In Mark’s Gospel the 5th chapter the 1st through the 20th verses, Jesus
encounters the Gerasene Demoniac. To paraphrase the story, this man that Jesus
encounters lives in a cemetery (among the tombs) and cannot be restrained. Night
and day he is heard howling and frequently bruises himself with stones. When
Jesus approaches him and asks him his name he says, “My name is Legion;
for we are many.” Jesus rids him of the evil spirit that torments him
and a very interesting thing occurs. When the rest of the people from the town
see this man in his right mind hanging with Jesus they tell Jesus to get out
This pericope is illustrative of Black men in America. Dr. Obery M. Hendricks
Jr., masterfully exegetes this text and fleshes out its contemporary application
for us today. Dr. Hendricks points out that the unit of Roman soldiers stationed
(occupying force) in this part of Northeast Africa was a “Legion”
(consisting of up to 6,000 soldiers). Moreover the banner of this Legion was
a wild Boar or Pig. Jesus incidentally sends the demons from the man into a
heard of Swine or Pigs. The point is this brother seems to have been going crazy
because of the magnitude of Rome oppressing him in the mind.
recent episode of the television program, Boston Legal,
had as one of its sub-plots, the questionable execution
of a Black man in the State of Texas. The story line pointed
out that there were serious problems with this brother’s
conviction yet the legal system; the press and the public
did not really care. The brother, who was wrongly convicted,
because of inadequate counsel, had resigned himself that
he was going to die and just gave up. The news, that same
evening, had as its lead story, President Bush interrupting
his vacation at his Texas Ranch, to return to Washington
in case he was needed to sign the bill inspired by the Terri
Schiavo case. In fact the House convened a special Sunday
night session to hammer out this bi-partisan bill.
Black men are prominent in every negative category in this country. While African
Americans are only 12 percent of the population African American men are over
60 percent of the prison population. Salim Muwakkil writing for, In These
Times newspaper, points out that Black men are 25 percent of the unemployed
and that does not include the homeless and those incarcerated. In the same article
by Muwakkil states that 50 percent of Black men in Chicago, between the ages
of 16 and 22 are out of work while 87 percent of juvenile parolees are African
American. The health crisis for African American men is also a sad story where
prostrate cancer, colon cancer and other diseases show us at higher risk than
everybody else. This is an extremely disturbing reality.
If we as Black men intend to be around throughout the 21st Century we need
to do something fast. We are under attack. We have embraced too much of our
oppressors ways which has lead to us destroying ourselves (not in our right
minds). White media is money driven and cares nothing for us. White Evangelicals
could care less about us. The present administration says since we die sooner
we should support his assault on Social Security to get paid before we die.
The incredible irony is he said this to members of the Black clergy and Black
leadership who have sided with him and none of them saw the insult.
The House and the President convened throughout the night on a weekend before
the Easter break to sign legislation concerning a woman in a vegetative state.
Yet the problems affecting African American men have reached catastrophic proportions
and we cannot get a return call from our senators, representatives or any legislative
leadership concerning the systemic evils affecting us.
First, let us stop trying to imitate our oppressors. Writer Audrey Lourde
says, “You cannot dismantle the master’s house using the master’s
tools.” The acquisition of large sums of money only (climbing the corporate
ladder) is not enough. It takes more than that. Minister Louis Farrakhan has
said on many an occasion, “It only makes you another nigger millionaire.”
Secondly, let us stop using our Sistahs as scapegoats. They are not
the enemy. White supremacy was and is the real enemy. There are too many Black
men who are hung up on, who wears the pants, meaning who has the power. Our
sisters are just as oppressed in this culture as we are. They are our allies
in the struggle!
Third, let us embrace our cultural traditions both from our continent,
Africa and our experiences in this country. We are an African people. We must
learn our history and spend our days teaching our history to our people especially
our children. Historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke has said, “History is the
clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is
a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography!”
Brothers, you can’t tell our story unless you know our story
and you cannot be a person unless you are in community with persons of your
Finally, let us embrace a faith tradition. I write as a representative
of one of many faith traditions. In that tradition, Jesus a black man was also
racially profiled by the JPD, (that’s the Jerusalem Police Department),
and suffered an illegal incarceration being placed on death row by the occupying
forces of Rome (Europe). Jesus demonstrates to me that he was and still is sensitive
to the plight of other men of Africa. The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., pastor
of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago points out, “We do not serve
the same God that our oppressors serve.” The God of those in slavery and
the God of the slaveholder is not the same God. The God who delivered our people
in the Middle Passage, the God of Rev. Gabriel Prosser, Rev. Denmark Vesey and
Rev. Nat Turner is not the same God of Bush and the conservative right. They
don’t know the Jesus of our ancestors.
Join a church where the Pastor and congregation preach and teach a gospel that
says something about our spiritual, cultural, social and political reality.
If a church does not have something to say against the neo-cons, prosperity
pimps and racism of this present day, then it is not preaching what Jesus preached
(Read Luke 4). These are a just a few points we need to begin to discuss and
embrace to define ourselves in this 21st century to move forward. I also leave
a word of caution. When we are found in our right minds there are those who
look like us who won’t be happy when a Black man gets in his right mind.
Be ready, be prepared! Poet Mari Evans put it like this, “Speak the truth
to the people, to identify the enemy is to free the mind; Free the mind of the
people. Speak to the mind of the people. Speak Truth!”
2005 BlackandChristian.com. Used by permission.
Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr., is Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ,
Gary Indiana and Associate Pastor of Men's Ministries and
Pre-Marital Counseling at Trinity United Church of Christ
in Chicago. Rev. Jackson is a graduate of Loyola University
and holds a Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological
Seminary in Chicago.