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Archive for January, 2008

"Celebrate" 1st Book Signing

Barnes and Noble Book Signing January 19th, 2008 Williamsburg, VA

“Watch Concert at Trinity Wall Street”

Trinity Institute: Bernice Johnson Reagon in Concert
High Bernice Johnson Reagon was the founding director of the ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock. She shares her unique perspective of God’s “ultimate visions” through performance, storytelling and song. From the 37th annual Trinity Institute.

For more than 40 years, Bernice Johnson Reagon has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice; singing, teaching—speaking out against racism and organized inequities of all kinds. An African American woman’s voice, a child of Southwest Georgia, born in the struggle against racism in America during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. Reagon’s life and work support the concept of community based culture with an enlarged capacity for mutual respect: for self, for those who move among us who seem to be different than us, respect and care for our home, the environment, including the planet that sustains life as we know it.

Perhaps no individual today better illustrates the transformative power and instruction of traditional African American music and cultural history than Bernice Johnson Reagon, who has excelled equally in the realms of scholarship, composition, and performance. She is Professor Emerita of History at American University, Curator Emerita at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and served as the 2002-2004 Cosby Chair of Fine Arts at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Two of her major works are seminal to the study of this tradition: Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions and Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. Reagon served as principal scholar, conceptual producer, and host for the Peabody Award winning Wade in the Water, the 26-show series produced by National Public Radio and Smithsonian Institution (premier broadcast 1984). She also served as curator of the traveling exhibit and compiled the 4CD box devoted to this sacred music tradition. After serving as the score composer for the four-film series. produced by WGBH TV, Africans in America (broadcast in a PBS mini-series in 1998, also received a Peabody Award), Reagon produced the related series of audio recordings released by Rykodisc/GBH Records. From 2002 to 2004 Bernice Johnson Reagon held the Cosby Chair Professor of Fine Arts at Spelman College, where she created the live performance production Lord! I Got A Right To The Tree Of Life! A Tribute to Early African American Sacred Song. While at Spelman, Reagon initiated an archival collection project focused on the life and work of Willis Laurence James, an African American 20th-century musician, folklorist, composer, and choral director.

In 1973 while serving as Vocal Director of the DC Black Repertory Company, Reagon founded the internationally acclaimed African American woman a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey In The Rock. For 30 years she was artistic director, performer, songwriter, and producer of many of the group’s recordings, retiring in early 2004. Among the recordings she produced are: Sacred Ground, Selections: Sweet Honey In The Rock, 1976–1988; Still the Same Me, and Alive in Australia, Sweet Honey In The Rock (Australian release only).

Reagon’s publications include: We Who Believe in Freedom: Sweet Honey In The Rock, Still on the Journey; We’ll Understand It Better By and By: Pioneering African-American Gospel Composers; and If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me: The African American Sacred Song Tradition. She has also written numerous articles on African American culture and history. She compiled and wrote the booklet for the two-CD collection Voices of the Civil Rights: Black American Freedom Songs 1960–1965 (Smithsonian Folkways Records).

Dr. Reagon became active in the Civil Rights Movement while a college student at Albany State College in Albany, Georgia (from which she was expelled after participating in a demonstration for which she and others were jailed). She was a member of the original SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) Freedom Singers formed in 1962 by SNCC field secretary Cordell H. Reagon, and in 1966, a founding member of the Atlanta-based Harambee Singers.

Dr. Reagon has served as music consultant, composer, and performer for several film and video projects, including the award-winning Eyes on the Prize, the Emmy-winning We Shall Overcome, and the feature film Beloved. She received the Isadora Duncan award for the score for the original ballet, Rock, created by Alonso King, founder and artistic director of the San Francisco based contemporary ballet company, LINES (1996). In 2003, she created the music and libretto for the Robert Wilson production, The Temptation of St. Anthony, which premiered in Germany and was also performed in Italy, Spain, England, and New York. In this work, Reagon’s music drew upon her intimate and long term study and performance of African American music spanning 19th and 20th century genres. Nov/Dec 2005, Temptation completed a run at the Paris Opera House de Garnier (the first African American cast to play in the house since the 19th century) to sell-out audiences. The libretto for the production was inspired and adapted from a translation of the 19th century Gustav Flaubert novel of the same title. Her pioneering work as a scholar, teacher, and artist has been recognized with the Heinz Award for the Arts and Humanities (2003), the Leeway National Award for Women in the Arts (2000), the Presidential Medal for contribution to public understanding of the Humanities (1995), and the MacArthur Fellowship (1989).

