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I must have been about 11 or 12 when my grandmother took me to hear Ms. The group sounded like one voice somehow divided among the throats of four women. These lines comprise my first memory of hearing the silver-haired powerhouse perform with her family group, and it was evident to me, even as a child watching her command the pulpit, that she was the rock of that group, and its driving force.

Their music left an impression so deep, that if I close my eyes and quiet myself, I can still hear them singing. Photo courtesy Joy Harris.

Born in , Ingram picked cotton and tobacco as a child alongside her family on a plantation in Coffee County, Georgia. She married a young preacher at 16 and followed him to Miami, where they had five children together. By the end of the s, she found herself a divorced single mother and packed up her kids and moved to Richmond in , arriving on Christmas Eve; she formed the Ingramettes soon after. Many would consider her life up to that point a very hard one, but Ingram considered it blessed, and she embraced every challenge lobbed at her with an enthusiasm and tenacity that became her trademark, as her granddaughter Joy Harris notes.

The book rightfully depicts Ms. But she deserves to be recognized as much more than a musician, Harris says. In a music industry dominated by men, Ingram took ownership of her music early in her career, writing most of her songs and retaining publishing and distribution rights on many of them. No wonder drug trade is seen as an understandable and too often an acceptable career choice.

No wonder teenage pregnancy continues to rise and sexually transmitted diseases are approaching epidemic proportions. And those who do get an education or establish themselves in legally acceptable jobs are not free from concern. There are still obstacles to acceptance by the mainstream society, and the children of the middle class often get caught in the undertow of sexual and chemical enticements.

It almost seems that African-American culture is being overrun by a pathological pursuit of self-aggrandizement, sensuality and prosperity at any cost. The poet and educator James Weldon Johnson proved to be prophetic when he wrote the last stanza of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in This work came to be known as the Negro National Anthem and was sung daily after the Pledge of Allegiance in many black schools up until the time of desegregation. His lyrics warned us of the potential for our current predicament:. God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast led us thus far on our way, Thou who hast by thy might led us into the light keep us forever in the path we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee. Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee. What should we do now? How can we honor our history, respond to the present, and build a viable, vibrant future for our people? It is not too late. We can still return to the God of our fathers.

You can select from a number of eras to find African people to consider your "fathers. You could identify with those slaves who prayed in the hush arbors. Or you can honor the perseverance of those Negro Christians who washed floors and swept streets to feed and clothe your grandparents. In any case, it starts with an individual choice. You must choose Jesus for yourself. Choosing Jesus prepares you to be a real agent of change in our community.

We have had enough leaders who have experienced some success, but who got off track somehow. These sidetracks have taken many different forms, from sexual and financial scandals to a constant pursuit of acknowledgment from the white community.

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Too many of our leaders have compromised our spiritual heritage in order to gain political or economic allies. A vibrant relationship with Christ will give you the power to govern yourself and live according to what is right, not according to what is expedient. Those of us who discover the power of a relationship with Christ and who see the need for spiritual transformation in our community must band together to build a new future.

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We must give our brothers and sisters a reason to turn away from the traps that surround them. Jesus is that reason. We must tell the truth about the challenges we face and develop an agenda for overcoming those challenges. That agenda emanates from Jesus. Then we must forge the strategies that will allow our people to make the kind of broad-based progress we all long for.

Those strategies will come from people who have the mind of Christ. In the Book of Proverbs in the Bible it says, "Righteousness exalts a nation We have been looked down on so long and so pervasively, and our people disappoint us so often, we can begin to wonder if the negative stereotypes are really true.

The Truth About Jesus

In this vulnerable state we are susceptible to the persuasiveness of eloquent orators like Louis Farrakhan or anyone else who will tell us that we are the best, brightest, most noble people on the earth. It is easy to buy into ideas that lift black people above all others. Our righteous anger is easily manipulated to get us to buy into theories of a white conspiracy to hold us back. It feels good to hold someone else responsible for our struggles.

Of course, there is plenty of racism remaining in this society, supplying fuel for those who would stoke the fires of rage and resentment. Jesus, in what he taught and what he modeled, provides a different perspective. He teaches us that those who have oppressed us will be called to account for their actions.

He also directs our attention back to our own responsibility. We will be called to reckon with our own choices. Jesus spoke a message that echoes across the landscape of time and penetrates to the heart of our predicament. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Sin is the biblical word for those actions and our general state of non-conformity to the will and design of God. God made the universe to run on certain principles. When we step outside the bounds of these principles, we enter into sin. This definition helps us understand Jesus' teaching that all sin is harmful.

