Let’s be honest, shall we?
We are living in some pretty tumultuous and challenging times. Times that most of us have never witnessed. Times the majority of us could never have predicted.
This isn’t the first time America has faced uncertain and volatile times, and it won’t be the last.
If we look at the course of human history in this country, we can see, historically, that whatever has happened to us in this country – no matter how good or bad – has been met with a solid combination of our undying resilience, our willingness to fight back and our faith in God.
It is that faith in God that I want to address.
One of my historical heroes and profound statesman, Frederick Douglass, boldly declared many years ago: “I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
Douglass was basically saying that you can pray all day, but until you get up and do something for yourself, nothing will happen.
The bible says it best in the Book of James Chapter 2 and Verse 17, when it says: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Over the past several years, the African American community has seen many high-profile incidents and pressing issues dominante the news headlines. But unlike the days of old, the majority of our high-profile spiritual leaders have been as quiet as a church mouse.
I get it. Many will say that their spiritual leader has addressed the issues with their congregation, but that approach to dealing with issues impacting the Black community is unlike the approaches taken by many of the people we claim to honor and revere.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a bold Civil Rights leader, but he was a minister also.
Wait! So you mean to tell me that this preacher, Dr. King, held marches, protested, took beatings, organized boycotts, was arrested, and was even assassinated for speaking out against the injustices that plagued the Black community?
Was this abnormal behavior or was this the blueprint that was set for others to follow?
Let’s look at another spiritual leader who is credited with forming the first Black church in America, and who used his voice and influence to aid the voiceless in America.
Richard Allen was born into slavery in Philadelphia, Penn., on Feb. 14, 1760.
At the age of 17, Allen converted to Methodism after hearing a White Methodist preacher rail against slavery. His owner eventually converted to Methodism as well and allowed Allen and his brother to purchase their freedom for $2,000 each in 1783.
Allen soon joined St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, where he became an assistant minister and conducted prayer meetings for the Black parishioners.
Although Blacks and Whites worshiped together at the church, Allen became frustrated with the limitations that the church placed on him and other Black parishioners.
In 1787, Allen left the church and that same year, along with the Rev. Absalom Jones, Allen helped found the Free African Society, a non-denominational religious mutual-aid society dedicated to helping the black community. In 1794, Allen and 10 other Black Methodists founded the Bethel Church, a Black Episcopal meeting, in an old blacksmith’s shop.
Allen became the first African American to be ordained in the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Bethel Church became known as “Mother Bethel” because in 1816, with the support of representatives from other Black Methodist churches, Bethel Church birthed the first national Black church in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Allen became its first bishop.
Helped by his wife, Sarah, Allen helped to hide escaped slaves. The basement of the Bethel Church was a stop on the “Underground Railroad” for Blacks fleeing slavery.
His understanding of the power of the Black dollar and of an economic boycott led Allen to form the Free Produce Society in 1830, where members would only purchase products from businesses or people who used non-slave labor. His passion for equality and fairness inspired him to vehemently speak out against slavery.
Allen’s life’s work and his writings were the primary influence for future Civil Rights leaders such as Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass and activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. His daily radio talk show is called “Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney.”