From http://www.bernicejohnsonreagon.com and http://www.trinitywallstreet.org
submitted by Richard D. Meadows, Jr.

The Battle Within

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

This morning before leaving my home headed to work, I switched from my favorite morning radio show, The Tom Joyner Show to the national news on the television. I had an opportunity not to rush- my husband was going to the VA. Beach Life Net Office instead of his usual destination in Richmond. This morning we’d car pool- so I could relax for a moment because I wasn’t driving. As I sat awaiting my hot cream of wheat to finish cooking, I listened to the morning news and to my astonishment I heard the news account regarding a mentally ill parent killing not one child but four children. Oh there were signs friends that this disturbed mother needed help.

According to the newscaster, the authorities were warned; they were repeatedly urged to pay a visit to this visibly distressed parent. For whatever the reason, after neither the teacher’s initial home visit the local law enforcement, nor child protective services followed up on this SOS call.

This was touted as a classic example of someone needing assistance and their case simply falling through the cracks. Despite the teacher’s plea, nothing by way of an intervention occurred. The parent which committed this unthinkable act apparently had no support system and it was evident from the testimonies of the teacher that what she witnessed during her home visit was disconcerting, discomforting, just plain unpleasant! The teacher must have sensed something horrific was eminent. It was reported that this woman’s husband, now alone with her children and suffering, mentally battling her demons and refusing to go to a homeless shelter. Later, after the fact of the discovery of the grizzly human remains, there would be several department heads fired, the Mayor would issue a sorrowful statement, department “shake ups” would occur—but I like you would agree this was a little too late!

Lord come by hear, and deliver us! I am sure your spirits are also concurring!

Something wasn’t done; the cracks were widened because here some helpless children were prey at the hands of a mother who was hurt and demented from the battle that had waged war in her mind and spirit.

Our hearts are broken for this parent, the children and the initial teacher who conducted the home visit. This concerned teacher conducting the home visit visibly must have perceived that there was a battle going on right before her eyes, her spirit must have been so unsettled that she complained. Her humanity wasn’t assured that now silenced children could sustain the battle.

After I arrived at work I opened an email inspirational message which read:
No one should be ashamed to admit they are wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.”
—Alexander Pope (1688-1744), poet, critic, translator

How apropos that Alexander Pope’s words would resound with such truths., It’s ironic, no it’s God at work friends featuring quotes related to humanity from The Foundation for a Better Life.com In their own words the Foundation for a Better Life is a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing the values that make a difference in our communities.

A terrible wrong has occurred, what’s next we must wonder? I feel that today, God is ushering us to reflect on not only our own humanity, but humanity for the children forgotten , parents tormented and system over burdened. I surely am not pretending to have all the answers my friends but in cases where there is evidence of distress would it be wonderful to have an alternative if the local human services boards can’t intervene? I pray that those considering ministry will seek out best practices to reach others. Surely there must be innovative human service with faith based foundations making provisions for safe shelter/havens, parenting workshops, counseling services, mentoring programs. In the mean time while we are searching for these caring services maybe we can be more vigilant in fighting the battle within our gates that is intent on destroying us.

With an out stretched helping hand it’s important that we become Auntie Mommies, surrogate mothers and fathers, noisy neighbors with level heads, keen eyes and ears that are open to understand, see , hear and aide the distressed.

Possibly God is telling us today to pay more attention to not only our affairs, but our brothers and sisters around us. We are our brother’s keepers. Often there is real turmoil happening right in our midst and we just can’t fathom what it is, let alone see it. So I pray friends that we’ll have supernatural radar that signals in our spirits when an immediate need exists, and a crisis is erupting and ignoring the problem won’t be an option.

If you have a service that can benefit families hurry and contact your schools, the United Way, you local/city/county human service systems and law enforcement so that you’ll be considered as a line of defense for the defenseless. Be assured that the need will arise. So friends let’s keep praying and let’s keep vigilant about helping others in need and not giving up in well doing!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Eph 6: 1-18

Ron Demetruis Henry

Ron Demetrius Henry was born September 6, 1968, in Baxley, Georgia. He is blessed and anointed of God as a singer and songwriter whose songs minister to the hearts of men and women who go through daily life experiences. Throughout his endeavors, he has experienced singing with the James Cleveland Workshop Choir, New Jersey chapter.

In 1988 he joined the United States army, serving faithfully for the last eighteen years. During his enlistment, he has ministered the word of god through song across the United States and Europe. On September 13, 2001 his first single “by faith” was released, where it has blessed the hearts lives of people internationally.

