What We Can Learn from the Life & Death of Bishop Eddie L. Long…

 

bishop eddie long book coverHello World,

Do we deserve to be judged by the best of what we accomplished in our lives or by the worst of what we did or did not do?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself since I heard V-103’s Larry Tinsley, host of Sunday Morning Praise, announce the death of Bishop Eddie L. Long while I drove to church Sunday morning. While I took part in my church’s service in which the focus was racial reconciliation and honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I knew that a corner of my mind was pondering the life and death of Bishop Eddie L. Long. And once church was over, my mind was free to organize my random thoughts about what had I heard.

For many, Bishop Eddie L. Long,  pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a black megachurch in Decatur, Georgia that once reportedly boasted 25,000 members at its zenith was a man who not only transformed his church through his pastorate but the city of Decatur and beyond through various programs assisting prisoners, drug addicts, the homeless and more. Over the years, many of my friends and associates were once members of the church. I remember hearing him on V-103 years ago when he delivered empowering messages during the “Inspirational Vitamin” of The Frank and Wanda Morning Show, and I interviewed him once for a magazine article I wrote about domestic violence in the church.

But what about the convincing allegations of four young men who accused him of targeting them through the black church’s now defunct LongFellows Youth Academy and cultivating sexual relationships with them 7 years ago in 2010? As we all know by now, the allegations were never aired out in a courtroom but instead a settlement out of court was reached between Bishop Long and these men. A settlement does not necessarily denote guilt but given the egregious actions Bishop Long was accused of and his declaration that he was going to fight these allegations, guilt does not seem like an unlikely conclusion in this case.

So what lives matter more? All of the lives of people Bishop Eddie L. Long positively influenced during his life or the lives of the four young men whose lives will be forever linked to Bishop Eddie L. Long?

Now there will probably be some who read this blog post and say, Who are you to judge? Only God can judge? And to those I say, yes, I agree. Only God can decide if you go ascend to the glory of Heaven or sink to the abyss of hell. But there are many verses in the Bible that encourage us to make assessments and act accordingly…Below are a few…

Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright. Proverbs 20:11

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

I’m not putting these verses out there not to condemn Bishop Long. I’m simply putting them out there to say that God encourages us to assess and act which is a form of judgment but not the same as the judgment in which God determines our final home. Life is nothing if not a series of lessons and we would be wise to learn from those who have completed their journey ahead of us.

In pondering what I have learned from the life and death of Bishop Eddie L. Long, I have come to a few conclusions…

  1. The gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to impact an entire community and beyond. As my father, who is a pastor, says, “People really do need the Lord.” There are some out there who think that what happened with Bishop Eddie L. Long is an indictment of the black church or church in general. I say to you as long as you judge (or assess) the Word of God by imperfect human beings, there will always be a reason to doubt the Word of God. Pastors are sinful people. Christians are sinful people.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23And here’s the thing, I haven’t seen sins ranked in the Bible …Anyone from a murderer to a student who cheated on a test has committed a sin and yet is still eligible for entry into Heaven if God has forgiven them. (Although we all know that some some sins naturally have more consequences than others.)Don’t get it twisted. Judge the Word of God by the Word of God. A pastor may lead you to God, but he or she is not God….
  2. All lives matter. All of the people who continue to sing the praises of Bishop Long to those who cannot see past the sexual allegations of the four young men matter. The paradox of this statement is that whatever group you find yourself in or even if you are somewhere in the middle, each person is valid and should be treated as such. If you were helped by the ministry of Bishop Long, who am I tell that help did not matter. And on the other hand, you absolutely cannot disparage the young men who claim they were victimized by Bishop Long. The word of God says that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents in Luke 15:10. If we believe in the God of the Bible, we see that each and every person is valuable.
  3. Bishop Eddie L. Long is dead, but you are still alive. For all of our commentaries on Bishop Eddie L. Long whether on social media or in whispered conversations, Bishop Eddie L. Long is only God’s business now. In Luke 9:60, we are told to, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. What I interpret that verse to mean is that if you are alive, you have to get on with your life. If you are a Christian, what are you doing to proclaim the Word of God? As my father said when we briefly discussed Bishop Eddie L. Long on Sunday, “we are only here for a brief time.”

