Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Princeton Theological Seminary

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Nancy Lammers Gross - Dean of Student Life
Iain R. Torrance - President

I am writing to express my outrage over the fact that Dr. Yolanda Pierce, an esteemed scholar and professor at your seminary, was attacked in a racist flier distributed by students at your campus.

It was an act in support of a vile, racist, hate campaign for these students to distribute this flier under the virtual Ku Klux Klan hood of anonymity.

It is an act of institutional racism for the Princeton Theological Seminary to continue its failure to properly address this orchestrated hate campaign against one of its own professors.

Furthermore, the Seminary's failure thus far to properly address this campaign is also an abomination. Especially for an institution that purports to prepare its students "to serve Jesus Christ in ministries marked by faith, integrity, scholarship, competence, compassion, and joy, equipping them for leadership worldwide in congregations and the larger church, in classrooms and the academy, and in the public arena." [Princeton Theological Seminary Mission Statement]

If proven, engaging in such a hate campaign is surely conduct that should provide the basis for disciplinary action such as suspension or dismissal. Reasonable minds that are untainted by racism recognize that accountability requires much more than silently accepting a few weak, insincere apologies for an outrage of this magnitude.

I am strongly urging the Seminary to follow its own procedures and hold a hearing pursuant to the process described in Section 6.6 of the academic regulations contained within The Princeton Seminary Handbook. [Academic Regulations, Section 6.6 "Procedures Associated with Other Causes," The Princeton Seminary Handbook]

The Seminary needs to follow its own regulations, hold full hearings regarding all of the students involved, and make a decision regarding these students' continued relationship to the Seminary, irrespective of their ethnic or racial backgrounds. This is only fair.

A failure to follow your own regulations would make it abundantly clear that Princeton Theological Seminary has truly lost its way. If the Seminary is unwilling to follow its own rules by conducting a full hearing, I and as many others as I can persuade to join me, will pursue every avenue available to make the public at large, the media, the Seminary's financial supporters, and the entire world aware of the Seminary's depraved indifference toward the racist denigration of Black academics. My outrage is shared by each new person who learns of the Seminary's inaction. There will be accountability.
Note to Readers:

Apparently, racist students at the Princeton Theological Seminary recently distributed a flier attacking a Black professor named Dr. Yolanda Pierce. Dr. Pierce is an Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. This situation has been described by a Black professor at Princeton University, Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell in one of her blog posts.

Rev. Lisa Vazquez, blog host of Black Women, Blow the Trumpet!, has made a call "for those who understand the power of constructive engagement to step forward" and express our displeasure with this example of yet another attack on Black women.

I have sent the above letter in response to this call. Silence in response to these sorts of attacks endangers us all. Allowing these sorts of attacks to pass in silence endangers those of us who work in academia. It endangers those of us who are currently students in these institutions. It endangers those Black girls who will grow up to follow our footsteps to attend or work in these institutions.

Without seeing the flier itself, my conscience won't allow me to demand a specific outcome to holding a disciplinary hearing. However, I don't have to see the flier itself, or know all of the intimate details of this situation, to insist that Princeton Theological Seminary follow its own rules and regulations. I am not saying that others are incorrect in calling for the students' suspension or dismissal without having seen the flier. I am simply stating what I feel is appropriate for me.

I know that there will be critiques of this call to respond in the absence of the flier. I know that for some of us, the urge to respond will decrease if we learn that there was a Black student involved in distributing this material. Let me point out a few "real-world" aspects to these sorts of situations.

First of all, people tend to "lawyer up" fairly quickly in these situations. Everybody knows that there is a real possibility of litigation resulting from this. At which point, people will be skittish about further disseminating this material. For any purpose. This also means that there's not going to be a lot of public discussion (if any at all) of this from those who are directly involved.

Second, it doesn't matter if it turns out that the racists were able to find a Black-woman-hating Black male student to participate in this outrage. It doesn't matter if it turns out that they were able to find a self-hating Black female student to participate. This is what sophisticated racists do --- they look for "colored" accomplices as a back-up alibi in case they get caught. They do this so they can falsely claim, "See, it wasn't racist. A Black guy helped with this." It doesn't matter. Everybody involved should be held accountable for their actions, irrespective of their ethnicity or race.