In feburary 28 2003 to march 15 2004, he deployed with 101st airborne division, (air-assault) during Operation Iraqi Freedom. On September 22, 2005, he was acknowledged as the first Fort Eustis, Virginia military idol; where he went on to Fort Gordon, Georgia as one of the five finalists in the first U.S. Army military idol. Through these accomplishments, he was invited to perform in the 2005 American Freedom Festival, at the Broadway historic Roseland Ballroom, New York City.

He currently resides in Williamsburg, Virginia, retiring from the United States Army with 20 years of active duty service culminating his career as the manager and vocal trainer for the Fort Eustis, Virginia transportation express. He is married to his lovely wife Tabitha who he loves and acknowledges her as the queen of his soul. His aspirations are that through his God given ministry, many lives are touched, and set free by the power of God, and will encourage, uplift, and heal the broken hearted.

‘A Gathering Force’
Grassroots coalitions commit to ‘new’ New Orleans By Pat McCaughan, April 03, 2008

Click image for detail[Episcopal Life] When the New Orleans levees buckled, they gave way to more than cascading waters. They exposed years of racial and economic inequity and launched a flood of new voices, grassroots coalitions and a reborn Episcopal Church, all working together for justice.

Shakoor Aljuwani is part of that reborn church. Last year, at 57, the longtime community activist, ex-Black Panther and former member of the Nation of Islam was baptized at the Easter Vigil, moved by “the sincerity of the Episcopal Church to work for change and the good of all” in post-Katrina New Orleans.

“I saw a real diocesan commitment to build a new New Orleans,” Aljuwani said. “There was genuine comfort in their presence. I’d often doubted the sincerity in past relationships with various denominations, but I saw something powerful developing, a gathering force, and the enormity of what we were faced with made me search deeper and see the need, that I had to have faith in God in this survival process.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’m doing or to deal with the tremendous roller coaster ride this has been if I hadn’t had faith and been able to learn to pray and to go to the community where other folks are putting their lives on the line,” he said of his 12- and 14-hour days and six- and seven-day work weeks.

The Rev. Courtney Cowart, director of the diocese’s disaster response, is another newer voice. She helped guide recovery efforts in post-Sept. 11 New York and recalled stark contrasts between the cities. “It was pretty clear that my work here was going to be focused on not so much the technical fixes of disaster recovery but the adaptive changes of the heart.”
“It was obvious that race was coloring the response,” said Cowart, who was at Trinity Church, Wall Street, a few blocks away when planes struck the World Trade Towers. “There, all the walls between people came down, and everyone was reaching out to help everyone else in any way they possibly could. It was an incredibly transforming experience.”

In New Orleans, she said, “one hundred percent of my work here has been forging relationships outside the Episcopal Church and in the African-American community and working to carve out coalitions and initiatives that are very countercultural, from privileged white folks and the establishment church to grassroots activists. They just never worked together like this.”
Transformation’s challenge and potentialAt the height of the Hurricane Katrina fallout and flooding, when many were already gone or on their way out of the city, Aljuwani was on his way in.

“I had been watching it in the media, and I figured the whole story wasn’t being told,” said Aljuwani, who had been living in Florida. “It bothered me that there were no stories of heroism.”
A community activist for decades in Mississippi, Brooklyn, Harlem, Chicago and other places, he posed as a cameraman, “working with an L.A. Weekly reporter I knew because it was the only way a black man was able to get through the checkpoints and to interview people evacuated to the Superdome,” he said.

Two years later, he acknowledged activists still had their work cut out for them.
“It is such a massive effort,” especially because of a lack of affordable housing, adequate education and employment and many other issues, he said.

But it “is the greatest challenge and the greatest potential,” he added. “People have been cracked open, and in that there is an openness to try something new.

People are coming back to the community. Church is more important, family is more important, people are working together like never before. There’s a sense of hopefulness and optimism.”
There also is a need, he said, for “a truth-and-reconciliation practice patterned on what’s happened in South Africa. For the city to heal, there’s got to be some truth-telling.”
Focus on youthGrassroots coalitions like the Common Ground Collective and All Congregations Together have sparked hopes for “a new civil rights movement” of support across races, denominations and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In October 2006, Aljuwani began working with the Homecoming Center at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, an historically African-American congregation founded in 1855 that has been active in recovery efforts.

Aljuwani is “a leading voice” in the new New Orleans recovery efforts, said Broderick Webb, 38, an independent filmmaker and native New Orleanian. They met through Webb’s work with the Downtown Neighborhood Improvement Association Education Committee.

