The Holy Innocents of Nigeria… and Kansas City

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
   lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
   she refuses to be comforted for her children,
   because they are no more.”
– Jeremiah 31:15

Facing the sheer magnitude of human brokenness (read “sin”) in the world can quickly overwhelm even the most assured and self-righteous among us. My own relative sanity reached it’s tipping point a few weeks ago when the story of “Nigeria’s Stolen Girls” broke across the news reports. I simply couldn’t fathom it. Hundreds of girls, stolen from their school in the middle of the night, and reportedly sold into sex-slavery.

I became angry. While the Twittersphere and other social-media sites became inundated by the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, I found myself struggling to assemble my disjointed thoughts into a format that would be helpful, if for no other reason than a cathartic release for myself.

I wrestled with whether or not the #BringBackOutGirls hashtag played into patriarchy, suggesting that girls need to saved whereas boys are strong enough to fend for themselves. I wrestled with who the hashtag was addressing. Were we asking Boko Haram, the Islamist (not Islamic) militant organization who has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, to “Bring Back Our Girls” or were we attempting to shame western governments (read “The United States”) into intervening in the crisis and in doing so were we inadvertently participating in a neo-colonialism while Africa herself is still struggling to recover from her own rape at the hands of Western powers. I struggled and said nothing. Then came the selfies.

Michelle Obama.

The First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama.
The First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iyanla Vanzant.

Author and Spiritual Leader, Iyanla Vanzant
Author and Spiritual Leader, Iyanla Vanzant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And even this really problematic one with Russell Simmons.

Russell Simmons
Business Mogul, Russell Simmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The world seemed to cry for the girls who were stolen, but there seemed to be a lack of tears for the boys who were killed.

29 of them.

To be clear, I’m not attempting to divert attention from the narrative of the 200+ girls who are now missing. I am merely pointing out the incomplete nature of the narrative.  I understand the point of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign was to bring awareness to this crime against humanity, but while we hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, can we also hashtag #SaveOurBoys, or better yet#SaveOurChildren? And by children, I’m not only referring to Nigerian children, but children all over the world who are victims of egregious and insidious acts of violence.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Southwest High School in Kansas City, Missouri. Once the flagship of Kansas City Public School System, Southwest High School faces many challenges today. Actually, to say that Southwest High School is facing serious challenges would be an understatement. While there are glimmers of light and hope, there are also vast areas of shadow and darkness. One of the hardest things for me to hear was the fact that due to situations in the communities where many of the children live, they suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (also known as PTSD).

That’s right. These children are coming to school suffering from a disorder that is more often attributed to live battlefield combat. Who will cry for these little boys and girls?

Who will cry for the little boys and girls, throughout the world, who live daily under the fine rain of death, where the pop of bullets, not the rhythmic chirping of crickets, populate the night air?

Who will cry for the little boys and girls, throughout the world, who live in abusive homes where mom or dad viciously project the pain of their struggle on the fragile bodies of these little ones?

Who will cry for the 1 in 5 girls or 1 in 20 boys in this country who are victims of sexual abuse?

Who will cry for the boys and girls being siphoned into the preschool-to-prison pipeline?

Who will cry for the boys and girls starved of nutrition in a country of too much and starved of education in a country with more money for bombs than books?

Who will cry for the boys and girls who daily have their dreams killed by a society who, because of the color of their skin, values their bodies more than their minds and spirits?

Who will cry for the boys and girls murdered in ghettos and lynched by systems who refuse to see them a valid?

Who will cry for the boys and girls whose bright eyes have been dulled by soul-destroying nihilism?

By “cry,” I don’t meant engage in the cheap “pitying” that we often do. “Isn’t it a shame,” we say as we shake our heads all the while thanking God that it isn’t our kids.

I must correct something that I stated earlier. I stated that I was “angry,” which is not true. I have learned that anger is a “masking emotion.” We are seldom truly angry. Most of the time when we say we are angry, we are really trying to hide a more tender, vulnerable place. The truth is my heart was breaking.

My heart was breaking for the 200+ girls who had been stolen, for the 29 boys who had been killed; but even more than that, these boys and girls became an icon of a greater evil – the lack of safety and security for our children.

And when I think about that, all I can do is be still and let my heart break.

For some, the act of crying and lamenting is an act of powerlessness. My own experience teaches me otherwise. Crying for our children is not an act of surrendering to the danger that they face, but the act of allowing their pain to enter our hearts. The tears we cry lubricate the callousness of our hearts. When we cry for the children throughout the world, we are allowing our lives to be touched by their own. To cry is to partner. This is not the cheap pity that many of us wear on a daily basis. This is a deep connection. This is community.

Some have lambasted the #BringBackOurGirls protest as impotent saying that their is really nothing that we can do about it.

They’re wrong.

We can feel. We can cry. We can lament. We can sit in the darkness and allow our hearts to simply break.

And while it may not bring back the 200+ girls who have been stolen, and probably won’t resurrect the 29 boys who were killed, perhaps it can allow us to look closer to our own lives and to see the lives too often stymied by violence and neglect.

The first step on a journey comes from being malcontent with where one finds themselves. The first step to the light is to willingly walk forward into the darkness. The seeds of peace are often watered by the transformative testimony of our own tears.

Yesterday, I cried.
I came home, went straight to my room, 
sat on the edge of my bed,
kicked off my shoes, unhooked my bra,
and I had myself a good cry.
I cried until my nose was running all over the silk blouse I got on sale.
I cried until my ears were hot.
I cried until my head was hurting so bad
that I could hardly see the pile of soiled tissues lying on the floor at my feet.
I want you to understand,
I had myself a really good cry yesterday.

Yesterday, I cried,
for all the days that I was too busy, 
or too tired, or too mad to cry.
I cried for all the days, and all the ways, 
and all the times I had dishonored, disrespected,
and disconnected my Self from myself,
only to have it reflected back to me in the ways others 
did to me the same things I had already done to myself.
I cried for all the things I had given, only to have them stolen;
for all the things I had asked for that had yet to show up;
for all the things I had accomplished, only to give them away,
to people in circumstances, which left me feeling empty, 
and battered and plain old used.
I cried because there really does come a time when 
the only thing left for you to do is cry.

Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because little boys get left by their daddies;
and little girls get forgotten by their mommies;
and daddies don’t know what to do, so they leave;
and mommies get left, so they get mad.
I cried because I had a little boy,
and because I was a little girl, 
and because I was a mommy who didn’t know what to do,
and because I wanted my daddy to be there so badly until I ached.

Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because I hurt. I cried because I was hurt.
I cried because hurt has no place to go
except deeper into the pain that caused it in the first place,
and when it gets there, the hurt wakes you up.
I cried because it was too late. 
I cried because it was time.
I cried because my soul knew that I didn’t know
that my soul knew everything that I needed to know.
I cried a soulful cry yesterday, and it felt so good.
It felt so very, very bad.
In the midst of my crying, 
I felt my freedom coming,
Because…

Yesterday, I cried
with an agenda.

– Iyanla Vanzant

2014-05-12 13.00.15

Keep the faith, and make it COLORFUL!

Marcus+

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