In light of Black History Month, Walter Strickland, Professor of Theology, acquaints us with Phillis Wheatley

Black History Month is an excellent time to be introduced to new literary, theological, and political figures.  I’d like to acquaint you with a young poet who lived in the second half of the 1700’s by the name of Phillis Wheatley.  Born in Senegal in approximately 1753, Phillis was brought to Boston, Massachusetts, on a slave ship in 1761, where she was purchased by John Wheatley as a personal servant to his wife. 

Under the tutelage of Mrs. Wheatley, Phillis became skilled in Latin and Greek and began writing prose at the young age of 12.  Her first volume of poetry was entitled Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral and was published in 1773.  This publication made Phillis the second published African American poet and the first published African American woman.  Phillis died after living a short, yet rich, life in 1784. 

Despite the endless accolades Phillis has collected, not to mention interesting biographical details of her life, Phillis’ greatest boast was that she is a child of the King.  In my estimation the best way to honor this brilliant young poet is to allow her to speak for herself. The following are two of my favorites:
An Hymn To The Evening
SOON as the sun forsook the eastern main

The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain;

Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr's wing,

Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.

Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes,

And through the air their mingled music floats.
Through all the heav'ns what beauteous dies are
But the west glories in the deepest red:
So may our breasts with ev'ry virtue glow,
The living temples of our God below!
Fill'd with the praise of him who gives the light,
And draws the sable curtains of the night,
Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind,
At morn to wake more heav'nly, more refin'd;
So shall the labours of the day begin
More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.
Night's leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes, 

On the Death of the Rev. Dr. Sewell
Ere yet the morn its lovely blushes spread,
See Sewell number'd with the happy dead.
Hail, holy man, arriv'd th' immortal shore,
Though we shall hear thy warning voice no more.
Come, let us all behold with wishful eyes
The saint ascending to his native skies;
From hence the prophet wing'd his rapt'rous way
To the blest mansions in eternal day.
Then begging for the Spirit of our God,

And panting eager for the same abode,

Come, let us all with the same vigour rise,

And take a prospect of the blissful skies;

While on our minds Christ's image is imprest,

And the dear Saviour glows in ev'ry breast.
Thrice happy faint! to find thy heav'n at last,
What compensation for the evils past!
Great God, incomprehensible, unknown
By sense, we bow at thine exalted throne.
O, while we beg thine excellence to feel,

Thy sacred Spirit to our hearts reveal,

And give us of that mercy to partake,

Which thou hast promis'd for the Saviour's sake!

"Sewell is dead." Swift-pinion'd Fame thus cry'd.

"Is Sewell dead," my trembling tongue reply'd,
O what a blessing in his flight deny'd!
How oft for us the holy prophet pray'd!
How oft to us the Word of Life convey'd!
By duty urg'd my mournful verse to close,
I for his tomb this epitaph compose.

"Lo, here a man, redeem'd by Jesus's blood,

"A sinner once, but now a saint with God;

"Behold ye rich, ye poor, ye fools, ye wise,

"Not let his monument your heart surprise;

"Twill tell you what this holy man has done,
"Which gives him brighter lustre than the sun.
"Listen, ye happy, from your seats above.
"I speak sincerely, while I speak and love,
"He sought the paths of piety and truth,
"By these made happy from his early youth;

"In blooming years that grace divine he felt,

"Which rescues sinners from the chains of guilt.

"Mourn him, ye indigent, whom he has fed,

"And henceforth seek, like him, for living bread;

"Ev'n Christ, the bread descending from above,
"And ask an int'rest in his saving love.
"Mourn him, ye youth, to whom he oft has told
"God's gracious wonders from the times of old.
"I too have cause this mighty loss to mourn,
"For he my monitor will not return.

"O when shall we to his blest state arrive?

"When the same graces in our bosoms thrive."
February is Black History Month! We are excited to hear from Beverly Headen and be encouraged about our identity in Christ.

Identity Theft

Everyday someone or something in our culture is attempting to steal our true identity. 

I grew up in rural North Carolina, the eldest of three girls, raised by a single mom.

Looking back, my childhood was kind of idyllic in that my first memory was of love and acceptance from the most important person in my life at that time, my mom. 

But as I explored the world outside our small wood-framed house, I encountered the opinions and perceptions of others about who I was supposed to be.  The joy of my childhood started a slow slide into the despair of feeling never quite good enough.

First, I discovered that by United States economic standards, I and my family were considered poor.  Financially challenged and low-income, my mother worked two jobs as a young woman. Amazingly, I never felt the pinch of lack, but from a worldly perspective being low-income was strike one.

Second, I discovered I was not considered pretty” like the girls in fairy tales or my baby dolls, or even in my own culture.  I had dark skin, was overweight, and had acne! I simply could not be recommended on the basis of worldly beauty; however, as my dear grandmother once told me in most tender terms, “you have pretty hands and feet.”   Not much consolation to a pre-teenJ: strike two.

