Tuesday, October 4, 2016


          When my wife Sylvia and I first visited the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue there was a thrill in the air.  It was after all in the year 2008 and there was a newly elected president  Barack Obama. Chancellor Avenue is located in the South Ward in Newark, New Jersey. For further clarification we were in the heart of the Hood.
          One didn't even have to talk to a person to sense the anticipation of something good coming along. It was written on their smiling faces and it was written on their shirts. I'm talking about the famous or perhaps now infamous one. It had the depiction of President Obama with the words HOPE underneath.
          I am certain that almost everybody down there was feeling good. After all sixty years ago if there was a black president of the United States in a science fiction story it would have been criticized as unbelievable. But despite slavery, despite Jim Crow, despite the riots, despite watching immigrants come in and move on ahead, despite a thousand other things, it had happened. One of their own had become president; or so they thought.
          Every time we were down there we saw that 'Hope' shirt. I am not exaggerating. We'd be down to the Church building twice every Sunday and Wednesday evening for Bible study. Our walk to the store front building from the street was measured in mere yards. But without fail we would always see that shirt. It was almost like a gang affiliation; perhaps stronger and definitely more universal.
          So what happened? Well my wife and I dedicated ourselves to the congregation. We met a lot of wonderful people and we made a lot of beautiful friends. Oh, yeah, the 'Hope' shirts are now gone. Not one has been seen in years. Somewhere the anticipated messiah of the poor African American had been shot down.
          Don't get me wrong there is still a tremendous amount of pride towards President Obama. Some of the people blame the senate and the congress, in particular the Republicans. Rumors abound, and based upon certain statements I've seen I believe them to be true. That is that the priority of the Republicans was simply to shut down Obama; so that he could get nothing done.
          There's not too much talk about the man selling out. Personally I believe to climb high into politics you do indeed sell your soul to the devil. That when you go to big business for financing a political campaign that favors are expected in return. Dick Cheney and Halliburton come to mind. But it's not limited to Republicans and it's not limited to the Federal level. Let's face it, even if it's the cop on the take or the local assembly man getting kickbacks this country reeks with corruption. I firmly believe that if Obama tried to fundamentally change the way our country worked this article would be a eulogy.
          Let me tell you that I have yet to see any sign to indicate whether people are more favored to Hillary or Sanders. I think that perhaps in some of the crowds that hangs around the church building, if somebody claimed to support Trump, they would get beaten. I'm not joking. In the eight years we've been there at the church plant I can recall at least three murders. Two on the corner thirty yards from the building and the most recent one on June first, a block away.
          These are the same people who as a pale skinned person have embraced me. That when I walk the neighborhoods and knock on doors there hasn't been the slightest hint of hatred. Except perhaps once. On the other hand when I take my Sylvia, who is African American to 'European American' neighborhoods, I have more concern for her safety.
          So to quote Marvin Gay , "What's going on?" Certainly I have seen no excitement in the Hood over this election. I think everybody is sad to see President Obama leave office. I don't think that the majority of the people down there have a grasp of the political climate. I really don't think I could make that claim for myself as well. It seems to be a very complicated world. When in the United States that it is a crisis that billionaires and millionaires on Wall Street are going to go broke, yet when that's the daily reality in the Hood, it's not even mentioned in the press. When you can spend all the money you need to 'defend' this country but can't do one lick to support what you are 'defending'.
          I believe there is an answer and I know it does not exist in politics alone. Politics can be an avenue for change, but if you focus on it you will lose every time. In the end, cynical as it seems, Washington is an exclusive club where money is the ticket to intimacy. If you have no hefty some of cash you are simply a statistic.
          So what is the answer? Community. Simple as that. A community of love and support. Obama and his wife did provide inspiration. They still fulfill that role today and historically forever will. But they fell short of what the people aspired to. Nothing great was done, outside the mind and spirit that is. But who knows what will grow from the seeds of Obama's legacy? What unimaginable good thing will happen sixty years from now?

          So we'll continue to do our service. Hand out free clothes. Buy the panhandlers food. Lend a sympathetic, listening, non judgmental ear.  Talk to the people about a better life with Jesus Christ. But most importantly there is an open invitation for anyone on this planet to come down to the Church of Christ on Chancellor Avenue and become part of what we are. You see we offer a HOPE you can and must believe in. 

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