|The National Institute for Restorative Justice
"Educating for Advocacy"
|1464 East 105 Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
|Mittie's Musings: A Message From The Chair
|"Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience,
and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
Harriett Ross Tubman
"For Zion’s sake, I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not rest until her
vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch." The New
Revised Mittie Imani Black Methocostal Version - as inspired by the Reverend,
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver - reads like this: "For the sake of my people, I’ve got
something to say. For Black America’s sake, I will not rest until justice beams forth like
the morning star, and liberation like a fire ablaze!
|Renewing Inalienable Rights, Rebuilding Communal Confidence, Re-energizing Sustainable Economy, Reviving Unbridled Spirit
|The First Sunday in Christmastide Sermon
Cory United Methodist Church, Cleveland, Ohio
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Lectionary Text - Isaiah 61:11 - 62:3
|"Do You Hear What I Hear?"
There’s a small battle brewing in Chandler, Oklahoma. A battle brewing over – of all
things – the tolling of the First United Methodist Church’s Christmas bells. It turns out
that not everyone – well, at least not two people – wanted to hear the chiming of carols
every hour, on the hour for the past two weeks.
While bell towers of the original St. Matthew near the corner of my street have been
silent for years, I found myself drawn to this story because of – shall we say – the
healthy collection of wind chimes dominating my front porch and back yard. While I
have not had any complaints from my neighbors, I have had curious comments from
passers-by. One little girl wanted to know why my house was so “spooky” with all
those candles in the windows and “them bells.” Actually, the electric candles in every
window – 26 to be exact - started out as Christmas decorations a few years ago, and
were never removed. It takes me well into the middle of February to just to get down
the garland and wreaths.
So, throughout the year, candles light the windows of my home from dusk to dawn, and
neighbors and passers-by speculate their purpose. I’ve heard a few, the most popular
being that someone is missing and they are lit until they come home –often it’s from war
or prison. Thank God, I have no one away for either reason, but that has not always
been the case. One friend reminded me that I am a modern day abolitionist, and so it is
fitting for candles to peer from my windows.
But back to the wind chimes. Once I was questioned by a fellow shopper while
taking advantage of the end of season 75% off sale with a basket full of chimes.
“Why do you do that?’ Unsure of what he was talking about, I responded with
“do what?” He pointed to my cart. “Why are you going to hang up all those
wind chimes to make all that noise? My neighbor has those, and it drives me
Realizing that this was a tender subject that had now garnered the attention of the
entire check-out line, I decided to ante up the truth about my affinity for wind
chimes. “Well, I hear them as God’s music.” He looked at me like he wanted to
reach over and slap me. “Now, how you gonna put God in the middle of that
noise?” I braced myself. “How do chimes make noise?” I asked. Another
listener responded before he could speak a word. “The wind!” She excitedly
exclaimed. I decided to take advantage of the teachable, preachable moment and
quoted the prophet Amos: “Lo, the one who forms the mountains creates the
wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals…” I went on to explain that whether it is a
soft tingling whisper or a vibrant rushing roar, through the chimes I see the wind
and I hear the voice of God. The brother actually smiled, and kindly responded:
“Well, it’s hard to argue with it when you put it that way.”
On Christmas Eve, I left my house going somewhere that I’d already decided I
had no good reason to go. I made it to the corner of my street when a torrential
rain came out of nowhere, making invisible the street, sidewalks, cars, lights! I
could not see anything but the rain! And, in the mighty movement of the rain, I
saw the wind! The rain was not just coming down from the sky, it was moving
like a wild and frenzied dance across the earth! While scary in that first
moment, it was also really quite amazing. The windows of heaven opened up and
poured out an awesome dancing display.
Through the rain, I could see glimpses of the head and tail lights of cars in front
of me, and behind. Everything had stopped! And for a brief moment, I am sure
we were all terrified by the possibility of chain reaction crashes. Cars pulled to
the side of the road and turned on flashers. And, at the first glimpse of a
reprieve, I turned right back onto my street to inch my way home, still barely
seeing the road before me. Indeed, it was the candle lights twinkling from my
windows that helped me know that I was near. I thanked God, literally – “thank
you Lord” – as I made my way into my drive, and dashed from the car into the
house. The wind whipped the chimes into a, resounding, reverberating chorus.
If there is such a thing as 3D sound, it surrounded my house that night.
