By Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff
Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff is the Choose Healthy Life Clergy Leader for NYC
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary and they shall walk, and not faint.”—Isaiah 40:31
As Moses stood before the Red Sea, the hoof beats of Pharaoh’s army were like drumbeats approaching from the distance. Trembling, he asked the Lord to rescue His people. ‘What have you got in your hand?’ the Lord replied. As the waters parted Moses was able to tell his followers, “For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever”—Exodus14:13
Today the community of faith stands before a historic moment of unprecedented opportunity. The sounds of inertia and status quo are off in the distance. Prayers of desperation have been answered. In the twinkling of an eye the political landscape of New York has been dramatically transformed. From our community we now can call the Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Assembly Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, NYC’s next Mayor, Public Advocate, two borough District Attorneys, two Borough Presidents, four of the five political county leaders, and the nation’s largest delegation of Blacks in Congress. Whew! Maya Angelou perhaps said it best, “and still again we rise.” After all that we have endured, our people are poised for change.
But are we ready? COVID, assaults on voting rights, floods, fires, gun violence, social justice upheaval, and a creeping despair plague our communities even as these words are written. Can we push past Democrats vs. Republicans, centrists vs. progressives, boomers vs. millennials, cities vs. suburbs and create a path forward? In other words, will we be our own worst enemy once again?
If history is any guide, we cannot depend on politicians alone to establish the plan for our salvation. No, it must come from all of us. The Church, which has led our freedom struggles, the fights against Apartheid in South Africa, the plague of crack cocaine, and the crisis of AIDS ought to come to the table now to help establish our new agenda. For decades we have worked, organized, galvanized, legislated, and sacrificed for Black communities to register and turn out to vote. We have fought redistricting, gerrymandering, and voter intimidation attempts to silence our voices. In short, we have come a mighty long way.
Today we are on the threshold of unimagined accomplishments, if we stand together. For us, right now, the sky is the limit. We will not tolerate personal vendettas, unethical schemes, petty infighting, or complacency. It is time for us to seriously develop meaningful, sustainable wealth creation strategies and policies. It is time for a total reform of public education; it is time for an end to violence in our neighborhoods, and it is time to end health disparities for once and for all.
We cannot settle for the quick fix or low hanging fruit. For example, we must move beyond “affordable housing” and make significant home ownership a reality. Think BIG. Dream BIG. Do BIG.
The same God who stood with Moses stands with us today. The naysayers will distract us with their fears of gloom and doom. However, the God we serve now requires us to ignore the haters and mobilize for action.
Transition committees are being formed right now, faith must be seated at the table. Can we reach across denominations and geography and build a coherent, viable statement of priorities, policies, and goals? We have done much more with much less.
What have we got in our hands? We have victory in our grasp, what will we do next? Up you mighty race accomplish what you will . . .