Author Archive

A Call To Courage In The Hour Of Evil

Friday, June 26th, 2015


Among the nine innocents murdered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston Carolina June 17th was Pastor Clementa Pinckney. Reverend Pinckney is my cousin, and our parents lived just across the field growing up In Marion, South Carolina.  Our families have remained very close over the years. I knew them before I knew the world.  We were all molded from the same clay.

Pastor Pinckney was the real deal.  He was always one of the bright ones. He did very well in school, and was called to preach at the age of 13.  By the age of 18 he had become a pastor.  After college he served as an intern for a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. When she retired, Clementa ran for her seat, and at the age of 23 was youngest person ever elected to serve in the House. In another unprecedented achievement, Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina Senate at age 27.  In between raising a family and serving as pastor, Pinckney earned at least two masters degrees.  At the age of 41 he was just beginning to fulfill all of the promise his hard work and dedication had earned him.

But growing up back then in rural South Carolina we were just normal kids.  Our lives were full of innocence, laughter, harmless mischief.  Our community saw our parent’s off-springs as the future potential at a young age.  They said we were the hope for a brighter future. So when Rev. Pinkney and my brother Kent were elected to the state senate, this represented the fulfillment of that hope.

Some of that hope died yesterday in that church.  The survivors, including my bother Kent and I know that Clementa’s absence puts more responsibility on our shoulders to continue the work he had begun. That will not be easy. Pinckney was always a bridge builder. Everywhere he went, he was a living example of his faith. His sermon and his testimony was how he lived his life. He was affable. He was just. He could be trusted.  As a state senator along with my brother, where he served on the senate finance committee he was doggedly principled.  Clementa left a legacy of achievement despite his humble origins.  He did not allow the circumstances to define him. He changed the circumstances and made the world better. He was able to accomplish at age 41 what most people never do in a lifetime.

Our job as people of faith and those who are from the community of Charleston is to keep moving forward. We must grieve and we must heal. We cannot allow the evil that crept into Emanuel A.M.E. church to infect our own hearts. Even though vengeance may be a tempting thought amidst so much agonizing pain, it is best left for the Lord to right this wrong. What we can do is to continue to build. Our company Howard Stirk Holdings owns a television station in Charleston, WGWG.  We employ people in the community and provide positive, uplifting programming suitable for all ages.

In a stirring speech before the South Carolina Senate earlier this year, Senator Pinckney talked about the murder of Walter Scott by a Charleston police officer. In calling for police body cameras, Pinckney cited the story of Thomas who was the only disciple absent when Jesus rose from the grave and visited his followers.  Thomas could not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, and walked through a locked door to visit with the disciples.  But the next week Thomas was there and Jesus walked in. Thomas touched the nails on Jesus’ side. It was only when he was able to do that when he believed.

To some people of faith evil is merely an abstraction. Something we read about in the bible but don’t really see in our daily lives.  But evil does exist in this world, and it infects people with a spiritual sickness.  It is one thing to see these things on television – whether it was the mass murders at a Colorado movie theater, or the murder of children at an elementary school in Sandy Hook.  It can sometimes seem like an abstraction, but when it hits so close to home, it forces us to confront the reality that evil does exist in this world.

All of our humanity was robbed yesterday. No matter what the stated motives of the gunman, whenever you murder so many innocent people it is a hate crime.  But it is not about the race of the victims or assailant.  This was an act of hatred against humanity.  And so no matter what the setting or what the origins of the victims, when events like this occur we are all affected.

We cannot win against the onslaught of evil if we continue to be divided over things like race, class, gender and nationality.  We cannot be so easily manipulated by the devil as to believe that there is a black humanity and a white humanity.  If anything this tragic event should be a warning to us all of the ultimate problem of teaching our children to hate another person based on their race.  That goes for black and white parents, educators, law enforcement alike. Teaching inferiority is just as bad as teaching superiority.  Either allows one to view someone else as less than human, and undeserving of being treated with human dignity. You cannot win a war against evil with a divisive strategy that destroys us from within. That is precisely what the devil wants.

In the absence of courage and fear  hatred lurk and fester.  Hatred is the opiate which emboldens the fearful to commit acts of true horror.  However, I am reminded of the conversation between a minor demon and his uncle depicted in C.S. Lewis classic, the Screwtape Letters. In it the demon’s uncle counsels his nephew about how to corrupt men through both virtues and vices. He says at one point:

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, God permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. The danger of inducing cowardice in our patients, therefore, is lest we produce real self-knowledge and self-loathing, with consequent repentance and humility.

