Monday, March 19, 2018

UA professor's book explores hip-hop and religion

This post by Isaac Andrews was originally published Oct 9, 2017 6:00 am on The Daily Wildcat

In his new book, University of Arizona professor Alejandro Nava shines light on the enigmatic concept of “soul” and relates religious practice and history to the influence of soul on Latin and African American music, specifically hip-hop. 

"In Search of Soul: Hip-Hop, Literature and Religion" discusses the history and significance of soul found in traditional and contemporary art and literature, particularly within Christianity and Judaism. Nava, a professor of religious studies, suggests that this sense of spirituality is largely present in early and modern hip-hop and is heavily tied to perceptions of struggle, justice, liberation and self.

“Hip-hop opens a window into so many issues of our day,” Nava said.

These can be Issues of race, culture, injustice, inequality, poverty, gender issues and spirituality, as Nava’s book suggests.

The book is structured in two sections: “Sacred Histories of the Soul” and “Profane Accents of Soul.” The first section of the book is an exploration of soul through traditions, literature and recorded histories of the dimension of soul. Nava said the study of these histories began to shape his understanding of soul and what it means to gain a spiritual sense of self. Largely including the expression of soul in Judaism and Christianity, Nava analyzes the concept of soul as a human and spiritual discovery.

The second section explores soul as more of a cultural product, relative to traditional and contemporary hip-hop, R&B and Latin-influenced music. Nava points out the spiritual influence that the concept of soul had on traditional Latin and African American-inspired music and contemporary hip-hop. Musical styles like blues and gangsta rap are a product of each artist’s reality and represent their feelings toward the way their environment perceives and treats them.

Some of these styles may reflect a total absence of spirituality, while others adopt significant reference to spirituality and the finding of soul, according to Nava. The early use of sampling during hip-hop’s origins was a way for artists to pull particular sounds or verses from earlier songs and then deliver poetry and add their own lyrical representation of self-worth, self-redemption and self-appreciation.

According to Nava, during the 1950s and '60s civil rights movements, soul regularly surfaced in music and art; often, the result of segregation and prejudice on the human soul were expressed in music. Nava said these expressions sometimes seemed explicit or extreme because they were the product of overwhelming oppression.

Nava said the notion of soul was used to “resist and to oppose histories of mistreatment and oppression.”

While the common perception of hip-hop is that it's a secular genre, Nava said “it’s surprising how often the idea of God surfaces in the music."

Hip-hop has gone through stages of absence and then resurgence of spirituality and religious language, according to Nava. More recently, he said, this preoccupation has surfaced in artists such as J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Kanye West.

“I would say that there has actually been a resurgence of the kind of religious dimensions of hip-hop in the contemporary scene,” Nava said.

Nava said that, especially with artists who wrestle with suffering and injustice, the idea of God is particularly pervasive. Nava said the hip-hop generation fits the mold of “spiritual but not religious, so that there is still a very profound preoccupation with spiritual questions."

Nava said a key moment that influenced his decision to write the book was when he was working on his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in the 1990s, when he wandered into an “On God and Hip-Hop” lecture by Michael Eric Dyson, a now well-known scholar.

“That was the first time that I actually heard somebody speak really thoughtfully and intelligently and provocatively about the intersections of religion and hip-hop,” Nava said. “From that moment on, it kind of planted a seed in my head.”

He said Dyson’s lecture helped him realize that hip-hop commented on some of the issues in the neighborhood he was living in.

“Many of the issues that hip-hop was addressing and speaking of were issues that were profoundly relevant to the world that was just a stone throw from the University of Chicago,” Nava said.

The University of Chicago is located within southside Chicago, where Nava witnessed situations of poverty and crime. He said universities do not always do a good job of addressing the problems and needs of the community they are surrounded by.

“What is the value of knowledge and university education if it can’t somehow make a difference in the world that we find ourselves in?” Nava said.

Nava said he thinks the administration at the UA could be more vocal in representing the concerns of the Tucson community, particularly among underrepresented groups like first-generation and DACA students.

A UA grad himself, Nava said studying at a university is a time to develop your soul, or human spirit. He said he hopes readers will gain a greater awareness of the world and their spiritual self by reading the book, while also developing more capacity for compassion and empathy.

Nava created the Africana Studies and Religious Studies course 335 “Rap, Culture, and God” at the UA in 2005, during a time when hip-hop was not really being studied at universities. Now, there are several courses at the UA that include hip-hop analysis. In 2012, the UA introduced the nation’s first hip-hop minor at a major university. Nava said the last 10 years has seen a huge growth in hip-hop studies.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You

This post by John Pavlovitz originally appeared on his blog on January 24, 2018

Dear White Evangelicals,

I need to tell you something: People have had it with you.

They’re done.

They want nothing to do with you any longer, and here’s why:

They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy.

For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity.

They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.

And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,
you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,
you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,
you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,
you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,
you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.

You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

And yet today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles.

And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.

With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.
With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.

And White Evangelicals, all those people who have had it with you—they see it all clearly.

They recognize the toxic source of your inconsistency.

They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities.
They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.
They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.
They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it.
They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.

Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power—but you’ve lost a whole lot more.

You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness.
You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation.
You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness.
You’ve lost the plot.
And most of all you’ve lost your soul.

I know it’s likely you’ll dismiss these words. The fact that you’ve even made your bed with such malevolence, shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you.

But I had to at least try to reach you. It’s what Jesus would do.

Maybe you need to read what he said again—if he still matters to you.

I’m a 20-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus.
I enjoy songwriting, exercising, cooking, hiking, and eating emotionally.
This is a place where I say stuff that I think needs to be said.
I welcome you to say what you believe needs to be said in response, knowing that ultimately the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Thanks for stopping by, and for reading the musings of a flawed, passionate, work in progress.


