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My dear Freebies,

Wow, this is no ideal first official blog post but sadly with the things happening in the nation, it cannot be ignored. The days following July 4th, 2016 were incredibly difficult and dark days not only for the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the 5 Dallas police officers, but also for anyone who generally has a heart to feel! Police brutality is not a new thing, especially within the African-American community. It seems that with each new week, there is another hashtag being made, almost indefinitely meaning that we have lost another brother or sister to yet another senseless crime. When the hashtag fades, the marches and protests die down, the conviction fails to land, and the media moves on, it almost seems as if we do too...until it happens again.

But this time, it happened again the very next day. This time, it rocked me to my core, WAY more than all of the other times. This time, it felt incredibly close and personal. Maybe because now I am back home from college and am constantly surrounded by the two beautiful black men in my life that come in the person of my father and brother. Maybe because this time I didn't have homework and exams to distract me from the horror of the world I live in. For whatever reason though, this time I cried uncontrollably and felt more hopeless than I ever did before. I felt my heart surge with rage because when I woke up the morning after the initial two murders, I felt lesser as a human being simply because of the color of my skin. It caused me to question everything. My Facebook status can explain it best...

Even in my hurt and my frustration, I still dared to finish off the status with a Scripture because I am not just a Black person, I am a Christian person first. Through choosing to give my life wholly to Christ, there has been a reordering of my identities, meaning that I still keep many of my identities from before (like being an African-American, a woman, a Michigan Wolverine, etc.) but my identity as a Christian must be prioritized above all others at all times because I am a "new creation" as the Bible tells it. This, however, is easier said than done, especially in times where one of your identities is screaming for attention, to be appeased, for revenge. How do you take the Christian route to forgive when your African-American side is raging? How can both identities co-exist in this one body when they so often seem at odds? The world has many avenues of reaction: the Black Lives Matter Movement, marches, protests, rallies, switching money into black owned banks, creating lists of black owned businesses to support, etc. All of this seems nice, but where is the Church in all of this and why has it been so quiet so long about a problem that affects so many members of its Body?

Boy did I get an answer to this question when I went to my church, Shekinah Regional Apostolic Center in Ann Arbor, that Sunday, July 10th! The service (which can be viewed here) that Sunday was probably the BEST service I have ever attended because it was filled with transparency and genuineness. My pastors did not cover over the facts with blanketed religious statements like, "It was God's will" or "Everything is going to be alright in the morning"; quite the opposite, my White & Black pastors alike beckoned for all to see that systematic racism still exists! We did not run around the church that Sunday and pretend that we weren't mourning. We did not leave our heavy hearts at the door before entering inside. On the contrary, we brought our grieving hearts with us and took them to the altar. We had the opportunity to hear candidly from two African-American men about what it feels like to be Black in America, and even watched the music video of one (ILL RhemA - Power of Police). We were not told to hurry up and get over it and we were not rushed from the place of discomfort and mourning; instead we were encouraged to press into it - far enough to encourage us to take active steps to make change. In the end, as a multi-cultural church, we interlocked hands and prayed and worshiped together, only this time there was a distinct difference. This time, we did not use prayer and worship as a form of escapism, looking to think only about God in order to escape the facts of reality. Instead, we used prayer and worship as a way of connecting with God's heart looking to get our course of direct action straight from Him.

Of course all social ills are not cured in one sitting, but my goodness it's a good start. It all begins with people (especially the Church) opening its eyes to the facts of where we are, yet also still remaining hopeful about the Truth of where we shall be.

Mikhaella Norwood

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