What are you angry about?

As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! Galatians 5:12

What did the Apostle Paul say? In another translation “emasculate” means “to mutilate, or “to go the full way and cut off (you know what).” Paul sounded irate at those false teachers who gave such importance to circumcision, and in so doing were creating more mischief to the churches of Christ than anything else. When we are passionate about things that are of importance, we literally feel the same anger as God feels towards sinful things. Have you ever felt godly indignation?

READ MORE: What do you believe?

Racism and injustice is one of those hot and steamy topics these days. What are Christians to do about it? It is not godly to retaliate but we feel this anger rising in our hearts because of the injustices in our society. It has been seven months since the death of Mr. George Floyd, and the world has taken part in several protests. With the many changes I have witnessed in my workplace, in my union, and especially with the Canadian government, I would say the voices of the persecuted are being heard. Yes, it will take decades to transform the minds and hearts of these racist people and unjust institutions. And in the meantime, Christians are allowed to express godly indignation to the way we feel. I would go as far as to say it’s good for our mental health.

I’ve been part of a few work learning sessions, one in particular, Racial Trauma, Towards Understanding and Resilience, was held by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The speaker, Ms. Donna Anderson, RSW, was phenomenal in the way she explained the trauma that comes from racism. Many people bottle their feelings and show up to work in the name of resilience, and it is taxing to our mental health. After a while, we experience burnout, headaches, withdrawal and a myriads of other psychological effects. I am simply saying, sometimes, we have to speak up about what we are feeling.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Paul spoke up and said, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” He was tired of listening to these false teachers saying nonsense about circumcision as it pertains to Christ and the church. They were not benefitting the teachings of Christianity, and were causing more divisions than anything else. And Paul said, enough is enough. Why should he pretend that what they were saying wasn’t affecting him? In the same way, we ought to stand up for justice, for the poor, for those behind bars, for the homeless, for those who are mourning. Take a stand for something we believe, and stop with this neutral, indifferent attitude. What do you care about? Certainly, Jesus Christ cared about every challenge that came before him in his society. Did He not provide more wine at a wedding? Did he not feed thousands of people because they were hungry? Did he not heal the sick? Did he not care for children? Christ was a man who walked this earth and saw similar injustices as we see daily, and He did something about it, every day.

READ MORE: Are you a good teacher?

So, Christians, what are we doing to take a stand against injustices in our society? Is there anything you feel godly indignation about? Then, do something about it. It’s not enough to just go to work and come home. It’s necessary that we take action by being a voice for those who are voiceless. We have talents and gifts that are as different as each one of us are. And it is so important that we use the little that we have and take a stand for each of our brothers and sisters. For the sake of Christ Jesus, I implore you to take a stand in the name of justice. In the words of Mr. Mahatma Gandhi, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” 

African Canadian Social Development Council Fights Against Anti-Black Racism

The fight against anti-Black and systemic racism continues in our African-Canadian communities. On Thursday, August 20, 2020 the African Canadian Social Development Council (ACSDC) – Toronto held a rally at the Toronto City Hall, and invited guest speakers within the African circle of social justice, academic, political, and criminal justice to speak on the issues that affect our communities, and to give us a message of hope. The event commenced with the sound of drumming, a symbolic African tradition that accompanies every ceremony. The purpose of this rally  can be summed up in the words of the President of the ACSDC, Nene (Chief) Kabu Asante, “The system has to change. We can’t breath and it’s killing us slowly. We need the city, the province and federal government to invest more in our communities…” These words, “We can’t breath” echoed from the African-American man, Mr. George Floyd who died by the hands of police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota, earlier this year on May 25, 2020.   

READ MORE: There is hope

3 men drumming, fighting against anti-black racism

The ACSDC is an umbrella organization for all African-Canadian community agencies and cultural organizations in Ontario. One such organization is the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (SCAGO). The founder and president, Ms. Lanre Tunji-Ajayi states, “Far too long, people of African descent and the black community have been stigmatized and racialized. We must rise with our voices, our pens, and papers, and demand a change from systemic racism.” SCAGO has been advocating, educating, and building awareness about sickle cell since 2005. “Three years ago, when I came to study in Canada, I was paralyzed because of my sickle cell, leaving me unable to use my hands and legs. I was a quadriplegic, who needed life support,” says, Ms. Oluwayemisi Abatan, who is now a supporter of SCAGO. As a result of this organization advocating for her health, Abatan can now walk and take care of herself. Systemic racism, in our health care system, affects patients who are of African or Caribbean descent because quality care may be withheld, and without proper advocacy, may result in death.  

This is the reason the ACSDC has organized this Anti-Black Racism rally because Black Lives Matter in health care, in our school systems, in our criminal justice system, in our work places, and in all segment of our communities. “…The fact that systemic racism is not as prevalent in Canada does not mean it does not exist here” says Mr. George Chuku, TV host of Afro global television & VP Nigerian Canadian Association. “We have to create a level playing field for everyone to succeed, because only a few privilege successes is guaranteed, while others are struggling. We are asking to be treated fairly.”

MPP Faisal Hassan speaking, fighting against anti-black racism

MPP Faisal Hassan of York-South Weston reminds us that, “Racism is rooted in all structures of government, and that the experiences of the Caribbean, African, and all immigrants should be taught in schools.” He further stated, “there is discrimination based on postal code, such as auto-insurance, because we are targeted where we live. It must end.”   