It reminded me of the night the angels came for my mother. Unless you’ve
experienced it, it will be hard to believe that it is real. My brother and sister had
arrived from Florida, and were sound asleep in the wee morning hours before
dawn. I sat half asleep in a chair by my mother’s bed, in case she emerged from
the deep sleep that held her silent for the past few days. Suddenly, I heard the
birds. At first, it was like any ordinary sounds of morning birds, although it was
nowhere near the time of their usual song before dawn. Then the sound began
to change. The chirping drew nearer with an intensity and frequency so high that
it seemed to surround the building and fill every corner of our space. It was
unlike anything that I ever heard, and just as unexpectedly as the sound came
down, it ascended away. My heart was beating so fast that I swear I could hear
it. I looked at my mother – totally unchanged, still breathing and engulfed in her
calm and peaceful sleep.
I rushed to the room in which my brother slept to awake him to see if he had
heard them. No. “Are you serious? You didn’t hear that?” No. He turned over
and went back to sleep.
I decided not to even bother to go to the room where my sister slept. I learned
that night that not everyone is afforded a glimpse into glory, but first thinking
that I had “lost it,” perhaps delirious from lack of sleep in vigilantly keeping
watch over my mother during her final days, I vowed not to bring up the birds
again. Later that morning, after the sun rose, surrounded by the three of us and
her nurse, crying yet singing some of her favorite songs of praise, my mother
eased into eternal life while resting in my arms.
The following day, as a neighbor extended condolences and was leaving my
home, she hesitated just short of exiting the door. She looked at me with deep
curiosity. And almost in a whisper, she asked as if ashamed: “Mittie, did you
hear the birds last night?” I wasn’t crazy! And now she knew that neither was
she. They had come, and filled the air with their swing low, sweet song! The
portal had opened. Momma had been ushered into the safety of His arms. My
neighbor and I knew that having witnessed the hearing, we would never be the
same. We stood there, hugging each other, thanking the Lord, through joyful
I felt that same sense of “all is well” on Christmas Eve as the rain danced and
the wind chimes echoed around my home. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning.
Christmas has come. “God is with us!”
Five months ago - upon the return of the young Mr. James to the Cleveland
Cavaliers in July - I started writing a missive about America’s “love – hate” - or
love to hate - relationship with black men. I started it with the quirkiness of “a
funny thing happened on the way from the beach,” as I was at Lakeside
Chautauqua when the news came. It truly is an interesting story, but before I
could sink my writing teeth into it, the theme was overshadowed by the
revelation of young black men being shot down across America by “law
enforcers,” intertwined with the onslaught of the vilification of young and old
The script started flipping so fast that it quit making sense. Between the physical
executions and character assassinations, I quit trying to write about it, and just
watched it relentlessly unfold: Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Ezell
Ford, Kajieme Powell, Darrien Hunt, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir
Rice… and these were only the names that we knew. Michael Brown was not
the first homicide by police in 2014 –104 were reported nationwide for the
month of August alone, 27 before Brown, 76 behind – Kajieme Powell less than
two weeks later, and barely 5 miles away.
…Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams, Rekia Boyd, Kendrick McDade, Trayvon
Martin, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, James Chaney, Emmett Till… and the
countless thousands of names that never made the headlines screamed from their
blood drenched graves.
This story is not new. It is intrinsic to American “his-story.” And many of us
are not amused by the irony that the spokesman for one the largest law
enforcement unions in the nation, is named Lynch. And he is rallying his
New York mob.
Lynchings and beatings and the dismembering of black men’s bodies and
integrity have been going on for centuries in America. But with the advent of the
camera-phone and social media, every citizen becomes a documentarian with
fifty second, flash mob distribution throughout the world! Truth can no longer
be crushed to the earth. It will rise again on the wings of social media. Finally,
all “the ruler of the air’s” information technology is good for something.
If I could reach POTUS, I would say: with all due respect, Mr. President - and
dearly respect you, I do – please do not spend one red cent of our tax dollars on
police body cams. We have cameras. We watched them beat Rodney King
senseless, choke Eric Garner to death, and snuff out the life of a twelve year old
Tamir Rice within seconds.
The only people to benefit from police body cams are the owners and stock
holders of the companies that manufacture and distribute them. Seeing is not
believing in the chambers of America’s “Just Us” centers. Body Cams on men
trained to manipulate the truth will not change a thing. The police shooter of
Akai Gurley spent 6 1/2 minutes texting his union rep to get his story straight
before attending to, or even calling for help for that young man as he lay dying
on the floor.