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Problem of Self-centeredness and the Paradox of Religion: Religious teachers have been battling egoicism for centuries.

This post written by Mark Leary, Ph.D. originally appeared on the Psychology Today blog on Feb 11, 2018

I started this blog ("Toward a Less Egoic World") to focus on two central themes – first, that many of the personal and social problems that plague human life are rooted in people's pervasive tendency to be excessively self-centered and, second, that we can minimize many of these problems by promoting a less egoic world. This is, of course, not a novel insight; people have been discussing the problem of self-preoccupation at least since the beginnings of recorded history, long before psychologists started adding their two cents to the discussion.

As evidence that people have recognized the problem of excessive egoicism for millennia is the fact all major religious traditions share the conviction that egoic preoccupation is a major impediment to moral living and admonish their followers to be less egoic. Various religions construe the problem differently, but they agree that excessive egoicism is a primary contributor to a wide array of antisocial behaviors, "sinful" actions, and social strife. And, they all maintain that their devotees should take steps to work on their self-centeredness.

This theme can be traced to the earliest written records in Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and indigenous religions probably held this view even earlier. The major religions of the West – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – have likewise confronted the problems that arise when people behave egoically.  Whatever one’s personal religious orientation – whether you are a theist, pantheist, atheist, or agnostic – the fact that religious visionaries throughout history have wrestled with the problems created by self-preoccupation is both intriguing and potentially informative.

Most religions agree that egoicism creates two distinct problems. First, most religions link self-centeredness to sinful thoughts and behaviors. Being self-focused, self-centered, and selfish leads people to act without regard for the well-being of other people. In most religions, self-centeredness, selfishness, and pride are singled out as particularly evil attributes. And, conversely, most religions teach that the spiritual person is “selfless,” although they often aren’t clear on exactly what that means.  

Second, most religions teach that paying too much attention to oneself interferes with spiritual insight and connecting with the divine. Of course, various traditions construe spiritual insight in different ways, but most religions regard excessive self-focus as a hindrance to making contact with God and pursuing other spiritual goals. According to the teachers of almost all religions, spiritual truths are difficult to discern when people are excessively focused on themselves. 

Most religious and spiritual traditions not only view excessive self-preoccupation as an impediment to moral behavior and spiritual insight, but they also offer ways to counteract its negative effects. In fact, religion itself may have arisen, at least in part, as a system for counteracting the undesirable personal and social effects of excessive self-preoccupation.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam tend to confront these problems by admonishing believers to change the nature of who they are. Although differing in specifics, these traditions agree that people can transform their sinful selves through faith, rituals, divine intervention, or diligently following moral commandments. Western religions try to change people’s selfish nature so that they will obey moral directives and live ethically.

The major Eastern religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, and Jainism – as well as many indigenous religions, tend to use a different approach. Rather than trying to change or control the person’s beliefs and behaviors directly as the Western religions do, these traditions generally try to reduce people’s self-preoccupation. These religions have moral precepts that should be followed, but the assumption is that quieting the egoic self will reduce self-centeredness and selfishness, leading the person to behave in a more moral and compassionate way.

Thus, Eastern traditions tend to use self-quieting practices such as meditation and yoga to minimize egoic thinking, leaving the mind clearer to perceive spiritual insights and removing the source of selfish behavior.  Other practices take the opposite approach.  Rather than calming the mind, believers subject themselves to sensory overload through chanting, drumming, dancing, or physically painful activities, all of which reduce the capacity for self-relevant thought. A person in the throes of ecstatic dancing, drumming, or chanting can not easily dwell on his or her  selfish desires.

Although most religious and spiritual traditions recognized the problems associated with egoic self-thought long before psychologists arrived on the scene, ironically, the institutions and dogma that accompanied the development of organized religion also created a new venue for egoic beliefs and actions.  Even while teaching about the evils of self-centeredness and urging their adherents to reduce self-preoccupation, organized religion often encouraged followers to view their own beliefs as superior to everyone else’s, to condemn those who did not share their views, to force their views and practices on others, and even to go to war against those who disagreed with them.  The fact that teachings and practices that initially arose to counteract the evils of egoic preoccupation led to systematic and widespread increases in egoic thought and action is undoubtedly one of the greatest paradoxes of human history.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Are We Being Short-Changed On Our Democracy?

by Jon Dunnemann

What is it about the American way of life that requires this level of expenditure on militarism and an expanding arsenal of weapons of mass destruction to protect ourselves and others? 

Is it really what is best for the average citizen? 

Is a decision to take funding away from other important areas the morally responsible thing to do? 

Unsurprisingly, the illustration below makes one feel short-changed rather than like highly valued citizens who are being developed into the greatest possible human capital in the world, who are being provided with safe bridges, roads, train tracks, drinking water, a stable economy, good jobs, fair wages, and comprehensive healthcare and a world-class public education system.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Shame On You America

by Jon Dunnemann

Please don't attempt to make me feel ashamed of being who I am because of the way that I praise my God, or how it looks, sounds or feels so different from the way that you do.

Kindly withhold the insensitivity of making me feel completely empty inside because my hair, eyes, skin color or physical size does not match your own self-image. Just like you, I am here to add beauty, diversity, and uniqueness to a world filled with so many wonders and opportunities. 

Don't crown me with thorns because I have come here with a different message, or don't wear a suit and tie to the house of worship or because I am a more feminine male or masculine woman. I deeply love humanity along with all of God's other creations. I even love you despite the cruelty that you are so inclined to display towards me.

