PASSOVER: Exodus to Freedom–Beyond the New Jim Crow

exodusThe Hebrew slaves who escaped Egypt gave us an image, a story, and a language for expressing freedom from oppression. It depicts the passing over from death to life.

The Front Porch explored the Exodus story at its recent public celebration of Easter at Scholz’ Garten that began with this invitation: “Dear friends of the anointed, and those from every tribe and tradition who share the hope of coming alive from out of dead things: On this most holy night, we celebrate the passing over from death to life, the triumph of love over hate, and the gathering of the beloved in vigil, prayer, and communion.”  

At that event, we asked Charles Dwain Stephens (aka Chucky Black) to slam the Exodus story from the Hebrew scriptures in a poem at that service.

Chucky’s slam was a sobering reminder that slavery persists in different guises under our very noses and that we need to renew passover continually. Indeed, On Being‘s Krista Tippett’s latest conversation with Michelle Alexander shows us that Jim Crow is alive and well, shows us where the chains are, and shows us how we might rouse ourselves to Let His People Go. 

Here is the text that Chucky slammed at the Easter Vigil:

chucky blackIn the wake of Black Lives Matter, We said, “Let our people go”

And our collective voices scared the sleeping giant right out of its passive slumber

The great american pharoah was left naked in the mud

Shivering without the world it built as cover Sam said

“What’s with all the commotion 
Y’all have been free since good ole lincoln Why make a fuss now”

Sam talked real slick
but we could see ships writhe in its shadow And vultures circle the insides of his mouth

at place between the teeth that boasts chewed thing Sam Spoke to us as if he weren’t still digesting the past 400 years

As if the white house wasn’t a pyramid we built too
 We knew the grit in his speech like we knew the black of our hands

Like this pain was genetics

Like our survival was a black helix spinning towards a tired gesture We said

Pharaoh oh pharoah
Does our plight not burden yours

Does the american dream not singe everytime a black body greets dusk

Are we but a howling image left behind in your shining legacy We said

America the free
Home of the brave

Are your dreams not built upon your sins too Is it not a shifting foundation

With every step threatening your once sure footing Each day becoming sinking sand beneath your very inheritance We left the respectability at home

Because our humanity shouldn’t have to teeter on it. We made sure the whole world heard our unruly chorus

Our good bones and skin and teeth 
Being ripped back from the very land that staked it’s illegitimate claim Our mouths boasting triumph

Even During the darkest hour
And the nights when the moon denied us audience

We howled a gospel that shook fruit from tree That undid the labored knot

coughed up the red sea in our uproar 
That had the great wilderness running away on pitched lumber

Trying to forget its treachery towards man Trying to undo the bodies it hid as game

And My god was it a beautiful day This was our ten plagues of only spite

Of simply living and breathing
And that being an act of resistance all its own

 

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