Monday, January 18, 2010

New Beginnings!

Kasim Reed, newly elected Mayor of Atlanta, GA giving his inaugural address at the Civic Center on January 4, 2010. This was the last stop I had before I headed to the airport to return to Chicago, IL. I wanted to be present on that historic day. I trust that his tenure will be a blessing to the citizens of Atlanta and for him.

Kasim Reed being sworn in by Justice Carol W. Hunstein, Georgia Supreme Court. His parents appear at his right with their hands also on the same Bible that Kasim has his hand on. I love the symbolism.

Dare to Claim the Sky! - Maya Angelou - Her words say it all!

New Beginnings
A new year always gives me such motivation to begin anew, new projects and new ways of thinking and being. Sometimes it is the small things that get us ready for the bigger things. Already I have organized my apartment by putting up venetian blinds and curtains in my bedroom and the office. I have organized a cork board for my earrings. I have replaced my broken watch and begun to repair my scratched CDs with a gel designed for this purpose (it actually works!). I have purchased a couple of photo albums to hold photos that I need to return to their owners along with apologies.

Probably the biggest initiatives I have undertaken are: counseling, voice lessons, singing lessons and joining the gym. All of these efforts reflect my commitment to self care. I have no concern that I will drop these endeavors because with the exception of the singing lessons which I have not begun, all the others are well under way. The sense of exhileration I feel escalates my sense of well being. I am grateful for small things. So while I have not been elected Mayor as Kasim Reed recently was I am off to a wonderful beginning for 2010.

Yet, some individuals have difficulty making a difference in their own lives, let alone in the larger world. Sometimes the problem is figuring out how to make the difference stick. I have included excerpts from a book that I would like to pass on. I am usually very good about sources but I do not seem to have the authors name or the name of the book. If anyone is familiar with this information please send it in to me. I highlight the author's work with with minor edits from me on ways to approach decision making in your life:

Raise Your Awareness
- Mistakes have to be: common, identifiable, preventable. We have to develop the ability to recognize poor thinking and second rate decision making in ourselves and in others. Incomplete information and a lot of uncertainty leads to poor outcomes. How many times do we have to go down the same path before we finally realize the outcome is always the same?

Put Yourself in the Shoes of Others - Successful leaders are empathetic! Kasim Reed did not get where he is by being a poor listerner and leader. By putting yourself in the shoes of others, not only will you develop the ability to empathize but you will become more aware of decision making processes employed by individuals that you can add to your repertoire. The very act of emphathy allows you to pay more attention and extend caring behavior to others which allows individuals the ability to open up, thus providing insights for you. It is a win win situation. It will also allow you to live more deeply in your own life by having developing a greater appreciation of others and their struggles.

Recognize the Role of Skill and Luck - Skill is the only part of the equation that a person can control. Luck is outside of our control. Know the difference!

Get Feed Back - Timely, accurate and clear feedback is helpful to ones growth. Start a decision making journal whenever you make an important decision, write it down and how you came to that decision and what you want to happen. Note how you feel physically and mentally. The journal allows you to audit your decisions. It allows you to see patterns. The helpful patterns you will want to continue. Those that are not productive you may want to get rid of.

Create a Checklist -Errors are often the result of neglecting a step, not from executing the other steps poorly. For example, rates of death dropped by half when doctors used checklists.

Perform a Premortem - A premorten is an analysis of a decision after the outcome is known. You assume you are in the future and the decision you made failed. You then provide plausible reasons for that failure. You try to identify why your decision might lead to a poor outcome before you make the decision. Research shows premortems help people identify a greater number of potential problems than other techniques and encourage more open exchange.

Know What You Can't Know - In decisions that involve systems with many interacting parts, causal links are frequently unclear. That is, we cannot always discern what the outcome of a particular decision is until we begin to put it into motion. Do you have an exit strategy that allows you to correct the decision or do damage control?

Blessings! Rev. Q.

