Last week I went to pick up some wings from a restaurant that was recommended to me.  The experience that I had has challenged, frustrated and angered me. The strip mall was not far from our church but I had only passed the many shops.  I had never engaged the people who worked and hung out in that row of nail salons, beauty shops, delicatessens and restaurants.

 I experienced men who were unemployed whose conversations were filled with hopelessness and despair.  I found shops owned by foreigners who were not involved in the community but sucked the economic viability out of the community.  The convenience store had every brand of cigarette, bags of loose tobacco, bakery goods, candy and chips.  The coolers in the front of the store had soda and ice cream.  I had to go to the back of the store to find water, milk and I saw no fruit, eggs or other staples.

 I walked the entire length of the mall to experience one African American owned business, one organization that was empowering the community or one business that was supporting community initiatives to change the sense of hopelessness and despair.  Besides the beauty and barber shops I found nothing.

 I am overwhelmed right now with the apathy of the people in the community who are enlightened and many times empowered to make a difference and usher in change.

There are more churches involved in building campaigns to build bigger buildings than there are churches engaged in addressing domestic violence, drugs, poverty and homelessness.

 Where is the outrage?  Where is the talented tenth?  Where are the churches who care about the lost, the left out, the marginalized and the oppressed? Where are the pastors who can collectively call the members of city council, county government, state legislators and others who are accountable to the public into a room and challenge the status quo and lack of services to the people on the edge?

 I hear the voices of those who do not live confined by these circumstances.  They speak of being busy with commuting, busy with family and not willing to risk their safety for people who are not aware that they need help.  I hear the voices of the suburb dwellers not wanting to expose their families to danger, wanting a better education for their children and explaining on the pain they experience when they remember their family members still in these communities.

 There is nothing new in this reflection except for the salt thrown into a reopened wound.  The distress of feeling powerless to change the conditions and the apathy of the community to accept the conditions that oppresses them.  It still hurts. AM I arrogant to presume that I am a part of the talented tenth? Are the writings of Dubois relevant in the 21st Century? Will there always be an oppressed class of people in the US? It is too early in the morning to answer these deep questions so I will move quickly to get my first cup of coffee for the morning.

 

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