Body Cams will not change the outcome. Not guilty in an unjust system. No
justice for us. And because of that, indeed there will be no peace. For the good
tidings of the Christmas gospel was not peace on earth to everybody, but rather
“peace among those with whom God is pleased.”
“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to
walk humbly with your God.” No justice. No peace.
In his 1968 posthumously published essay, “A Testament of Hope,” Reverend
Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out that virtually every riot in the United States
has begun from some act of police brutality. While stating that there was “no
single answer to the plight of the American Negro.. the place to start, is in the
area of human relations, and especially in the area of community-police
relations.” He went on to suggest that relations could change if the police would
just talk with black people with dignity during their encounters, and that “police
must cease being occupation troops in the ghetto and start protecting its
By the time our Attorney General Holder reached Ferguson with a promise of
coming change, the echo of Dr. King’s prophetic voice rang out from a half
century ago. “How long?” But I choked to finish the phrase.
Fifty years ago - following a march from Selma that we now pretend is just a
movie - Dr. King sounded the question “how long,” and proposed the promise
“not long,” “Not long,” he said “because a lie cannot live forever… because you
reap what you sow… because the arc of the moral universe is long and bends
How long? Too long! – Chained up, raped, dogged out, lynched mobbed,
belittled, left behind, shut down, kept down, locked down, shot down… our
ancestors are shouting from the earth, sky and sea! Too long! Enough is
My writing spirit returned and my fingers began to dance across the keyboard.
A Season of Vilification, Gun-smoke Screens and Body Cams.
Smoke screens, because this really is about the weapons of death and
destruction. If there were no guns, it would be an entirely different story. Lost
in the narrative of “Black Lives Matter,” remain the “black on black crime.” A
young family gunned down in their home just blocks away from mine, the five
murders included two graduating Martin Luther King High school youth, and an
unborn baby in its mother’s womb. Lost in the narrative are the 176 mass
killings since 2006, of which only 15% were public: Columbine, Sandy Hook,
Newtown, Fort Hood, Chardon, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, the DC Navy
Yard, Marysville, Portland – and the degrees of separation between those last
two for me, were not nearly six. My grandnephew, by way of his mother, is a
member of the Native Talalip tribe of which the young Marysville shooter and
victims belonged. My grandniece once attended the Portland high school where
four teens were shot while seeking refuge from gang violence. 176 mass
shootings of which only 15% were public events. The other 85% without media
fanfare claimed the lives of rivals, families, men, women and children – often
innocently standing, sitting or sleeping by.
Without guns the world and its story would look different. If fights were with
fair fist, I submit that the inclination to engage war would wane, and indigenous
people would still live on their lands.
A funny thing happened on the way from the “Lilly white,” Lakeside Chatauqua
beach this summer. It was a pleasant mid-July afternoon during a wonderfully
long weekend highlighted by a Saturday evening of music ministry with the
incomparable CeCe Winans. With Sister CeCe’s coming, the Black population
swelled with fans from Ohio and nearby Michigan to around 25 by early
evening. But, on the day before her arrival you could count the Black folk on
the island on two hands, and still have fingers left over. This count included my
family of six – my sister, myself and our four grandsons (two each), ranging in
ages from my three year old to my twelve year old. Outside of United Methodist
Annual Conference weeks, the island is just that kind of – shall we say – less
colorful place. Truth be told, during Conference weeks.... Oh well.
While heading through the dock underpass from the beach, the boys took off
running, my sister behind them in close pursuit. I, being bogged down with
beach bags, towels and a camera, moved a bit more slowly. The Lakeside Dock
is an interesting configuration that includes a scooped out archway leading to
Lake Erie. On either side of the archway are views of tucked away gift shops
and the restaurant above. As I dragged along, peering at the gifts I would like
but could not afford to buy, it hit me. I came face to face with two hand-printed
signs notifying passers-by, and at the same time welcoming – the return of
Lebron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Welcome Home Lebron!” read one.
“Lebron is Coming Home!” read the other.