A Black Unitarian Universalist History Moment

Sometimes forgiveness is possible and necessary to move forward. Below you will read about a congregations efforts to right the wrongs of racism that rejected a black Unitarian minister and in the process all but obliterated him from the annals of UU history. I believe that it is a mark of spiritual maturity when we can acknowledge such history. When forgiveness is sought it begins a healing process that radiates out into the world.

Question: Where do you need to seek forgiveness in your life? What do you need to forgive in yourself?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Congregation Honors African American Unitarian Minister with Change in Name, Expansion of Vision
February 22, 2008

The church formerly known as the Bowie Unitarian Universalist Fellowship began in 1984. For many years this small congregation, located in Prince George's County in Maryland, met in an elementary school before purchasing its current space in an office condominium complex. Congregation members, who have been trying to grow in numbers and in depth of programming, had come to believe that the former name was not inclusive enough of people living outside of Bowie who either attended their congregation or who they wished to reach. Additionally, they were clear that they "wanted a name that honored a prominent local Unitarian Universalist."

And so in 2005, the congregation voted to change its name to honor an African American Unitarian minister, Don Speed Smith Goodloe, who had called Bowie home. Goodloe was the first African American graduate of Meadville Theological School (1906)—now Meadville Lombard Theological School.

Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed wrote in his book, "Black Pioneers in a White Denomination," that Goodloe was one of a number of black Unitarian ministers who faced "the impossibility of...ministering to a Unitarian church." Turned away by the faith he had trusted, Goodloe decided to focus on education. He hoped, with his wife, to run a school composed of "carefully selected and choice students," and the perhaps to run the school and still preach somewhere. From the time he graduated from Meadville in 1906 until 1910, Goodloe was principal of the Danville Industrial Normal School in Danville, Kentucky, and from 1910 until 1911 was vice principal of Manassas (Virginia) Industrial School. Following that, he served as the first principal (1911-1921) of the Maryland Normal and Industrial School—Maryland's first black post-secondary school, which is now Bowie State University.

He was an effective leader. While at the Maryland Normal and Industrial School, Goodloe established dormitories and educational facilities, hired teachers—increasing the faculty from four to ten—established a model elementary school and summer session, and set an admission requirement of completion of a minimum of seventh grade. He sought appropriations from the state legislature in Annapolis for preparing teachers that put the school in competition with nearby white normal schools.

So Goodloe's legacy, which included being named to "Who's Who in America" (Vol. IX), offered an opportunity for the Bowie congregation to lift up Goodloe's good works and to, in some small way, reclaim his place in the Unitarian Universalist ministry. And so the Bowie Unitarian Universalist Fellowship became the Goodloe Memorial Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

Rev. Cynthia Snavely, who has served the congregation as minister for four years, said, "We realized that we are in a majority African American community in Prince George's County, and wanted to make more connection with Bowie University. [Since we changed our name] we decided to organize an annual Goodloe celebration and now provide a scholarship in Goodloe's name to a student in the university. We are a small congregation with 67 members, but it is a $1,000 scholarship. This year will be the second year that we have made that presentation, in April, and this will coincide with the dedication of our new building." The ceremony will take place on April 27.

Snavely said the congregation has also made contact with the Bowie University alumni who bought the Don Speed Smith Goodloe house—listed on the registry of historic places—several years ago. "We have been involved with others in seeing whether we might be active in preserving the house." Snavely said that one of the congregation's members, Dick Morris, spoke at this year's Bowie Interfaith Martin Luther King Day service on some of the Goodloe history, and Snavely preaches regularly on diversity topics. In addition the congregation's members, in growing numbers, participate in ADORE (A Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity), a program which occurs at several Unitarian Universalist congregations in the greater Washington area.

The work of Rev. Don Speed Smith Goodloe remains important today. "I think education for African Americans is still an ongoing concern," said Snavely, who has an African American daughter. I am concerned about my own daughter's education and how she has sometimes not been allowed to do her best. I believe the whole world needs to be concerned about these matters. This is everyone's history. And when we lose track of that history—no matter our race—we lose some of our humanity. We need to reclaim this story, even if it is not flattering. Don Goodloe's story is not a happy one, but it is an important story for us all."

