Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Join Simone and friends for this East Austin Studio Tour (EAST) event:

THE ART OF COMMUNITY

Saturday, November 18, 2017, 11am to 6pm, featuring the art and craft of Simone Monique Barnes, Cindy Elizabeth, Mahealani, Hermanitas, Arleen Polite, and more, at M-Station, Foundation Communities, 2906 E MLK Jr Blvd, Austin TX, 78702 (2nd floor, red building).

Artists, art (on view and on sale), storytime, and hands on art making activities throughout the day.

Inclusive, kid, senior, and wheel friendly experience. FREE admission.

Art of Community EAST #94

Please note: Simone’s home studio will be CLOSED during the first weekend of EAST. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Advertisements

Rev Alexander Crummell (sepia photo)

Honoring Our Saint: The Reverend Alexander Crummell

UBE Sunday – Sunday, September 17, 2017, 8am and 10:15am

St James Episcopal Church, Austin TX, USA

Sermon by Simone Monique Barnes

 

I want Jesus to walk with me

I want Jesus to walk with me

All along my pilgrim journey

I want Jesus to walk with me

 

Let us pray. Eternal Spirit, Earth maker, Pain bearer, Life giver. Creator. Light. Lord. God. Love. You are known by many names, and seen in many images, and felt and experienced in many ways… I come before you today, asking, like every day, that there more of thee and less of me in my words and deeds. Let these meditations of my heart scatter in the wind, and fall down where they are needed. In you and to you, we pray. Amen.

 

African American opera singers have a tradition that is passed down from singer to singer, generation to generation. In every solo concert that is given, be it arias in Italian, German, French, or Broadway show tunes by Gershwin or Sondheim, they will always, always end with a Negro Spiritual in order to give honor, honor unto the mentors, role models, ancestors who have come before. They do not forget where they came from. I don’t sing very much anymore. Years ago, I transitioned my creativity into writing, and teaching, and curating. But my time spent at the “Fame” school in NYC, in the Harlem Girls Ensemble/Girls’ Choir of Harlem, and later in conservatory, laid a foundation for who I am today. Most of my writing, speeches, and just about every college and graduate school essay I have ever written, have started with the lyrics of a song, usual a negro spiritual, as a way of bridging past and present, and acknowledging that my life is but a moment on this continuous thread of time, giving honor to those who came before, and to gird me with their strength.

 

And in that tradition of giving honor, we are here to pay tribute to the late Reverend Alexander Crummell, a giant whose footsteps we walk in and whose shoulders we stand on. You may hear this refrain from time to time in this sermon. Feel free to join in if you feel so moved.

I want Jesus to walk with me

I want Jesus to walk with me

All along my pilgrim journey

I want Jesus to walk with me

 

Today’s reading from Mark is on the parable of the sower. Discussion of this parable often focuses on our response to the gospels. How do we receive God’s word and love? Are our hearts hardened, unchanged, distracted, or open? Are we or the fertile soil ready to receive, nurture, and grow? The metaphor is a moment to reflect on what kind of ground are we.

 

But today I’d like us to turn our attention to the sower. We don’t know a lot about this particular sower. The sower in this story is imagined; a fictitious character. So like actors, we have to imagine ourselves into the story.

 

It is interesting that this story focuses not on the farmer, who sees things through from start to finish, not the tiller and cultivator of the soil, who checks and balances the nutrients of the ground’s health, but specifically on the sower. They don’t prepare the ground.

 

This sower seemed to throw seed everywhere. Not the meticulous planter who digs a hole, and carefully places a single seed into the dirt, pats it gently, and watches it grow. But the sower scatters seeds everywhere, with some falling on the path, some on rocky ground, some in the thorns (bushes), and some into good soil.

 

This sower went out: didn’t stay home. Who are the sowers? They are the sojourners, the travelers. The go to places like Cambridge. Liberia. Like Texas.

 

They change jobs often. They are the bees and the butterflies. They are the immigrants. The migrators. The risk takers. They often do not have their names on buildings.

