You may have heard the story of Joseph as recorded in the Bible book of Genesis, but have you considered his life and how it parallels the life of Black Folk. I use the name “Black Folk” in an endearing way as it some how embodies the turbulent, drama ridden, yet persevering lives of those identified as African have lived.
Joseph was well favored by his father Israel which made him a beautiful coat of many colors as an expression of this. This favor, along with the gifts Joseph received of YAHWEH, caused his brothers to envy him and eventually sell him into slavery. To summarize Joseph’s life, all of the hardships and injustices he experienced was preparation for his greater purpose, which was to save his family along with a whole region of the world. His life reads as an analogy for the lives of Black Folks. Some have heard this parallel and reject it, but I find it too compelling to dismiss. I am not inferring what some may assume, that the enslavement of Africans somehow civilized them and made them better. I am suggesting that the trafficking of Africans all over the world to exploit their strength through slavery will be used by YAHWEH for a much greater purpose.
I believe YAHWEH will leverage the fiery refining of Black people in the great work of reconciliation He is planning in these end times. When you consider all that was inflicted upon Joseph, yet he persevered by the providence of YAHWEH and was used to reconcile his family together in Egypt, saving them from famine, and also benefitted the Egyptians with the wisdom he received from YAHWEH to save them as well. The qualities exhibited in Joseph which benefited the Egyptians were not learned it Egypt, they were already part of his heritage. It was only by the gracious counsel of GOD through visions and dreams that Joseph was not spoiled by the evil treatment he endured. The descendants of the Africans enslaved in America are still in the battle to maintain and largely recover their true heritage. Dr. H.T. Kealing wrote about the eroding effect of slavery on the personage of the Africans subjected to enslavement.
Dr. H.T. Kealing was born in the state of Texas in 1859 before slavery was outlawed. By the time he reached adulthood, the period known as Reconstruction had begun and he was able to attend college. Kealing was one of the early leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. One of his leadership roles was editor of the AME churches quarterly publication. While acting as editor, he published an essay called “The Characteristics of the Negro People”. This essay was republished in a collection of writings in a book titled “The Negro Problem: A Series of Articles by Representative American Negroes of Today” in 1903. Kealing’s essay was joined by the writings of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois, and other bright minds of that day. I read “The Negro Problem” in a study group of Black men ranging in age from 22 to 72. We found that much of what was written in this book at the turn of the 20th century is still applicable in the 21st century. Kealing’s insightful essay was one of the factors that cemented for me the reality of Slavery’s PTSD on Black people today. He categorized the characteristics of African Americans into two categories, inborn and inbred. The inborn characteristics being those natural to any child of GOD, while the inbred being those characteristics resulting from the wicked pressing and hateful kiln of slavery. Here is some of his essay:
“The Characteristics of the Negro are of two kinds—the inborn and the inbred. As they reveal themselves to us, this distinction may not be seen, but it exists. Inborn qualities are ineradicable; they belong to the blood; they constitute individuality; they are independent, or nearly so, of time and habitat. Inbred qualities are acquired, and are the result of experience. They may be overcome by a reversal of the process which created them. The fundamental, or inborn, characteristics of the Negro may be found in the African, as well as the American, Negro; but the inbred characteristics of the latter belong to the American life alone.” (Dr. H.T. Kealing)
This is noteworthy because few people today, Black or White, accurately assess the systemic roots of much of the dysfunction in Black families and Black communities today. Healing has been gradual and slow due to lingering inequalities, racism, and a total lack of addressing the mental harm inflicted upon a people for almost four hundred years. The terror continues today through the senseless killing of many innocent Black people through the current penal system. That is not to mention the rate of imprisonment of Black men as a way of addressing this whole problem. I was recently made aware of the tragedy of Colin Warner. He is a Black man that was incarcerated for 20 years of his life due to a wrongful arrest, before finally winning his release in 2001. The number of these types of occurrences for Black people is staggering. This chapter of Black Folk’s story, similar yet more intense than to Joseph’s sufferings, we are ready to move on from.
The budding rise to glory. It is a scientific fact that all the races of the world could only come from Black people. Also, due to this trafficking I mentioned earlier, Africans have started families with people all over the world. Africans wear the coat of many colors. Though our journey has been treacherous and brutal, GOD’s providence is still at work, just like in Joseph’s life. Those that where the coat of many colors will be center in feeding the hungry during the famine of ethics and morality, to share the manna of love.
“We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast”
Those words are part of what has become known as the Black National Anthem. The formal name is titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written by the brother duo of J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson. This song so intimately and beautifully tells the story of the journey of Black Folks. You hear the consciousness of the loss and severe scarring being held in such hope and optimism of faith. This is the spirituality and inner strength we must maintain to realize the latter part of Joseph’s story. We cannot be consumed by grief and the persistent hate of those who fail to see the light and feel the warmth of a loving GOD, who is committed to seeing His justice throughout His creation. Carrying hate turns us into blind, hard hearted, cold, and destructive people. We have to take all we have learned of the knowledge of GOD to form a barricade against the seeds of hate that we might only carry love in our hearts to keep the vision of faith, the warmth of empathy and compassion, and the strength to keep moving in the direction of our hope.
“God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee” (Lift Every Voice and Sing- fifth stanza)
This is my offering for the observance of the 2021 Black History Month. I hope this writing helps to better portray a people often viewed from a perspective which does not include the depth of history.