Last updated on Tuesday, February 19, 2008.

The Presence of Black Women in Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalism

"Something fell off the shelf inside of me and it broke and it made a noise." Zora Neale Hurston in Our Eyes Were Watching God

It is impossible to tell the story of black UU women without telling the story of black women in America. Thus, a beginning examination of Black women in America reveals a history of oppression which has generated adaptive behaviors and resistance. Black women's survival has often depended on their ability to use all of the larger communities economic, social and cultural resources. However the construction of negative stereotypes derived from the dominant society and perpetrated through popular culture has impacted the characterization and perception of black women and impeded their progress. However, Black women's resistance and survival have pushed back against these negative stereotypes and perceptions. Monica Coleman, author of Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology, points out that while black women are not the only group to experience violence toward their bodies, however, black women oppression has manifested in very particular ways. (M Coleman, 22). Coleman sites the fact that the legacy of abuse and violence perpetrated against black women utilized not only sexualized stereotypes and mythologies but denied their humanity and the presence of God. According to Cornel West, what kept black women (and black people in general) hopeful in the face of horrendous treatment was their engagement in protracted and principled struggle. In other words, "communities of hope" were fostered through protracted and principled struggle. (C West 1037). What we know is that black women have not been passive in the face of the onslaught against them. Rosetta Ross, author of _____________ identified the following womanist virtues that that sustain black women: grasping the positive side of life; survival concerns; quality of life concerns; self affirmation and social change. (Ross 12).

Stephanie Mitchem, a womanist black scholar and a UU contends that the process of transforming society involves both reconciliatory and transgressive acts - those that move one beyond one's assigned place or help one recognize the meaninglessness of that place. Both offer ways of seeing throught the social illusions. (S Mitchem 255). Healing from the acts and effects of racism requires a radical race critique that some black theologians according to Mitchem do not want to attempt. James Cone, black theologian, calls for an integration of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. (S Mitchem 254) It is interesting that UUs laud Dr. King who in his later years more closely resembled Al Hajj Malik Shabazz AKA Malcolm X.

TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

L-R Ludie Harris, a long time member at Peoples Church of Chicago and Rev. Q

L-R Ethel Johnson, a long time member of Peoples Church of Chicago and Rev. Q

L- R L- R Cheryl Martin, a long time member at UU Church of Augusta and Rev. Q

August Wilson Comes Alive!

While the Black playwright August Wilson is no longer alive, his legacy is vibrant and well at Meadville Lombard Theological School (MLTS). This is due in part to Stephanie Berry and Earnest Perry, two actors extraordinaire and Rev. Dr. John Tolley,faculty person at MLTS and Director of Wilson's play, Piano Lesson. When cast members from Piano Lesson were not able to be present, Stephanie and Earnest stepped in and saved the day. Their fine acting provided a brief glimpse into their finely honed craft. Their performance was mesmerizing. They captivated the audience and pulled them into every word and emotion emitted during their emotional excerpts from Gem of the Ocean and Fences. Gem of the Ocean is unique because it is the only play August Wilson wrote that features a female as the lead character.

Stephanie and Earnest entertained a number of questions from the audience that was primarily composed of seminarians, ministers and their family members. While the audience may have left pondering the role of the arts in ministry, there was no question that drama depicts the human experience in all its complexities using the range of emotions and settings to convey the stories. Drama, good drama reaches way down inside an individual and pulls out the meanings of life for self reflection if we let it. It can transport us to far away places while inviting us to ponder age old questions like, "who am I?" "what am I doing here? and "if I check out will anyone care?

The use of theatre in the classroom is not new its continued use to interrogate complex topics like race and to encourage border crossing can lead to some needed breakthroughs in theological education.

