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Now is the Time

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JUNE 19: People march to the Georgia State Capitol during a Juneteenth event Organized by the One Race Movement on June 19, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when a Union general read orders in Galveston, Texas stating all enslaved people in Texas were free according to federal law. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside Church, New York, 1967)

Now is the time for change. 

Over 50 years ago the Civil Rights Movement answered the question why we can’t wait by laying the groundwork that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after nearly 12 generations of enslavement of a people kidnapped into bondage 157 years before the birth of this nation. On the backs, blood, and sweat of these people America was built and forged into a great nation through slavery, manipulative sharecropping, Jim Crow, and years of domestic servitude. In return for such service they were lynched, burned, dragged, corralled into ghettos, labeled, marketed, and exported all over the globe for the sole purpose of enriching the coffers of other nations. But America, for which it stands, one nation under God, home of the free, you are the worst offender. Built into the Constitution, of the people, by the people, for some of the people, and for their benefit, the black man, scientifically ordained by the one-drop rule, was granted the right to be counted as 3/5ths a man, as a compromise for the balance of their power. 

The American Dream was a nightmare of exclusion from the very beginning, laying firmly the bedrock of institutionalized racism. Though infused with strata of progressive milestones, they would be quickly eroded by the winds of injustice:  The 13th amendment banning involuntary servitude, was followed by the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.  The 14th amendment to uphold the rights of citizenship to all natural born Americans sought to overturn the Dredd Scott case ruling that blacks could not be considered citizens of the United States in accordance with the meaning of the Constitution, was followed by Jim Crow Laws designed to limit those rights.  The 15th amendment prohibiting the denial of voting rights, was followed by poll taxes, literacy tests, and violence. Integration and assimilation into the American Dream, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, did not extend to those whose skin color didn’t blend into the fabric of society. 

Now is the time. 

So how does an oppressed, subjugated people bring about change to a society that is hell bent against them?  Raise your voice and become active participants in the transformation of America? The gifts of many have been used for just that purpose: the voice of Frederick Douglass, the accomplishments of George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, the writings of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, the voices of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron, the  music of Duke Ellington, Yusef Lateef, John Coltrane, the organizing of Stokely Carmichael, the leadership of W.E.B. DuBois, the peaceful eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr., the intellect of Angela Davis and Huey Newton, the fiery cry of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary”. Still we ask how long will it take and by what means will the conscience of this country be awakened to, repent for, and be reconciled for the sins of the fathers and sons of power and the complicity of mothers and daughters upon their darker brothers and sisters? Oh the white man’s burden, how heavy the yoke of Manifest Destiny must be to bear. What will it take to exorcise the demon of racism that has been sowed throughout the American garden, entangled and growing like the weeds with the wheat? We, humble descendants of Ham, have offered our lives in servitude for your drunken redemption, intoxicated by your own self-interest. What is easier to say, Black Lives Matter or what you have done to least of your brothers you have done to me? Can’t you hear the cries that rise up like incense to the altar of the Lord in a litany of injustice:

Black while being a peacemaker, Jonathan Price,

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Black while broken, Dijon Kizzie,

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Black while gasping for air, George Floyd, Eric Garner,

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Black while being at home, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson,

            Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Black while in your car, Jordan Edwards, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Jr., Leonard Deadwyler,

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Black while being detained, Alton Sterling, Keith Scott, Walter Scott, Jamar Clark, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland,

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Black while being a child, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Antwon Rose, Aiyana Stanley-Jones,

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Jesus of Nazareth sacrificed in the gentrified land of Canaan, by the great militarized police of the democratic Republic of Rome.

Hear our prayers.

Can it still be asked why we can’t wait?

Now is the time. 

The urgency of this moment is upon us. Brothers and sisters of all hues, from every continent are woke to the injustices placed upon the least of our brothers, and you America, ye vipers brood, leader of the free world have the greatest price to pay due to your hypocrisy. Stone hearts, repent. Can we come out of this moment, united as one people and let the equality of all shine forth as the light of the world? Or shall we continue to reap the enemy’s harvest whose seeds of division were planted from the very origins of this great American experiment?

Now is the time. 

Ready to say yes like Elijah, ready like Mary, ready like the wise virgins vigilant with our lamps filled with the oil of the Spirit, lit with the flame of justice, ready to stand in the truth. The truth that we are one people, equal members, equal heirs in the Kingdom of God, now, at this moment and forever. Yes, that is where we really are at this moment, standing on the precipice of time. The time to choose right over wrong, unity over injustice, life over death. This moment is not about black or white, that is merely the polemic manifestation of what is really at stake, our humanity. What we choose now may very well determine the fate of the human race. Now is the time, as Jesus commanded us, to put our light on the lampstand to shine brightly before all humankind. The urgency of now calls us to be revolutionaries like Christ, to live and love as citizens of the Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. 

How much longer before equality is a reality?

How much longer before institutional racism is eradicated from the fibers of the American society?

How much longer must we endure the legalized injustices of the criminal justice system?

How much longer must mothers, fathers, sons, daughters suffer the consequences of being black? Being Red? Being Brown?

How long O Lord, holy and true?

Now is our time.


What are you called to do at this time, in this moment?

What gifts can you use to further the cause of justice?

How prepared are you to unravel the racist threads built into the structure of our society?

How willing are you to renounce privilege and take up the revolution of love, justice, equality, and unity instituted by Christ?

This fall, the Sowing Holy Questions blog will focus on issues of racial healing. Writers will reflect on what has been done, what change ought to happen, and offer visions for healing in our communities. 

Duane M. Carter is a Roman Catholic musician, composer, writer, brother, husband, father, grandfather, black man of Creole descent, a child of God living by faith and trying to do God’s will. He has recorded two contemporary jazz CDs, Boundless (2000) and Never Say Never (2008) and published a novel, No Promises (2015) as an ebook based on his musical, Forever Yours (2000). Several of his poems and short stories have also appeared in the Seminary’s creative journal, Soul by Southwest. Having been a Catholic school educator, Army Bandsman, freelance musician, Literacy Specialist, and years of service in public libraries, Duane is currently the leader of several bands and the Electronic Resources and Serials Librarian at the Seminary of the Southwest.

BA, California State University, Los Angeles
MA, California State University, San Bernardino
MSIS, The University of Texas at Austin

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