Thursday, May 8, 2008

Strange Fruit by Nina Simone

Thanks to Jazz Theologian and Pastor Robert Gelinas for direction to this video.   Fair warning it is tough to watch.  It is a combination of haunting lyrics, a voice that is beyond description and photos that even in our overly violence laden society are still shocking.  Yet as I referred to in a recent post, they have a direct family connection to many.  


jesse curtis said...

this is so provoking and disturbing. this is what white america wants to believe can just be swept under the rug. i want my whole family/church/hometown to see this.

Aaron said...

wow man! i have to tell you that when i see that i am very disturbed. not by the vulgality of it but rather that some of those images are within the past 50 years.

i remember a "God-fearing" white guy tell me that he thinks that it is a shame that "black" haven't become self sufficient. I remember setting there disgusted and in shock. I went on to tell him that "blacks" have achieved a lot and he needs to have some black friends before he starts saying what blacks haven't become.

These pictures reminded me that blacks in this country just recently within the last 30 or so years have gotten their "rights" and even with those rights comes 100's of years of degredation, racism, rape, lack of education, lack of jobs, lack of living space, and any other lack you can think of.

I've always wanted to ask white folks this question...

How long do you think it would take for white folks to become "self sufficient" if they in the past (and somewhat now) were for 400 years beaten, not allowed to go to school, not allowed to have jobs, not allowed to have a family without the constant threat of seperation, not allowed to travel, not allowed to "play", not allowed to go to church, not allowed to sing, not allowed to celebrate their God given culture, not allowed to buy, not allowed to sell, not allowed to look folks in the eye, not allowed to learn of their history, not allowed to defend themselves, not allowed to drive, not allowed to have a say in any civic matters, if they were raped, falsely imprisoned, degraded, called "boy" even though they were a husband and a father, spit on, burned alive, mocked and were in constant danger of death for "disobedience."

What if white folks went through the above mentioned stuff... After 40 some years of freedom (mixed with indirect injustice) would they be "self sufficient?" How long does it take for a people group to recover from 400 of years of oppression? Good questions I think folks need to ask themselves when they want to nit pick the "black community" for its negatives.

The beautiful thing in all this is the overcoming nature, the resilence, the audacity of hope that African Americans have had throughout the years. BEAUTIFUL!

I think I am going to blog about this one day!

hammerdad said...

Jesse, thanks for chiming in. It is a something that we need to see and think about and understand. It is a part of our history whether we like it or not.

Aaron, the only possible answer to your question is that whites would be exactly where blacks are. Unless we assume moral or intellectual superiority (which of of course some do) we have to conclude that.

Blog on it man!


Aaron said...

Don't get me wrong I do think that the "black community" is fine but there certainly are aspects that are still "evolving" out of injustice. To me blacks have won in a lot of ways and still are running the race as we speak but this notion that there are shouldn't be any "after shocks" after 400 of oppression is to me just crazy!

I know both you and I see the "black community" for all it's beauty and to be honest this only comes through relationship as you have said on more than one occasion. Left to media and history one can only think that the black community is utterly dead, which isn't even close to being factual.

I am interested in seeing some reponses to this because I know that over on Anthony's blog he got railroaded for showing one of these images. Something to the effect of... "why are you showing this stuff because all it does is divide people and make people feel guilty for something that happend 50 years ago."

In one way or another folks said the above. It was a heated topic. I have wanted to write about this but I get antsy because I know I will get blasted!

Blog on brotha!

hammerdad said...

yeah I figured I risked that. I think at this point most of the folks reading are white and are probably somewhat guarded in responding . . .

I was really touched by my mom who told me she cried all the way through it. She'd seen the pictures but never heard the song. So it was an introduction to an incredible vocalist along with seeing those photos that she'd not seen in many years (she herself is a great vocalist who spent at least part of her youth in the south -- Texas is the south sort of isn't it?).

So between that and (I'm guessing here) that the previous entry on lynching and Wright it got personal.

We'll see if more openness to saying what you think ensues over time. . .

fatec said...

A very important post and video. Thanks.

Len said...

Workin' my way through your blog. Thanks for this one. Growing up in the North and now living in the South I have a lot of information (rhetoric) in my head. Am I being overly simplistic by saying that the answer is to be found in real Christianity being demonstrated consistently one person at a time in a viral way? Primarily I feel that I can make the most impact by listening before I opine, especially to those who are from another culture or perspective. Secondarily, I feel it is my duty as a white Christian to teach my children the truth about God and how He sees all people the same so they can grow up without the baggage/rhetoric. I really do want to be challenged and I will tell you I am hesitant to even post this but welcome your thoughts.

hammerdad said...


"Am I being overly simplistic by saying that the answer is to be found in real Christianity being demonstrated consistently one person at a time in a viral way?"

I depends what you mean by viral but I think the answer is probably both yes and no. Yes, this is the most crucial way in which the gospel, discipleship, mercy and compassion are all passed along.

But "no" in that real Christianity must also drive us to consider the systems of our our world and I think address (reform) them. Nicholas Wolterstoff wrote a book called until Justice and Peace Embrace in which he uses the phrase "world formative Christianity" when he describes the reformational theology that emanates from Calvin.

Your note about listening first is key as well. We naturally find what we do and know and experience as "normal" and then equate that with what is "true" and "good". When we cross cultures we quickly notice things that others do for ways that they differ from us. We (people in general) associate that which is different from what is "normal" as abnormal and quickly find fault.

In reconciliation across any lines (men and women, racially, etc..) we have to find grace and beauty in "otherness". One of the best ways to do this is through stories. I love this about the attached video. . . It is beauty in voice, song and expression in the midst of vicious insanity and depravity. Who knew that could be possible??

Len said...

By "viral" I would mean teaching it in such a way that the learner is instilled by his need to teach it to others. In this way it is not simply a cereberal execise about the wonders of personal salvation, but the wonder that drives us to tell another and another and another about the good news. I'm pretty sure we would agree about that.
Is your "no" section a good bit of the problem to most lay people? When most people consider what it means to "consider the systems of our our world and I think address (reform) them." does it quickly overwhelm them and they wind up doing neither this nor the former becuase of the seeming enormity of the task? Do they embrace (wrongly I might add) the "what's the use" approach to "Christianity" and begin to polish the brass only on their dinghy?
I will put Wolterstoff on my list. He would have some things to teach me I think. Thanks for the response, I will try to give you a call this week.

hammerdad said...

Yep, I'm with you on the viral thing. Fo Sho as they say.

The task of exploring larger systemic issues definitely leaves many evangelicals reeling. The response is often to be overwhelmed as you say and just figure we have better things to do. I see this as the trend of US fundamentalism over the past 100 years.

Oddly, I think it is liberation theology that has influenced much of evangelicalism to re-think this a bit. But there is also a defensive mechanism that gets triggered in these discussions. It is a tacit admission that our country is not all that its cracked up to be.

My sense is that black folks critique of the US constitution and systems very quickly touch raw nerves for white evangelicals. Almost more than critiques of white churches. . . which is why all of this has to be done in relationship in order to be effective.