Third, as a sixth grade girl I attended the first integrated school in my small rural town. There I discovered, through the pain and sting of racism and bullying, that I was hated by some people. I wasn’t prepared for the treatment and the words others used to “name” me. Growing up African-American in the Jim Crow South: strike three. 

The truth is, the labels the world uses to name us, and even the labels we get from our families can be powerful and harmful.  These labels shape us, guide us, and ultimately identify us. They cling to us as imperceptibly as dead skin. The writer E.E. Cummings said,

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable….”

For me, my life in Christ is my identity now. All other labels have fallen away.  I cling in faith day-by-day to the truth of who God created me to be as found in His revealed Word. 

“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

“You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

At first glance, it is easy to see that I am a black woman.  When I speak, it does not take long to assess that I am American (although I have been in the South so long that my Midwest “lack of an accent” is no longer as obvious).   Upon further view of my life, through conversation, actions, purpose, and peace, it is quite clear that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.

Here at Southeastern, I stand out a little bit, and I’m learning to be okay with that reality.  I am a single black woman who is almost forty on a campus where the majority of my classmates are married white males in their early to mid-twenties. This means that every day I get an opportunity to create black history and change other people’s conscious or subconscious perceptions.

I seek to celebrate my blackness, my culture, my history, and my heritage while embracing the good, learning from the struggle, challenging the ugly, and acknowledging the strides.  I pray that celebration becomes a classroom for others.   

In today’s post, I want to propose a challenge.  This is the same challenge I presented to my predominately black students each of my fifteen years of teaching. It is a necessary challenge, especially for those who wonder why Carter G. Woodson chose to create Negro History Week in 1926, which later became Black History Month in 1976. 

Each year when I issued this challenge as a teacher, the responses I read reminded me that there is a great need for recognizing the accomplishments of blacks and of other people of color. 

I understand why many state that it is unfair not to also have a White History Month.  I agree.  In an equal and colorblind world, that would be perfect. But my current response is that most public school curriculums do not teach the important contributions of people of color. 

Therefore, it is essential to accent the positives (and there are thousands of them), especially when the behavior of a reckless few have so dramatically influenced our perception about the majority.

You’re probably wondering, “What is this challenge?”  It’s simple:

List as many famous African Americans/ Black Americans as you can who have made noteworthy contributions to the world. 

But there’s a catch . . .  You cannot name musicians or athletes, unless you can specifically name how they have positively impacted the lives of others.  Once you get past Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, the difficulty begins.  Oh, I forgot to mention that there is a 5 minute time limit and no resources may be used.

Are you ready? Set a timer and see how you do. I’ll wait.

When you have finished, please keep in mind that intentional evangelism includes crossing all barriers, even cultural ones.  How did you do? 

We are ultimately all part of the human race, but just like when we go on an overseas mission trip, we must learn to interact with the culture of those around us to relate, converse, and at least cross the boundaries. 

Be honest with yourself.  Act on what you learned from this challenge, and take the time to get to know those around you.  Thank you for participating.

For the month of February, Walking Worthy will be dedicated to the celebration of Black History Month.

We have loved the Casual Conversations and intentional emphasis that Southeastern has devoted to diversity on our campus and in our churches. This month, we will continue the discussion with posts from students and faculty. In today’s post, Mrs. Faye Dunbar shares a song that she enjoys singing in praise and worship to our God, especially during this month.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”

            James Weldon Johnson was an American author, educator, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist.  On the occasion of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900, James Weldon Johnson wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  It was popular in the black community and became known as the “Negro National Anthem.”  During Black History Month, the song is sung in many African American churches. We hope you enjoy this song!

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

For the month of February, Walking Worthy will be dedicated to the celebration of Black History Month. 

We have loved the Casual Conversations and intentional emphasis that Southeastern has devoted to diversity on our campus and in our churches. This month, we will continue the discussion with posts from students and faculty. 

We serve the incredible God who created the entire universe.  As creatures made in the image of God, we have the ability to reflect our great God in the things that we create. Today's guest post is from talented C@SE student Shaq Hardy. He uses his passion for the Lord and the creativity of the spoken word to share the Gospel and his story. Be sure to watch the video of his performance at the end of the post!

My name is Shaquille Hardy, and I am majoring in Christian studies and English with a minor in theology at the College @ Southeastern. I am a spoken word poet. I've now been performing as a spoken word artist for almost three years. 