Please don't make me feel as though I am some sort of mistake, evil or to your mind a worthless human being. How can this really be so, how can you if you genuinely care be so easily satisfied with this, and how can you continue to go on adding more greatly to my pain and suffering by damning me and yet still call yourself a decent person, great nation or sacred space in which to live?

Have you no shame? Shame on you America!

But, I will tell you now, today, that I forgive you, that I love you, and will continue to do so long after you have exhausted all possible excuses and justifications for being very unloving towards me: your native son. It would please many to see you behave less offensively toward others our beloved America.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

America Land of the Free

by Jon Dunnemann

Let us stop laboring at being democrats or republicans and simply be Americans.

This requires a willingness on our part to let go of our past positions and to start anew.

Really good progress can be made if we accept the common understanding that we all wish to be seriously listened to, to be treated with loving kindness and a sense of fairness, to uphold civility, to be protected from the misdeeds of self and others, and to acknowledge and respect the morality we each find in our inherited culture and belief systems, thereby acting as full-fledged members of a much broader humanity.

This outlook completely changes how we see and respond to the dilemmas that we presently face (i.e., alcohol and drug abuse, child prostitution, fraud, greed and misconduct, domestic violence, gang culture and gun violence, homelessness and poverty, prejudice and religious intolerance, the result of feeling forsaken by parents especially fathers, and war).

This is our America, Land of the Free. And we don't have to settle for anything less than who we are, what we equally deserve, and the fulfillment of our greatest shared potential.

It should be clear by now that favored special interests never were and never will be in the best interests of all Americans.

That is what presumably makes the American idea an exceptional one right here in the land of the free.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Seek After That Which Is Spiritual

by Jon Dunnemann

Try to live your life as one who has chosen to walk unobstructed and in the direction of truth.

Abstain from every form of evil.

Do not permit yourself to seek after fame, glory, and other things that are of no real lasting value.

If ever you find yourself being victimized, ostracized, and left wondering I humbly appeal to you in the very name and spirit of all that is holy and sacred in this world, to continue onward steadfastly in the pursuit of that which is highly known to be righteous and true.

Above all else, do not allow the manifestation of evil to occupy space within you nor fall prey to becoming the sort of human being who would simply standby idly while cruelty is horribly heaped upon others.

For your own protection and sanctification, begin this day to build a solid fortress of character around your heart. May you be divinely empowered and well-equipped to best fight battles on behalf of those who come to depend on you for both their overall well-being and our collective sustainability.

In darkest of times, whereupon, bold, daring, and self-sacrificing examples are few and a cold, callous and deceitful kind of evil mindedness is a foot may you always remain aware, active and intentional about living your life in a manner that is deemed fruitful, life-affirming, nurturing, and universally pure thereby spreading the greatest measure of comfort, joy, and warmth throughout the entire world.

And yes, I claim openly if not you, then who else shall I and others turn too, to take on the responsibility of creating this greater good?

Seek always then, after that which is Spiritual! And in doing so, may blessings of a thousand-fold be fully bestowed upon you and not only those whom you love out of familiarity but those others who are in desperate and urgent need of love as well.

For this unselfish service unto others, thank you and may your heart forever remain full of gladness and inexhaustible strength.

Chucho Valdes & The Afrocuban messengers - Begin To Be Good

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Practicing Martin Luther King Jr’s 6 Principles Of Nonviolence

This post originally appeared on IL improvised the archive of possibility thinking on 1/15/18

William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

We’ve often wondered at Dr. Martin Luther King's ability to maintain his non-violent stance in the face of numerous threats and arrests.  Was he born with it, or was it driven by his powerful faith, or was it something he had to work at daily… a practice?

Practice is, most likely, what it would have to be for us mortals. We found some insight into how we might do that at The King Center, as we read King’s 6 Principles of Nonviolence, and actions he advocated based on them. We’re taking the day to think about how they work in our life. What would it be like to truly live non-violently, in even the smallest interactions?


  1. PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
  2. PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
  3. PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
  4. PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  5. PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  6. PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.


The Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change are based on Dr. King’s nonviolent campaigns and teachings that emphasize love in action. Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence, as reviewed in the Six Principles of Nonviolence, guide these steps for social and interpersonal change.
  1. INFORMATION GATHERING: To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent’s position.
  2. EDUCATION: It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
  3. PERSONAL COMMITMENT: Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
  4. DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION: Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
  5. DIRECT ACTION: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
  6. RECONCILIATION: Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the ‘Beloved Community.’

04 Sep 1958, Montgomery, Alabama, USA — Police officers O.M. Strickland and J.V. Johnson apply force in arresting the Reverend Martin Luther King for loitering near a courtroom where one of his integration lieutenants was on the stand. King charged he was beaten and choked by the arresting officers. Police denied the charges. —© Bettmann/CORBIS via

improvised life archive of possibilities thinking

Friday, November 17, 2017

Unfatigable, Unforgettable, And Unshakeable

By Jon Dunnemann

Elisabeth (Nana) Greene
Feb 12, 1911 to Nov 15, 2017

We are like the moon. The moon shines anyway, but it does not produce its own light. It reflects the light illuminated onto its surface by the Sun and is never proud to say "I am the source of light". God shines through us, hence He deserves the glory; not us.
Israelmore Ayivor

God, who is all seeing and knowing, gave Mrs. Elisabeth Greene a long, fruitful, and cherished life because he knew that in her he had chosen a faithful and obedient servant who would forever be both willing and able to operate in the world, in her church, in her community, and in her family as one whose work was seemingly never done. Yes, as we continue to witness, God is good. All the time. 

