Author Archives: Keshyra Smith

Black Man’s History

Out of all the readings, Malcolm X’s speech, “Black Man’s History,” was the most interesting to me. In the beginning, I didn’t see Malcolm X as the most polished or charismatic speaker, like Martin Luther King for example, but a lot of the ideas he put forward were interesting and explained in such a way that they were actually believable. His explanations about how christianity and judaism weren’t God’s religions strangely made sense. I still don’t see him as the most polished, and as I read on, a lot of the stuff he said stopped making sense, and I was a little weirded out, but still interested. If i’m being honest, The Nation of Islam reminds me of a cult. But still, some of the things he said still resonated with me, like his explanation for why he couldn’t say “all white people,”

“And this is true; this is how they do it. They take one little word out of what you say, ignore all the rest, and then begin to magnify it all over the world to make you look like what you actually aren’t. And I’m very used to that.”

 

It just reminded a lot of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the way people reacted to it.

Santeria

It was interesting for me to start the Santeria reading, because me and my friends had literally just had a conversation about why society is more accepting of women wearing what are deemed ‘masculine’ clothes, than of men wearing what are considered ‘feminine’ clothes. We basically gave up and came to the conclusion that everything is a social construct, but the beginning of this chapter answered so many of the questions me and my friends talked about. As well as opening my eyes to so much more. It never actually occurred to me the amount of structural, hidden inequality that exists in society. The fact that pretty much all mainstream religions are male dominated actually went completely over my head, which is actually ridiculous. I’ve read about Santeria before, but the new way this chapter approached it really kept my interest, and actually makes me really interested in the roles women play in religion now.

Response to Readings

I have to begin by saying that Joseph H. Jackson reminded me quite a bit of Booker T. Washington. Although I can’t say that their methods were 100% the same, the ” we must not rely on white people,” and “we must become self-sufficient,” aspects were there.

Second, I just realized that although Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister, you barely hear anything about how his religious views influenced his activism, or him as a minister in general. His chapter in Sernett was interesting to read for this reason. It was also interesting because you can feel Luther’s charisma even through his writings. He tore those 8 people down in a way that I feel would sway anyone to his side. I can definitely see him in the pulpit.

Readings- Week of 10/7

I’ve got to say, when I first began to read Miles Mark Fischer, I was a little confused as to why he called these other churches “cults”. To me, they seemed like normal churches, which made me question what his definition of a cult was. I was like, “Did the word cult not have a negative connotation then ? Or is this a reflection of the more mainstream religions aversion to Pentecostalism?” It wasn’t until I got to the Father Divine reading that I realized that his following at least, reminded me of the current definition of a cult. Although there were some parallels between what I would call a church today and the ‘cults’ of that era, which is a little disconcerting to say the least, there were way more differences that the first reading simply didn’t showcase. But the Father Divine reading creeped me out just a little.

Second, I would like to say that I’m kind of a little shook by the word niggeritions. It sounds like something my little brother would say, but was actually said by a grown man to describe the actions of other black people. I’d also like to give a fun fact. I noticed the name Nimrod in the Rabbi Mathews reading, and remembered that supposedly, it’s come to be equated with the word idiot today because Bugs Bunny, trying to be sarcastic, refereed to Elmer Fudd as “Nimrod,” who was described as a mighty hunter in the bible. Obviously people, not knowing the biblical character, missed the sarcasm and thought it was just another word for idiot. I’m not sure how true the story is, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Third, I’d like to say that I have actually never read about black jewish people until today. I heard about black muslims, but never black jews. I’m not sure I completely followed the argument as to why black people are true Israelites, but it’s an interesting line of thought that I might read over again.

Speaking in Tongues

I just genuinely find the topic of speaking in tongues so interesting. I’m not sure if speaking in tongues is real or not, as some people say that the speaking in tongues that people do today is very different from the tongues in the New Testament. The people who practice it today believe it to be a divine language, while skeptics say that when God blessed his apostles he gave them the ability to “speak in every language.” Skeptics also say that this gift, and many others ceased with the apostolic age. This obviously brings some doubt to my mind, but it is hard to completely disbelieve when the people that speak in tongues genuinely believe that it is a holy language bought on by the holy spirit. I don’t think they do it for show or on purpose, which leaves me conflicted.

