Health is Wealth

Health is Wealth

In the middle of lively conversation over dinner with a friend recently, he paused, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath while placing his hand over his chest. The pain was evident on his face. When I asked what was wrong, he shared that he had been experiencing chest pains and fatigue with regular occurrence.

“Have you been to the doctor?” I asked.

“Nah. It’s probably anxiety. I’ve been stressed at work lately.”

We talked honestly about the severity of his symptoms and when they started. And because we’re cool, I asked about the results from his latest physical examination. Turns out, not only had he not seen a doctor about his recent episodes, he had not had a regular check-up in three years. I urged him to go to the doctor as soon as possible in the event that his symptoms were evidence of a significant illness.

Health is wealth.

African Proverb

If health is wealth, and it is, then many African Americans are guilty of not knowing the balance in our accounts. Meaning, annual check-ups and preventative care are not what we do. For my friend, it was a perceived lack of time that moved annual doctor’s visits to the bottom of his list of priorities. I can identify with him. While I do not skip my annual visits to my primary care physician and gynecologist, often when I am sick, I ignore the symptoms. My husband has to gently encourage me to call the doctor. Between keeping up home, shuttling our girls to their activities, ministry, and work, who has time to sit in a waiting room for hours?

For others, lack of insurance coverage, fear of disease, and historic exploitation of black bodies in medical science that fostered a distrust of doctors keeps them from scheduling preventative exams and following up on symptoms. The reality is that preventative care costs less than treating a preventable disease and browsing Dr. Google can invoke more fear that having concrete information and making informed decisions about your health. There is also the systemic racism, trauma and devaluing of our bodies that African Americans have and continue to face — experiences that have caused us to normalize pain to the point that we ignore the signs when our bodies are suffering. I am reminded of the woman recorded in Luke 13:10-17 who was bent over for eighteen years. The Bible does not tell us that at any point she sought healing. She went about her business living in chronic pain until Jesus saw her and healed her.

We are living in grind culture, where many of us skimp on sleep and spend countless hours scrolling on devices while eating conveniently packaged foods packed with sodium, fat, and sugar. And although African Americans are living longer in general, reports show that younger African Americans (18-49) are afflicted with and dying of treatable diseases like heart disease, stroke, and complications from diabetes at an alarming rate, according to the CDC. In fact, younger African Americans are living with diseases that commonly affected older adults. The stressors from unemployment, underemployment, poverty, and lack of access to healthcare negatively impacts their health. We are living longer, but we are getting sick earlier.

I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.

Psalm 118:17 (NRSV)

What are we to do? The first thing is to make a decision to live. Part of that decision is to make annual physical examinations a priority. As the proverb goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I schedule all of my appointments—annual physical, gynecological exam, mammogram, and eye examination around my birthday. Doing so helps me to remember my appointments and also helps me to recognize the blessed gift of life that God has given me to steward.  The other part of that decision to live is to listen to our bodies and to follow up with a doctor if even the slightest thing is off, with the recognition that we are worthy of care and that we do not have to live with chronic pain and disease.

Because our health is so valuable and important, I would suggest finding doctors that you feel comfortable with, that you can trust, and that are sensitive to your particular needs. Word of mouth from family, friends, and coworkers is the best way to find a good doctor. Developing a relationship with a doctor will also allow them to know your baseline levels, recognize patterns in your health, and know immediately when something needs additional attention.

The bottom line is that we have to see our doctors as if our lives depend on it…because they do. Whether you need to cram in a visit to the health center in-between college classes or you are scheduling your very first mammogram, here’s a list of the exams you need by decade, courtesy of Tri-City Medical Center:

For informational purposes only. The information in this article is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.


Rev. Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah is a preacher, chaplain, teacher, artist, writer, thinker, and dreamer who loves to study the Word of God, encourage others, and worship God. Rev. Owusu-Ansah holds a BS in Studio Art from New York University, an MFA in Photography from Howard University, and a Master of Divinity, Pastoral Theology, from Drew University. You can check out her website at https://www.reverendmotherrunner.com.