Though little in stature, Nana was unfatigable about finishing the long and hard work of being a devoted daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, great, great grandmother, great, great, great grandmother, an unforgettable matriarch, and a good neighbor and friend to all. Even now, her divine light continues to shine ever so brightling because she has always been first and foremost a believer without a trace of doubt in her mind. She knew and routinely acted in accordance with her Christian identity and the complete understanding that miracles are always possible when you consciously choose and purposefully act as a child of God holding firmly to an unshakeable faith. The kind of faith that is impossible to change, rattle, or beat down. 

However, to complete or fulfill your responsibility to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, you absolutely have to talk to him. It’s not complicated but it is inescapable. How many times can we each recall Nana telling us to take it to the Lord in prayer? What should by now be indisputably obvious to a good number of us is that every relationship worth having on any level requires an investment of commitment, dialogue, and sincerity. Is that not what her life has vividly demonstrated for us, that she would be there through thick and then, hear us out, not judge us, forgive us, and always find a way to come alongside us and aid us in some measure with clearing whatever obstacle may have temporarily blocked our path, caused us to stumble or possibly led to the questioning of our sensibility and worth, and foremost that she would always out of unconditional love appeal to the Lord on our behalf? 

There was never a failure on Nana’s part to demonstrate what Jesus would do. Now that Nana has "gone up yonder" to be with her Lord we have but to ask ourselves what would Mrs. Greene, Mother or Nana have us do in all manner of circumstance and situations? She earned this honoring and it is the collective inheritance being gifted to all of us: One hundred plus years of grace, faith, hope, love, and joy. The mantle that she held for so very long is ready and awaits being passed on to us with the fullest expectation of all of our ancestors, Nana, and her Lord and Savior, for us to continue to build Thy Kingdom, here on earth, as it is in heaven. Accomplishing this mission requires nothing less than the maximizing of the fruits of the spirit for each and every one of us.

Let me leave you with a great source for continuous inspiration which can be found in the New Testament of the bible in the book of Matthew Chapter 22:37-40
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 

May you find the way to live a life that Mrs. Greene, Mother or Nana will be especially delighted to view through the eternal eyes of God!

Thank you and God bless you.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

One thing doesn't make a man

By Jon Dunnemann

In 2016, Kaepernick gained nationwide attention when he began protesting by not standing while the United States national anthem was being played before the start of games. This decision was motivated by what he viewed as the oppression of people of color in the United States. His actions prompted a wide variety of responses, including additional athletes in the NFL and other American sports leagues protesting in various ways during the anthem. Kaepernick's current free agency status has also been the subject of discussion and controversy (

It takes a great deal of courage for a person to decide to take a position on an important matter knowing full well that they will be criticized, misunderstood, and possibly even rejected by past friends and others alike. Nevertheless, it is and has always been an important part of learning to be "true to oneself and to others" for any young man or woman regardless of the platform on which they may some day find themself standing.

If you do not have the stomach to do what it takes to "speak truth in love" about any overlooked injustice then you are probably better off moving out of the way and letting another person take the lead who can act of his or her own choosing in a free way without worrying about normal social rules. I believe this to be at the core of what Colin Kaepernick did in taking a knee. He's a young man continuing to question his ideals, as a constantly adapting person, willing to take personal responsibility for his process of values integration, and seeking to operate in a way that will hopefully also benefit others. Throughout history this has been the substance of the moral character that has distinguished American society and its contributions to the notion of justice, liberty, and freedom from that of other less democratic and emergent societies.

Sometimes it takes an actor, a comedian, a basketball player, a boxer, a musician, a singer or even another football player to disturbingly wake us up to the unfairness of things occurring outside of the more familiar sports arena. The real tragedy though lies in any rush to judgment or our mistakenly coming to hate the messenger more than the harsh realities of their message.

Colin is not the first celebrity to humbly, nonviolently, and yet radically appeal to our greater common good in the hope that it might evoke more serious attention to a gross inhumanity nor is he likely to be the very last.

Clearly accomplished as a young professional athlete it would have been far easier for Colin to confine himself to the standard role of that of a sports figure in our society whose voice we assume is only meant for selling merchandise. Albeit a valuable piece to any NFL team and a widely appealing player to fans. As a human being, it is possible that at times he may have felt like little more than another dispensable pawn piece in a chess game.  However, like a number of other elite athletes before him, he reached the self-realization that being only one thing doesn't make a man. What actually does more to enduringly "make the man or woman" is what he or she is willing to become as a person through their heightened attention to unmet needs and collaborative service unto others.

For the life of me though, what I find very difficult to understand is how the American public can so easily overlook a multitude of sinful behavior by our 71 year old sitting President of the United States of America while on the other hand being enormously unwilling to forgive a trouble free 28 year old for attempting to "man up" and find a way to protest and thereby draw the nation's attention to the longstanding and insufficient accountability that prevails when it comes to minority mass incarceration, police brutality, stop and frisk practices, and the well-established unequal sentencing.

It's altogether baffling and frankly downright shameful. For a time at least, we should all allow ourselves to feel as deficiently motivated and morally responsible as Colin Kaepernick does for what often does not but should happen when it comes to advocating for the fair treatment and uplifting of people who are less fortunate than we are.
I have no right to life's abundance until everyone has received life's necessities. 
Ralph S. Cusham

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Let's admit we made a mistake

By Jon Dunnemann

This president's inferiority shows when it comes to healing hurts or unifying people. The primary emotion that he elicits in people is that of anger usually directed towards others or strongly felt by those being victimized by his unkind comments and loathsome conduct.

This probably stems from an attitude of entitlement, being out of his element, and a basic insensitivity. The good qualities of empathy, concern, honesty, humility, kindness, and love are generally absent from public view with the president.