Spoken word poetry has become a popular form of art in main stream media over the past few years, but the art form itself has been around for years. It actually dates back to the ancient Greeks. Modern day spoken word, however, dates back to the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the 'New Negro Movement.' After the abolition of slavery, the Harlem Renaissance movement birthed new forms of expression in music, art, and poetry that expanded from the African-American community in the northern United States. The movement would rapidly spread throughout the world during the First World War. Today's spoken word poetry was birthed out of this movement. 

Spoken word poetry is written, but it is usually performed with a focus on the actual words and the artist's gestures and facial expressions. This form of poetry usually tells a story of some sort - usually something that the poet has experienced or something they are passionate about. It is often quite personal and meant to evoke some sort of emotion in the audience. 

The video in this post is from my second ever performance. In this performance, there are two stories being told: the story of God and a piece of my testimony. The performance then moves to how we should respond in light of what God has done for us. Enjoy!

For the month of February, Walking Worthy will be dedicated to the celebration of Black History Month. 

We have loved the Casual Conversations and intentional emphasis that Southeastern has devoted to diversity on our campus and in our churches. This month, we will continue the discussion with posts from students and faculty. Our first guest post is from the wonderful Mary Ann McMillan. Read on to be encouraged!

Hi! My name is Mary Ann McMillan, and I am a student in the Doctor of Education program here at Southeastern. I absolutely love it here (so much so that I stayed for the EdD program after graduating with an MAIS in 2013). I have a heart for international missions and I would love to serve overseas someday as a career missionary. I am so thankful to be here at SEBTS.

My grandmother sent me the poem below during a time 
when I was struggling with being the race that I am. 
This poem was a great reminder 
that I needed to find my identity in Christ 
and not in anything else. Hope you enjoy.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

~Proverbs 3:5-6

Why Did You Make Me Black?
By RuNell Ni Ebo

Why did You make me black?
Why did You make me someone the world wants to hold 


Black is the color of dirty clothes; the color of grimy 
  hands and feet.
Black is the color of darkness; the color of tire-beaten 

Why did You give me thick lips, a broad nose and kinky 
Why did You make me someone who receives the hatred 

Black is the color of a bruised eye when somebody gets 
Black is the color darkness. Black is the color of dirt.

How come my bone structure’s so thick; my hips and 
  cheeks so high?
How come my eyes are brown and not the color of the 
  daylight sky?

Why do people think I'm useless? How come I feel so 
Why do people see my skin and think I should be 

Lord, I just don't understand; What is it about my skin?
Why do some people want to hate me and not know the 
  person within?

Black is what people are "listed," when others want to 
  keep them away.
Black is the color of shadows cast. Black is the end of the 

Lord, You know, my own mistreat me; and I know 
  this just ain't right. They don't like my hair or the way 
  I look. 
They say I'm too dark or too light.

Lord, don't You think it's time for You to make a change? 
Why don't You re-do creation and make everyone the 

GOD answered:

Why did I make you black? Why did I make you black?

Get off your knees and look around. Tell Me, 
  what you see?
I didn't make you in the image of darkness. I made you 
  in the likeness of ME!

I made you in the color of coal from which beautiful 
  diamonds are formed.
I made you in the color of oil, the black-gold that keeps 
  people warm.

I made you from the rich, dark earth that can grow the 
  food you need.
Your color’s the same as the panther’s, known for beauty 
  and speed.

Your color’s the same as the black stallion, a majestic 
  animal is he.
I didn't make you in the image of darkness. I made you 
  in the likeness of ME!

All the colors of the heavenly rainbow can be 
  throughout every nation;
And when all of these colors were blended well, you 
  became my greatest creation.

Your hair is the texture of lamb's wool, such a humble,
  little creature is he.
I am the Shepherd who watches them. I am the One who 
  will watch over thee.

You are the color of midnight-sky, I put the star's glitter 
  in your eyes.
There’s a smile hidden behind your pain, that's the 
  reason your cheeks are high.

You are the color of dark clouds formed when I send My 
  strongest weather.
I made your lips full so when you kiss the one you love, 
  they will remember.

Your stature is strong; your bone structure thick to 
  withstand the burden of time.
The reflection you see in the mirror . . . The image that 
  looks back at you is MINE!


Can you believe that it is already February? 

Classes have begun, we have seen snow days and 60* weather, and the 2014 Winter Olympics will begin tomorrow! With Valentine's Day right around the corner, February is often a month dedicated to love. While we don't mind talking about love (after all, we serve a great God whose very nature is love), we are excited to shift your focus a bit this month. 

For the month of February, Walking Worthy will be dedicated to the celebration of Black History Month. 

We have loved the Casual Conversations and intentional emphasis that Southeastern has devoted to diversity on our campus and in our churches. This month, we will continue the discussion with posts from students and faculty.

To whet your appetite, here is a brief introduction to Black History Month from the History Channel's (click here for a video, too!):

"Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of 'Negro History Week,' the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history."

We can't wait to see what this month holds!