A Chance at Redemption

A Chance at Redemption

One of the marks of a Christian is how we treat the most vulnerable in society. Even Jesus remarked that when we feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, provide clothing for the naked and visit those who are sick and in prison, it is as if we are serving him. Well, Van Jones isn’t just visiting prison, but in the CNN Original Series “The Redemption Project with Van Jones,” premiering on April 28th through the restorative justice process, he connects victims or surviving families with those who caused great violence in their lives for a chance of experiencing redemption, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

I can’t front. I became teary watching The Redemption Project with Van Jones. The pain is palpable, the responses are raw and yet healing. The show, with its focus on redemption, grace, and forgiveness, is a much-needed balm at a time where vitriol is fired off 280 characters at a time. 

“I’ve just been so saddened by the exit from our culture of empathy, of forgiveness, of grace, of love, of second chances. It’s in all political parties. It’s in all racial groups, economic groups. It’s so trendy and fashionable to block people and cancel people and flame people and be the 4000th person to retweet something negative about somebody. Just this pile on, nasty culture and we really wanted to do something that was 180º in the other direction,” said Jones.

Uplift it does. Each episode chronicles the restorative justice process of a victim or surviving family with the offender whose actions changed the course of their lives. It’s risky, to say the least, but as the late filmmaker and activist Toni Cade Bambara famously said, “…wholeness is no trifling matter.” It takes great courage and strength. The victims, surviving families, and offenders alike have to dig deep within, confront painful truths, and open themselves to healing even if it does not come in the ways they anticipate. Don’t expect a happy ending every time; The Redemption Project is unscripted and unrehearsed. Sometimes there is forgiveness. Always there is healing.

Van took some time to talk with Urban Faith about the need for empathy in our nation, his personal faith journey and how it connects with The Redemption Project, and why this show is necessary for such a time as this.



How did this project come about? Why now?

For 25 years I’ve been working inside of prisons. I know that somebody can go into a prison and just be a horrifically misguided human being and ten years later, twenty years later, not because of prison, but really in spite of prison, have transformed themselves into someone who has more wisdom and more strength than 99% people who are not in prison. And so, I knew that we have these diamonds sparkling inside of our prisons and that people don’t know. And then when I see how foolishly we have been conducting ourselves outside of prison, having so much data, and so little wisdom in our society. We can now know everything about somebody – with Facebook and YouTube, somebody can whip out their cell phone or camera phone and get on and boom, everybody’s mad. We have all this data, but we have no wisdom to process all that. And if we’re going to have this much information about people, we need to have a more empathetic and understanding culture. And so, I’m trying to push in that direction. That’s the secret agenda.

That’s the secret agenda! I love it! So, the show really shows the worst in humanity as you tell the story of what happened and then delves deeper into the stories of people so that we as viewers can bear witness to the best in humanity. The focus on humanity, being in the same room, making eye contact, and physical touch, how important was it for you to show the humanity of those who folks have written off as inhumane?

The show works because you take people who you would ordinarily just write off and you complicate it, and you begin to show this person was eating out of garbage cans when they were fourteen and you certainly start seeing these people in a different way. Not to give excuses for anybody’s choices because there were other people eating out of garbage cans who didn’t make that choice. But it is to give context. And it is to try to color in some of the humanity. In the way the show works, you take somebody who has done something really bad and who wants to make amends 10 years later, 20 years later and then you take somebody who they hurt—or all too often the surviving family member—and you talk to them and everything they have gone through. You put those people in a room together and let them talk to each other. When that happens, we don’t know how it’s going to work out, but it is a situation where miracles have happened on our show.