Because of this he is not a giver to hope but a taker and destroyer of what is "just, humane, and whole" thereby undermining what is intrinsic to decency and democracy. Moreover, he repeatedly tramples underfoot the culture, gender, rights, traditions, and worth of persons that are different from himself. Worst of all, he is neither self-aware nor apologetic about his own lack of knowledge, inappropriateness, and harmful actions and utterances. He is blatantly dismissive and frequently vindictive toward others and yet shamelessly self-righteous in his morally bad behavior.

All of this together, is what the current President of the United States of America has become most known for. Today, I think it fair to say that his business accomplishments now pale by comparison to his striking record for cruelty, malice, and tirade in and outside of the nation's capital.

Given these troubling factors, I think that it is time for us to admit to one another that we undeniably made a regrettable and serious mistake -- And as one nation under God, we can ill afford to continue to allow a person of such egregious conduct and ineptitude to remain the standard-bearer for American leadership at home and abroad.

We, the people, must demand civility from our president and owing to his lack thereof we resolutely request his resignation. If he refuses, and we should expect that he will, then we must petition to have him impeached now on the grounds that he has become the most polarizing figure in modern American history and in doing so he has also become the greatest "internal threat" to the further development and maintenance of healthy race, religion, and gender relations, and an increasing risk to our national security and shared values, and the overall well-being of our collective consciousness.

As citizens of all faiths, races or ethnic groups, incomes, political affiliations, ages, abilities, and so on, we can no longer overlook, ignore or accept the cascading impact of Donald Trump's destructive and irresponsible violation of America's well established presidential code of conduct.

Yes, we made a mistake. It's time for us to address the absurd Elephant in the room.
Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.
~ Dennis Prager

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Jonathan

By Jon Dunnemann

Today would be Jonathan William Smithers-Dunnemann's 32nd birthday. Daniel's brother and Dr. Wilda Smithers-Dunnemann's and my first child. Jonathan left this world at age 11 and I can't begin to tell you what his absence at the table has been like for the three of us and the rest of the family for the last twenty-one years.

Jonathan had enough energy and warmth of spirit for everyone. And, he was a conduit for the untapped potential in his younger brother Danny Boy.

Losing a child or a sibling is a sharp pain that never completely dulls.

Today, it is Daniel who really has the best perspective on this tremendously challenging life event. He says, "Mom and Dad, I would rather have had Jonathan as my brother for eleven years then not to have been able to enjoy him at all."

As a man, a husband, and a father I am enormously thankful that I got to see Jonathan and Daniel's tender and loving relationship for those eleven years. My two little boys are so beautiful, complementary, and unique in every way. Who could possibly ask for more?

For Wilda, a daughter, sister, wife and physician but always a mother first and foremost, it has entailed an immensely heartbreaking loss. Jonathan had his Mommy's tough will and smile . The sort that enables you to get back up after having the life knocked out of you. With help from her Dad, Pastor and Prayer, she fought through the dark night of the soul and managed to climb up and out of the pit of despair and pain to put her other baby first and nurtured him with remarkably dedication, love, sacrifice, and wisdom to young adulthood.

For other parents out there who have also experienced the loss of a child and to those of you who have lost a brother or a sister I'm thinking about you today too.  I am absolutely confident that if Jonathan were here today that he would tell you to be sure to enjoy your life, to wear your most magnificent smile, to trust in the power of the almighty creator of all things, and to always bare in mind that everything works together for good even though this is very often beyond our capacity as mortal/sentient beings to understand and at times to accept.

Happy Birthday Jonathan. We hope that you are proud of the way that we are carrying on in your honor while we are temporarily away from you.

Monday, September 11, 2017

What more can we do in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey?

By Jon Dunnemann

Maybe there's a good deal more that America can do to as part of National Preparedness and Response and justice reform "inside prison walls" by proactively teaching non-violent offenders between 18-to-32-years-old how to productively assist in saving lives, distributing materials, site clean-up, and rebuilding homes following natural disasters.

Below is a proposed brief outline for possibly teaching these inmates useful disaster response and relief skills so that they can stand beside and act in the best interest of their fellow Americans in a time of great need:
  1. Basic medical skills (i.e., Cleaning and Dressing Wounds, Making a Makeshift Splint or Sling, CPR, Heimlich Maneuver, Treating Shock).
  2. Food and water storage/safety and sanitation procedures.
  3. Victim coping and stress-management skills.
  4. Crisis, trauma, and grief-counseling skills.
  5. Utilization of alternative means of communication (i.e., the "Coordinated Assistance Program" (CAN), the 2-1-1 system - coordinated by the United Way since 1997).
  6. Capability of speaking more than one language (i.e., Spanish, Chinese, and French).
  7. Basic computer skills, knowing how to use a camera or take video to help document the work organizations and teams are doing.
  8. Basic survival skills (i.e., Finding and purifying water, Building A Wilderness Survival Shelter From Scratch, Starting A Fire Without A Lighter, Navigating Your Way Back To Safety, Survival Signaling To Help Rescuers Find You, Food Acquisition To Stave Off Starvation)
  9. American Red Cross, FEMA, National Guard, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) protocol & operational systems, and quite possibly in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity get the full scope of home repair and construction training and equipping needed to become a functional, contributing member of a disaster rescue, recovery, and relief team so that you can go wherever the crisis is and provide valuable assistance under a team experts direction.
  10. Learn how to make a long-term commitment to acquiring this knowledge and the varied skill sets that leave a place and people group better off then when you first arrived.

