Sitting here, in my favorite Betty Boop pajamas, gazing at my purple and white Christmas tree, my mind is flooded with random thoughts about wrapping up 2018 and how to begin 2019. And then, I remembered that I hadn’t blogged yet. Oops.
Hmm…this has always been a toughie for me. I have never been a people-person, and until I dedicated myself to full-time ministry, I was pretty good with that. Oh, I’ve always loved teaching, but I also loved maintaining that professional distance. I didn’t allow myself to get close, to my students or anyone else.
Ministry turned my whole program upside down. When Jenise and I launched her dance ministry, we recruited women and children of all ages (we do welcome male members, BTW, but men were reluctant to submit to our leadership). 80% of them had never ministered in dance before. It was my job as Artistic Director to teach and choreograph for all of them, to transform them into worship teams. In order to become more approachable and less frightening, I had to narrow the professional distance and be more of a leader than a boss.
Why am I telling you this? Because it was in that process that I learned to become part of the village that raises a child. We had two teams under 18, and those children became my extended family. I learn to love on them like an auntie, motivate them to do their best in school (because ministers with bad grades sit down), and celebrate them. We partnered with parents to teach values, respect, and responsibility. It was the most rewarding experience that I’ve ever had.
Ujima –collective work and responsibility–is about getting your hands dirty in terms of relationships. Letting people in. Putting your heart out there, risking breakage. Inevitably, when my heart got broken in ministry, I went through a period where I tucked my heart away, dropped out of the village, backed away from the children, and refused to do the thing that I love most…teach. Take it from me: a teacher with no students is a woman who talks to herself way too much.
And now, Kwanzaa comes along to smack me in the back of the head and remind me that I was not created to be an island. People need what I have, and I need to be available to give it.
I am part of a community, and I need to get back out there to help build it.
Together, we can build.
It just dawned on me why I was so awed with Black Panther (besides General Okoye). This fictional utopia of Wakanda showed me what we as a people can build when there is no oppressor imposing their standards on us.
Together, we can build our own.
Not just businesses. Not just beauty salons, barber shops, liquor stores, and garages. We can build our own wealth. We can build our own schools. We can build our own cities. We can build our own real world.
“And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” (Nehemiah 2:18b)
Yes, I know that Kwanzaa is not a “religious” holiday, but at this point, I’m not apologizing for who I am and what I believe. And anyone who believes that Christianity is a “white man’s religion” is sadly misinformed and severely undereducated on the subject.
Let’s get together and rebuild our village.