 

I went to a conference once, where the leader gave an introductory talk about the conference sessions and workshops. He ended with a request for us to be sure to leave room for the bees and the butterflies. The bees are the ones who go to one room for a few minutes, then they leave and visit several conference sessions never staying long enough to get the full impact of a workshop or talk. They are the cross pollinators. And then there are the butterflies. You see them in the elevator, you see them sitting at the bar. They are hanging out in the lobby. But they are never where they are supposed to be. Never. But you sit next to them and they say something so insightful, so impactful…that one key thought that suddenly puts all of the puzzle pieces of that project you’ve been working on together. And then they float off, often not even knowing how much they have changed your life. They are the sowers who change our lives.

And, in this parable, we see that the sower is alone, a solo traveling worker who walks amongst us. They are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. They spend a lot of time alone in their heads. The sower plants the seed and often leaves it for us to find and experience, away from their eyes and ears.

So why do we tell this story when remembering Reverend Alexander Crummell? To acknowledge that the seeds he sowed we harvest today. WEB Dubois wrote of him in his work The Souls of Black Folks: “He did his work,–he did it nobly and well; and yet I sorrow that here he worked alone, with so little human sympathy. His name to-day, in this broad land, means little…” (362)

In my troubles, Lord walk with me

In my troubles, Lord walk with me

When my life becomes a burden,

Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me

 

How does a sower survive and thrive?

By finding other sowers who see them. I live the legacy of Rev Alexander Crummell. It was him with his Black skin being rejected by white members of the school community in New Hampshire in the 1800s that allowed me to be accepted by an elementary school community in the Bronx during the New York City’s first attempts at school desegregation. I live the legacy of Rev Crummell when I think of a time when in graduate school at Harvard, when each of us knew firsthand the experience of being rejected, and being in foreign spaces, planting seeds. There is an empathy that only other sowers can see.

 

What can you do for the sowers in your life? Cook for them. Feed them. They long for home, but know that this earth is not their home. See value in their work. You can remember them. Write their stories. Tell their tales.

 

I’m sure there were times in his life when Rev Crummell wondered if the work he was doing was in vain. He was rejected by godly men, rejected by his church. But the seeds he planted gave us WEB Dubois (who counted him among his greatest heroes). The seeds he sowed gave us Arturo Schomburg, whose namesake, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a research library of the New York Public Library and an archive repository for information on people of African descent worldwide…and it holds the legacy of our history and scholarship. The seeds he sowed gave us Langston Hughes, whose ashes are interred in the floor of the lobby of the Schomburg Center, and whose words have inspired us, from childhood to adulthood, for generations. The seeds he sowed became the Union of Black Episcopalians, which gave to all of us here today.

 

In my sorrow, Lord walk with me

In my sorrows, Lord walk with me

When my heart is aching

Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me

 

Amen.

I am slowly beginning to wean myself off of social media in the mornings. It used to be fun. One could start the day with a dose of information, cuteness and joy.

Instead I now open Facebook and take a deep breath in wonder, “What mean and cruel thing has happened in the world today?” I am relieved when my senses are assaulted with birds dancing to music, children covered in peanut butter, and grandpas amusingly dancing to the music of their grandchildren’s generation.

Today was not one of those days.

A teenage boy made a clock at home and brought it to school. He ended his day in a juvenile detention center because teenage boys of Muslim Sudanese descent living in America should know better.

I find myself thinking what I would have instinctively said to that young man were he my son, nephew, cousin, mentee, or friend, “You cannot make something electronic like this at home and then bring it to school; they’ll think you’re a terrorist.” And instantly I am heartbroken with myself, because even that protective thought is cruel and unfair.

Despite the world around them, in reality what I would say (and what I am saying today) to youth is “No one has the right to limit your potential.”

I am sad. Very sad. Because for so many kids this is their reality, the scars that shape their adolescence and adulthood.

This is the world I live in.

But I haven’t lost all hope.

The candles of creativity and innovation are lit by the flames of curiosity and wonder. What the world needs today is more light. My educator heart breaks for all of the lights we extinguished today.