A federal, state, and locally funded program of this nature will not only enhance our nation's National Response Plan (NRP) capacity for saving lives and rebuilding communities but it will transform the lives of former offenders and I assert that it also greatly affirms our best values and provides real and lasting second chances in sharing a good life in America for young non-violent offenders.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Ready Yourself And Walk Into Your Perpetual Groove

By Jon Dunnemann

Whenever I am given the opportunity to teach life skills to older boys and teenagers I always enjoy discussing the great importance of self-awareness, self-control, and self-improvement given how painfully difficult it was for me to not only develop a good understanding of these concepts but to also learn to effectively apply the underlying practices behind them well into my adult life.

As far back as I can recall, I was an impulsive person and someone always seeking affirmation from others regarding my self-worth. To simply blame this tendency on the absence of my father in my early years would be a big mistake and seriously overlooks the necessity of learning how to accept personal responsibility for all of the actions and decisions that we must inescapably make throughout our lives. What we choose to do or not do in every area of our daily living yields significant consequences for us both good and bad.

Let me tell you, my mother to her credit as a single parent did not overlook exposing me to many extracurricular activities and events when I was a boy all of which were intended to foster a healthy, safe, and stimulating platform for a kid's personal growth and virtues shaping.

What laid at the root of my early difficulty though was the refusal to exercise good judgement. I clearly knew right from wrong yet chose the latter anyway. Looking back, I now recognize that this stemmed from my overindulgence and a weak conscience. Experts will tell you that this is never a good thing. Because when this is the case, it’s as if you’re always just itching for a licking. Believe me when I tell you that I got plenty of spankings and whippings as a child and they proved inadequate in changing me. Sure they certainly got my attention and as intended they did hurt. Nevertheless, it was not long before I found a solution for avoiding any form of verbal chastisement or physical punishment altogether: run away! 

Initially, even as a foster youth, trouble need not look very far to find me. I always seemed to be anxiously awaiting the next adventure or dare to do something mischievous. In fact, a number of the kids that I grew up with and attended junior high school with will remember exactly what I’m talking about having routinely edged me on in my immature and irresponsible state for their own amusement or to do their dirty work. I was ignorant then of how little they truly thought of me and how lacking I was in self-acceptance as I repeatedly threw all caution to the wind and ended up engaged in juvenile pranks and reckless behavior - I was buck wild.

The bad habits that I developed were foolish, troublesome, and for me remain deeply regrettably. Fortunately, although I didn't realize it at the time, I was abruptly removed from one of my most familiar and formative settings and miraculously placed in an entirely different environment where everything that I did was closely scrutinized by a household of older African American Muslim men. The discipline that they imposed on me in terms of conduct, focus on learning, martial arts, civic engagement and political activism, and self-awareness literally crowded out the most useless and unwise actions of my past. I also received the added benefit of being made to feel good about being a young, strong, thinking, activist, and African American male. Surprisingly, they did not require that I convert to Islam and become a Muslim.

So for me the questions that I am most eager to humbly speak to with today’s youth are a) How does one begin to recognize their error, b) interrupt their patterned behavior, and c) recover a more mature sense of self? Now I am not about to mislead anybody, hardheadedness, misdirection, and neglectfulness -- these are not simple or quick fixes. In all likelihood it will take years of progressively hard work and ongoing soul searching to reach the center of your fullness and purpose. However, the sooner that you begin to explore and reflect regularly on the important business of your life path then the earlier your life will begin to yield meaning and the happier you will ultimately become with yourself.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the necessary changes will never occur and other people’s lives will be hurt or worse, and further damage may well continue to be done to your own life. On the other hand, as you become more aware of the consequences and outcomes associated with your actions, you will be better able to learn how to control your impulses and use your best judgement, and as the benefits of this inner state of being become more apparent you will also find a perpetual groove that grows out of the recurring experience of successful personal improvement. Ready yourself and walk into it!!

Saturday, June 10, 2017


By Jon Dunnemann

Who is the hero?

What does s/he seek?

When do they appear?

Where does their belief in possibility come from?

How is it that some are able to do that which others would not dare?

Why is it that real courage is seemingly limited to a chosen few?

In my mind there is hardly a trace of the heroic trait.

Could it be that the door to the soul must first be made open in order for us to experience the complete fullness of our divine nature and spiritual power?

Is it then, that we are well equipped to exhibit the greatest sense of courage naturally flowing out of our actions and decisions?

Only time will reveal the strength of current flow that is found in the answers to these unavoidable questions.

Until an abundance of courage arrives be calm and carry on.

Waking Up: Are Spiritual Experiences Becoming More Common?

This post originally appeared on the Psychology Today page on June 9, 2017

Steve Taylor Ph.D.

What are spiritual experiences? I don’t think of them in religious terms. I see them as moments in which our awareness becomes more intense and more expansive than normal, so that the world around us becomes more real and alive, and we feel a strong sense of connection to nature and other human beings. We might feel a sense of joy or inner stillness, and feel that somehow the world around us is "in harmony" or has a meaning that we find difficult to express.

If a person from a religious background has such an experience, they may well interpret it in religious terms. They might see it as a gift from God, and believe that the aliveness and harmony they perceive is a glimpse of the divine, or of heaven. But if you’re not religious, there’s no reason to think in these terms. The experience is just a psychological one. It suggests that our normal vision of the world is limited and in some ways even aberrational. In awakening experiences, there is a strong sense of ‘seeing more,’ of expanding beyond limits and perceiving a more authentic reality. 

My research shows that awakening experiences are connected to certain activities and situations. They are associated with contact with nature, spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer, sporting activities (such as running and swimming), and sex. They are also strongly associated with states of intense psychological turmoil. That is, paradoxically, they often occur in the midst of stress and depression, or in relation to traumatic life events such as illness, divorce or bereavement.     