If God designed things to run and function a certain way, whenever we step outside of those design boundaries, we are likely to experience negative consequences. Black people's suffering is either because of someone else's sin or due to our own. Yet, Jesus promises to free us from sin.

accept (something) as gospel

You see, God is holy. As such, He cannot tolerate the presence of sin. It is contrary to His nature. So, sin must be dealt with, or judged, and punished. Yet, God is loving. How could He be both just and loving toward us rebellious, sinful human beings? He resolved this dilemma by taking on human flesh Himself, walking this earth, and dying a painful, humiliating death to pay for the punishment of our sin. How could one man's death pay the penalty for the sin of billions of humans? Because He is God, both infinite and eternal. He created an infinite and eternal payment for sin by submitting Himself to death.

How do we access this freedom that Jesus purchased for us? By personally accepting him as Savior and Lord. This is the freedom our forefathers found in the midst of slavery. The freedom to transcend their circumstances. The freedom that comes from living on the basis of a higher reality. This is the freedom that ignited the activity of so many who have fought for the freedom and dignity of our people. This is the freedom that you can experience if you will place your trust in Him. We have an extraordinarily rich spiritual heritage.

And Jesus is central to that heritage. We can honor their memory by rediscovering the faith that allowed our forbearers to survive. We can build on the legacy they have left us by carefully following the one they followed -- Jesus. You have the opportunity to live out an incredible, eternal transcendent purpose -- a purpose rooted in an eternal hope.

Many are involved in seeking to bring about change in the black community. Yet, without an eternal perspective, without a hope fixed on a God who is just, loving, and who offers eternal life, all our striving has to be measured by its effect here and now, in our immediate experience. There is a lot of noble talk about needing to bring about change for the sake of the next generation. But without an eternal perspective those who live on the margins of society have little reason to hope. They have little power. They have limited opportunities.

Why should they turn away from the temptations and enticements that offer them quick rewards and a short-term escape? A relationship with Christ offers not only hope, but the power to do what is right. This is another implication of Jesus' statement, "the truth will set you free.

He gives us the power to resist temptation and to live a godly life.

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  • In other words, He gives us the freedom to do what is right instead of being enslaved by our own desires and passions. Don't let the lies being told about Jesus keep you from knowing the truth. Watch out for those who will play to your emotions, provide pseudo-intellectual arguments, but have bizarre notions built into their beliefs. Like so many of our forefathers, you will find in Jesus a kind, compassionate, powerful friend. One who can give you a new life and set you free from the penalty and power of sin. Then and only then will you be able to see the world clearly, according to truth, and find the purpose for which God created you.

    The truth about Jesus is that He is our only sure and lasting hope. Black people were not an afterthought, nor has He relegated us to some secondary position in His kingdom. African people have been a part of His working from the beginning. He is the Savior of all mankind and He will work in the midst of any people who place their trust in Him.

    The history of African Americans is an illustration of this fact. And He awaits our response to manifest His love and power to us once again. God has a purpose for African Americans. We were created for a noble, yes, even a divine destiny.

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    As we follow Him, we will fulfill that destiny. A destiny of eternal significance. A destiny of present impact on our community. A destiny that maximizes the potential God built into you when He created you. There is no higher calling, and no better life. There is so much frustration in the world because we have relied on gods rather than God.. These transitory gods are not able to save us or bring happiness to the human heart. It is faith in Him that we must rediscover. With this faith we can transform bleak and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of joy and bring new light into the dark caverns of pessimism.

    Are you ready to respond to the Jesus who is the real truth? Or do you need to recommit your life to Him? If you realize you need to place your faith in Jesus, simply talk to Him. Thank You for paying the price for my freedom. Forgive my pride and my sin. Help me to be true to You. He has spoken on campuses across the US and in Africa on race relations, missions and the Christian faith. Charles and his wife, Rebecca, are currently studying at Princeton Theological Seminary. They have six children and seven grandchildren.

    take (something) for gospel

    Beyond Roots by Rev. Dwight McKissic is a simple biblical survey of the subject for popular audiences. Troubling Biblical Waters by Dr. Cain Hope Felder is a more scholarly work, sifting the subject through the filters of the more skeptical schools of textual criticism. Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy London: Heinemann, , p.

    Kealy and David W. Shenk, Nairobi Oxford University Press, , p. Images provided by Corbis-Bettman Archive are prohibited from being copied for commercial purposes. Was there ever nothing? How an atheist found God more Where is God in tragedy? What to do with loneliness more Relationships Gay, lesbian, God's love 19 men later Romances with wolves Sex and the search for intimacy Hope for a lasting marriage? Toxic porn, toxic sex more Does God answer prayer? Can you believe the Bible? Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc.

    Did Jesus say he was God?