We kicked off the Freedom Train Faith Study this past Thursday night at Westminster Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles using the Official Faith Study Guide from @UndergroundWGN. We engaged how in the opening episodes of Underground, Noah attempts to escape from slavery by himself, but is caught and returned to his slave master. Over time, he realizes that he will need the help of others to successfully escape the plantation. “It ain’t enough to just find which way to go,” Noah says, “We got to get a group of us together.”
We then read 1st Corinthians 12:7-11, which serves as a reminder that every member of the body has a God-given gift to serve the common good. The scripture says:
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
To organize and work for freedom, everyone is needed because everyone has a gift to bring to the struggle. Whether “house negroes” or “field negroes,” wealthy or poor, White, Native or Black, all have a God-given contribution to make to the shared struggle for freedom.
Considering the themes of Underground, we spent some time talking about how whether in the house or or the field, “you are still a slave no matter where you sleep.” The evil of racist oppression holds us all in bondage, regardless of class privileges. Here is the cast from Underground sharing their perspectives on how that division dilutes our power:
Our time shifted to a discussion of what we are trying to break free from today and why we can’t break free alone. Responses from the group ranged from the need to be free from self-hatred, doubt, police brutality, financial dependence, selfishness and fear. We talked about the importance of faith in a liberating God and Jesus to live into that freedom.
— RE:BIRTH (@REBIRTHblog) April 1, 2016
We also spent some time wrestling with the question “Who are we leaving out that God wants us to include in our struggle for freedom?” and whether it is necessary to work cross-racially to achieve racial justice. The story of Japanese American Human Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama proved helpful. I first learned of her from reading Vijay Prashad’s Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity. Most of us don’t realize this, but she was present that day at the Audubon Ballroom in New York when the great Black freedom fighter Malcolm X was assassinated. Malcolm knew that our struggle was a cross-racial struggle and we were all needed to do the work of anti-racism. Whether the internment of Japanese Americans in California during World War II or Jim Crow segregation in the American South, so long as we see our fights as isolated, we will not create sufficient power to break free.
Here’s an interview of Kochiyama with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! sharing about her relationship with Brother Malcolm and the intersections of our experiences across racial lines:
YURI KOCHIYAMA: Well, I tell you, in this country, you don’t get much of an education. Throughout high school, through junior college, which is all I went, I didn’t know anything about the annihilation of all the Indian nations that were here. There were millions of Indians. They were wiped out practically. I don’t like to use “tribe,” that’s what the white people use on Indian, but nation after nation were wiped out. And then, when I heard about slavery, which was ten times worse, I thought, going to another continent and kidnapping adults and children and babies, and taking the people from another continent to America, they said there’s no way they could know how many tens of thousands or a million Africans were taken, and what was the casualty? I mean, America never tells the casualty of the other side. But, at least, all this taught me a lesson.
The struggle continues at the next Freedom Train Faith Study on April 7 at 6:30 pm at Holman United Methodist Church! Get on board and let’s #breakfree!