Later that evening the nights entertainment at Hoover Auditorium was an
exceptionally gifted troupe of New York actors who capitalized on the news
when someone volunteered the title “Lebron is back, and there’s going to be
trouble,” as a contender for their improvisational performance of “Broadway’s
Next Big Hit.” I have to give it to them, they were brilliant. With a victory song
and basketball themed choreography, they had 3,000 cheering faces - again, only
about ten looking like Lebron – caught up in this national phenomenon of “the
king returns home.” As much as I want to believe – not my good Methodists – I
had to wonder if any of them had participated in his jersey burning, lynching in
effigy, and vilification when he decided to “take [his] talents to South Beach.”
I tell my out of town and state friends all the time that it was not Clevelanders,
and certainly not the boys and girls of Akron who love him dearly – no, we were
not the ones who burned his jersey and cursed his family. We can’t even afford
to go to the games! Don’t put that bad rap on Cleveland, but rather on the
visitors, who converge upon downtown on game nights for a good old, beer
drinking, whooping time, and mostly the business owners who benefit – thus
lost out when he left, and with him millions of dollars spent just to be part of the
phenomenon, ironically called “Witness.”
Bloomberg News reported that Lebron’s return to the Cavaliers will bring over
500 million dollars – say it again – a half a billion dollars a year to Cleveland’s
downtown economy. Based on the increase of the average game time
attendance, Cuyahoga County will benefit over $260 million alone. They were
mad that he left. So they burned and hung him in effigy!
But mostly, they were mad that this young, gifted and blessed black brother-
man chose to exercise his option of freedom - freedom to appoint another
young black brother as his negotiating agent; and yet another one to manage his
marketing brand! How dare he take that money from our corps of seasoned
white and Jewish professionals, and set up - empower two boys from the
hood? Hoodrats! How dare he take the term “free agent” to task, and on top
of that, leave our town. You can’t get out of town by sundown until we say
so. How dare you!
Owners and auctioneers, these are not your parent’s Negroes, these are not
your Forty Million Dollar Slaves with which you’ve grown accustomed and
comfortable. And, in this time of great turmoil in our nation, these young, free
black celebrated men are speaking up and out about justice. The one that you
turned into a king, your goose that laid the golden egg and everyone follows –
has stood up for truth, understanding – in the words of our ancestors - that “if
you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything” Like the prophet
Isaiah, these young, brave men will “not keep silent, and they will not rest until
vindication shines forth like the dawn.”
God bless you St. Louis Rams, New York Nets, Portland Trailblazers, Los
Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls, Washington
Redskins, Georgetown Men’s Basketball, and those brave Notre Dame Women
Basketball players, many who come from “Fighting Irish” families entrenched in
God bless the witnessing brothers of my home teams: Browns wide receiver
Andrew Hawkins and defensive safety Johnson Bademosi who, along with
Detroit Lions’ Reggie Bush and San Diego Chargers’ Melvin Ingram, didn’t wait
for the fancy commercially printed warm up shirts – they just hand printed and
painted “I Can’t Breath” on their sweat shirts and took to the field.
God Bless Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving and the power broker forward Lebron
James, who on the recent HGTV televised occasion of helping to repair and
restore the home of a deserving family, reminded us that – in his words -
“it’s about the needy, not the greedy.”
Truly, God knows that in face of the vilification and murder of young black
men, we are all needy –we need these young celebrated brothers to stand up,
brandish their protest tees and speak intelligently, and eloquently – ah, young
brother Hawkins, you brought tears of joy to my eyes – brilliantly speaking up
and out against injustice. For surely, surely they know that “there but for
fortune,” –fortune, a highly recognizable face, and the grace and mercy of
God… there go they. They also know that their beautiful young black sons,
with their unfamiliar and uncelebrated faces, could just as easily meet up with a
trigger happy policeman, as did young Tamir Rice.
As I prepared to preach the first Sunday in Advent four weeks ago at my home
congregation, St. Matthew United Methodist Church, and as I prepared my
sermon for this first Sunday in Christmastide – the twelve days between the
Nativity of the Lord and the Epiphany of the Wise Men - our Common Lectionary
turns us to the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah for words of comfort and hope. I
love Isaiah. I get Isaiah! I get crying out in the wilderness - not holding truth
back, calling out the so called leaders of the church and community, being
blacklist, and whitelist, at times ostracized by even family and friends. I get it!