Third, I am willing to give one of my sisters who is a respected educator the benefit of the doubt. If someone of Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell's stature (Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University) is PUBLICLY stating that a Black female colleague was personally attacked in a racist flier distributed on campus, I'm going to give Dr. Harris-Lacewell the benefit of the doubt that something that merits a response occurred.

Finally, those of us who are sincerely interested in protecting Black women from attacks will look for, and find, creative ways to respond to these situations while still honoring our own criteria for response. As I noted above, I won't demand a specific outcome without seeing the flier for myself, but I can and will demand that Princeton Theological Seminary follow its own rules, and treat this situation with the seriousness that it deserves.

Nancy Lammers Gross
Dean of Student Life
Princeton Theological Seminary
210 Templeton Hall
Princeton, NJ 08542
Phone: 609-497-7800

Iain R. Torrance
Princeton Theological Seminary
132 Administration Building
Princeton, NJ 08542
Phone: 609-497-7800

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Reality Check from Munir Muhammad

From The Black Messiah by Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr. (founder of The Shrine of the Black Madonna Pan-African Orthodox Christian Church):

"Oppression does not destroy a people. It is the acceptance of oppression that destroys." pg. 20.

"People who are constantly waiting for divine intervention find it difficult to develop and keep leadership because leadership depends upon people who are expecting to do something for themselves. Leadership is created by people who are demanding and ready to struggle for certain things. But what role is there for leadership when a people are waiting for God to break into history? Leadership is reduced to mythical incantations, magic dances, and other rituals designed to induce God to do more quickly that which He has already decided to do." pg. 172 (emphasis added).

{Insert chants of "Yes, we can!"}

"You can't lead a people who are sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back on clouds of glory. All you can do is prepare a landing field for him." pg. 173.

Yes, I can see that the landing field for the false messiah is being prepared, and will be ready for January 2009. Those who worship the Obama-ssiah are preparing for their false Jubilee. They are preparing to live, "work," and "struggle" vicariously through this one politician who has promised them NOTHING. They are already fast asleep, enjoying their dream. Actually, it's a waking hallucination. But, I digress . . .

There are others who really should know better who are also dozing off. I almost wonder if these individuals have been drugged.

The Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah Muhammad (CROE) was formed in 1987 in Chicago. Several long-time followers of Elijah Muhammad's teachings were dismayed by the efforts made to write Mr. Muhammad out of Black history. They were also displeased by the frequent efforts to elevate Mr. Muhammad's students (such as Malcolm X and Min. Farrakhan) over the teacher. There are people who want to use parts of Elijah Muhammad's program without giving him proper credit. There are also people who want to tell lies about Elijah Muhammad. To combat all of this, CROE maintains an extensive archive of audio and video recordings of Elijah Muhammad's speeches, as well as other materials. They also host a cable-access program called Muhammad and Friends.

Over the years, many prominent Chicago-area Black politicians have been guests on Muhammad and Friends. Even the now Obama-ssiah has appeared on this show in the past!

As vehemently as I disagree with the theology put forth by the members of CROE, they are steadfast in saying many things that I believe are both true and necessary. One of the co-founders of CROE, Munir Muhammad, makes some extremely important points in this clip:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"All Colored People That Want to Go to Kansas, On 9/5/1877, Can Do So for $5.00," Part 1

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Monday, November 10, 2008

Black Women, Are You Ready to Feel Flawless?

This essay is contained in my new book, and can be read as a sample chapter at my new website. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Friday, November 7, 2008

Reader's Money Quote - From Rev. Lisa Vazquez

The Reader's Money Quote is a statement that is of such insight and importance that it merits frequent and loud repetition. This Reader's Money Quote is from Rev. Lisa Vazquez, host of the blog Black Women, Blow the Trumpet! She said the following while commenting on Welcome to Election Night at Grant Park.

"White people tend to build up a 'special negro' and they grin as blacks create an emotional investment in that person . . . . THEN . . . . whenever they feel like it, they whip out the noose on that 'special negro' and let him swing in the wind and they watch the faces of those blacks who put their IDENTITY and DESTINY in the successes of that one 'special negro' . . . . and they grin that they have again, and again pulled this same trick on us.

We never talk about this vile trick . . . . and fall for it every time . . . .