However, one of the most interesting things about these experiences is that they are apparently becoming more common. In a 1962 Gallup poll, just 22 percent of Americans reported that they had "ever had a religious or mystical experience." In 1994, 33 percent of people answered yes to the same question, while by 2009, the figure had risen to 49 percent. Research by the Pew Research Center in the U.S. has shown a similar trend. In 2007, 52 percent of Americans reported that they regularly felt a "deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being." In 2014, the figure stood at 59 percent. In 2007, 39 percent of Americans said that the regularly felt a "deep sense of wonder about the universe"—a figure which had increased to 46 percent in 2014. Perhaps significantly, these increases coincided closely with a decrease in interest in organized religion. 

In the U.K., the surveys of the Spiritual Experience Research Centre have had similar findings. In a 1969 survey, the question "Have you ever experienced a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday self?" was answered affirmatively by 29 percent of people. In 1978, the figure had risen to 36 percent, and then to 48 percent in 1987. In 2000, there was a further steep rise to 75 percent—a 27 percent increase in 13 years (which was, coincidentally or not, exactly the same figure by which church attendance declined over the same period). (1)

A Collective Movement?

Why should spiritual experiences be more common now than they were a few decades ago? It could simply be that people are simply getting better at recognizing them, or are more open about discussing them. Now that there is more general awareness of spirituality in our culture, and concepts such as "spiritual peace and well-being" are a more common part of discourse, it could simply be that more people are describing their experiences in this way, when they might have described them in other terms in earlier decades. 

Or perhaps it’s right to take the research at its face value. Perhaps spiritual experiences actually are becoming more common. This is the approach I take in my new book The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening. I suggest that spiritual experiences are glimpses of a new state of being that is slowly becoming more normal to human beings. This is a higher-functioning state that I call “wakefulness,” in which a person feels an enhanced sense of well-being, clarity, and connection. They have a more intense awareness of the world around them, a greater sense of appreciation of nature, a broad global outlook, and an all-embracing sense of empathy with the whole human race. In many ways, it is a permanent, ongoing variant of the 'awakening experience.'

I have found many examples of people who shift into this higher-functioning state in the midst of intense psychological turmoil - for example, bereavement, serious illness, or alcoholism—I describe some of these examples in The Leap. This shift is quite common, and can be seen as a variation of “post-traumatic growth”—I sometimes refer to it as “post-traumatic transformation.” There are also hundreds of millions of people around the world who are gradually cultivating wakefulness by following spiritual practices such as meditation and service, or spiritual paths such as Buddhism, Yoga, or the Kabbalah. A constantly increasing interest in self-development, spiritual practices, and traditions is one of the most significant cultural trends of our time. 

It seems to me that there is a collective moment towards awakening, which is manifesting itself in a variety of ways—one of which may be the increasing frequency of spiritual experiences.  

(1) I am grateful to my fellow author Jules Evans for bringing my attention to this research.

Steve Taylor PhD is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. He is the author of The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening. 

His website is

Friday, June 9, 2017


By Jon Dunnemann

Loneliness seats us in darkness and engulfs us in silence.

In the absence of warmth we become cold and frigid.

The heart seems to lose its natural rhythm.

Stricken with pause we slowly begin to wilt like a dying limerick.

Left in this condition for too long we are overtaken both by fear and despair.

Very likely, the spirit of hope will rise up and walk out on us.

Good reasoning though struggles to inform us that being alone is so very unbecoming.

It is far better for us to grab a firm hold of our sense of oneness with all that is.

Once there in the company of other isms we are much more apt to find unexpected comfort, love and unity.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Willingness to Change

By Jon Dunnemann

Do you have a willingness to change?

Whatever your age, perspective, or past it takes courage to move into unfamiliar spaces.

This is especially true, if like me you easily grew accustomed to relying upon what others think-or gaining their acceptance.

While there's certainly nothing wrong or incorrect about trusting in others, given their possible expert knowledge, guidance-or wisdom gained through a life of experience.

On the other hand, it is altogether unnatural and quite possibly unreasonable for anyone to go through all of their life having failed to ever become empowered by making their own choices, supported by clear intentions, and bolstered by unique objectives.

This is a big part of what it actual means to be human, to flourish and to thrive.

Your gifts, passion, and path all belong to you.

Therefore, trust in yourself enough to choose who and what you are deeply committed to becoming. Be not denied your distinctiveness and don't be afraid to fail.

Failures are more than anything else opportunities to gain greater mastery over all that you find yourself faced with. Without failures it is very difficult to recognize victory.

A willingness to change is an open invitation to greater authenticity, freedom, strength of character, and meaningfulness.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Black Middle Class Is Leaving Its Brothers And Sisters Behind: Your own achievement is not enough.

This post originally appeared on the HuffPost on 05/02/2017

Tony Allen, Contributor
Head of Corporate Reputation at Bank of America

Dr. Tony Allen is the head of Corporate Reputation at Bank of America and the founding President of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League where in 2003, he received the Whitney M. Award for Advancing Racial Equality, the National Urban League’s highest honor.

I am a blessed Black man. Against enormous odds with respect to my family background and prospects for economic mobility, I have received great opportunities in my life. Those opportunities have afforded me a good living, a respectable profile in the public square and a resolute passion to serve others that I have always taken very seriously. The old biblical adage, “To whom much is given, much is required” is the standard by which I have lived my life and, in my mind, should be the burning platform for every middle and upper class African American in the United States.

Instead, too few of us take the time to really extend a hand to our fellow brothers and sisters who have lost their way and help bring them with us as we climb the proverbial corporate ladder, willing ourselves into the American Dream. And even fewer stand in unison against injustice or taken it upon ourselves to build up the communities from whence we came.

