Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Legacy of Black Prophetic Moments: Dynastic Monuments versus Dynamic Movements

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Legacy of Black Prophetic Moments: Dynastic Monuments versus Dynamic Movements

Article excerpt

The twentieth century was indeed dominated by many surges in progressive science, productive technology, and the soaring heights of the creative and artful human imagination. But it was also desecrated by waves of incalculable conflict, and painfully challenged by an almost unimaginable human carnage. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, many had made bold to suggest that the twentieth century could be termed the "American Century." America as a whole could never have actually made such a claim, for there were millions of Americans who would have refused to do so, because of what they had to endure in America itself. What then could we actually claim about the last century? What did it portend? What did it produce? What did it bequeath? The wisdom of my Afro-Caribbean elders has always reminded me that there are three things that come not back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, and the lost opportunity. My preliminary question is simply this: Is this twenty-first century emerging as a century of lost opportunities, as far as the world of ebony grace is concerned? "Ebony grace" is my special term for God's loving and lovely gift of Blackness.

I propose to reflect on Blackness in global terms, even though our contextual and historical realities might tend to be mainly localized. I happen to conceptualize Blackness along a two-dimensional continuum. There is parental Blackness, and there is prophetic Blackness. Parental Blackness is unconditional and essentially ontological. It is what it is, regardless of who says or thinks otherwise. All Black people know that there are only two things they have to do in this life-one: they have to stay Black, and two: they have to dief Prophetic Blackness is the fertile and dynamic convergence and integration of Black personhood, Black experiences, and unrelenting Black active hope for a better existence. Prophetic Blackness activates parental Blackness in calling forth, and radically responding to, a divinely inspired and wholly disruptive alternative future. It consists mainly in a radical and progressive resistance to the negation of Blackness. To put it yet another way, it means saying and living out the "No" to the "No, No" encountered in the Black experience.

Accordingly, I have chosen to entitle this presentation "The Legacy of Black Prophetic Moments: Dynastic Monuments versus Dynamic Movements." This keynote address is given on the anniversary commemoration of the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th, 1968, and within the year of observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963. It seemed good for me to offer some reflections on the global century, in which the King Event shared in a symphony of Black prophetic moments that both pre-dated, and post-dated, Dr. King. For when we make bold to place King in a global milieu, in a context that is neither dominated nor controlled by anyone in particular, we may yet derive some invaluable and beneficial insights. These benefits might far transcend any hegemonic, or particularized, patterns of cultural ownership, or dynastic exclusivity, or even ideological prejudices. My continuing attitude has been to speak of Dr. King in prophetic terms, mainly because of four distinguishing characteristics that were evident in his unique biography. These were: his moral courage, his passion for justice, his personal sacrifice, and the manner of his death. My purpose here is not to focus so much on King, or on four other historical icons of the last century, to whom I shall later draw your attention, but to locate all of them in a century of prophetic moments, as the basis for my concluding questions and observations. Two conceptual issues require our immediate attention, however, and they revolve around my use of the term "prophetic moments." One has to do with the notion of the "prophetic," while the other deals with concepts of "time" and "timeliness."

My use of the term "prophetic" will perhaps conjure up notions of the classical Hebrew prophets with whom we are familiar in the Holy Scriptures. …

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