It is also interested that Catholics see speaking in tongues in the same manner as the skeptics, being that it is the ability to communicate in previously unlearned language, but see it as a sign of demonic possession. How did this come to be?

 



 

Readings- Week of 10/22

The one thing I have to say, is that the readings of this week made me think a lot, for plenty of different readings.

The first reading that got my brain going was “The Race Problem in a Christian State.” It just really struck me that the reasonings behind Ransom saying that black people are more American than white people, besides Native Americans of course, is true. If you ask a white person their ethnicity you will get many answers like german, french, or british. If you ask a black person we will say African American, because we are defined by America. We don’t have the option to list all the African tribes our ancestors originated from, and therefore, we do not have the opportunity to participate in their cultures. For the most part, we developed our own culture here in America.

The second reading that really made me think was ” A Litany of Atlanta,” for the simple fact that I have never, and will never, understand poetry 🙂

Credo, however, genuinely moved me. Its inspiring and honestly so touching to see someone believe so full heartedly in the black race. It’s something you rarely see even today, even among black people.

And then we come to the “Atlanta Compromise Speech.” All I have to say about this reading is that I don’t understand Booker T Washington. To me, it seems as if he is pandering to the white people, or succumbing to white ideals of what a black person can be or do. However, this just seems to stand in direct opposition to how he fought to become who he was. I can understand him wanting black people to become skilled in the areas of physical labor, but I can’t understand him wanting black people to settle for just that.

 

Jarena Lee and Depression

I am obviously not a psychologist, but to me, Jarena Lee’s experiences mirror the experiences of a lot of my religious family members who have dealt with depression.  What first spoke to me was when she was tempted to drown herself after her first interaction with the lord. I was genuinely shocked that someone could feel so strongly about religion, but the idea that she had depression didn’t occur to me until after she got sick, simply from the intensity of her feelings. This is something that I’ve seen happen very often, people falling into physical illness because of the strain depression puts on the body, or simply mistaking the symptoms of depression for illness.

In a way, her thought process is parallel to black churches thoughts on depression in this day. Although I’m not sure she had depression, the idea that her sadness was brought on by the devil in an attempt to sway her away from God is an idea that I have heard many times. Today, the cause of depression in the christian world is usually attributed to a “demon of depression,” or the devil trying to, “get you down.” To me, this idea kind of resonates in the way she speaks about her sadness and illness.

Here’s an article that talks about depression throughout history, and the things that have been thought to cause it.

Here is a video that talks about depression in the black church:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5dxqgps-Xs

Readings- Week of 10/2

I actually really found the first reading interesting, and not just because I didn’t read any of the others. It was refreshing to see something that so blatantly called out white people and their wrongdoings that was written in this time. I also just really liked how he slyly called for slave insurrection. It’s a mystery to everyone, including myself, as to whether I would have called for slave insurrection, but I just like the ability he has to make you see the subtext without spelling it out to you.

One reading that struck a chord with me, however, is Black Religion in the Post-Reconstruction South. I’m not going to lie, it has occurred to me that some of the ecstatic worship going on in the black might be fake, but it never occurred to me that someone could be seen as uneducated because of the way they worship. While I know that some people are just shouting to shout in my church, I think that some of them generally worship that way, and that’s why I was kind of rubbed the wrong way with his thoughts about ecstatic worship in this passage. I think his thoughts on that type of worship also show a clear division between black worship in the south and north. It makes me wonder why that difference existed, and if it still exists today.

Richard Allen

The one thing that stuck out to me about Richard Allen was the fact that the white people were so nice to him. We can see a clear difference between the treatment of him in this chapter, and the treatment of the black people in the previous chapters. This makes me question why they are so nice him. Is it because this is set in the North, or because he is a preacher that they believe is blessed by God? Maybe he just doesn’t include the bad interactions because he’s biased, seeing as how he thinks his master is so great. I can see the latter being a big part of this writing, because at one point he praises his master for giving him his freedom, while completely ignoring the fact that his master makes him pay for his freedom.

Despite this first reading, I thought the rest of the readings were pretty dry and formulaic.