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The Black Radical Pastoral Tradition

The Black Radical Pastoral Tradition
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    2018   Evan Regis Bunch Master’s Thesis Presented to Vanderbilt Divinity School 1/12/2018   The Black Radical Pastoral   Can the Black Radical Fiery Pastoral Tradition have a presence among known Black Radical Pastors here in Nashville? Following the Harlem renaissance, the 1940s, 50s and 60s brought an emergence of Black Pastors who worked against issues ailing the Black Community via their  pulpits and churches to organize the Black Community for systemic change. Persons such as Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Harlem N.Y., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Atlanta GA, Rev. Johnnie Coleman Chicago Ill, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright Chicago Ill, Rev F.E. Redwine Flint Texas, Rev. Albert Cleage Detroit MI, Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson Arkansas, Rev. Benjamin Elijah Mays Atlanta GA, and Rev. Traci Blackmon Ferguson, MO. With explicit racist and sexist  practices operating in their communities and institutions, they forged movements in their locales and the nation to eradicate said institutions. When I say Black Radical Pastoral tradition, I borrow from Cornel West’s book,  Black  Prophetic Fire, where he states that, Black Prophetic figures are connected to collective efforts to overcome injustice and make the world a better place for everyone. Even as distinct individuals, they are driven  by a we consciousness that is concerned with the need of others. More importantly, they are willing to renounce petty pleasures and accept awesome burdens. Tremendous sacrifice and painful loneliness sit at the center of who they are and what they did. 1  Choosing to speak up when it is more comfortable to be silent, choosing to go to jail for what you believe in over and against sitting in segregated inhumane positions, and choosing to put your life on the line instead of retreating to safety. The tradition is intentional, meaning, one does not stumble upon Black Prophetic Fire but rather, the tradition is intentional about having a “willingness to renounce petty pleasures and accept awesome burdens.” 1  West, Cornel. 2014. Cornel West on Black Prophetic Fire.  Boston: Beacon Press. 2.   In that same vein of Black Prophetic Fire, Charles V. Hamilton in the book,  Adam Clayton  Powell Jr: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma,  borrows from Gunnar Myrdal’s  book,  An American Dilemma,  by stating, The blatant contradiction in American society between the Creed and reality was constantly highlighted by white and black advocates of civil rights. Adam Clayton Powell turned Abyssinian Baptist Church into a veritable command post for his many civic  protest and subsequent political activities. Powell the preacher and Powell the politician were wrapped into one with Abyssinian as his base of mobilization - to preach the gospel and save souls, or to file petitions and win elections. 2   Within Rev. Powell’s ministry, his intentional mobil izing of his church for civil rights and risking his pastorate and public notoriety to call attention to the plight of African Americans in Harlem is exactly what Black Prophetic Fire is. The Black Radical Pastoral Tradition is informed by how Black Radical Pastors understood the American dilemma concerning the contradiction of the U.S. Constitution versus reality and thus, responding by intentionally ridiculing a system that would allow for the contradictions to take place. For example, in Dr. King’s day, he always used the U.S. constitution line, “All men are created equal” to expose the gap between the constitution and Jim Crow era laws, practices, and policies. Like all leaders, there are differing styles of leadership and tactics deployed to actuate change. Dr. Martin Luther King was pious and an academic scholar. He used respectful language and nonviolent tactics. Rev. Adam Clayton Powell used vulgar language and whatever tactics that helped raise the discomfort level as high as possible. 3  They both demonstrate how different tactics can meet the same goal. However, in the city of Nashville, more often than not, the moral  pious tactic is often deployed to actuate change. After the murder of Jocques Scott Clemmons in 2  Hamilton, Charles V. 1991.  Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma. New York : Toronto: Atheneum ; Collier Macmillan Canada. 3. 3  Hamilton, Charles V. 1991.  Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma . New York : Toronto: Atheneum ; Collier Macmillan Canada. 5.  February 2017, Black Pastors in Nashville, such as Rev. Harold Love, Rev. Judy Cummings, Pastor Enoch Fuzz, met with the mayor and discussed the use of body cameras as a solution to the Jocques situation. The public conversation between the Mayor and the Pastors gave the District Attorney leeway to issue no charges against the officer and subsequently, he was not fired, even though his track record was riddled with racist complaints from Black citizens and disciplinary action by the MNPD. 4 In response, the Pastor's pursued the issue differently. Rev Enoch Fuzz decided to let the police win one this one and hopefully win something else, Rev. Cummings chose to advocate for something else like community oversight that we may can win, and Rev. Love insisted on not fighting the police issue because there was something else he was fighting for before the Jocques situation. I chose to name these Pastors in this Thesis because of their relationships to power in political offices and their widespread trust and confidence in the Black Community. New Covenant Christian Church, the church that Pastor Dr. Cummings Pastors, holds an annual City Wide Expungement clinic that attracts hundreds if not thousands throughout the day, to expunge records, get clothing, food, and enjoy wholesome fun with other community members. Pastor Cummings is close friends with the current Mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry, insomuch, she enthusiastically endorsed her in 2015 election. 5  Pastor Enoch Fuzz, pastors the Corinthian Baptist Church in Nashville and garnered relationships early with those in power, when he moved to Nashville from Memphis in the late 60s. From the late 1960s to 2017, he was able to gain so much trust from elected officials, that he became the go to voice to speak on behalf of the 4   “Disciplinary History of Nashville Officer Joshua Lippert.” n.d. Accessed November 7, 2017. 5   July 13, and 2015. n.d. “Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings Endorses Megan Barry for Mayor.” Accessed January 23, 2018.  Black community of Nashville for any and all issues. The entire Black Community may not have liked it but he cultivated relationships with elected officials in a way that made him the sensible voice out of the entire Black Community. From that, he hosts federal, state, and local officials at his church for community meetings; sometimes on a once a month basis. Pastor Love, pastors the Lee Chapel AME Church (2016), and serves as State Representative (2012) of District 58, which is gerrymandered, to fit a nice portion of the Black community of Nashville in his district. These three pastors do not label themselves as radical, however, they are recognized  by the Black Community and elected officials and other powerful figures as vanguards of the Black Community of Nashville. Currently, Community Oversight Now Nashville, which is a collaborative effort amongst social action groups in the city like Black Lives Matter Nashville (BLMN), Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), Gideon’s Army and others, are advocating for a community oversight board over the Metro Nashville Police Department. The biggest opposition to community oversight comes from the mayor, members of city council, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and chief of police Steve Anderson. 67  The mayor is willing to dialogue this issue with city stakeholders, including the Pastors aforementioned but the worry is, will conversation alone implement the community oversight board? In 2016, the mayor coordinated three “Race and Justice Talks” 8  across the city of Nashville to dialogue and create a report about how race is negatively impacting certain communities. 6   “Resisted by Mayor, Nashville Advocates Look to Council for Citizen Oversight of Police.” n.d. Accessed November 7, 2017. 7   Stacy, Barchenger. 2017. “Grand Jury: Civilians Should Investigate Police Shootings in Nashville.” Tennessean, July 27, 2017. 8  Metro Nashvi lle Human Relations Committee. 2016. “REAL: NASHVILLE DIALOGUE ON RACE, EQUITY, AND LEADERSHIP.” Data Collection. Metro Nashville’s Mayor's Office.  
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