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Inheritng Our Ancestor’s Struggles

African American news - Lena Horne from a biblical perspectiveWhen David's time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: "I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. Then the LORD will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established. (I Kings 2:1-4, 12, NRSV)

As I awoke to a dreary Monday morning, May 10th, I was alerted to news of the passing of Ms. Lena Horne. The USA Today Newspaper reported on the life, legacy and achievements of this pioneering giant. The first person of color to sign a long term contract with an established movie studio, Horne was a trailblazer. The grand daughter of a freed slave, Horne, like many early Black celebrities, had as sense of duty and responsibility with regard to social and civil uplift. She embraced her status as a role model particularly during the civil rights era where she marched and refused to play (entertain) before segregated audiences. Horne participated in advancing the struggles of African Americans.

Horne took up the mantle of her ex-enslaved grandmother continuing to fright for freedom in all areas of life. The struggles of her ancestors were passed on to her. In our biblical passage, we see King David's son, Solomon, inheriting the mantle, achievement and struggles of his father. His father's advice, to continue walking in the ways of the Lord, I am sure this may have also been the advice Horne received from her ancestors. This is the message that we today must hear and embrace.

What are the struggles that my generation will inherit? What social battles are we left with which we must in turn take up and fight? De facto or dejure racism is no longer legal, at least on the surface of explicit blatancy. Yet, the struggles of our ancestors appear to be trickling down to the new generations of parents and their children. African Americans and others still face challenges with racial profiling, a fast growing compromised public school education, redlining, and economic and ecological injustice (in the form of pay wages, communal and residential real estate located near under resourced and health hazardous areas). How will we fight if fighting is what we will actually do?

Because he was the son of the great King of Israel, Solomon was charged with continuing on his father's legacy and fight. This fight was not just for self or selfish reasons. His fight was on behalf of God for the people of God. Horne's and other's fight was for the generations of Black and Black female entertainment that would and continue to come after (Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee, Debbie Allen, Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Halle Berry and others). What have we become because of other's? To date, I am the only African American with a Ph.D. in the area of Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran Studies. As a sub-discipline of biblical studies, I stand on the shoulders of persons like Charles B. Copher, John Waters, David Shannon, Cain Hope Felder, Clarice Martin, Randal Bailey and others. What will become my fights and what will I champion and/or participate with championing? What will you?

[Dr. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins is Scholar-in-Residence at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Atlanta, GA and is a Professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center also in Atlanta. He is the author of "Ecclesiastes" in the African Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures through Africa and the African Diaspora (Fortress Press), 2009, and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought 1 (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, lecturing, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. You may contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .]

 

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