These times call for courage.  Let all of us come together and honor the courage and sacrifice of those brave and innocent souls who were called to God.  Let us put on the armor of the Lord and sally forth as one nation, indivisible, upholding the banner of liberty and justice. For only then will be able to defeat the moral enemy in our midst.

The Unflinching Blackness of Rachel Dolezal

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Rachel DolezalBy almost all objective standards, former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Washington is a bona fide black woman. Her pedigree is impeccable. Not only did she receive a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from Howard University—perhaps the most prestigious historically black university in America—but she has at least four black siblings and one black son. She was married for numerous years to a black man.  And more importantly, throughout her professional career, she has undertaken leadership positions on social issues pertaining to the black community.

Why Christian Values Still Matter

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Bible readingWhile America was undoubtedly founded upon bedrock of religious freedom it is equally true that the Christian faith has been probably the greatest contributor the social fabric of this country.  Even as the country seems to drift away from Christian values, there are still far more people in Church on Sunday than at the football stadium.  Despite the fact that gay marriage and out-of-wedlock births have become more prevalent, the overwhelming majority of Americans continue to celebrate the Christian holidays. In fact the reason why many homosexuals seem to have fought for the right to marry is not because they merely want the same social benefits and legal rights as heterosexual married couples, but they also crave the spiritual and community benefits bestowed upon marriage by the Christian faith.

Voter Fraud

Friday, May 29th, 2015

votingFormer South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth’s trial started Tuesday. The 43-year-old Sioux Falls physician was accused by State Attorney General Marty Jackley of having committed what is commonly referred to as “voter fraud.” Specifically, she had been indicted for having turned in nominating petitions that include the names of people whose signatures she did not personally witness being affixed to said petitions.

We Shouldn’t Need Deadlines to Make Iran a Priority

Monday, May 25th, 2015

IranianIn our effort to halt the Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapons capability, timing is critical.

While the Obama Administration has been clumsily stumbling from one negotiating deadline to the next, Iran has been working hard to destabilize the Middle East and threaten American interests. The time is past due for the White House to finally take to heart the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon and get serious about changing Tehran’s behavior.

Falling Short of Greatness

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Dr. KingWhen African-Americans marched on Washington to hear the historic ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King, they were pressing for a society that looked very much like that in which they already lived – a society built on freedom; a society that protected life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness among its citizens.  Many of those freedoms and protections had not been extended to African Americans of course.  And so they came to Washington to ‘cash a check’ (to paraphrase King) that would cover the remainder of their birthright as American citizens.

A Fictional Conversation between President Obama and Justice Clarence Thomas

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Obama and ThomasNever before in America’s history have three black men occupied such official positions of power: President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  Given that Mr. Holder, as Attorney General, has been an integral member of the President’s cabinet over his two presidential terms, one assumes they speak often and concur to a certain extent in their philosophical outlooks.  However, what would be far more intriguing is a conversation between President Obama and Justice Thomas.  Here are two individuals who are seemingly polar opposites on the political spectrum, but at the same time in important ways represent the fruits of a great turning point in America’s racial saga.

Emails with Legs: The Private Deceptions of a Public Servant

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Hillary ClintonIt looks like the convenient device theory Hillary Clinton has used to deflect inquiries as to why she used her private email account almost exclusively to conduct official business while serving as Secretary of State is a bunch of pure hogwash. It has become evident that in addition to her personal phone, she also used an I-pad connected to her personal email account to send and receive information related to her official duties. The story emerging from this strange and unprecedented breach of protocol, if not law and regulation, is that Hilary’s email shenanigans appear to be part of a deliberate attempt to withhold her communications from public – and partisan – scrutiny.

The Poverty of Identity Politics

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

President Barack Obama signs commutation letters in the Oval Office, March 31, 2015. The President granted commutations for 22 individuals. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)Imagine if the current President were a Republican, and if during the second half of his second term, after having been elected both times with record turnout by blacks, the black unemployment rate remained stagnant at 11 percent while the black poverty rate hit a record high of 27 percent. What would black politicians be saying about that Republican President?

The Way Forward: A Narrative On The Future Of SC State University

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

South Carolina State UniversityIn the Beginning…….. 

Since its founding as a colored Normal institution in 1896, SC State University has been a beacon on the hill in the higher education community of the South.  The fact that this institution’s heritage derived from its designation as a historically black college or university (HBCU) was secondary to its storied and illustrious reputation as a place where young ordinary people with mammoth dreams entered and exceptional transformed global citizens emerged. These ambassadors would take their acquired talents across the globe and serve in various careers and capacities that bolstered America’s workforces as well as contributed significantly to this nation’s super power status around the world.