Blessings! Rev. Q

L-R Stephanie Berry and Ernest Perry, Jr. reading lines from Gem of the Ocean and Fences

Stephanie and Ernest do their thing!

Still doing their thing and blowing everyone away with their awesome performance!

Rev. Dr. John Tolley reflecting on his work with the all black cast of Piano Lesson.

Stephanie Berry preparing for her reading with Ernest.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Georgia on My Mind!

I had an incredible visit to Georgia this year. I arrived on Dec. 17 and left Jan. 4.
While I did not get an opportunity to see any friends I spent time with my sisters. All three of my children were present. Libra, my oldest daughter accepted a proposal from her partner in the presence of her family and his.

Kaleema, Brandon (my grandson who is now 16 and over six feet) and I drove to Hawkinsville where the family has land. We spent time there and I hope to share the pictures at a later date. It was a memorable time and a reminder of how important family is.

When is the last time you told your loved ones how much they mean to you?
Where in your life do you need to reprioritize so that you spend time with your loved ones and do not let jobs and careers etc. overwhelm you?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

New Years Eve - My daughter, Kaleema and I spent New Year's Eve at a Yoga Retreat.

Christmas Day!Dinner at Walter's and Libra's house. Mama is stuffed!

Michelle Rahman, my daughter in law. I could not ask for a better daughter in law!

L-R Sassy Ladies Betty Holmes (my oldest sister), Rev. Q. and Kaleema, my youngest daughter

Virginia, the aunt of my soon son-in-law reading from her book of poems.

Walter proposing to Libra, my oldest daughter on Christmas Day! She said yes!

L-R James Finley (Libra's father), Kaleema and one of Walter's aunts.

L-R Walter, Libra and Ricco Richardson, my brother-in-law. Ricco usually photographs family events. He and my sister Gwen also work very diligently on the family tree and conduct research on the family history.

L-R The return of the sassy ladies! Betty Holmes and Kaleema


One of the things I love to do is to visit Unitarian Universalist congregations and different faith communities. On Sunday, January 17 I preached at Peoples Church of Chicago (PCC). PCC is affilated with both the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. My sermon title was, Getting to the Promised Land. I summarized King's legacy and examined whether we have been faithful to his legacy. I examined the concept of the Promised Land and the fact that while not everyone believes that it is a literal place. Nevertheless, the symbolism of the Promised Land is a powerful metaphor for working toward a goal of journeying toward a common place. The doing good and being good and the moral covenant required. Marilyn Sewell, a UU minister contends that salvation is not about getting to the promised land - its about how well we journey. And I would add, how well we journey together.

After worship service the church joined together for a potluck with the Christ Pentecostal International Church (CPIC). CPIC meets in the building owned by PCC. The members are all Ghanaians. I had a wonderful time meeting folks from both congregations and the food was delicious!

In December while visiting in Atlanta, GA I drove up to Augusta, GA where my friend, the Rev. Margaret Beard serves at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Augusta. She graciously invited me to participate in the worship service and we went out to lunch afterwards with one of the members. It was wonderful to see her and hear about the great things going on in Augusta.

What have you done lately to reach out and cross some of the borders that too easily are erected in your life?

How can you intentionally reach out of your comfort zone to expand your contacts and interactions with others? How does your theology speak to interacting with people across faith traditions. In these times of wars and conflict it is so important to practice community building and peace building proactively rather than to make those attempts when conflicts arise.

Let us be builders of bridges! Amen and Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

Members of Ghanaian congregation fellowshipping with members of People's Church in Chicago, IL.

L-R Rev. Qiyamah and Rev. Jean Siegfried Darling, minister of Peoples Church of Chicago

L-R Rev. Qiyamah and Rev. Margaret Beard, minister of the UU Church of Augusta in Georgia

L-R Cheryl Martin, a long time member of UU Church of Augusta, another member whose name I have forgotten and Rev. Qiyamah

L-R Cheryl Martin and Rev. Qiyamah