I’m glad you used the word miracle. Because as beautifully human as it is, it’s also deeply spiritual work. There was the episode with Teria and Josh, where the Restorative Justice facilitator says, “There is healing. People are lighter.” Throughout the show, you have your themes; redemption, restoration, healing, forgiveness, wholeness, and all of that. As I watched, I thought this is big. This is us in all of our humanity, and yet at the same time, it is bigger than us. Can you talk about the role of faith and spirituality in the project—both your personal faith journey and the role of faith in the lives of the victims or surviving families and the offenders.

Well, I can only speak for myself. I grew up in the church. My grandfather was a Senior Bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), Bishop Chester Arthur Kirkendoll. I’m his grandson and I grew up in the church and that’s been my touchstone. In my teenage years and early 20s, I got away from it but came quickly back home. Nine times out of 10, the people who are participating in our series, once you scratch the surface, they are also people of faith on both sides. Because you gotta think, who would be willing to even extend the opportunity to have a conversation in these contexts on either side. It’s usually people of faith. Now, not everybody involved in the show is a person of faith, but I know that for me, I insisted—and I didn’t have to fight that hard—but I thought it was very important that the people be able to speak and say, “Listen, I’m praying to God right now” or “I’m doing this because of Scripture” and you’ll probably hear the word God more on my little one hour show than on all of the rest of cable TV combined that week because our culture has become so secular. But this is a case where people’s spiritual journey was key on both sides of the table.


Van Jones


That makes a lot of sense. Because you can feel that. It’s palpable when you watch the show and I’m sure that it was also palpable as you journeyed with each story. You do a lot of work in preparation, but at the time of the sit-down, you are not present in the room. And I wondered, is that an intentional decision? Talk about the decision not to be in the room.

When you’re dealing with stuff of this magnitude it takes a lot of preparation. It takes very skillful facilitators. Even before they sit down, they have to write letters and they really go through a lot because they’re taking a huge risk, emotionally with everybody involved. I don’t have that training and it’s not appropriate for me to be there just because I have a TV show. But I am in the next room over. I’m watching it on the monitor. And we realize that me watching it is actually a part of the show because…by the time we have those folks sitting down talking to each other, I have spent hours and hours with each one separately. And so, I’m pulling for each one. I’m nervous. The first time we did it, after it was over, I cried so hard that my nose started bleeding because my blood pressure was so high and it was just so stressful. But what I love about this show, it’s the opposite of the “True Crime” genre. Everybody loves True Crime, but True Crime is basically Whodunit. In this situation, it’s almost like once you figure out Whodunit, you’re done. Even once you know Whodunit, you’re still suffering 10 years later, 20 years later. What do we do then to have people take at least one more step towards healing? We show that part of the process, which is even more powerful.

As I watched you in the other room, I noticed at times that your eyes were closed. I think it was the episode with Donald Lacey and Mike, I was teary watching it and I wondered how you prepare yourself even for that moment?

You know, sometimes you’re not prepared (chuckles). I wish I could lie and say I was prepared. I’m in there boohooing and stressed out. I’m not any more prepared than anybody else. But you show up and you try. And sometimes there’s a presence that enters the room and everybody can tell when something really extraordinary is happening. Listen, two of the surviving parents, as I’ve said many times, do not get to a warm fuzzy place with the person who took their child’s life. But they still get some of their needs met because they get information they never had, they get questions answered they’ve always had, so there’s still a step towards their healing. But in three of these, the surviving family members and/or the victims try to get the person out of prison. So, you have the whole range of human response to pain and tragedy in these eight episodes. Because it’s real. This is not reality television. There are no scripts. There’s nobody getting prompted. There’s nobody getting paid. This is literally people making the most vulnerable moment of their lives, sharing that with the person who changed their life, one way or the other.


Seeing Donald Lacey at the beginning of the episode you hear him say, “I just wanted revenge” and then by the end you’re seeing this beautiful embrace…

(Laughs) Don’t give away all the goodies now!

We won’t give away all the goodies. Even me saying that little bit is really just a snippet. I think folks need to see this show.