So as far as the answer of my original question is concerned, I guess it is truly up to to the person who is making the judgment…What say you?

Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Atlanta Through the Eyes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Driver Tom Houck…A Repost…

054(me and my hubby & Tom Houck and another tour goer)

Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this post in 2016, but in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday today, I thought I would share it again. Enjoy 🙂

Hello World,

Last week my husband Robert and I were thinking about what we could do to celebrate the sixth anniversary of our first date yesterday. As I was listening to 1380AM WAOK on the way home from work on Wednesday, I realized I had a fun and educational option. Derrick Boazman host of “Too Much Truth” was interviewing Tom Houck whom I had never heard of before. Tom, a white man, was the driver of Dr. King and his family for several months. In a gruff, hearty voice likely emboldened because of the precious history he possesses, Tom described how being kicked out of high school in Jacksonville, Florida for merely participating in a Selma march in 1965 eventually led to being in the inner sanctum of the very leader of the Civil Rights Movement as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s driver.

In 1966, Tom’s civil rights activism brought him to Atlanta to work for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In one of those fortuitous moments that forever changes someone’s life, Dr. King saw Tom across the street from the SCLC where he had gone to make a call on the pay phone and invited the 19-year-old to have lunch with him and his family. That lunch led to him being asked to drive for the King Family. Tom describes his experiences as their driver as a part of his Civil Rights Tour, a bus tour in which Tom takes people to see the historic sites in Atlanta that provided the landscape of the capital of the Civil Rights Movement.

At the end of the conversation, Tom offered two tickets to the first person who e-mailed him the answer to this question: What was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s real first name. I was literally pulling into my driveway when I heard him ask the question. I parked, unlocked my front door and ran to my computer, hurriedly e-mailing him the answer: Michael. For the first five years of Dr. King’s life, his name was Michael. However, when his father Michael King Sr. changed his name to Martin Luther King Sr. after becoming inspired by Martin Luther, his son, who was Michael King Jr., became Martin Luther King Jr. I nearly fell off of my bed when I received an e-mail later that evening from Tom letting me know that I had won the tickets! I told my husband we could celebrate our history as a couple by celebrating the history of our beloved city. He agreed that it would be a great way to celebrate our first date anniversary!

005Tom Houck beginning his tour…

001My hubby focusing on Tom…

Dr. King’s first home is in the Old Fourth Ward area of Atlanta which was once known as Shermantown after General Sherman took over the area during the Civil War. The home is on Auburn Avenue known as Sweet Auburn, but I didn’t know that Auburn Avenue was once Wheat Street. However, the name of the street was later changed because Wheat Street was thought to be too rural of a name for a metropolitan street. Yes, Sweet Wheat doesn’t sound as cool for sure! But that explains the name of the historical Wheat Street Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue. Wheat Street Baptist Church was the site of the church scenes filmed in the movie “Selma,” Tom told us.

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In the beginning of the tour, we went by Dr. King’s elementary school Howard Elementary School. The school building, which is vacant, later became a high school which has notable graduates including Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor; Walt Frazier and Vernon Jordan. Tom also took us to the SNCC Freedom House. Freedom Houses were designated places where civil rights workers could retreat and reside.

011The site of the pay phone where Tom met Dr. King…

012Tom met Dr. King across the street of the SCLC headquarters, which I took a picture of from the bus…Not the best picture, but you get the idea hopefully…

017Morris Brown College, the only HBCU founded by black people, was organized in the basement of Big Bethel AME Church, which is located in the Sweet Auburn district…Civil rights leader Hosea Williams and Derrick Bozeman are Morris Brown College graduates…

018See that blue sign? It is the sign for the original site of the Atlanta Daily World, the oldest black newspaper in the city…It was once a Republican newspaper as blacks were mostly Republican years ago since most segregationists were Democrats…

015A Loss Prevention Hero series mural honoring Congressman John Lewis

014The second The Loss Prevention Hero series mural honoring Mrs. Evelyn Gibson Lowery, the deceased wife of Rev. Joseph Lowery. Mrs. Lowery founded SCLC/Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc.

