At the Crossroads: Lay My Brother Down (Gently)

Silence is not always golden.  There are times in which silence can be deadly

      We love slogans.   The “we” meaning the African-American community.  Over the years of my life, I have come in contact with plenty brain ingraining quotes.  They include the following:
·      Leave no one behind
·      He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.
·      Lead one; teach one.
·      We are all in this together.
·      A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
·      Without you there can be no us.
     However the one I feel that has the most impact for me is “It takes a Village to raise a Child.”  Now, I translate the meaning of “village” to that of “community.”  A community can be defined in the following:
“A group of people living together in one place in fellowship with each other, sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.”
     A community shares social values and responsibilities.  They may share similarity in identity or commitment to the welfare and common good of its members.  Speaking on the issue of “welfare and common good” let us return to the Invisibles.
     As you may recall in an earlier writing of At The Crossroads (11/12) a former minister of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church pleaded guilty to 22 counts of sexual assault. These charges included rape of child, child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography.
     The clergyman admitted to sexually abusing 10 boys and adolescents over a period of 14 years i.e. 1997 to 2011.  For 14 years this individual served in a position of trust.  For 14 years he sat there, preying on children, robbing them of their innocence, ripping away their mental and spiritual wellness.  Just as shocking, for 14 years these children were unwittingly driven to the banquet table and literally, delivered to him like turkeys dressed up for the feast.
Betrayal.  Yes.  Betrayal.  Betrayal can be defined as to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining or fulfilling trust.  It can also be to disappoint the hopes or expectations of or being disloyal to an individual, group or organization.
The minister betrayed these young boys and adolescents.  They trusted him.  In a trusting relationship they allowed themselves to be vulnerable and emotionally exposed.  In return he sexually abused them and violated their trust.  He was truly a thief who stole while acting in his ministry.
     The betrayal did not stop there.  In his actions the minister betrayed the parents who unwittingly sent their children to him.  He betrayed the trust of his congregation who believed he was spreading the “word.”  He betrayed his clergy and the church, which as a minister he acted upon its spiritual auspices and authority.  Finally, he betrayed the African-American community whose infallible belief in the institution of the church may now be or forever be shaken.
      There are many, many victims.  They include the Invisibles, their parents, siblings /extended families, the congregation, the clergy and the community as a whole.   It is understandable that a multitude of feelings may be attached following the revelation of repeated acts i.e. 22 counts of admitted sexual abuse.  Such feelings could range from that of shame, guilt, anger and outright disbelief.
      Out of the flames rising from these acts of betrayal could result in psychological and physical destabilization.  This could range from loss of self-esteem and self-confidence to negative self-imagery.  Mental health concerns could range from active states of depression, anxiety, nightmares, sweats repetitive recall of the sexual assaults to behavioral changes impacting bodily functions (bedwetting and bowel elimination).
      This is the time for us as a community to reach out and embrace and support those victimized by these terrible acts.  This is the time that we as a community come together to begin the process of healing the wounds that tear at the fabric of our community.  This is the time that we as a community take steps to ensure that our children will be protected from such acts again.
      We can ill afford to maintain the wall of silence that continues within the African-American community.  The wall of silence serves as the model of what is expected of us.   Keep quiet.  Handle your business. Do so quietly.
However the message that our children who are impacted i.e. the Invisibles and those others watching is “bear your pain (shame, disgrace, embarrassment) in silence.  Score the winning touchdown, home run, or lay up.  Come from behind in victory…we all celebrate together.  However when your head down casted due to no fault of your own (betrayal) you are alone.   So suffer in silence and fade away.  Or just go away.
      None of what is being stated is rocket science.  This is all “learned behavior.”
      John Head in his book, Standing in the Shadows: Understanding and Overcoming Depression in Black Men (2004) states:
“…. from the time we are young boys, black males have ingrained into us an idea of manhood that requires a silence about feelings, a withholding of emotions, an ability to bear burdens alone, and a refusal to appear weak.  The internal pressure to adhere to adhere to this concept of masculinity only increases as we confront a society that has historically sought to deny us our manhood.” (p 3).
      The point being provided here is clear.  Our children will model the behavior that we adults provide.  The days of “do as I say” are now clearly being replaced with “do as I do.”  What we do or do not will no doubt strongly impact our children for many years to come.  As they continue to “suffer in silence” it will be due to the model we as adults in the African-American community have provided for them.
      Returning to the slogan “It takes a Village to Raise a Child,” as in the previous writings of At the Crossroads, I would ask that the reader consider the following actions:
 1)             Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 329-9794
Inquire as to what actions are being taken to respond to and/or alleviate the suffering of those abused by a member of his staff.
2)             Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle.  (Contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle
Inquire as to what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to respond to this situation.  Furthermore, inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3)             Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
     It “does” take a Village to raise a Child.   We can do so by taking a step to end the “suffering in silence.”
      “It would be easy to point the finger at someone or some organization to cast fault or blame.  However both blame and fault are poor motivators.   Out of their ashes only guilt and shame will arise.  Rather it is our responsibility to our children that they be protected and safe.  We want them to understand that they are valued and will be validated and cared for.  They need not suffer in silence any longer.”
                        Dr. Micheal Kane
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 I am so forlorn, life is a thorn, my heart is torn, why was I born?
What did I do to be so black and blue?
“Black and Blue” by Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf and Thomas “Fats” Waller (1929) EMI Music Inc.
 At the next Crossroads:  Decision Point: The Well Designed Road or The Unlit Path?
 Until the next crossroads.  The journey continues…….

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