READ MORE: Mandela, Floyd, apartheid, uprisings, and unrest

The agenda had many other speakers such as: Professor George Sefa Dei (UofT), Lawyer Eyitayo F. Dada (President of the Canadian Nigerian Lawyers Association, Francois Yabit (Executive Director Northwood Neighbourhood, Toronto, Shamso Elmi (Mending the Crack in the Sky, Co-organizers), and Rocco Achampong, Defence lawyer and civil rights activist.  Achampong expressed a resounding sentiment in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “We must…be the change (we) wish to see in the world.” To make change he says, “We must come with clean hands.” 

These protests have been consistent within the Canadian black, African and Caribbean communities due to the death of Mr. Floyd earlier this year. Today, it was the African Canadian Social Development Council and the different agencies and organizations it represents, speaking out to our governments, and echoing the words of Mr Floyd, “We can’t breath.” The ACSDC is calling on the city, the province and the federal government to stop systemic racism, increase funding in the black communities, stop targeting our neighbourhoods, and give us quality health care, including increase funding for sickle cell disease.         

Mandela, Floyd, apartheid, uprisings, and unrest.

Transformational leadership is the ability of a leader to guide nations and organizations alike, focusing on a clear vision, motivation, being a change agent, and building trust. These are the cornerstones of great leadership. One such leader that comes to mind is former President of South Africa, the late, Nelson “Rolihlahla” Mandela. At a time in history when the worse form of segregation, codified into a statutory system called Apartheid, was taken place, Mandela emerged as the first-ever elected President. He dismantled the legacy of the apartheid regime, institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality. He brought diversity into government, established the truth and reconciliation commission to foster racial reconciliation, and reestablished the balance of power for land owners. What did it take for the nation’s heart transformation? It took time, people’s lives, and 27 years of imprisonment of the greatest leader of all time. 

Has history taught us anything? We read books about our famous heroes that marched for justice and equality, for the right to vote, and to have equal and fair wages, thinking that these are problems of the past: We are free now. In the 1930s, our honoured Nelson Mandela was also free. Free to get an excellent legal education, free to marry and to become the next chief. Yet, when the 22-year-old ran away to south Johannesburg, now called Soweto, he saw for the first time what the lives of native Africans were like: Confined in overcrowded shantytowns or slums, where it was insanitary, no electricity, no telephones, and poor road conditions. Police visited these slums continuously in search for vagrants. This is where Nelson’s political education began, yes, this is where the vision was birthed (BENSON, M., 1994, Nelson Mandela:The Man and the Movement, Penguin). 

May Day 1950 was when the workforce stayed home. Protesters called for the removal of the colour bar in parliament, in education, in industry and in the administration. This became the turning point in Mandela’s life because he saw first-hand the ruthlessness of the police, as well as being deeply impressed by the support African workers and Indians gave to the May Day call. “Chiefs and followers, leaders of political associations, ministers, teachers, journalists and lawyers came together from all parts of South Africa and overcame division of tribes and languages, rural and urban backgrounds” (BENSON,1994).

70 years later, May 25, 2020, an African-American was killed because a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, USA. Similar ruthless police practices sparked worldwide protest, every continent, language, and government came together to protest by kneeling for change. “The fight against all forms of racism and racial discrimination remains a priority for us,” said Michael Ungern-Sternberg, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva. “The past weeks, many people around the world raised their voices and took to the streets to send a clear signal that racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against minority populations cannot (any) longer be accepted.” Again, has history taught us anything?

See my blog: Police Abusive Use of Force: Yatim and Floyd Case

Uprisings and protests were happening in the 1950s just as they are happening now in 2020. As the unrest of protesters and anti-apartheid leaders spread and became more effective and militarized, state organizations responded with repression and violence (BENSON, 1994). The government banned all opposition, and police officers enforced curfews, causing many anti-apartheid leaders to be imprisoned, including Mandela. Similarly, the United States chose to respond to the nationwide demonstrations after police in Minneapolis killed African American George Floyd, in a manner that undermined our fundamental rights “…the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur. We are watching history play over again, the police brutality and the governments adverse response to the protests.

In 1951, Mandela chose to become a change agent for his nation and his people. He was a lawyer, a founding member of the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC), and appointed as volunteer-in-chief of the defiance campaign. “This campaign was designed to organize a large-scale resistance movement and work toward the repeal of discriminatory legislation” (JAMES, R., 2011, Nelson Mandela, Great Neck Publishing, Database: MasterFILE Premier). Mandela was arrested because he was fighting for his nation’s heart transformation. His prosecution for treason, and a lengthy prison sentence did only one thing; it bolstered Mandela’s vision for justice and equality. It was behind bars, that the transformational leader emerged. Upon his release, Mandela built the South African civil rights movement; and in 1991, became the president of the ANC, the rest is history: South Africa held its first-ever free elections on April 27, 1994. With majority of the votes given to ANC, Mandela was elected president. It was victory, not just for one race, but for an entire nation.

The death of Floyd has stirred our nation’s heart in a profound way. And it is the spirit of 46-year-old Floyd that became the transformational leader that the world desperately needed to see the vision. So, transformation requires time, people’s lives, and imprisonment. Sometimes history has to be repeated for our nations to take a stand for the vision that our beloved heroes, like Mandela stood for.