I get the good, bad and the ugly of Isaiah. And Isaiah can definitely get ugly at
times. The good, bad, the ugly - or, as I prefer to reference it, the hope,
comfort – because when things get bad, you want some comfort – and the
chastisement of Isaiah. You see, most of us just want to hear the hope, the
good news of the prophesy. We welcome the promise that there is a prince of
peace, a mighty counselor headed our way. But Isaiah is not always so easy
on the conscience. Most of the time, Isaiah is like the brothers and sisters in
the streets, chanting “no justice, no peace!” Indeed, it’s Isaiah’s job as a
wilderness prophet to shake us up a bit. We like the Isaiah who talks about our
wings mounting up like eagles, and our running and not getting weary, walking
and not fainting. These are the Isaiah passages we love to read and hear. We
love the part about the ‘child being born…’ For unto us – you and me – a
child is born…
We like that part. But we really don’t want to hear Isaiah’s prophecy regarding
the rebuilding of the ruins, the restoration of the places destroyed long ago. As
the young folk, including my seven year old grandnephew would say, “Ain’t
nobody got time for that!” We’d really rather that I not talk about that. I
know some of you are sitting here right now thinking, 'Preacher, don’t start.
Don’t come up in here messin’ up our holiday weekend with all that protest
stuff!' Somebody in here ought to say, Hallelujah, ouch!
But, knowing what I know - having heard the birds, and seeing the wind in the
rain, and hearing the voice of God in the chimes…. I get Isaiah! And
unquestionably, on the eve of our celebration of Christ’s birth I heard the
prophet echo through the millenniums, and I knew without a doubt that smack
dab in the middle of the mess of this nation, that God is with us!
He is that “shoot” that was promised to “spring up from the stem of Jesse - the
spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the
spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will not judge by what
His eyes see, nor make a decision by what his ears hear; but with righteousness
He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of
His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His
loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist.”
“My friends, if you listen carefully through all the noise – through the chants,
through the protests, through the prayers, through the commercial news sound
bites – if you listen carefully through the wind and the rain you will hear and
know that God is with us.
“How long? Too long.”
So our God is marching again. Marching with the young and old, black and
white, rich and poor, every day people in the streets of New York, Ferguson,
Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver,
Jacksonville, Seattle, Spokane, DC… all over this nation – coast to coast - in
cities big and small, “sea to shining sea.
”How long? Too long.”
So our God is marching up out of the voices of the brilliant and bold young black
celebrities – musicians, actors and athletes speaking up and out regardless of
vilification, without fear of losing their gladiator contracts and endorsement deals
that make them millions. In the words of Sister Sonia Sanchez, they refuse to go
out “death by dollar.”
“How long? Too long.”
So our God is marching with the quiet, unannounced “do the right thing”
decisions being made in the back corners of the legislative, judicial and executive
chambers from the small town house to the big white house.
“How long? Too long.”
So our God is marching in the echoes of our ancestors and in the boisterous
chants of our young. And just like that rush of moving rain that blurred out
every visible thing on Christmas Eve, justice is about to “roll down like water
and righteousness like a mighty stream,” because God is with us, and God is on
|References: Amos 4:13; "A Testament of Hope" by Martin Luther King, Jr.,
published posthumously in 1969; Micah 6:8; USA Today: Behind The Bloodshed,
national data on mass gun violence; Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall
and Redemption of Black Athletes, by William Rhoden; Isaiah 11:1 - 5; "Our God
Is Marching On" by Martin Luther King, Jr, March 25, 1965; Amos 5:24
|Mittie Imani Jordan is a United Methodist minister serving the Community Outreach
Ministries of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the
founder of Deuteronomy 8:3 Cafe Books & Music, and founding chair of the
National Institute for Restorative Justice, and the Rockefeller Park Community
Restoration & Development Association, Inc, for the Rockefeller Park Community
of Opportunity & Equity in Cleveland.
Andrew Hawkins, preparing to enter the field in the "Battle for Ohio" game - Cleveland
Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals. December 14, 2014.
Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James and Kyrie Irving with the entire New York Nets
Team - December 8, 2014 - Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, not withstanding.
Abruptly stopping – literally dead smack in my tracks –
I almost caused a collision with an elderly Anglo couple
also emerging from the beach. Obviously, the look on
my face more than expressed my surprise, as the old
gentleman smiled and quite knowingly assured me, “it’s
true.” I settled my burden of bags, pulled out my
camera and documented the moment - of all places for
me to be at the announcement of the “second
decision,” I was at Lakeside.
|Click on photo for inspiring
interview with young
|Click on photo for more
information regarding the murders
of 14 year olds Emitt Till in 1955
and Tamir Rice in 2014.