I’m just giving you a hard time because there’s beautiful stuff that happens, there’s bad stuff that happens. There’s a moment in that show that I think is the most heartbreaking moment in the whole series even though at the end of the day things take a turn. Because it’s so real and you can’t script it because, literally, who knows. We’ve had people who swore to God they didn’t want to have the conversation; they were ready to forgive and then they couldn’t do it. Once they say down and saw that person, they couldn’t do it. We’ve had other people who’ve sworn to God they wouldn’t even shake the person’s hand and they went the other way. It’s just an amazing experience. The only thing I want to add is that this is my life. Ok. You have the Van Jones Show that I have every other Saturday. I call that Sesame Street for grown people. I’m trying to have meaningful conversations. I don’t care if I never go viral or don’t have the greatest ratings in the history of the world. If we can have a meaningful conversation with somebody in public life and let them talk about who they really are, that’s what I’m trying to do…the Redemption Project. Also the Reform Alliance, with Jay Z, Meek Mill, and about half a dozen other heavy hitters put together to try to fix our court system, our criminal justice system. I love working with the Reform Alliance because we’re bringing Republicans and Democrats together. I’m a strong Democrat and I’ll vote Democrat for the rest of my life, but I don’t believe any one party is perfect. I don’t believe we can get anywhere without each other and we have just gone too far in a negative direction. Obviously, I’m going to stick up for mamas getting their babies snatched at the border and transgender people being mistreated. You can’t just fight and still have a country. You have to find something you can work on together. I want to be as passionate and excited about where I do agree with Republicans as where I don’t. If we can agree that the criminal justice system should be fixed, if we can agree that addiction and mental health are big issues, if we can agree that poor kids need more help—we many see differently how to help them—but if we can agree on that, let me be as excited working with you where I agree with you as I am working against you where I don’t. And we’ve now come to a place where we can be excited when we’re mad and what we’re against, but we can’t be excited about what we’re for and that’s wrong. So, I’m hoping this show will add some medicine.


Van Jones on the Black Church, forgiveness, grace, and the first Emanuel service
after Charleston.

The Redemption Project with Van Jones premieres on CNN on Sunday, April 28th and will air on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT.


Rev. Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah is a preacher, chaplain, teacher, artist, writer, thinker, and dreamer who loves to study the Word of God, encourage others, and worship God. Rev. Owusu-Ansah holds a BS in Studio Art from New York University, an MFA in Photography from Howard University, and a Master of Divinity, Pastoral Theology, from Drew University. You can check out her website at https://www.reverendmotherrunner.com.

‘The Best of Enemies’: What Happens When a Klansman and an Activist Talk it Out?

‘The Best of Enemies’: What Happens When a Klansman and an Activist Talk it Out?

Video Courtesy of STX Entertainment


Warning: This post contains spoilers for the film The Best of Enemies.

I did not know what to expect from the film The Best of Enemies, but what I experienced was a range of emotions—disbelief, pride, anger, discomfort, and finally, hope. If it were not based on the true story of the fight for school integration in Durham, North Carolina in 1971, I would have had a difficult time believing the events of the 2019 film, The Best of Enemies directed by Robin Bissell. That is not to say that Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell did not offer compelling performances as civil rights leader Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis—because they did—but the notion of deep-seated and systemic racial oppression being rectified through charrette, the meetings held for the community to resolve the issue of school segregation, co-chaired by a civil rights activist and the local KKK leader is incredulous. Yet, it is true. Based on the book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South, the film portrays the unlikely beginnings of a lasting camaraderie between Atwater and Ellis. Throughout the film, viewers are presented with Black pain, Black resilience, Black joy, and the hope that justice will prevail, which it does very neatly in the end. Despite the ending, the issues addressed in The Best of Enemies felt eerily familiar as America is still plagued with systemic racism in housing, healthcare, education, and employment that affects the lived experience of Black people across the United States.

