Archive for the ‘Americana’ Category

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




Read Full Post »

1967Women's History Month

Katherine Switzer. First female Boston Marathon runner.

“A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” Then he swiped down my front, trying to rip off my bib number, just as I leapt backward from him.

But no matter what, I have to finish this race. Even if you can’t, I have to—even on my hands and knees. If I don’t finish, people will say women can’t do it, and they will say I was just doing this for the publicity or something. So you need to do whatever you want to do, but I’m finishing.” Read more…


Self Magazine BS Meter April 2014

Monika Allen and Tara Baize, LA Marathon runners. They are owners of Glam Runner, which sells running tutus to raise funds for Girls on the Run of San Diego, a non-profit organization nurturing healthy 3rd through 8th grade girls.

Monika Allen is brain cancer survivor who recently underwent chemotherapy.

“Monika Allen says she was excited to receive an email from SELF magazine asking for permission to use a photo that showed her running the LA marathon dressed as Wonder Woman and wearing a tutu in an upcoming issue.

But when the April issue came out, Allen said she was “stunned and offended.”

The picture appears in a section of the magazine called “The BS Meter,” with a caption that refers to a “tutu epidemic” and basically makes fun of the women’s outfits, she said.” (Read and watch more at NBC.)

An outpouring of support via social media was reported soon after the story went viral. (See follow up story.)





 Note to SELF: Every runner has a story.

Read Full Post »

The Washington Redskins change the name debate continues.

Letter To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation” from Dan Snyder,  Owner and Chairman of the Board, Washington Redskins. Excerpt:

Several months ago I wrote you about my personal reflections on our team name and on our shared Washington Redskins heritage. I wrote then – and believe even more firmly now – that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.

So over the past four months, my staff and I travelled to 26 Tribal reservations [Editor’s math: 26 tribes = less than 5% of native nations*] across twenty states to listen and learn first-hand about the views, attitudes, and experiences of the Tribes. We were invited into their homes, their Tribal Councils and their communities to learn more about the extraordinary daily challenges in their lives.

I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.

As loyal fans of the Washington Redskins, I want you to know that tomorrow I will announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

*[Editor’s note: there are more than 500 federal recognized native nations, not including state recognized nations, nor tribal communities without official US government recognition. See 500Nations.com and Bureau of Indian Affairs.]


Meanwhile in Indian Country, discourse continues.

Gyasi Ross’s “Hush Money and Ransom: An Open Letter to Dan Snyder, the Idiot” on Indian Country Today. Excerpt:

Here’s the thing: I, like a lot of other Natives, don’t give a damn about the Washington Redskins or mascots or any of that. There are absolutely MORE IMPORTANT things to worry about that MOST of the Natives who constantly complain about the Redskins and mascots (yet don’t live amongst other Native people or work in our communities) don’t see. That’s because MOST of those adamantly anti-mascot Natives don’t live within our communities (of course there are SOME who do live in our communities, but in our home territories, there are plenty of Native-themed mascots that a lot of us Natives love very, very much. We are proud of them and those folks who want to get rid of all Native mascots definitely don’t speak for us).

Adrienne K. (Native Appropriations) response to Gyasi Ross’ article. Excerpt:

…I don’t understand why we have to create the divide between “real Indians” who don’t care about mascots and those of us who do. The reason why many of us off-reservations (which is over 60% of Indian Country) care deeply about representations is because we are forced to deal with them everyday. Because we aren’t in our communities we can’t turn and see hundreds of counter-narratives and counter-representations in our aunties, cousins, our community events, or our ceremonies. What we see instead are the majority of Americans who think we’re fantasy creatures or extinct. They don’t know that our communities are full of joy and strength, because they don’t think we’re real.

Additionally, mascot issues, halloween costumes, and themed frat parties are things that happen on college campuses, so it’s often our Native students who are forced to confront them–and telling them that they’re somehow “less Indian” or “less connected” for caring about how their peoples are represented is the last thing they need as they already struggle far from home.

Read Full Post »

Crow is as Crow does.

An MTV Artist of the week,  SupaMan, is an Apsáalooke fancy dancer, drummer, singer and Crow-Hop Hip-Hop artist from Crow Nation Reservation.

Check out more on SupaMan on PolicyMic.com and MTVIggy.com.

Proof that artists build nations. [drops mic]

Read Full Post »

Day 4: Photographer Michael Cunningham



Three Things:

  • From his official bio: “Cunningham chooses to work in black and white; this allows him to express what is in his soul.  Black and white photography is very personal, he says and reaches deep inside the viewer, making them study the photograph for what it represents outside of pretty colors.”
  • The book Crowns inspired a theatrical stage production, Crowns the Gospel Musical.
  • Cunningham has published four books: Crowns, Jewels, Queens, and Spirit of Harlem.

Where to learn more:


Read Full Post »

This mixed media, collage, assemblage and installation artist’s work often includes images of stereotyped African-American figures from folk culture and advertising, like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Little Black Sambo, African ritual and tribal objects, African American folk traditions and/or family memorabilia.

Survival of the Spirit

Survival of the Spirit

Ancestral Spirit Chair

Ancestral Spirit Chair

Beteye Saar

Betye Saar

Three things:

  1. Her signature piece (one of her better-known and controversial pieces) is entitled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.” It was her first protest piece. It is owned by the University of California, Berkeley.
  2. Saar’s work is among the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institute, Museum of Fine Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and many more.
  3. A native Californian, octogenarian Betye Saar was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. She grew up in Pasadena during the Great Depression, regularly visited her grandmother in Watts, took art classes at Pasadena City College, earned a BA from the University of California at Los Angeles, and pursued graduate studies at California State University at Long Beach, the University of Southern California, and California State University at Northridge. The region serves as a consistent thread through her life and her work.

Where to learn more about Betye Saar:

Read Full Post »

Day 2: Mark Dukes

The paintings of iconographer Deacon Mark Duke of St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church live at the intersection of jazz, visual art, and spirituality.

Saint John The Divine Sound Baptist

Mark Duke’s first Icon Painting of John Coltrane.

Mark Dukes

Mark Dukes

Prints of Duke’s iconography are available for sale online in the St John Coltrane Church gallery.

Three things:

  1. Mark Dukes is an ordained deacon and the official icon painter of the St. John Coltrane Church. He read the Bible for the first time in his early 20s.
  2. Dukes other works include: “Dancing Saints Icon” in the rotunda of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, and “Ain’t Jah Momma and Saint Sambo.”
  3. A Love Supreme, a 4-part musical suite generally considered to be among jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s greatest works, is an emotional and spiritual journey written and performed as an offering to God. The four parts to the suite are “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” and “Psalm.”

Where to find more information on:

Mark Dukes:

John Coltrane

A documentary short on The Saint John Coltrane Church in San Francisco is available online.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »