It is Time!

“The world needs you now, not when you are perfect!” – from the Facebook Wall of Hasina Ifra, my Friend and virtual spiritual guide that I’ve never met who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. Thank you for inspiring this blog post! 

cinematic theologyOne of my favorite forms of preaching or spiritual discourse is cinematic theology, the critical study of films employing theological insights from faith traditions. A former pastor of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church’s Shrine of the Black Madonna #9 in Atlanta, Cardinal Sondai Nyerere, would often utilize this method is his sermons to expertly and powerfully drive home a message to the congregation (we still miss you, “Son of Thunder”). Given that movies are a dominant art form of our times, it makes perfect sense to me that insightful and relevant preachers would draw upon the life inspiration and moral lessons often embedded within quality films for ministry. Experiencing a good picture show can be an authentic spiritual experience, reminding us of eternal truths and uplifting our souls.

The-Lion-KingAs a father of young children, one of my favorite (practically required) viewings is The Lion King animated movie. Among other themes, a key message in this saga is about learning from the past and finding one’s place in life (I will proceed here with the assumption that you have seen the film). After Mufasa speaks to Simba from the ancestral realm, Rafiki teaches Simba that “the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you either run from it or learn from it” and Simba realizes that he must take his rightful place as king of the Pridelands. Doing so involved a dangerous and painful journey, but in the end Simba ultimately had to “remember” who he was. Once he does, Rafiki utters the poignant acknowledgement as the former prince but now king ascends to his place of destiny, “It is time”.

Do your danceWith the dawning of a new year upon us, I believe this is a useful reminder to ponder. While the narrative above relates a certain linear process of individual development and growth, in a broader sense it is always “time” for us to become who we really are. The Lion King  story takes place in a fictional kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa but many of us are Simbas in human life, often ashamed and traumatized by our past thus avoiding being true to ourselves and our purpose. I can testify to having this experience, with many regrets in my life often leading me into places of self-exile and shame similar to Simba’s estrangement from Pride Rock (his rightful home). But every year I practice building the courage and do the inner work to reclaim my inheritance as a child of God, not only for myself but also for what the world needs from me.

Zen book 2010 editionYears ago, I chose a particular text to help me navigate my own journey of evolution and personal transformation. Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design by Laurence G. Boldt is a life-changing book first published in 1991 that helped revolutionize the career planning field by offering a new vision of work. For me though, this work has been much more than assistance with choosing the best way to make a living. Through my diligent and intentional application of the both ancient and contemporary truths within, it has become a personal scripture of sorts for me and release from a veil of ignorance about who I was as a human being. It has helped me “remember”. So at the end of each year and in preparation Zen reading 2013for the next, I have developed my own tradition of making use of the typical holiday downtime to turn inward for spiritual regeneration by rereading the text, but most importantly updating the enclosed written exercises I completed previously to determine what has changed and what has remained true for me since the last year. This has become a powerful method for me to observe my own growth as a man and self-correct or improve in a very methodical way. I highly recommend it for anyone wishing to be their best self.

New moon wishGetting to consciously know or reconnecting with your life purpose is far more meaningful than making a traditional New Year’s resolution. While pledges to lose weight or stop smoking may go by the wayside come February 1st, a deep experience of the bliss involved with realizing your reason for being alive will not easily leave you. Certainly, we should clean out our closets or improve our diets and such. However, there is no substitute for the inner work of self-actualization. Like Simba, our true destiny is awaiting all of us should we only find the courage or will to move beyond our past and claim it. You healer, you teacher, you farmer, you preacher. You father, you mother, you friend, you leader. It is time!

Mwalimu Kwabena Osei Nkromo, Chief Evangelist and CEO of the House of Amen Southern Region.

the-house-of-amen-flier-front2

Advertisements

The House of Amen: Where the Whole of My Life’s Work Resides

Bishop Jawanza & his wife Menia

After a prolonged period in which my focus was largely consumed by a run for local elected office, several events have brought back into sharp relief the core motivation behind my areas of activity. One is the imminent relocation of my dear friend Dr. Jawanza Eric Clark and his family to New York, so he may assume a new teaching position as an Assistant Professor of Global Christianity at Manhattan College. Dr. Clark is a Bishop and recent co-pastor with my home faith community, the Shrine of the Black Madonna #9 of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC). Close in age and in certain areas of spiritual temperament, Bishop Jawanza and I share ambitions and hopes for a theological evolution of the belief system that binds us together as soul brothers: Black Christian Nationalism.

Dr. Clark also recently published his Ph.D dissertation as a seminal work entitled, “Indigenous Black Theology: Toward an African-Centered Theology of the African-American Religious Experience” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). In the book, he argues that:

“For black people in America, Christian formation historically has come at a steep price—alienation from, even shame for, their African past. This alienation is primarily rooted in the acceptance of two orthodox Christian doctrines: the doctrines of original sin and Jesus Christ as exclusive savior. This work is concerned with the way Black Christian formation, because of the acceptance of universal, absolute, and exclusive Christian doctrines, seems to justify and even encourage anti-African sentiment. Clark seeks to address this problem by constructing a doctrine of the ancestors in an effort to legitimize indigenous African religious categories and offer an alternative theological anthropology for the future of Black theology.”