All is not lost. I am reminded that for every person who blows out a candle, there are several others ready to relight its flame.

I remember that I am a member of a Christian church in Texas that hosts an iftar dinner each year during Ramadan to share a meal and conversation with Muslim members of our community.

And then I read the Comments section of the Dallas Morning News’ story on Ahmed prepared to wince, but instead am surprised at the high volume of commentary in support of this child and others.

And then the #IStandWithAhmed hashtag is born, breathing new air into my life. The world isn’t completely insane.

He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again.”

But, still, there is a child, a child, who now has the memory of what it feels like to be handcuffed and fingerprinted by police. A child whose name will forever be connected to the words arrest, bomb and terrorist whenever his name is googled. And there are children and families who right now are telling themselves, be careful, be safe, it’s too risky, don’t do it.

Youth is supposed to be filled with sparks of wonder, imagination and curiosity.

I refuse to let social media bring me all the way down today. So I’m adding more oxygen to my fire by listening to dose of my freedom song playlist, so that I can be ready to relight those candles whose flames have been temporarily extinguished. I need the reminder that

  • Oh Freedom
  • Freedom is Coming [Oh Yes I Know]
  • Freedom is Coming Tomorrow
  • A Change Gone Come
  • Someday We’ll All Be Free

For those of us and those of you who felt lights dimmed a little today, in the words of the late Donny Hathaway,

Never mind your fears
Brighter days will soon be here
Take it from me, someday we’ll all be free…

Dear #McKinneyPoolParty Youth,

I am sorry.

I am sorry that the focus is on you and not on the many adults who contributed to this situation.

I am sorry that the color of your skin caused some people to make you feel like you did or did not belong.

I am sorry that many of you will now be apprehensive about going to pools and social gatherings with your friends.

I am sorry that this will be the way you remember how your summer of 2015 kicked off.

I am sorry that the value of your home too often determines the value people place on you.

I am sorry that we did not prepare you to recognize and handle the amplifying power of social media.

I am sorry that you felt scared.

I am sorry that one of the hardest days of your lives will live for infinity on the internet.

I am so sorry.

In love,

— Simone Monique Barnes
@simonemonique

McKinneyPoolYouthImSorry

Alaska becomes the second state to officially recognize indigenous languages

Yes! My former professor Dennis Norman often said that “when you lose a language, you lose a way of thinking.” Language tells our story, our history, our experiences, and the way we process the world. 2 down, 48 states + US territories to go.

l

l

Dinner with friends at a tiny restaurant in Tribeca on my birthday in 1996. It was before peak hours, so the restaurant was nearly empty. My bestie Kenya Unique Massey gave me The Complete Collected Poems (Maya Angelou). It had been on my birthday/Christmas/Kwanzaa wish list for a while, so I was surprised (thrilled) to receive it. A few moments later Kenya gasps and goes eerily silent. Conversation at our table stops. What? “Oh my God, Maya Angelou just walked in.” The restaurant owner, during routine checks on her patrons’ dining experiences, overhears our conversation and the uncanny synchronicity (as well as the friendly frustration and disbelief at my hesitance to bother the icon while she’s enjoying her downtime), then comes over and says “Daughter come. Maya is waiting for you.” Kenya and I walk over to her table together and exchange a few humble words in hushed tones with our legend. Booked signed, “Simone Barnes, Joy! From Kenya Massey and Maya Angelou.”

Joy is a girl who hated social studies until she realized she could learn history through literature thanks to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Joy is a girl who put her hands on her hips and smiled in delighted disbelief after mastering frying fish (after years of failing to do so) because she tried dipping it in cornmeal like they do in Stamps, Arkansas.

Laurita’s Cafe Soul has long closed, and now Maya Angelou is among the ancestors, but the food of yesteryear continues to nourish. #RIPMayaAngelou

Cultural Appropriation Photo Scavenger Hunt

The Kahnawa:ke Youth Forum is hosting a scavenger hunt.

Although I can’t officially participate in the actual scavenger hunt contest, I do see a pinterest board in my future…

#KYFdecolonize