Originally preached February 07, 2021.
D Smoke, a Black American rapper from Inglewood, CA, says his song Black Habits I, is both a celebration of Blackness and is an implication of some of the habits of black people; He says the song Black Habits I summarizes the whole journey of black folks. The duality of the Black life. In the first verse alone, D Smoke gives nods to Prince, Jimi Hendricks, Stevie Wonder, Afeni Shakur, Tupac, and Nina Simone. Black folks. Black folks whose music and lives speak to Black experiences in the United States. The artists he names, not only impacts Black people, but Prince, Henricks, Steve Wonder, Tupac, Nina Simone – these artists impact the world and many generations. Our creativity gives voice and expression to the Black and also to the Human experience…Black Habits
D Smoke ends the first verse by saying, “If you swung back when faced with a challenge, That’s meant to break you, and balanced scales, You ain’t average, now throw your hands on three
Go on and put ’em up for Black Habits…”
Being resilient, overcoming challenges, throwing our hands up in praise, and to party…Black Habit
In the chorus D Smoke and his mama, Jackie Gouche proclaim: Black magic, black excellence
Black habits, this black medicine, everything
Black Chucks, black tux, everything, everything
Black hug, black love, everything
Praise black Jesus, play black Moses
Give ’em flowers while they still here, black roses, everything
Black tie, black ride, everything, everything
Black pride, black lives, everything
For many people, Chucks and a tux don’t go together. It may not be fashionable. D Smoke states that the Black Chucks, Black Tux represents duality. Duality. Black folks in America know and understand duality. I’m not a fashion expert, but I think it’s common knowledge Black people set the fashion trends, particularly Black women who are often characterized as hood and ghetto, and then their creative expressions are stolen and repackaged….setting trends is a Black Habit.
I won’t quote the whole song, but I will lift up these words from verse 3
I feel divine, it came on time, God never changes
Ain’t gon’ lie, I lost faith and cried, then my faith revived
And as soon as I let go and surrendered to Him my talents
This young king took off like, “Go, Go Gadget”, there go that
Black magic, black excellence, black habits, this black medicine, everything…Black
A deep commitment to faith and spirituality is a Black Habit. An embodied faith, an embodied spirituality is a Black Habit. That is why we continue this shouting tradition of our ancestors. Some folks shout in church, other folks shout on the dance floor – it’s a letting loose and surrender of the body to Spirit. I know the churched folks are saying “you can’t shout on the dance floor” but ya’ll do the same ol’ footwork in church, surely folks do some footwork in the club or at home – if nothing else, Covid should remind us that God’s presence is not limited to location. Jesus tried to tell us this in John 4.
In the video Black Habits I, D Smoke sets the duality of this song to visuals. Showing enslaved black people on a plantation picking cotton and ring dancing alongside modern-day young black folks, in jeans and t-shirts sitting in trees, instead of being hung on a tree. At the end of the video, you see D Smoke purchasing the plantation. Finding ways to survive in jobs, in institutions, in religious institutions, in governments, in careers, in a country that is intentionally set up for our abuse, and then creating ways to thrive is a…Black Habit. If you need a testimony, look at your life, and then you can look at the lives of Stacey Abrahams, Madam C.J. Walker, Serena Williams, or a host of other folks we lift up, especially during Black History Month.
In our text today, we hear the story of a group of diverse folk who have heard the liberating message of Jesus Christ. Earlier in the chapter, around verse 9, we are told that a diverse group of folks heard the message of God in their native language – they heard about God in ways that made sense to them and their culture. The text says there were Galileans, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, visitors from Rome, Cretans, and Arabs…the text says they were amazed and perplexed, saying “what does this mean?” They were trying to make sense of the message of God they were hearing – in their own language – through the lens of their own cultures. Not through the lens of Whiteness. I know, that ya’ll know, that I know, Whiteness was not a thing when this was writing.
Peter stands up and helps the folk understand what they were hearing – the text says Peter, preached the liberating message of Jesus Christ – in essence, “Jesus saves!” This message changed the lives of the hearers, we are told, when they heard the message, they were cut to the heart. So they decided to do life together around this new Reality, this salvation, this Jesus Christ. They decided they did not want to live a life in bondage. A life that separates them from each other or God, but they wanted to be liberated. Some of us need to be liberated. Some of us think we are following Jesus Christ, but we are bound by anti-blackness, misogyny, sexism, racism, heterosexism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, capitalism, and greed. There are many folks who say they follow Jesus Christ, the Compassionate Liberator, but they are bound by hate.
We see in our text today the formation of a new community. A new diverse community. The text says they made the habit of gathering and giving themselves to the apostle’s teaching, they made the habit of fellowship, they made the habit of breaking bread eating together having a communion meal, and they made the habit of praying. I would also say they made the habit of practicing communal liberation. the text is that some sold their possessions in goods and distributed the proceeds to anybody who had need, that sounds like some communal liberation. This sounds like black folks at their best. That sounds like some black habits. That sounds like the black church at its best. Black habits. This sounds like a model for us to follow to develop the habit love instruction, to develop the habit of fellowship, to develop the habit of breaking bread together having communion, to develop the habit of praying with and for each other, to develop the habit of liberative service. Now the good news is that we can do this in ways that are anti-oppressionist there is a way to be in community with others to be in religious community with others in ways that do not oppress folk then we can follow the model of Jesus Christ the compassionate Liberator and reclaim are black and African indigenous religious traditions and practices. We do this in community. We do this knowing that God looks upon our black skin with joy and delight. We do this with the wisdom of our ancestors. We do this for the black folks and for other folks who will come after us. We do this as part of a tradition somebody has done it for us and now we have the call in the obligation to do it for others to establish liberatory black habits.