By Rev. John Jackson, Sr.
On June 5, 2022, the Christian community all over the world celebrated Pentecost. Pentecost has its roots in Judaism and is part of the annual festivals that remember and celebrate deliverance of African Jews from forced bondage in Egypt.
For Christians it remembers the birthday or beginning of the followers of The Way, or the Christian community “ekklesia” in Greek, that is centered on the person of Jesus of Nazareth, identified as the Messiah or the Christ of God.
Yet what is not as emphasized as much is the community that was created from the Pentecost moment/movement.
That community of north east Africans residing in Palestine developed a community of inclusion and egalitarian values that made sure everyone had enough of what they needed. This event illustrates what theologians call a “Theology of Sufficiency.” God created enough for everyone to have enough of whatever they need.
The insights for today are of major importance, especially for Black people in Gary and across the diaspora of African-descended peoples.
I heard Professor Greg Carr repeat what one of his African-descended mentors and a liberation fighter spoke in his ear recently. Dr. Carr shared with his “In Class with Carr,” audience that his mentor said, “Black people need to stick together.”
The Pentecost movement demonstrates that sentiment in profound ways.
These Africans of Palestine in the Acts of the Apostles and in particular the first four chapters of Acts, were living under occupation from Europeans from Rome. Rome was oppressing African people and in fact, the Black African leader of the movement Jesus was murdered on a cross under Roman law as a subversive to Rome.
These Africans in Palestine also faced a backlash from some of their own people who felt that they were diluting and denigrating the ancient religion that had Moses at its center.
Therefore, under the inspiration of God’s spirit they created a community that became self-sufficient and African centered yet at the same time did not exclude others from joining them.
Dr. King, in his last book before he was murdered by this government wrote in “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” about the Great World House or what has commonly been called the Beloved Community, where all are cherished, all are respected and all have enough of what they need because there is no shortage of economic resources in this nation, there is a shortage of will to make sure all have enough of what they need.
In other words, African descended people in Gary and all over the diaspora can build their own institutions without permission from white people, and develop African/Black people to lead and handle the management of those institutions.
African/Black people can create these African centered institutions and African/Black means of economic development and still not exclude others from benefitting from the resources created by and for Black/African people.
The challenge for Black/African people in the 21st century is to not only accept the multitude of examples of African ingenuity throughout history but not be timid or intimidated by those who erroneously denounce the African centered movement as divisive.
The African Spiritual forebears have left a record etched in the annals of the Judeo/Christian sacred text that African Centered and God inspired is not only good for African people but a Great House for all who love equity, generosity and humility to dwell safely under.
May we heed the words that Dr. Carr spoke from his mentor’s mouth, “Black people need to stick together,” and build from the Kwanzaa principles of Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith), as we remember the blueprint left in the Pentecost movement.
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the founder and Senior Pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, where he works tirelessly in the community of Gary with the powerful help of Jesus Christ to be a voice for the voiceless and bring justice to the oppressed. Pastor Jackson has a Bachelor’s Degree from Loyola University Chicago, Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary.