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In Defense of Black Radical Voices

In the aftermath of the controversy around Dr. Sundita Cha-Jua’s Real Talk column with News Gazette, in particular his Oct 23 rd article regarding the politics and character of Mr. Terrance Stuber and Mr. Herschel Walker, I was left wondering about the state of African-American politics in general, but in our community specifically. I confess it is frustrating that we live in a time where those who continually perpetuate falsehoods such as the 2020 election was stolen or there was no riot on January 6th are given any serious credence or space in public discourse. But I am even more discouraged at the threads of anti-intellectualism and neo-liberalism present in Black public spaces and discourse. As a proudly ordained clergy within the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the oldest Black denomination and only one founded and grounded in social justice; as well as being perhaps the only openly pro Black, progressive, left of center Pastor in our community, I believe it is my duty in the spirit of Amos 5:24 and John 8:32 to speak out in defense of the Black Radical voices and thought in the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth.

Radical voices have always been an integral part of our community and our universal

quest for freedom. From Jesus to the Black Panther Party, the Black radical tradition has been

responsible for many of the freedoms we take for granted. It wasn’t moderates trying to find the

truth in “both sides” or right wing perspectives on traditional values that gave us the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, union rights, anti-lynching laws, created free breakfast programs for kids,

refrained Blackness for a generation or provided police reforms across the nation, but rather

those who sought to think and move outside of normative means. It was not moderate preachers

trying to “just preach the Bible” who showed us God is Black, on the side of the oppressed, led

anti-slavery revolts, provided leadership in civil rights movements and Black Lives Matter

protests, but radical voices who understood their assignment in the tradition of prophets of old

and the work of Jesus. Yet, we constantly seek to put out this light which has shined throughout

our history. We are living in dangerous times were those who have a prophetic voice are

consistently silenced not only by voices that disregard the truth and facts to circumvent

democracy, but by the very community it is supposed to defend, enhance and uplift. It is almost

as if we are ashamed by this amazing aspect of our culture.

Perhaps this is the deeper truth I need our community own: we struggle with outspoken

radical Black voices that neither centers whiteness nor dries white tears. It is akin to living in the

southern town before the civil rights movement in that Blackness can neither be loud, radical, or

poignantly powerful. The expectation has become speak softly and “not upset them folks” or we

default to the notion that the Black community is deficient i.e., “if only we did better.” I want to

be fair in this moment and acknowledge not everyone can be a radical voice for a myriad of

reasons, but this does not negate the impact of isolating those voices that truly speak from a place

devoid of fear, anti-Blackness, and the centering of whiteness. Perhaps if more of our community

spoke with the boldness of Dr. Cha-Jua and those like him, then being seen as radical would be

normalized and not considered an anathema in our space.

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