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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
Kai Chandler Lois Crenshaw Gary Paul Wright Fortunata Kasege Keith Green Lois Bates Greg Braxton Vanessa Austin Bernard Jackson

HIV, Plantations and the Holy Ones

March 7, 2014

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Your body is a temple in which the spirit of God resides. Treat it as such. You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

If holiness is reflected in the acts of justice and mercy you-saints of ALL PEOPLE's Church carry out on a Regular basis, at least from all the justice and mercy oriented things that you all do ... then by God, you are holy!

You are holy when you are in the courtroom demanding justice for Darius Simmons. You are holy when you grow vegetables in your little field, for community members to come by and take (within reason). You are holy when you teach our young children how to grow these vegetables -- a skill that will hopefully sustain them when they grow older, and they in turn teach someone else.

YOU are holy, for I the Lord your God is holy.

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I also thank God for community organizations such as Diverse and Resilient, an organization you have partnered with, who concern themselves with the whole person regardless of their sexual orientation and because of folks sexual orientation.

The categorizations are different these days. No longer are we categorized as negro, and mulatto, quadroon and octoroon. People no longer concern themselves with that. People now concern themselves with whether you are lesbian, whether you are gay, or bi-sexual, or transsexual or queer. It's time to get over it, already and work toward making our communities safe and healthy and work towards making our sanctuaries and churches -- just that: a sanctuary -- to come in from out of the plantation and find acceptance, respect, and grace. Lots and lots of grace, grace for you, grace for me, grace for those who would strike us with their judgments and lash out at us with their hateful words. Yes, lots and lots of turning the other check and offering the cheek of grace.

All People's Church is a place overflowing with an abundance of grace which spills out into the community, with your various communal gardens. You have leaders such as Venus Williams, (or shall I call her the "Owner of the year"), who created Alice's Garden, taking a plot of land and teaching folks how to grow vegetables.

No longer are we on plantations growing and harvesting for overseers and plantation owners, but we can have our own little plot of land and grow and harvest it for ourselves. Thank God for Venus and others who have this vision. But I digress again.

I began talking about the plantation and my ancestor Tarlton "Slave" Fleming, who eventually married and begat Abe Fleming, who migrated to West Virginia. Abe Fleming begat Arthur Fleming and Arthur Fleming begat Jean Fleming, who begat me.

My grandaddy worked the coal mines and built a beautiful house on a hill. And he built a stairway which seemed to go on forever to my little girl eyes whenever I visited West Virginia. It took forever to get to the top of those stairs. My grandaddy was a skilled master builder, when it came to building that house and those stairs, which are still standing today.

God is a skilled master builder when it comes to God's creation, when it comes to Gods destiny for our lives. We have an active role in how that destiny manifests itself, today and hereafter.

We can rise up and be counted among the living building our destiny together by responding to our brothers and sisters in need:

Because we are holy people of God, we use our temples -- (that is our bodies) to ensure the least of these are fed, to visit the least of these in jail, to clothe the naked and to be a balm for someone who has been whipped by life.

I spoke earlier about those of us descendants of that plantation in Virginia who were RBS's (Related by Slavery). We here in this place and space are all RBC's (related by Christ). We are all related by Christ through the baptismal waters and by the meal we are served each time we gather ... not coming from the margins…not sneaking in and grabbing crumbs from the table ... not living in secrecy and shame…not with our heads bowed down .... not fearing a lash.

Christ bore the lash for us ... Amen?

Regardless of what you may have done, know that you are holy. I know that regardless of my past, which gets thrown up in my face, whenever folks have a hankering ... I AM HOLY -- because God IS Holy! God would create nothing less!

ALL PEOPLES CHURCH ... You are God's Holy ones ... You are holy, because I am holy, says the God of Israel. We are holy, because God IS. Amen?

Can I digress one more time?

Know your status. Get tested. Be safe ... the safest sex is no sex at all. But if you must, use a condom.

And finally, know your history. Find out something about your ancestors, it's worth it. Know from whence you came and you will know where you are going. Continue to do the work, you have been called to here in God's fields of Wisconsin.

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Milwaukee and tell them, you shall be holy for I the lord your God is holy.

Thanks be to God. In memory of our ancestors. Amen

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.

See Also
TheBody.com's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More Personal Accounts on African Americans and HIV


Reader Comments:

Comment by: Ben at the Body (Chicago) Tue., Mar. 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm EDT
I LOVE THIS POST!
I never miss a "Finding Your Roots" Henry Louis Gates program, and the more African the roots, the more interesting the family tree!
Condi Rice made a really good point when they did her: we never talk about the ACTUAL goings-on of slavery. You touched upon it here: rape.
It's just like HIV: if we can't discuss it openly, it remains an item of shame.
Congrats on the fruits of your research!
Reply to this comment
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: andrena (philadelphia) Sun., Mar. 23, 2014 at 3:44 am EDT
thank you!...not only rape, but the spread of STD's and our ancestors not having the mean to protect themselves...We have the power to protect ourselves today!


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Rev. Andrena Ingram

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.

Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.

Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.

Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.

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