What felt true as I watched The Best of Enemies was the prominent role that Black women, particularly women of faith, play in the fight for social justice. Academy Award-winning actress  Taraji P. Henson, in her role as Anne Atwater, embodies a kind of holy courage. The film highlights the most notable work of Atwater in the desegregation of Durham Public Schools, however, she was known for more than the events depicted in the film. Atwater was a generous organizer who leads the charge for Black and poor people in the community over several decades. She lent her voice in the face of great evil, stating, “God gave me the gift to reach out and touch.”  Atwater is part of the great cloud of witnesses of Black women whose faith informs their activism and understanding of the humanity of all people, including Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, and Prathia Hall. This faith informed justice is still being witnessed in the life and work of Rev. Traci Blackmon who serves as Executive Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ, Rev. Jennifer Bailey of the Faith Matters Network, Rev. Neichelle R. Guidry, Dean of Sisters Chapel at Spelman College, and many more who, like Atwater, are getting in the way of racism, sexism, and disparities in healthcare, economics, employment and education.

What also felt true and frightening as I watched The Best of Enemies was the relationship between White Nationalism and White Christianity and the systemic support of racialized oppression. The acting in the film had such depth that it felt all too real. The closing prayer offered at the KKK meeting left me squirming in my seat. I had a visceral reaction every time there was an exchange between Ellis (Rockwell) and members of the city government showing the way in which the government was in bed with the KKK and other White supremacists. I was maddened every time Atwater testified before the all-White, all-male city council as one member blatantly disregarded her by turning his chair so his back would be to her as she spoke. I was infuriated when Ellis was hand chosen by the Mayor (Bruce McGill) to steer the charrette in such a way that so that school segregation would continue to be enforced remarking, “He’s about to hand you the keys to school integration and you’re going to lock the door.” Days after the screening, I was still unsettled. While the costumes, hair, make-up, and set design transport viewers to 1971, I was sitting with the fact that these are not solely historical realities, but rather issues that are alive and present today. There is still a strong relationship between Christian supremacy and White supremacy in the United States.  And a quick glance at the headlines shows institutional racism is present in our local, state and national governments in 2019. From Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam admitting to President Donald Trump’s clarion call to Make America Great Again alongside statements and policies that devalue Black and Brown people, it is evident in the film and today that the fight for justice is rigged.

As much as I enjoyed The Best of Enemies, it was not above critique. In my estimation, the glossy cinematography and upbeat score did not jibe well with the grit and tenor of events. There was a cognitive dissonance present as my eyes and ears were stimulated against the backdrop of racism, especially the heinous words and actions of Ellis and the Ku Klux Klan members. Also, the conversion of Ellis’ ideals, as the Black Gospel choir sang, “God is Tryna Tell You Something” is an overused trope in film that adds to the sanitization, saccharization, and oversimplification of the work of racial reconciliation and redemption. There was no conversation at the KKK meeting as Ellis led the prayer for God to bless the “Invisible Empire” early in the film. There was no conversion as Atwater reminds Ellis “Same God made you, made me” in the parking lot after a charrette. The scene where Ellis has a change of heart after witnessing Black bodies joyfully singing to God, I would argue, dangerously puts the onus on Black people to do the heavy lifting in the work of justice while making a joyful noise despite their pain. Dismantling racism is going to take a lot more than Black folk ushering White people into the presence of God, rather it requires White people facing their own privilege and power and truly recognizing and living out an ethic that all are created in the image and likeness of God, a point that was missed in the film.

The Best of Enemies is a film that arouses a range of emotions but leaves the audience feeling hopeful. This story of expected and unexpected courage, civility and camaraderie in the plight to desegregate Durham Public Schools in 1971 is a must see. And for me, the film piqued my curiosity about the lives of Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis and the ways in which their story can be studied, adapted, and replicated in the continued plight to dismantle racism, sexism, and other injustices that plague American society.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rev. Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah is a preacher, chaplain, teacher, artist, writer, thinker, and dreamer who loves to study the Word of God, encourage others, and worship God. Rev. Owusu-Ansah holds a BS in Studio Art from New York University, an MFA in Photography from Howard University, and a Master of Divinity, Pastoral Theology, from Drew University. You can check out her website at https://www.reverendmotherrunner.com.

