The Crusader Newspaper Group

“Flying Without Perching”

“Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching.” Chinua Achebe from“Things Fall Apart”

 “And without covering their eyes the women let loose. It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up. Women stopped crying and danced; men sat down and cried; children danced, women laughed, children cried until, exhausted and riven, all and each lay about the Clearing damp and gasping for breath. 

“In the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up to them her great big heart…

“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. 

“Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it… No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. 

“And O, my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them! Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. 

“You got to love it – you! 

“And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed…What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give leavins instead. No they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it.”

“This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And oh my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it, and hold it up. 

And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver – love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. 

“More than eyes or feet…More than your life-holding womb and your live-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

Baby Suggs, from Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”

I lift these two powerful quotes because they not only illustrate that African people had to learn to “fly without perching” in this nation that stole us from our homeland, the place of the origin of all humanity. The place, our homeland, that taught Europeans what civilization actually was. The place, our homeland, that gave Europe the religion of Jesus and introduced the world to the Abrahamic religions, of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

Yes, we were stolen from our homeland, and they stuffed our Black bodies into the stinking holds of slave ships to be sold as property, and separated us from our families, our native peoples, our culture and our language. All this was done to have our people work for free to enrich the greedy and inhumane owners of plantations. Please know there was no benefit in chattel slavery to Black people.  

Black people, like Eneke the bird, had to learn to “fly without perching.”

And so, like Baby Suggs’ character in Beloved we created the Black Church as a form of resistance to White oppression. The Black Church, the “Invisible Institution,” met in cane breaks, brush arbors and hush arbors where we reconnected with the Holiness of our human Black bodies. We learned to “fly without perching.”

It was in that same Black Church that powerful women like Baby Suggs, Reverend Sojourner Truth, Reverend Harriet “44 pistol packing” Tubman, and Reverend Jarena Lee preached us into loving our beautiful Black flesh. They also helped us organize and strategize to escape plantations, for either the freedom among Maroon communities or the precarious freedom of the North. We learned to “fly without perching.”

That same Black Church, the place where after chattel slavery begrudgingly ended, was the place where we organized schools to teach our youth and our people, because it was in our DNA. The thirst for knowledge was instilled from way back, when our people built educational institutions like the University of Sankore in Timbuktu, where neophytes to education like Plato, Aristotle and others came to sit at the feet of master teachers. The Black Church birthed HBCUs like Morehouse, Spelman, Virginia Union, Paul Quinn College, Howard University and Rust College. We learned to “fly without perching.”

From that Black Church we not only built businesses and institutions with nickels and nails, pennies and prayers, but we organized the Civil Rights revolution that shook the foundations of the racist structures in this very nation. We learned to “fly without perching.”

Finally, there is no end to the names of people who began singing in the Black Church, who went on to become music royalty. Nor is there an end to those who were encouraged in the Black Church as children, to become scientists, thought leaders, authors, athletes, activists, attorneys, entrepreneurs, politicians, preachers, and radio personalities. These church bred warriors, like the late Joe “The Black Eagle” Madison (more on Joe Madison next week), used their gifts to advocate for our people.

We as a people have learned like Eneke the bird, to “fly without perching,” in this land of white hostility to Black autonomy and ingenuity.Now we must go back like the Sankofa bird symbolizes, to teach our children how to “fly without perching,” and as Baby Suggs said, to “love this flesh,” because it is holy.     

 .Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.” Contact the church by email at [email protected] or by phone at 219-944-0500.

Knowing The Truth - Part I
Rev. John E. Jackson
Senior Pastor at | + posts

Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”

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