I can think of COUNTLESS 'special negroes' that whites were supportive of and later on, pulled out the noose on . . . . when Martin Luther King was killed, black people acted like the entire world was coming to an end. One man had died . . . . one visionary . . . . they put ALL OF THEIR HOPE in one person . . . . {shaking my head}

Once again, the blacks who had this mentality passed it on to the next generation since we are AGAIN . . . . seeing this same mentality . . . . {shaking my head}"

In response, I noted that what Lisa has described is a very old, very effective slave-breaking technique. Take the most admired slave and build him up by granting him special favors or a special position. For a while. Then make an example out of him by destroying him in front of the other slaves.

This leaves the surviving slaves TOTALLY demoralized, beaten, and broken. All because they invested themselves and their destiny into a person and NOT a plan for escape. Lisa, thank you for providing this Reader's Money Quote. This could be the most important point to be made about the dangers of the "Obama-ssiah" phenomenon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Welcome to Election Night at Grant Park"

Some of my relatives decided to rent a room at a South Loop hotel in order to participate in the election rally. [Instead of having to get through the masses and traffic to drive home afterward.] Since I'm off from work this week, I decided to jump on their bandwagon and go to the rally. So, here are some random observations of election night at Grant Park:

It's an unusually warm, Indian-summer day in Chicago. The afternoon temperature is in the 70s and sunny. The banners over the underground parking lot near Grant Park read "Obama Presidential Parking."[I was mildly amused that the City of Chicago let them phrase it that way, instead of "election rally parking."] There was already a huge crowd gathered on Michigan Avenue by 2:30 p.m. The emotional atmosphere is very much like it was during Mayor Harold Washington's election as Chicago's first Black mayor. The difference 20+ years later is that the hopeful, energized crowds here in Grant Park are mostly White---I would guess about 55% White. [If you know anything about Chicago's racially polarized politics, you know that this is a "!!!" moment.]

Unlike Mayor Washington's election, I'm emotionally detached from this one. I'm not at all excited about President-elect Obama. I've lived and voted through far too many "let's make history" elections that were hollow victories. Sometimes, the "let's make history by electing the first Black [fill in the blank]" politician is used to do things that Black people would never tolerate from White office holders. I remember how the "let's make history, first Black" mayor of Philadelphia, Wilson Goode, presided over the police firebombing of a Black neighborhood. This firebombing caused fatalities (including the deaths of several Black children), and burned down dozens of Black families' homes. We certainly made history with Wilson Goode.

The only "let's make history" vote I cast that I'm pleased with years later is for Mayor Harold Washington.

With this election, the only meaningful benefit I see is how Michelle Obama being held up as a model of grace and beauty will help lift Black girls' spirits. I am extremely pleased by this because Mrs. Obama is a typical, brown-skinned Black woman. She's not one of the "White women's children" or "looks like a White woman's child" individuals that are held up to the rest of us as the pinnacle of Black beauty. This is a significant deviation from the "paper bag test" and "manila folder test" that has been established to measure Black beauty. This is extremely important.

There were a couple of people in the crowd hoping to be able to get tickets into the main rally. One young Black woman was wearing a placard that said, "I came all the way from Seattle without a ticket. Please help." A young White man held up his skateboard which read on the underside, "Will skate for a ticket."

The crowd was extremely diverse. I see a few hijabis in the crowd while overhearing an animated conversation in Chinese next to us. There are lots of people that came from all over the country and all over the world to be here for this. I talk to a young African-American woman who came from Houston with her relatives. We discuss the Biblical precedent of people living to fulfill a certain purpose and then being killed. Jesus, Dr. King. We're both hopeful that President-elect Obama gets to live a long, full life. I have a conversation with a White man who's about my age, we both express the hope that the victory margin is too large for the Republicans to seriously try to steal the election (as before).

A recording plays, "Welcome to Election Night at Grant Park. Signs, banners, strollers, and food are not allowed into Grant Park." That's why the television audience didn't see any banners being waved during crowd shots. I saw about 5 Chicago police officers on horseback riding through the crowd on Michigan Avenue. One horse seemed startled for a moment by the spontaneous chanting that would break out in sections of the crowd. There's the constant background sound of police helicopters hovering over the park.

The crowd is surprisingly attentive and respectful during Sen. McCain's concession speech. The only boos come at the mention of Gov. Palin's name. The crowd is mesmerized by President-elect Obama's speech. I notice the warnings ("the government can't do everything"), and somber notes in his speech. One of my relatives compares the situation to Detroit. "They" let Blacks take (nominal) control of things just as they're on a steep decline.

Time will tell.