‘The Best of Enemies’ Interview with Bill Riddick

UrbanFaith.com Chats with actor Bill Riddick from Urban Faith on Vimeo.


If not for the movie The Best of Enemies, W.L. “Bill” Riddick would be relatively unknown. I attended a screening for The Best of Enemies, starring Taraji P. Hensen and Sam Rockwell, and was enchanted by Bill’s character commandingly portrayed by British actor Babou Ceesay. I jumped at the chance to speak with Bill—to hear his story, how his Christian faith informs his work, and if his use of a collaborative process known as charrette (to unite opposing sides) could be used to solve conflict in these times of racial, gender, economic, and educational injustice.

A humble man, Riddick is an unsung hero who leads a charrette co-chaired by an unlikely pair — civil rights activist Ann Atwater and KKK leader C.P. Ellis — in the desegregation of the Durham Public Schools in 1971. With a career in human services that spans over fifty years, Bill’s story did not start or end with the charrette in Durham in 1971.

For those of our readers who may be unfamiliar with you, tell us, who is Bill Riddick?

Bill Riddick is a man born in the ’30s. My parents were tenant farmers. I got the opportunity to go to A&T State University, worked for a couple of years,  and then went back to NC State University for a Masters Degree and then started a career. I spent my last eighteen years at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill working in student health. So, he’s a good guy. A Christian man who has a lovely family and all is well right now.

I was going to ask this later, but I’ll ask now. Can you share how your faith has informed your work throughout the years?

Like most Southerners, I grew up in the church because it’s the only social institution in the community. I kind of lost my way for a few years and when the charette started, my faith was there, but my behavior wasn’t there. So when I look back on it, I realize that the Lord gave me every word, led me every step, gave me every idea, and He chose me as a vessel for these two people. But I didn’t ask Him at that point. But I understand it now.

You understand it now. Yes! There’s something about looking and tracing not only the trajectory of your life but also the hand of God in your life. You can see how God was moving even when you didn’t realize it. So, tell us how you became acquainted with the charette process?

I was working at Shaw University and we did a charette and it fell apart. About halfway through it the person who was leading the charette told me that I was the reason that it was falling apart. I finished it. It turned out to be good. I got invited to Indianapolis and then to York, Pennsylvania, and then, of course, to Durham.

How did you get to Durham? Who invited you? What were your expectations walking in?

I got there through a friend of mine. His name was Wilbur Hobby from the North Carolina AFL-CIO. We had made a good friendship in some other work we had done together. When he called me, I knew it was serious. I knew that he was asking me to do something that was impossible because he was just that kind of guy. (chuckles) I had some reservations about it, but I knew that he was a good person and he wouldn’t put me in anything he thought I could not do. So that gave me the energy to sort this thing out.

So did you think it would work? 

Well, in doing a charette, the first thing you do is put together a steering committee. And once you get the steering committee, you then look at the opposite of the issue. And that’s how I got to Ann and that’s how I got to C.P. I got to CP because he knew Wilbur. And when I called Wilbur’s name, he gained enough respect to call me other than what he did. (chuckles) But at least he knew that I had somebody in my history, or in my present life, that was a friend to both of us.

What would you say the film got right and what didn’t we see in the film that you think was important to the process?

I think the film got the major points right. This whole movie is real. Robin Bissell did a great job of picking the parts that were big parts and had to be shown to the public. But to have gotten one day of the back and forth, and how we had to argue about stuff, especially those first four or five days, would have been something the audience would enjoy. But that would have been a three-hour movie by itself.