Dr. Sailm Faraji

In addition to the developments above, another close friend and peer teacher for me has also recently published a new book that also illuminates the spiritual heritage of Black theology. Dr. Salim Faraji is an Associate Professor and Chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills, as well as the founder of The House of Amen. In “The Roots of Nubian Christianity Uncovered: The Triumph of The Last Pharaoh” Dr. Faraji answers the questions:

 “How and why did ancient Nubia convert to Christianity during the 4th – 6th century CE?  …. it is no longer acceptable to argue that Nubia converted to Christianity in the sixth century CE due to Byzantine Missions, but that a little known monarch, the Nubian king Silko who ruled in the 5th century inaugurated the beginnings of Christianity in ancient Nubia.  King Silko was in fact the Last Pharaoh in the Nile Valley and the first Christian king of Medieval Nubia.  The Nubian Pharaoh Silko was to ancient Nubia what Constantine was to Rome and the legend of King Arthur was to Britain, a founding Christian monarch and a transitional historical figure.”

I am extremely proud of the scholarship and accomplishments offered the world by these two exceptional men, both of whom I remain honored to know as colleagues and spiritual brothers. Their outstanding career successes call me back into renewed awareness of the grander context in which my day to day efforts exist for me. Despite how compartmentalized or disconnected my areas of service to humanity may seem to some, they are rooted and inspired by the core spiritual values of Black Christian Nationalism learned at the PAOCC and now currently imagined for this generation by the new revelations of “sovereign theology” exposed by the House of Amen reform movement for all Pan African diasporic faith traditions.

Mw. Kwabena Osei Nkromo

My career of civic and eventual public office, commitment to social-economic reform through the local food movement, and even professional trade as an eyebrow sculptor are all expressions of my life as art and ultimately holistic ministry. The examples of both my mother and grandmother were that of community evangelists that lived in dedication to the full human needs of others, this is the heritage of which I most authentically draw from in my life’s work. As the political season recedes for me somewhat and my local food advocacy work finds a certain maturity, I am moved to reconnect with the center that holds all things together for me. The work of liberation and d self-determination is at its core about personal and collective human transformation. Let the people say Amen!

Mwalimu Kwabena Osei Nkromo, Chief Evangelist and CEO of the House of Amen Southern Region.

The Black Boy’s Burden

Trayvon Martin

I feel obligated to express what my thoughts and feelings are about Trayvon. In all honesty, I tried to avoid the news regarding this young brother’s death because it is frankly psychologically frustrating and torturous for me. My soul is still recovering from the Troy Davis saga with all its horrifying implications of blatant injustice, brute state sponsored violence, and our powerlessness as a people to stop his murder. How many more protest marches in futile cries for justice in America for wrongful killings of Black men? How many more pontificating Black leaders on television, exploiting tragedy for personal public prestige? How much more of our pain and anguish can we post on Facebook or Tweet back and forth as if we were really prepared to do something about the perpetual open season on Black male life?

Heroic but futile protests on behalf of Davis

In the case of Troy Davis, the only logical response to the government’s determination to murder a man who many of us believe is innocent was to storm the prison where he was being held before his death and take him away to safety. Similarly with Trayvon Martin, many of us think that a 17-year-old boy that belonged to us was shot dead in cold blood for no legitimate reason by a rent-a-cop that was told to stay away from Trayvon by real police. If this is the case, then it would make sense to me that a group of jegnas would be on our way down to Florida prepared to exact justified vengeance on Trayvon’s murderer should the legal system fail to do so. But that seems too much like human right in this bizarre would we live in where we only go so far when it comes to value of Black people and young Black men in particular.

Op-Ed columnist Charles Blow

New York Times commentator Charles Blow wrote the following recently in an Op-Ed piece:

“As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.

That is the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them: running the risk of being descended upon in the dark and caught in the cross-hairs of someone who crosses the line.”

Trayvon laying dead on the ground

I have an African boy for a son as well who is six years old and growing up fast. Among the duties and joys of fatherhood like helping him with his homework and teaching him how to play chess, I also have the responsibility of preparing him for the American “at risk” or “endangered species” phenomenon for his kind. It is a dreadfully sobering reality to know that there are murderous odds awaiting ones child and that there are practical limits to what can be done to reduce them. For this reason, while my paternal anxiety may be great it is actually my son Kwesi that carries the heaviest burden. In the absence of my ability to be present at all times for protection and guidance, it will be up to him ultimately to make the right decision at critical moments that may mean life or death for him some day.

Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin

Black men in this country exist in a precarious reality in which we have very real enemies in the form of a criminal justice system peculiarly hostile to us, potential police brutality at any turn, and even the arbitrary murderous intent of a neighborhood watch buffoon with a gun. Tragically, our boys are no exception.  Whether aware of it or not, they bear the heavy burden of being a high valued target in the on-going hot war on Black males that has raged through out America’s history and continues to this day.