Formerly a successful attorney, Rev. Dr. Edmonds is interim pastor of the Church of the Covenant in New York City.
Love and Respect, Pillars for Positive Change What positive change is necessary for the future of our community? I suggest intentional reclamation of its important pillars of love and respect, upon which the hopes of our community have stood for generations. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said; “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.” Hate, an invisible, insidious force, can chip away at those pillars, and simultaneously corrode the core of our souls. Consider the loveless, disrespectful music, media, politics, education, and economics aimed at the Black community. This soul-numbing incursion can turn us into our own worst enemies. Love, is the necessary anecdote—a balm in Gilead to make our wounded whole. Rediscovering our spirit of love is essential to make genuine claim upon our future. Otherwise, the fleshpots of “back in the day,” may seem more desirable, than the buoyant hopes for tomorrow.
Self-respect is an equally important pillar. Of respect, said Dr. King, “The mind is the standard of the man. With the new sense of dignity, this sense of self-respect, a new Negro came into being with a new determination, to struggle, to suffer and to sacrifice in order to be free.” Minds rooted in self-respect will not seek out the “back doors,” of which Dr. Carter G. Woodson wrote. Love, supplemented with a booster shot of self-respect, a powerful inoculation for our communities to weather this pandemic of marginalization.
Positive change can easily advance through random acts of transformative love and respect. I represented a feared drug dealer arrested on a gun charge on his way to “take care of stuff.” After some debate, he agreed to an exercise of self-love and self-respect to help maintain his freedom. He appeared in court looking like the most important person in the room. On his way to court, impeccably dressed, walking the same streets where he previously felt ”naked without his Glock,” random strangers looked at him, smiled, and said, “Good morning.” Instead of his usual turf-protecting scowl, he returned the unfamiliar love and respect with smiles. He told me how good those random expressions of love and respect made him feel. As we stood outside after a day in court he shared, “I now know what I want for myself and my children.” He soon quit “the business.”
As a community, do we feel good about ourselves? Are love and respect demanded for our future generations? Our disinherited communities are arguably held in a cold death grip of musical, media, political, educational, and economic marginalization. Permanently relegated to a status of consumer have-not, without possibility of parole. Kept in place by any means necessary, the collateral damage is apparent. We must rend this inextricable garment of destiny, woven by the corrupt imagination of pathological greed. Liberate our minds, through self-love and self-respect, to possibilities of positive change. Dr. King reminded us, “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” Is our cultural narrative, born out of self-love and respect, obscured? A narrative of love and respect so abiding that Tubman would escape from enslavement, then return repeatedly to help others. So abiding that King fearlessly walked through “the valley of the shadow of death,” to assist oppressed sanitation workers in Memphis. Our story, our song, our narrative, a clarion call to positive change. We cannot be influenced by forces of trickery and greed to paint, “unreliable self-portraits,” which inculcate feelings of self-hatred to a sundtrack of lyrical disrespect of one another, especially our women. Resist those dystopian feelings of self-hatred and disrespect as the heroin or crack of this generation. Do not allow negativity injected into our communities to dull our hopes for positive change. Negative messaging, a new form of “stop-and-frisk,” aimed not at controlling guns, but rather hope and positive change.
Minds occupied with a sense of self-love and self-respect reap determination to struggle, to suffer and to sacrifice for freedom, thus yielding positive change. It is written (I Corinthians 13:13), “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love,” and self-respect, I might add.