As I watched the film, I kept thinking, “So I know the ending, but this is incredulous! That had to be some experience for you, but I’m sure there had to be others. So outside of Durham in 1971 what would you say the most memorable charrette was and what made it memorable?

Well, if I take Durham out of it, I really enjoyed the one in Indianapolis. We got the community together to offer what it would look like in a low-wealth community. And that school, the way we designed it started at 6 o’clock in the morning and ended at 11:00 with women bringing “well”  babies to the clinic and all that stuff. I have no idea whether all that was accomplished, but the city was very pleased with what we had done to put together a high school that served the community—where people didn’t have to go downtown for services.

I read your bio and I know a little bit about your background and it sounds like you’ve done amazing work, hands-on Justice work, which is still much needed. We’re still living in very tense times, and there are disparities across race, gender, socioeconomic status, healthcare, education and more. Do you think that a charrette is a tool that can still be used today, and if so, in what ways?

Well, the charrette was set up to be a 10-day process. Nobody in America today would have time to do anything for 10 straight days. That’s not going to happen. I do think, though, that the issue of bringing people together to look at the same problem but who see it very differently is something that we are going to have to start doing in our country. We bark at each other, but we don’t sit down and truly listen to what the other person is saying. That was the intent of the charrette; That we will listen and respond and listen and respond until we come up with a solution. We just don’t have the attitude, nor the time, to do that kind of thing today.

As you were saying that, I was thinking of the Disciples in the Upper Room. There’s waiting and patience and willingness to bear your thoughts and feelings and deeply listen and work through the conflict that is necessary.

That is true. We’re going to have to start looking at issues that affect a lot of people and do something about it really, other than giving it lip service. And I also think the key might be the religious community. Because I honestly believe, first of all, that God is not happy with us—with the divisiveness and putting each other down. I think He is very much unhappy with that. I believe that this is a time for faith-based institutions to come together, to say, “Look, you know we can do this! We can. Not only do we have the power of God on our side, but we can do things much like the Civil Rights movement. I think if Martin King wasn’t a God-fearing man that he would not have been as successful as he was.

Yes. Absolutely. Do you have any parting words of wisdom or advice you would share with our readers who are mostly millennials—the younger generation, though I believe the oldest millennials are about thirty-nine now, so not so young. What would you share with our readers in terms of using their faith in the work of justice?

I believe that if you go to the movie and see it, you take the time the next day or two just to look at yourself in the mirror and decide what your biases are that might harm other people. Make a pledge to yourself to become a better person, to say, “I’m going to treat people the way I want to be treated—no matter what their color, age, ethnicity, and all that stuff —I am going to give everybody the right to stand on the surface that they stand on.” I think if we do that, millennials particularly won’t get caught up in these lines of disliking this person and liking this person.

To learn more about Bill and his work, check out the film The Best of Enemies in theaters in April 2019 and pick up his book The Charrette Process: A Tool in Urban Planning.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rev. Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah is a preacher, chaplain, teacher, artist, writer, thinker, and dreamer who loves to study the Word of God, encourage others, and worship God. Rev. Owusu-Ansah holds a BS in Studio Art from New York University, an MFA in Photography from Howard University, and a Master of Divinity, Pastoral Theology, from Drew University. You can check out her website at https://www.reverendmotherrunner.com.