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Although it wasn’t an official part of the tour, Tom told us that Citizens Trust Bank, which was founded by black businessman Heman Perry, on Auburn Avenue, was where he received his first car loan! AND Daddy King, who was on the bank’s board of directors, co-signed the loan!!!

Before we left the Sweet Auburn district, we learned about John Wesley Dobbs, a rail clerk who was unofficially named the mayor of Sweet Auburn because of his work to achieve equality for black people…Seemingly in homage to Dobbs, Atlanta’s public schools were integrated on the day of this death, August 30, 1961, Tom told us…Above is a statue honoring Dobbs, who is the grandfather of Maynard Jackson…All of his six daughters graduated from Spelman College. They are reported to be the largest group of sisters to graduate from the school…Incidentally, I interviewed Dr. June Dobbs Butts, the youngest of the sisters and a sex therapist, for an UPSCALE magazine article I wrote years ago…

019

We rode by the now defunct Terminal Station, which was once a prominent train station in the city. Atlanta was once named Terminus which I originally learned after watching “The Walking Dead,” which is back tonight!!! Yay!!! And before Terminus, Atlanta was known as Marthasville. I cannot see Atlanta residents calling ourselves Termliens or Marthaaliens so I’m glad we changed to Atlanta because ATLlien is so doggone cool…

021

We passed through the Castleberry Hill District, which was revitalized by Herman J. Russell, a construction magnate…I had the opportunity to meet him just months before he passed away in 2014. He attended the National Book Club Conference while promoting his book Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire.”

Tom took us to Dr. King’s last home before he died which is located at 234 Sunset Avenue…

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038Daryl, a recent graduate of Clark Atlanta University, sang freedom songs as we passed by some of the historical stops…

Along the way, we passed by Washington High School where Dr. King graduated from when he was 15 years old to attend Morehouse College. I did not know that Lena Horne also attended Washington High School!

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One of the stops was the home of Alonzo Herndon, who was once Atlanta’s wealthiest black man. Herndon built his fortune on his barbering business. His stately home is across the street from the home of Grace Towns Hamilton, the first black woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly. Unfortunately, her home was barely visible due to the overgrowth of weeds as well as the overall decay of the structure…We also passed through the Atlanta University Center and by the original Paschal’s Restaurant location as well as Busy Bee Café.

One of our final stops was South-View Cemetery, which is located on Jonesboro Road and was designed “to provide a respectable place for Christian burials” for all people including black people who were once not allowed to be buried in certain cemetaries. It opened on April 21, 1886. It began as 26 acres and is now over 100 acres. 80,000 people are buried there including Herman J. Russell and the wife of John Lewis,  Lillian Miles Lewis. Below are pics of the graves of other important people who are also buried there…

045The grave site of John Wesley Dobbs

048The grave sites of Daddy King and his wife Alberta King…

049

057If you look at to upper left of the grave marker, you can see this tiny picture of Daddy King….

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Dr. King was originally buried in South-View cemetery before his body was moved in 1970 to its current location alongside his wife at the King Center. One the way back to Auburn Avenue where we started the tour, we passed by Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Tom told us that Marcus Garvey was imprisoned there which is interesting to me as the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.

We learned much more that I wasn’t even able to include in this already lengthy blog post!

And hopefully, you will be inspired to take a Civil Rights Tour with Tom Houck, the driver of Dr. King and his family. For more information, go to civilrightstour.com.

Enjoy your Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday!

Any thoughts?

Former Christian Post Reporter Nicola A. Menzie Solicits Support for New Magazine!

nicola-menzie

Hello World,

As you may or may not know, I came of age in the 90s otherwise known as the golden age of black entertainment (although there are some shows out now that are giving me hope that black entertainment is enjoying a resurgence). One of my favorite shows back in the 90s was “Living Single,” which was about brand new adults making their way in  NYC (basically a black “Friends” before there was “Friends). I watched the show just about the time that I was making my way as a brand new adult in the A.

