The fiery orator, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, was getting up to preach. He was a big man— larger than life to me. They called him "The Lion of Zion.”
In the midst of his sermon about a Pauline text he began weaving in the story of young black men gone missing in Atlanta. Why did it take the police and authorities so long to respond to these missing boys, he asked? In total, 28 went missing. It was a tragedy of epic proportions. The preacher called on the congregation to pray and find ways to support the families in Atlanta, and condemned the system that had ignored them.
Reverend Sullivan’s sermon did not comfort as much as it confronted. Blackfolk needed to own their own futures and not be afraid to challenge authority and people. We have a right to be respected and treated with dignity. I remember walking out of the church different that day. It would take years for me to understand why.
Today, I am many things. I am a Dad, husband, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and friend. I am a preacher, teacher, organizer, and social change agent. I am a man, an African American and a Native American. I am a Philadelphian, Pennsylvanian and an American. I am a citizen of this world. I am a Human Being. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. And I want to “Change the Damn World!”
Why? Because every day, I live in a city with nearly 30% poverty and 40% of children going to bed hungry. 36,500 people leave Philadelphia’s jails and prisons with no prospects for meaningful employment. Our schools are intentionally underfunded to break unions and destroy the great American institution of public education for privatization. Black boys and young men are the targets of gun owners. Trayvon Martin could have been them, or me. For folk like these and many more across the country living under all kinds of oppression, this world is damned.
I answered the call to ministry not because I wanted to have a nice church, car and house but because I wanted to call out the wrongs of this world to make them right. To me, Jesus is a radical revolutionary who used his faith to turn the world upside down. I want to do the same. The church must reclaim its prophetic roots, speak truth to power, call out unjust systems and demand that they be fixed for the good of all— not just a few.
I will spend my life trying to right these wrongs and many more. My faith demands it. My children need it.
The world needs it.
Join me in this journey to "Change the Damn World."