Alarmed by the lack of opportunities for youth, poor educational facilities and a survey of McDonough High School students in 2006 which revealed that “30 percent were here without a parent and were staying with an aunt, cousin, boyfriend, or other people, and were taking on responsibility and roles most young people in his country don’t have to worry about,” Webb said, the Fyre Youth Squad, or FYS, was born.

“We wanted to begin to engage young people hanging out in the streets. We saw them everywhere we went,” Webb said. “Fyre, in New Orleans slang, means hot or cool, a flame, something positive or attractive — ‘That’s a cool jacket you’re wearing.’ People like to think it embodies young people, that it represents more than a reformation but a revolution in public education.”

FYS helped to organize press conferences about unacceptable school conditions, including disparities in the distribution of resources post-Katrina. It focused on John McDonough High School as “a poster child” for the school system’s dysfunction and inability to respond to the crisis and even pulled off an appearance by actor and comedian Bill Cosby.

Summer camps and after-school programs were initiated, along with a diocese-funded entrepreneurial project where young people will work in their own businesses, selling T-shirts and “snowballs” or snow cones, as well as in a video media business. Plans are in the works for a spring college campus tour. “We see it as a good way to provide valuable leadership development and financial support to keep young people out of crime,” Aljuwani said.

“A lot of people in our country,” Webb said, “believe if they had been living during a time of great atrocity, like for instance, the American slave trade or Nazi Holocaust, they would not have stood idly by, they would have stood up.

“Well, we are living in a time like that. We are the system effectively delivering young people by the hundreds of thousands into bondage because of educational systems that don’t meet their needs. They have no access to the things necessary to meet the demands of society.
“Instead, they are routed into negative choices that lead them into the penitentiary and the cemetery. It’s as grave a situation as in 1850 or 1937.”

The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal Life Media correspondent in Province VIII (the Province of the Pacific). She is based in Los Angeles.

Filling In

And so, since God in his mercy has given us this wonderful ministry,
we never give up. 2Cr 4:1

Before I realized it, I was picking myself up. I didn’t even have time to think,
“No this can’t be happening at work?”

As I was falling, I could see myself, it felt like I was witnessing a slow motion picture, but instead of the star role being acted out by someone else it was me. I had no control over what was occurring- it was a surreal moment at 2pm in the afternoon on the steps of Phenix Hall.

I really believed or no maybe I thought I had caught myself, but my dusty pant leg revealed another truth. My feet and upper body weren’t in sync- they didn’t cooperate as I held on to the banister just momentarily before my fall. I realized it was much too late. It wasn’t a terrible fall, but I knew it wasn’t a pretty sight. A student that stood at the bulletin board pretended not to see my fall. I knew she saw, and heard the thud. Silently I thanked her for letting me have a shred of dignity. But she could have at least said, “Are you ok?” It surprised me that she just turned her back as though I wasn’t there. The shock to my body didn’t initially feel bad, but as I write this devotional, replay the mental tapes and acknowledge that I knew I had fallen, I am feeling just a little achy.

Prior to the fall I answered the phone, listen to the requested instructions and there I was in pursuit (interpreting the spoken and unspoken requests)- carrying out the task of opening conference doors, greetings guests most cordially, opening window to let air circulate in the conference room, having small talk and awaiting the intended parties which were really suppose to be meeting. It was my mission to fill in- make the atmosphere more comfortable, smile pleasantly, answering the questions as best I could and respond intelligently –I at least hoped. Not as soul seemed to notice that my transparent halo was crooked, or that my clothes possibly were a little rumpled! So my mission was accomplished! None of the guests noticed as I reflected that just seconds before that conversation –I had literally and figuratively picked myself up off the stairwell, dusted my shocked body off and entered the department’s waiting area to greet our guests. Outwardly I was composed, inwardly I was shaken!

How often have you done the same thing friends? Fallen and had to quickly get moving! As I’ve heard it said, “Keep it moving!” or how about this one? “You don’t have time for sniveling, big girls/big boys don’t cry!”

I had fallen as I descended the stairs in a hurried pace. Many times in life as we are climbing so many ladders, negotiating many kinds of stairwells in our life we may get hurt along the way carrying hidden scars with the appearance of having it all together. I’d like to think that God desires that we view these stairs or ladders as personal challenges or trials we face in life. Some challenges we get through with ease and others that’s just not the case.