I identified with no one character more than the others, but I did feel a certain kinship with the character Khadijah James, who was portrayed by Queen Latifah. Khadijah was the editor and publisher of the upstart Flavor magazine and as such found herself on the brink of economic disaster a few times.

Queen Latifah in Living Single.

Queen Latifah in Living Single.

I didn’t have the courage to start my own magazine, but as a new journalist, who couldn’t find a job for a while, I worked with a woman who started her own magazine and saw the financial challenges of doing so up close. One of the highlights of working for this new magazine was meeting Diddy who was Puffy back then. It was so much fun, but most of all, I admired the drive of the woman who launched the magazine!

Well, now, I know of another brave woman who is endeavoring to start a new magazine, and I hope that you will support her in this much needed endeavor! Below is information from Nicola A. Menzie’s Kickstarter page! She needs $15,000 to launch the magazine and has until Jan. 22 to raise the entire amount or she doesn’t get any of it!

Hello. Welcome to the Kickstarter campaign for Issue No. 1 of Faithfully Magazine.

Faithfully Magazine is a News and Lifestyle publication that advocates for, celebrates and informs Christian Communities of Color by centering the conversations, issues and events they say are important to their faith and to their lives.

My name is Nicola A. Menzie and I am the founder and editor of Faithfully Magazine (faithfullymagazine.com). I live in New York City and have been writing, blogging, tweeting (and sometimes complaining) about happenings in Evangelical Christianity for the past eight years or so (five years professionally).

I’ve long been a believer, but entering the world of Evangelical Christianity as a member of the press was eye-opening. I soon learned the names, the quirks and the controversies that really set people off (like Osteen and Bell, “sowing seeds” and the prosperity gospel).

More than anything, I learned that Christian news media is saturated with the perspectives, voices and concerns of White Evangelicalism. And very few of their publications and websites have Christians of Color in decision-making roles or who contribute to their editorial direction.

HELP US PRINT THE PREMIERE ISSUE OF FAITHFULLY MAGAZINE 

Faithfully Magazine goes to press in January and we’re soliciting contributions from diverse writers, illustrations, photographers and other creatives for an impactful premiere issue. The goal right now is to publish the magazine as a quarterly, with this Kickstarter campaign being used to raise the necessary funds to produce Issue No. 1.

Some stories on deck for the full-color, 80-page premiere issue include:

  • Christians of Color sharing in their own words how they are moving forward under a Donald Trump presidency;
  • A diverse survey of responses on whether, due to the 2016 campaign, the term “Evangelical” should be dumped or redeemed;
  • A gripping feature on a former felon who came to faith in prison and still has to answer for his alleged crimes;
  • A revealing Q&A with rapper and pastor Trip Lee that includes his thoughts on the presidential election and how he cares for a faith community of both Trump and Clinton voters;
  • A sit-down with the husband-and-wife leaders of Crossover Church, a popular urban ministry that’s also a millennial magnet.

If you have some compelling content or story ideas, send me an email (namenzie @ gmail.com). We’re also looking to develop regular columns.

The image below is of a mock cover to give you an idea of our direction.

mock-cover

A LITTLE ABOUT ME

I was a staff reporter for The Christian Post for several years. Before that, I worked with companies like CBS News, AOL News and even Vibe.com — where I started out about 13 years ago as an editorial intern (yes, I love hip-hop). Most recently, I’ve written about Christians from diverse backgrounds strategizing to address police violence and African-American responses to Donald Trump. I’ve also interviewed the Christian activist who rocked a major conference and the pro-life movement with her remarks on Black Lives Matter. I also study Theology and am on course to (finally!) complete my Master of Divinity degree in 2017.

Below  is a video of Nicola discussing her vision for Faithfully Magazine

Join me in supporting Nicola! And please go to her Kickstarter page to find out how you can contribute AND what you will receive for your generous contribution!

Any thoughts?