8 Ways to Pull Yourself Up When You’re Going through Hell

8 Ways to Pull Yourself Up When You’re Going through Hell

 

We don’t mean to lie, but when someone asks us how we’re doing, it is much easier to say that we are “fine” or “blessed” than to tell the whole truth. The reality is that we are not always fine. There are times when we are going through hell. We face personal hell—conflict in close relationships, failing health, toxic work environments, financial struggle, church hurt, and other distress. If that wasn’t enough, in the age of moral decline, we are also going through hell in the social and political landscape of our lives with political maneuvering, state-sanctioned violence against Black people at the hands of police, pervasive patriarchy and gender inequality, and racial disparities in education, employment, healthcare, and housing. Even if you are not distressed personally, with increased access to information, we are constantly bombarded with bad news, which can wear on our hearts and minds. Whatever hell you are going through, we offer these eight suggestions to pull yourself up:

  1. Breathe: In times of stress and hardship, notice your breathing. Often when we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, our breathing tends to be shallow. Research has shown that deep breathing lowers stress, heart rate, and blood pressure. A simple breathing technique to try is to sit upright, shoulders relaxed, arms resting by your sides, with your eyes closed. Inhale through your nose for five counts, then exhale through your mouth for five counts, repeating this process 3-10 times. If you find yourself in a persistent state of hell, make time daily for deep breathing to help release tension and stress. Deep breathing won’t make the issues go away, but it will calm you and clear your mind to face the issues.
  2. Pray: In moments of trial, prayer is beneficial for many reasons. First, it invites us to pause and connect with God—to be reminded that we are deeply loved and are not alone. Second, prayer gives us an opportunity to release our burdens to the One who is able to bear the weight of all that we carry. Lastly, prayer reminds us that the hell we experience on earth is no comparison to the joy we will experience in the eternal presence of God, filling us with hope and power to forge ahead despite what we are facing.
  3. Phone a Friend: In addition to divine connection, human connection is vital to our well-being. In particularly burdensome times, talking with a friend—whether via text, telephone, or in person—has a way of lifting your spirits. Be sure to connect with friends who will listen deeply and empathize with you; I am reminded of the story of Job in the Bible when he was going through hell and his friends showed up. They cried with him and sat with him in his pain. Their presence comforted him greatly and did not become a nuisance until later in the story when they began to insert their thoughts and opinions about what he was going through instead of simply being with him.
  4. Play: In our culture and society, play is viewed as children’s business or trivial, but I would argue that play and movement are necessary for well-being, especially when in the midst of hardship. Think about it: In elementary school, even the most stressful days and bickering amongst friends was cured by a game of kickball, double-dutch, or running around on the jungle gym. Recreation has a way of creating us again and invigorating us for life. My preferred play is running. Join a pick-up game of basketball, head to the bowling alley with friends, or dance with reckless abandon with your children. Whatever you do, allow yourself to engage in an activity that brings you joy and gets you moving!
  5. Count Your Blessings: There is something about a posture of gratitude that helps to encourage us. When going through hell and everything seems to be going wrong, recounting the aspects of life that are going well and the people and things we are grateful for is an instant mood lifter. There is a saying, “I have more to be thankful for than to complain about” and when we think about and name our blessings, the pressure of our problems is allayed.
  6. Repeat a Mantra: Mantras are typically not associated with Christianity; however the word mantra simply means to think. It is a thought, word or phrase repeated to inspire, motivate, ground, or calm an individual. A mantra can be a quotation from Scripture that encourages you to persevere through tough times or a phrase that cultivates and strengthens your faith and resolve in times of suffering. I have a friend who when faced with obstacles that appear insurmountable repeats the mantra, “God is bigger!” It’s has helped her get through many distressing situations.
  7. Extend Yourself Grace: Sometimes we can be especially hard on ourselves, even when we are going through difficult times. The reality is that the expectations we have of ourselves we would never have of others if they found themselves in situations that mirror our own. When I am going through hell, trying to keep things together, I find it helpful to treat myself the way I would treat a friend. This means reminding myself that I’m doing the best I can or permitting myself to rest. It also means speaking kindly to myself when I fall short.
  8. Recognize that this is temporary: In the moment, it often feels like the hellish experiences that we are having will last forever, but the operative word in the phrase going through hell is “Going.” When facing various trials and tribulations, it is important to remember that where we are is not where we’ll always be; There will come a day when this hell will be a distant memory, and a testament to your grace, strength, resilience, and resolve.