and hope you will join our community as much as possible during the holiday season!

—University Church Staff

Stewardship 2022: On Christ the Solid Rock We Stand

November is Stewardship Month at University Church, and November 21 will be Pledge Sunday when everyone is invited to turn in a pledge card (or pledge online here) affirming how they plan to support University Church with their time, treasure, and talents in 2022.

The Finance Committee has asked us to meditate on the theme of “On Christ the solid rock we stand” as we prayerfully consider our offerings for the coming year. This theme was selected because of the changes and storms that we have come through in 2020 and 2021.

University Church is like the house built on the rock in Christ’s parable. The church has sheltered our community through these storms. We were physically separated from each other by the pandemic, but University Church, by moving into an online space, has allowed us to still experience the rock solidness of God’s promises of love and care and has fed our needs for spiritual sustenance and connection. The church was able to continue to reach into our lives every Sunday and bring us together in a virtual space.

This coming together still goes on, even now that some of us have returned to the sanctuary. We have continued to advocate for social justice through the ongoing work of committees and members. Our building has offered sanctuary to several migrant families even when we were not there. We found creative and COVID-safe ways to be together over the summer with Summer Fun activities (thank you to Valerie Lilley and everyone who helped plan these events!). And we were glad with Pastor Julian that he was finally able to take a sabbatical this summer as a season of renewal for the work ahead.

Please help us continue to build the University Church community grounded on the solid rock of Christ’s teachings and promises with your pledge as we enter 2022. Let us stand together on the solid rock!

Stephanie Weaver
University Church Co-Treasurer

Returning to in-Person Worship

September 15, 2021
Hello All,

For the past few months we have been discerning when to open our pews again for Sunday worship. We’ve been listening to you and following the science closely, and I write to you with good news! At our latest meeting, our church board has discerned that it is time to gather again physically at 5655 S. University Avenue. The plan is to make the in-person option available beginning September 26, with a few notable safety measures (in addition to more regular building cleaning, which is already happening) listed below:

  • Masks over the nose and mouth to be worn at all times while in the building, regardless of vaccination status.
  • If you are not feeling well or are experiencing known Covid symptoms, we ask you to stay home and participate in worship online.
  • Specially marked seating to respect 6’ physical distancing.
  • Frequent hand washing and sanitizing.
  • All church staff have been vaccinated.
  • If you are traveling out of state, a 14-day quarantine period is required (per city guidelines).
  • Congregational singing, passing the peace, offering, communion and other parts of the service will be adjusted to limit known risk factors.
  • Liturgists during service may unmask while speaking, but will immediately re-mask after, and all equipment will be sanitized regularly during service.

Please note that we will continue to gather online and will reformat the service for a hybrid model that allows for those not in the building to still participate in meaningful ways. Also note that we are figuring out separate protocols for our children’s program, so families will need to remain together in the sanctuary in the meantime.

We understand and appreciate that not all parishioners will feel comfortable or be physically able to join us in person on Sunday, September 26, or at any point in the near future. We respect you, we love you, and we consider you no less a part of this church family regardless of how you show up.

I want to thank the board, staff and volunteers for their faithful work over the past several months, continuing to be the church while our pastor was on sabbatical.

We want to welcome everyone and enjoy fellowship safely on September 26 and moving forward.

If you have any questions or concerns, or if you want to help us realize this plan, please be sure to reach out. We will continue to listen and adjust as needed, as we strive to ensure that everyone is comfortable and feels safe during worship.

Peace be with you all,
Deidre Searcy-Long
University Church Board Moderator
Posted 09.15.2021

For All the Saints…

University Church lost three pillars the first week of August: Pat Wilcoxen, Curtys Berry, and Glenn Klipp.

Pat Wilcoxen was respected and beloved not only in our church congregation, but throughout Chicago and especially the South Side as she tirelessly advocated for affordable housing, and racial and economic equity. Her firm yet gentle way of communicating (always with a smile on her face) made her an effective negotiator, and she usually was able to accomplish what she set out to do. Pat was surrounded by family August 6 as she made her transition.

A memorial service will be held in person Friday, September 10, at 2:00 PM in the sanctuary of University Church. The service will be live streamed on Facebook Live for those who cannot, or prefer not to, attend in person.

For those who had the good fortune to sing in the church choir with Curtys Berry, you have witnessed his sharp wit and his clear voice that anchored the bass section. If you were in the congregation when the choir sang “Total Praise,” you watched him sing his heart out with his entire body. And his genuine concern for others showed up during prayers of the people during worship services: always prayers for others; never for himself. Curtys passed away August 6 after battling multiple myeloma.

Arrangements for Curtys: Visitation at A.A. Rayner Funeral Home, 318 East 71st Street, Chicago, Thursday, August 19, from 3:00-7:00 PM.
Funeral: Friday, August 20, 11:00 AM at University Church with visitation from 10:00-11:00 and burial immediately following the service.