We, the black middle class, often find our comfort in the cultural notions of “black achievement” – escaping the surroundings that many others could not – and note that the symbol of a black man or black woman who provides a good home for his or her family and has a successful career should constitute “enough” inspiration for others. But it is not enough.
Black achievement doesn’t consider the disparity between the black middle class and their lower income peers.

We are buoyed by the occasional community service that comes from our affiliations in Historically Black Greek letter organizations or Masonic lodges and find it sufficient to prepare our sons and daughters through debutante balls and Jack and Jill affiliations to maintain the other, more elite, more intellectual black America.

Yet, Black achievement is not enough to make a difference for the black and brown men who comprise more than 60% of the prison population or the one-in-three black boys who are predicted to have a run in with the law in their lifetime. Black achievement doesn’t make up for a widening opportunity gap between African Americans and their mainstream counterparts or for the fact that too many students labeled “underperforming” begin tracking away from college at early ages and become accustomed to limited choices as they come of age.

Black achievement doesn’t consider the obvious disparity between the black middle class and their lower income peers, individuals who feel no connection to the success of their favorite uncle, auntie or childhood best friend and as such, resent the profiles of their communities and their situations as something less than a fertile ground for developing a strong character and work ethic that can propel their journey. This particular chasm is significant as it shines a light on the crux of the concern. Specifically, brothers and sisters from struggling black communities can no longer see themselves or their dreams through the eyes of their more successful peers. And those successful peers, instead of running toward them in ways that can uplift and change their circumstances, too often run away and sometimes even disassociate their circumstance from that of the people with whom they were raised.

In the 2002 edition of State of Black America, my colleague Professor Leland Ware and I wrote “The Geography of Discrimination: Hypersegregation, Isolation and Fragmentation within the African-American Community” and highlighted the following:
Generations of African Americans have benefited from opportunities created by the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. Those who were in a position to do so took advantage of the educational, employment and other opportunities that were foreclosed to African Americans during the first half of the 20th century. The success of middle- and upper-income African Americans and the growth in their numbers over the last thirty years is a testament to their intelligence, ambition and hard work. For these groups, the Civil Rights Movement created unprecedented avenues for advancement. However, for the one-third of the African-American population left behind in the nation’s inner cities, the Civil Rights Movement might as well have never happened.

The question is not who’s to blame, but rather what do we – middle-class African Americans ― do about it? What IS enough? In my view, it is an active re-integration of our people that should be the focus of the African American middle class. My contention is that such work must continue and should be bolstered by a grand return to densely populated urban settings where an influx of middle class incomes from black and brown citizens would help stabilize some communities and build enclaves of African-American achievement that are in closer proximity to the people and communities most notably left behind.

In the Urban Institute’s recently released report, “The Cost of Segregation,” they conclude “that higher levels of economic segregation are associated with lower incomes, particularly for black residents. Higher levels of racial segregation are associated with lower incomes for blacks, lower educational attainment for whites and blacks, and lower levels of safety for all area residents.”

The great debate between famed scholar W.E.B. du Bois and orator Booker T. Washington focused on the importance of creating meaningful educational prospects that could accelerate the economic and housing opportunities for people still under a Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) existence, versus a more conciliatory approach of providing basic agricultural and technical skills that would sustain a reasonable existence for them and their families. In many ways, the outcome of those discussions and years of civil rights laws and social change movements have created two divergent groups within the African American community. Not surprisingly, the first group is defined by the narrative that African Americans are plagued with historic and systemic inequalities that put them well behind their mainstream counterparts at birth. And throughout life, that distance widens on nearly every front that matters to achieve success. This results in densely populated, poor black communities that cycle through generations of poverty and impoverished conditions, making those communities fraught with challenges too many and too embedded to overcome.

The other narrative recognizes that there have been great gains made, particularly since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and those gains have directly benefited a generation of African Americans, women and other minorities by enhancing their educational opportunities and successes in leadership and influence in both corporate America and the public sector. Further, those gains over the last 50 years have created a burgeoning black middle class, and many have used their new found wealth and opportunity to leave the largely rural and urban settings of their birth for suburban aspirations.
Brothers and sisters from struggling black communities no longer see their dreams through the eyes of their more successful peers.

In his documentary, “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise,” Henry Louis Gates makes the chasm clear. On one hand, the percentage of African Americans making at least $75,000 annually more than doubled from 1970 to 2014, to 21 percent. Those making $100,000 or more nearly quadrupled. By contrast, Black America with income below $15,000 declined by only four points, from 26 to 22 percent.  And the unemployment rate for African Americans overall is virtually the same as it was when the civil rights movement ebbed circa 1970.[1]

At Bank of America, in the mid-90’s, my colleagues Kieth Cockrell and Geri Thomas were founders of the Black Professional Group, a group committed to connecting black Bank of America teammates to each other so they could find the path to their professional success AND appreciate how such success came with deep, substantive responsibility to the broader black community. Now there are more than 100 Black Professional Group chapters throughout the country, all of whom use their collective talent to extend time, resources and heart to the surrounding communities that disproportionately look like they do, but suffer from the conditions of joblessness, poverty and under-education.   And while examples of their good work abound, there is still much more to do before any of us can lay claim to success.

The way forward is to embrace an America where our tensions and intentions are not based in what we hope America to be, but rather in what it is. In 1903, du Bois wrote, “[We must] develop the Best of this race that they may guide the masses away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.” Contamination and death are here.   And in this time, those who escaped those ills must remember from whence they came. Only then will it – will we – be enough. “To whom much is given, much is required."