BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Fruit (1/30/15)

Happy Fred Korematsu day! 
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday: Slavery Beneath the Stadium Seats

Arizona Superbowl XLIX 2015
Please welcome back guest writer Brittany Eddy. She has previously written on issues of human trafficking and addresses the topic here in the context of the Super Bowl:

On Super Bowl Sunday, millions of people gather in their living rooms, pubs, bars or restaurants to witness what they believe to be one of the biggest football games of the year. Those who are fortunate to be physically at the stadium in Arizona root for their favorite team, but most of them are oblivious to other things that are taking place right beneath their stadium seats.

Human trafficking is still a major issue in the United States and a billion-dollar industry.

“The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly," then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today in 2011 when his state was gearing up to host the event. "It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”

Major sporting events are conducive environments for traffickers due to the increase in tourism, media attention and distractions that can help in the disguise of signs and full awareness of the sex-trafficking that is taking place.

Women and minors may be required to have sex with anywhere from 6-7 men on average per night and that number more than likely doubles with the amount of tourism that a particular city or state brings with events such as the Super Bowl, The Olympics or others.

Text overlaid on football field: "The Super Bowl is commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States. The A21 Campaign. Become a voice. #ShockingTruth
Last year, The U.S. Department of State released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report in which the general statistics of human trafficking and sex-trafficking specifically mirror those of other advocacy organizations and research groups on the subject. Unfortunately, because the trafficking that takes place at these events are so subtle and hard to identify there is not a lot of hard-data to draw the direct correlation between sex-trafficking and major sporting events but it does not mean that it does not exist.

In 2014, the Polaris Project provided state ratings on human trafficking laws: 37 states passed new laws to fight human trafficking in the past year and 12 states have failed to make minimum efforts to pass laws that support victims. This is where major issues arise when it comes to rescuing victims and even further identify traffickers. We are continuously viewing and casting off victims of human trafficking as criminals which in return tends to be a strategy and tactic of traffickers themselves. It is important for the industry to continue to evolve in new ways by casting off victims as if they are criminals, leaving all eyes off of them and the underlying work that is really being done.

Hands in chains reaching through the bars of a football helmet facemaskIn Arizona, where the Super Bowl is being held this year, many activist and advocacy groups are working together to ensure that people are aware of the signs. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee publicizes its efforts in addressing human trafficking making it evident that it is a very real and prominent issue. They have made mention to the efforts to train volunteers and law enforcement representatives to prepare the community as to what to look for and what to do. There is also a hotline number set up for suspicious activities to be reported during the event.

The Polaris Project says that there are two primary factors that drive the spread of human trafficking: high profits and low risk. Based on the economic principles of supply and demand traffickers continue to generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people.

It is becoming widely known that the Super Bowl and other major sporting events breed the environment where traffickers capitalize on opportunities to make more money in this grossly, multi-billion dollar industry. But are we doing enough about it?

Most states hosting major sporting events identify that human trafficking is an issue and often times will put out a report on the dangers of human trafficking right before the event. They also assign task forces and put together special committees specific to the particular sporting event. But is that enough?
Football, helmets on field. Text: Whose side are you playing for? Will you be a game changer? Help us end it.
The challenge in identifying human trafficking is difficult enough on an everyday basis for most law enforcement officials as it is subtle and traffickers are coming up with new ways to evolve the industry. Therefore, it is likely that it becomes even more difficult to identify human trafficking in the flux of “hip-hip hooray” and large crowds.

Long live the game of football and all the camaraderie that comes from it, but long gone are the days where we can keep silent about the other events taking place while the main event is carrying on.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Friday Fruit (01/23/15)

Clergy Die-In
Photo: Ronald Sachs/Bend the Arc
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK: Dream on Dreamer

Pastor Karen Cook
The following is adapted from a sermon in honor of  the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by Rev. Karen Cook, who serves at the UM Church for All People. As good as it is in print, you'll just have to imagine it preached (PREACHED!) by Rev. Cook as you read. 

He was one of the youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph the dreamer.  You don’t have to respond but just think on these questions.  How many of you dream?  What will it take for us to just let go and dream?  Why do dreams puzzle us?  What make a dream a good dream or a bad dream?  

Dream on Dreamer.   

Joseph had these two dreams and he made the mistake of sharing these dreams with his brothers. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” (Genesis 37:6-7)

I didn’t have brothers or sisters but I can just image with my minds eye some jealousy was rearing its ugly head. How dare Joseph have the audacity share this dream with his brothers, his half brothers at that.  Before Joseph’s brothers could recover from the shock of his first dream he told them about the second dream.  

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Gen. 37:9) Not only did the brothers react but daddy had something to say this time.  “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?”  (Gen. 37:10) 

Dream on Dreamer.