Glenn Klipp was a one-of-a-kind music director at UChurch (2004-2012), with the uncanny ability to work patiently with even the nearly tone deaf. He was always positive, and somehow managed to smile his way through any mistakes the choir may have made. He always made time for whoever walked in the door and into his “east aisle ministry” during choir rehearsals, frequently giving up his last dollar or offering a ride to anyone who asked. Glenn spent his last few years of life with his daughter and her family in the Netherlands, who cared for him during his dementia until he passed away last week.

We are continuing in prayer for their families and our community as we mourn their transitions from this life and honor their legacies. The Spirit of God continues to comfort us and unites us with them as they join the great cloud of witnesses before us.

Wonder at the More that Is Unfolding

by Denise Hill

I always find myself returning every so often to a commencement address Alice Walker gave in 2002. It’s entitled “All Praises to the Pause; the Universal Moment of Reflection.” In it she describes the fullness and the gift of taking a moment after something major has completed; or as life shifts from stage to stage; or as we sense the unique shiftings and subtle transformations in our lives — of taking a moment to pause and reflect before launching with all haste into the flux that is constant movement without a moment to take in and notice one’s breath… one’s being. She writes:

“…’the pause’. The moment when something major is accomplished [or completed, or sensed as shifting into something different] and we are so relieved to finally be done with it that we are already rushing, at least mentally, into The Future. Wisdom, however, requests a pause…the universal place of stopping. The universal moment of reflection.”

The sacred pause, in capitalistic society that pushes hustle & grind culture; productivity over play, and work over reflection, is indeed sacred…set apart…holy…a chosen thing…intentional…other. And yet, the sacred pause is just as Kin-dom as the mustard seed plant; or a field someone sold all to have because they had the imagination to see it; or children and their energy & ways of being & knowing. It is in the sacred pause: the pause of play; the pause of looking to & being intentional about our sabbath; and the pause of sacred, reflective gazing where we can encounter God……

In the gospels before the Spirit came; before Jesus ascended; before the disciples went out into all the world; before the letters had been written; before the acts had been performed, there was, in a room, somewhere set apart from the temple, a sacred pause…a moment set aside for sacred, reflective gazing. Something happened. Something happened that turned the world of Jesus’ followers upside down & inside out. And here they were left with this moment. Left with this trauma. Left with joys, some of them. Left with fear & anxiety, others of them. All of them in this moment together. Jesus appears. And Jesus invites Thomas to look at his wounds…to look at what happened to him…to confront how the-something that happened in the world had impacted him — intimately…viscerally; and to encounter how that-happening had now transformed him — somehow the same, and somehow not; somehow still Jesus, and somehow the Risen Christ.

I am reminded by this scene, that Love invites us to look. Love invites us to reflect & ponder.Love invites us into intentional imaginative wonder & awe. Love invites us to encounter a transformed/revealed God, so that we ourselves might be transformed — might be revealed.

Beloveds, something happened in the world. We find ourselves in the room of this pandemic-moment together. Each of us with a different point of entry. All of us, with a story of our worlds shifted. Some of us carry joy. Some of us carry trauma & anxiety. Some of us have grown. Some of us find ourselves picking up & putting back together shattered pieces. All of us have been changed. And here is God, in the midst of our moment, inviting us to look — to lay wide our hands, to run our fingers along the contours of the lines of our palms — to encounter, to touch, to see what it is that has happened to us, and how we have been transformed. How the God in us, has been revealed, anew.

This summer, we prepare our hearts & minds, not to go back — there is no going back to before the pandemic — but to move forward into what God has imagined this moment to be for us, individually and collectively. We ask ourselves: who am I, after a year plus of encountering God wherever I am — who have I become when the sacred place has been the place all around me? Who and how shall we be when we come together to collectively express, share, and encounter the divine we each bring, together?

This summer, may we continue to pause long enough to make room for play, fun, and delighting in those things that bring us joy! This summer, may we continue to pause long enough to establish & sit in our sabbath. And this summer, may we pause long enough for sacred gazing & reflection as we continue to gather for virtual worship — here…there…in our rooms set apart with Jesus, preparing our hearts & minds for when we gather in-person.

“It is the pause that gives us this clarity, this certainty. It is our time of gathering the vision together…”
(Alice Walker)

Amen. Ashe.

Summer Fun 2021

Summer Fun 2021

Here’s a list of the remaining August activities planned for church fun while Pastor Julian is on sabbatical. Please check this list, the church calendar, and the outgoing phone message (773-363-8142 ext. 4) for updates. Each event is also posted on the church’s Facebook page. Unless otherwise noted, please RSVP to Valerie by email, text, or by voice after 5:00 PM weekdays.

From Valerie, our Summer Fun Coordinator:

We are winding down this Summer of fun and celebrating community with two more Saturday events. All of our events meet CDC guidelines by default because 6-10 people participate and they are outside or on Zoom.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21: Lunch on the Beach! The church will buy lunch for all those who come and RSVP (thanks to the pastor’s sabbatical grant). We will meet at the church at 11:00 AM to car pool to Rainbow Beach. So far, the Mayfields and I are feasting and playing in the sand. Please e-mail me your RSVP by Wednesday August 25.