These challenges may be evident for others to witness as we go through, the operative word being through! Who dictates the time piece? Often it’s out of our control, or possibly it’s negligence or poor planning or maybe a mistake? Whatever it is, the duration may take us through days, months and possibly years. Some challenges are a cake walk others are no joke! These corporate ladders/stairwells, marriage ladders, parent ladders, spiritual ladders, religious ladders, depression ladders, drug ladders, the greed ladders, the sickness ladders, confusion ladders are often much too much! You fill in the blank and we miss a rung, miss the mark and fall. Hopefully not to our detriment! But be assured friends that God’s words in the 2nd Corinthians are a sure cure for our hurts:

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 2Cr 4:8-10(NIV)

Surely we’ve incurred set backs, a fall from grace, an awkward moment in life and you had no clue it was coming! You believed that your journey from here out was smooth sailing? So you thought your life was supposed to pan out in one way and then another route occurs-right before your eyes and there you are flat on your back looking up or possibly lying face down. In your spirit, break out in a warrior dance, praise Him, lift your hands and your hearts and know that you survived the fall and it didn’t kill you!

Thank God you survived! Thank God for the on lookers like the young student that saw me tumble and never uttered a word or a hand! Thank God that you too have enough spring in your spirit to look forward to the days ahead.

For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. 2Cr 4:17, 18 (NIV)

Thank God I wasn’t left by the way side, crumbled! That’s for you and me-the Holy Spirit desires that we keep climbing, and not be shy about filling in!!! Now go on and enjoy the reminder of your day as you hum I’LL Make It by Hezekiah Walker!

Joyfully submitted by Linda Mose Meadows Author of:
The Blessedness of Believing

Whatever You Want Me to Give You

That night God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” 2 Ch 1:7 (NIV)
I just couldn’t gather the momentum to do my morning dance in preparation for work; I was under the weather, tired, and drained. There was no push available – I realized I needed the rest. The body said, “Nope!” and I said, “Okay!” After awakening I realized that I needed some spiritual sustenance, it was the brunch needed. My spirit was saying:

Be still, and know that I [am] God: I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth Psa 46:10 (NIV)

This was a quite moment, a moment to be still and pray; reflect on not only my needs, but how sparse my prayer life had been in the midst of some really hectic and stressed filled days. My spiritual armor had some dings and dents and my hit and miss prayer life was missing the mark. Today I was glad I choose not to push myself and finally I awoke refreshed and knew before I did anything, I at least owed God his due praise, so I gathered my favorite study bible, prayer book and wouldn’t you know it as I read a prayer, and reread the prayer seeking Guidance and Wisdom there were two scripture references. God had made it really very easy for me and you today friends through the author of the prayer which referenced two scriptures 2 Chronicles 1 and Job 12. I never got to Job 12-I really appreciated 2 Chronicles and stopped there.

When I flipped open my bible there it was friends, notes I written some time ago about the importance of prayer-short clips that I must have written during a worship service or bible lesson that spoke to the importance of prayer. Some of my notes that were written read as: devout, reverent praise and adoration, submission, daily business of saints, voice reaching the ear of God, routine, laboring before God, birthed out of the spirit from your heart! Visible presence of God through the Holy Spirit, His Shekinah Glory! Oh friends my notes taken during a time I had long forgotten, blessed and reminded me what was missing in my fatigued state were God’s exact words and a healthier, more consistent prayer life!

And then as I read the scripture, it was evident that God was clearly speaking to me when I read of King Solomon’s prayer to God’s question in 2 Chronicles 1:7 WHATEVER YOU WANT ME TO GIVE YOU! My spirit said, “Hey, hey that’s God talking, he’s asking the question, He’s making the request! He’s honoring Solomon’s prayer!”

All I can say is quickly reference the scriptures and read them for your own edification! It’s right there folks. As I’ve heard the elders say, “It’s plain as day!” There’s no need to be down! We too can ask for good things from the Lord and be encouraged that He desires to give us the needed provisions for our lives. In our weary states we can hold fast to the knowledge that the good that God desires for us far out weighs all we can ask or think.

Come on and let’s get excited and rejoice that:

God desires to give us and future generations, the desires of our heart; His word confirms it!

God desires to bless us abundantly with providing for our needs; His word is clear!

God desires to impart His great knowledge and His Wisdom; He says so!

God desires that we follow and obey His command, we’ll be blessed: it’s real!

God desires that we persevere in faithfulness and be careful to walk in His ways as we possess wisdom & exceptional knowledge of His word!

Thank you Lord for reminding us today that whatever you want to give us, you certainly will, it’s available through prayer and your anointed Holy Spirit’s enlightenment.

So today wonderful Lord we can confidently tuck these words in our hearts as we pray in faith that you will answer with: “Whatever You Want Me to Give You!” Amen!

Joyfully submitted by Linda Mose Meadows
Author of: The Blessedness of Believing
A Devotional Journey of Life’s Lessons and God’s Promises

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