MLK Gives a speech, arm outstretched
It was on a hot Wednesday, August 28, 1963, that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed for all American and all of the world to hear: 
"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood... 
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
Dream on Dreamer.

Beloved if God has given you a dream, rumors can’t kill it. Dream on. Gossip can’t silence it. Dream on. Your past can’t abort it. Dream on dreamer, dream on.


Let me pause here for just a moment. I know that some of us will celebrate this day by attending the nations largest breakfast honoring the rich legacy of Dr. King.  Some of us will be catching up on work left undone around the house.  Some of us will be hitting the malls taking advantage of the many sales that happen on this day.  Some of us will be worrying about how we will pay that next bill, feed our family, worry about a roof over our heads.

MLK Day of Service: A Day On, Not a Day Off!However you chose to spend the 3rd Monday in January, I want to invite you to reflect on the dream that God gave you.  But you say "preacher, God hasn’t given me a dream"—beloved if you are here today, God has given you a dream.  Sometimes our dreams are blocked, blocked by our past a past that covered up the dream.  Blocked by substance abuse, that clouds the dream.  Blocked by insecurities that nullifies the dream.  

Blocked by jealously that distorts the dream.  Blocked by pettiness, backbiting, unforgiveness, disobedience, and hatefulness, beloved all of that defers the dream.  

Dream on Dreamer.  

Joseph’s half brother Reuben said, “let’ not kill him; let’s defer him.” Other brothers said, “Let’s sell him into slavery, and file him away in that part of the memory bank labeled deferred and forgotten.  
And we will see what will become of his dreams.”

Joseph’s brothers made a big mistake.  

Joseph tells his brothers about his dreamsThey didn’t know that the Dream-Giver was using what they meant for evil would be used to bring about the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream. They didn’t know that God was using the evil to fortify Joseph and his faith for that moment when Joseph’s own brothers would come to his doorstep begging for bread.  

Because Joseph waited on God, he had been allowed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Because he had trusted the God who gave him this dream; that same God had taken those same dreams that people said couldn’t and wouldn’t never be; and brought them to fulfillment.  That same God had taken those same dreams that folk said he was uppity for dreaming and had no right to dream and turned them into living realities.  I can see Joseph as he looked at his brothers and said, 
“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

What happens when a dreamer is attacked and his or her dream deferred?  I’ll tell you what happens. The same God who gave the dream uses those hardships, uses the suffering, uses the pain, uses the obstacles which were meant to destroy God’s servants.  Hear this beloved, God will use it as a means to fortify and strengthen the dreamer.  Beloved, I know it may not feel like it now but hold on dreamer, hold on.

The bible says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

Complentative MLKHis body could be killed but neither Dr. King nor the dream itself could be destroyed because Dr. King had learned to trust the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God of Joseph, the God of his mother and father, the God who had set his soul on fire and told him, “I have set thee a watchman on the wall” (Ezekiel 3:17)

Dr. King learned that in all things God’s grace is still sufficient and God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. (Hebrews 11:34)

Dr. King knew that no matter what people said about him or did to him he could not be discredited with God, who had put on his back the multicolored robe of mercy, redemption, salvation, love, and forgiveness which had been purchased by the blood of Jesus on Calvary’s tree.

What happens when the dreamer is attacked and his or her dream deferred?  If you trust God, he will let you see the fulfillment of your dreams.

Beloved, if God has shown you a book and it says authored by________, yet you don’t have a computer or a laptop, or an iPad, baby write that thing out long hand. 

Dream on Dreamer.

If God has put a song in your heart and a melody in your soul, yet you can’t play a lick, baby write down those words and keep humming that melody.  

Dream on Dreamer.

If you are the best cook this side of Parsons Ave. and you see yourself in your own restaurant, baby keep on cooking.  

Dream on Dreamer.

If God has called you to teach, yet you don’t have a degree don’t let that stop you, teach baby teach. Teach your children, teach your grandchildren, teach in Sunday School, teach a bible study. 

Dream on Dreamer.

There maybe one here today, your dream has been laying dormant for many years. If that is you, today starts your journey of fulfilling your dream. I need somebody to shout…I’m getting my dream back!

Dream on Dreamer!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Fruit (01/16/15)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity
for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Post-Post-Racial Society

Word art: Welcome to the post-post-racial world
Even before President Obama was elected, much of American society was declaring ourselves 'post-racial.' The country seemed so much better than it was in the Jim  Crow era. Surely we had reached a point where race no longer mattered!

This was a dangerous, head-in-the-sand mentality that ignored the realities of a highly racialized society. One in which racism had evolved from an era of overt segregation and discrimination to one that was more sneaky and covert. Racism survived and thrived by staying under the radar. More difficult to point a finger at, easier to ignore. In this way, racism permeated hearts and minds often undetected, and therefore unchecked. This was the colorblind era of racism.