SUNDAY PICNICS, 4:00 PM: Our new location for the 4 pm picnic is fabulous! There are benches in a shaded, wide-open grassy area. It is in the park by Amanda’s Garden at the end of Kenwood Ave. just south of 56th Street, next to Ray School. It’s across the street from Andrew’s house, so good bet he’ll be there. We have such a delightful time that some of us are talking about continuing the picnics into September. (Beware— Valerie usually brings a sweet treat she has baked from scratch to share with whoever attends!)

Seven UChurch members pose for a photo during the lakefront walk Saturday, August 7.
A few hearty souls faced the hot weather and took a walk along the lakefront after coffee, tea, and snacks at the Havens’ on August 7.
Hip Hop, Job, and the Black Struggle for Being

Hip Hop, Job, and the Black Struggle for Being

by Julian DeShazier

The opening of De La Soul’s “Intro” (from the Stakes Is High album) is an expertly mixed chorus of four voices saying these six words…

When I first heard “Criminal Minded”

…which refer to Boogie Down Productions’ 1987 album of that name, one of the most acclaimed albums in hip-hop history. De La Soul’s sentiment is clear, and can easily be translated to “When I first heard that album that changed my life,” be it from BDP or Black Thought or Bob Dylan: the moment the listener hears an album that is both talking to and for them, bearing witness to a reality and helping to create a better reality. BDP and its lead rapper KRS-One became entertainers, journalists, and prophets to a South Bronx, NY, context full of poverty, drugs, and pop music—whether disco or rock—that was served to them but not made by them. As invisible as the politics of the day made them, hip-hop represented the soundtrack of resistance.

The notion of creating music as a way of creating or articulating reality has its roots in other genres. James Cone reminds us that blues music was created in the midst of the black struggle for being in another era, King David of Israel becomes a brilliant psalmist (that’s “songwriter”) in the midst of deep pain, and Samuel Livingston traces humankind’s first songs to the African concept of neferu (cultural manifestations of functional beauty). In other words, music has always had a purpose before it had an industry, and its economy was purely social, made up of those who would listen, identify, and be identified by those artists.

When I first heard “Criminal Minded”
When I first heard 2Pac’s “All Eyez on Me”
When I first heard Common’s “One Day It’ll All Make Sense”
…It changed my world
…Because I heard myself, for the first time.

Rap is scary to some because it is loud, which is entirely the point. It is a response with deep intention toward the systemic silencing by privileged whites, the wealthy, and the ignorant men who hold the center at this particular moment in time. It is the first bell that rings after the death around us young black Chicagoans has silenced us.

It is the cathartic response of Job after being stunned over and over, pathologically pummeled to the brink of nonbeing, and his first words—“Let the day perish on which I was born… let that day be darkness!”—which begin to reaffirm and reconstruct his being. His words are harsh and explicit and feel grossly emotional; in our context they would seem anti-intellectual when in fact they are super-rational, transcending intellect.

In 1988 and today, N.W.A’s “F the Police” is shocking and controversial—“uncalled for” by most tastes—until you hear the songwriters recall their inspiration, being pulled over in Los Angeles, handcuffed and forced to lie on the ground for being one thing: black. Was N.W.A having a Job moment, or was Job having one of the first hip-hop moments? Either way, both texts comprise wisdom, both utterances remain necessary.

If you want to understand the violence epidemic in Chicago, listen to the “drill” music of the shooters. You will hear the struggle for being that too often describes and destroys. If you want to understand the beautiful complexity of our youth, listen to Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem,” where he talks about “scoopin’ all the blessings out my lap” and by the end of the same verse brusquely reminds us that his “shooters come for free.” His message is clear: he’s keeping his, by any means necessary.

What he’s really saying—perhaps in every verse Chance has ever written—is that his being matters. His album Coloring Book, along with BDP’s Criminal Minded, expresses the “courage to be” without probably ever hearing (and certainly never caring about) the name Paul Tillich. These are theological projects as much as they are musical ones, and hip-hop has a way of reminding us that the separation of the head and heart is mostly an academic and superficial one. Job should have written an album; maybe Notorious B.I.G. was reading the famous text when he settled on a name for his first album, Ready to Die.

Growing up on the Southside of Chicago in rap’s “Golden Era,” I had no need for church; I had already found an adequate object of worship in the music that blared through my cassette player—music from Christians and Muslims and Five-Percenters and Black Hebrew Israelites—music that was loud and confident and confrontational, explicit in every sense of the word. For all I had seen and endured, it needed to be.

We—that is, most young, black boys—take our cues from rappers, perhaps to a fault, but at least they show better journalistic integrity in accurately describing reality than most news outlets. This trust in entertainer as journalist evolves rappers into a greater role: the poets who shape culture, the poetry whose purpose is to create a new reality. You hear rappers who don’t understand this and use their microphone to spread a dangerous gospel of misogynist and capitalist urges—no different from some pulpits. But you also hear the proclamation and affirmation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, its anger and its spirit engorged as a people fight to be made visible. In the rhythm and lineage you see Africa. It is neferu. It is the catharsis of Job. And for those hearing it for the first time…

When I first heard “Criminal Minded”
When I first read Job
When I saw myself
…it is like coming alive again. It is that Resurrection that many classically trained theologians spend too many words describing. It is a hip-hop moment.