While we declared 'equal opportunity' we declined job applicants that "didn't fit the company atmosphere." While we abolished redlining, we targeted sub-prime mortgages to those who "seemed higher risk." While we proclaimed peace and harmony, we arrested anyone that "fit the profile."

Political cartoon: post racial Obama sworn in, post-post-racial Obama sworn ATBut we didn't see race.

We lived in a colorblind society. And this mindset may predominate even still. Even after all of the
prominent racism of the last year. Even after all the deaths, all the protests, and all the publicity, some may still see our society that way

Or perhaps we are entering a new era. Bloggers writing their think-pieces. Churches hosting awkward talk-back sessions. Schools organizing public forums. Companies releasing public statements. Perhaps we are now moving into a post-post-racial society.

And I'm not entirely sure what that means. It might not be any better. Racism has a vile way of evolving with its surroundings to perpetuate its own survival. What would that look like in a post-post-racial society?

Lucy van Pelt: If life seems to have more questions than answers, try to be the one who asks the questionsIf we have indeed begun a 'national conversation on race' will it be helpful? Will we really be able to talk our way out our country's corporate sins? Will hearts change or simply be hardened? Our society has been racially aware before. Are we capable of doing it better this time?

Or maybe we're still living the same colorblind story. Maybe in a month or two, we will all return to our cultural slumber, having learned nothing from the past years. Maybe we will double down on our notion of being post-racial, wanting to believe so badly in the lie.

So, what might a post-post-racial consciousness in the United States look like? Or has colorblindness-era not fully played itself out yet in this country? Can we predict the next strategy that racism will use as it evolves?

In short, I pose the questions to my readers: what's next?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Friday Fruit (01/09/15)

Video by @SideHustleStory
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Stay Proactive, Stay Vocal, Stay Consistent

It is essential that the Church learn from its past and and from the heightened racial
awareness that seems to have taken hold in the United States.  It’s easy to want to settle back into colorblindness or complacency. But the nation’s racial challenges aren’t over—they’ve just barely begun.

It’s tempting to just ‘keep the peace’ and to move on. This drive is particularly strong in our churches where we believe if we just bury our differences they will somehow disappear. We’d often rather hide behind a veneer of harmony than do the hard work of truly overcoming our divisions.  We’d rather project a polished image that belies our underlying isolation and pain than walk in the Light as examples of Christ’s capacity to redeem our brokenness.

But the Church has learned that this is a faulty strategy, one that simply avoids discomfort without forging steadfast love through trials and challenges. These past years have brought out our issues, so let’s work on them. Avoiding discomfort isn’t a healthy or effective way of forging meaningful relationship.

If we pretend like we have it all together, we’re only play-acting our roles as the abiding family of Christ. Instead, let us wrestle through our struggles together as the Body of Christ, sharing God’s light as we live into our salvation.

To forge a new future, we must rest in the tensions of the moment while remaining diligent in the work that lies ahead. Thus, as we look to the new year, we must:


Stay proactive
Church must be engaged in the ongoing work of racial justice and reconciliation, whether or not it’s in the headlines. The conversations must be happening from the pulpits and at our dinner tables throughout the year. Just as we serve a cross-cultural God and read a multicultural Gospel, we must infuse a culture of radical inclusivity into our congregational habits. The foundations of mutual trust and understanding, must be established and well maintained. Because when the national crisis comes, it’s already too late.

Stay vocal
As we in the Church learn to abide with one another within our walls, we must proclaim our message of redemption to the world. We must call on our neighbors and our leaders to enact the changes necessary for a lasting transformation in our communities. Rather than crafting carefully worded public statements about peace and unity in times of crisis, we can speak prophetically about God’s call to justice and reconciliation. We can make ourselves heard to our politicians, to our neighbors, and to our families, and in doing so bear witness to the profound effect of Christ in our lives.

Stay consistent
For the Church to be a beacon of hope in a broken world, we must constantly be the voice of justice for the oppressed. We cannot take up the cause only when it is trendy, or when there is social pressure to speak out. When the world sees hearts that are steadfast in their commitment to God’s people, it sends a message of God’s enduring love and of a Gospel with the power to restore all things.



The Church has the potential to embody God’s great Reconciliation if we will only step out from our instinct of self-preservation and our pretense of having it all figured out. It’s tempting to pretend that there are no divisions. It’s tempting to revert to old habits. It is tempting to sit back and wait for the next headline. But the Church cannot afford to do that.
Stay consistent. Stay vocal. Stay proactive. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Friday Fruit (01/02/15)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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