Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” - Genesis 32: 24-28
Sometimes I feel like I should be at war with myself. Being an activist-minded Christian in academia, I feel that those facets of my life are constantly at war with one another, particularly my identity as a Christian. In many ways, the conservative Christian has become the face of Christianity and this branch of the faith tends to take the side of the oppressor or be the oppressor, making Christians the enemy of activists and vice versa. Then, on the academic side, faith is seen as its antithesis, because belief must operate without sound evidence. Thus, juggling all three of these identities, I often feel like I am a double-agent.
But, I'm not.
"My faith informs my activism" - Bree Newsome
Like, Bree Newsome, my faith informs my activism. I was sitting in Shriver Hall on April 27th when I heard Ms. Newsome say these words and I was thrilled and relieved. I had expressed this same sentiment in my reflection post-Split This Rock. While Split This Rock was an amazing experience, I felt this narrative was missing in the conversation of activism and art. I am an activist because I am a Christian and I wanted to explore more and have more conversations concerning that. It can be a particularly difficult world to navigate being an outspoken activist, Christian, and artist when one misstep can have you viewed as not activist enough or not Christian enough. I would've loved to explore both at Split This Rock and in this course what that intersection looks like.
One of the most jarring moments during Split This Rock for me was when Dominique Christina recited her final poem, which ended with her pleading with God to care for unjustly killed Black sons the same way He cared for His. I was shook by her comment, mostly because I understood the sentiment -- the anger and the pain that she felt. It is customarily taboo to question or demand answers from God, but two of the most prominent figures in the Bible did. Job asked for answers and justice. Jacob wrestled with one of His angels.
Like Jacob, I, too, wrestle with God. Not in an arrogant way, but the humble way a child tries to understand the things their parents do. I understood Dominique Christina's plea, because despite myself, I had asked the same question. While a portion of my faith demands that I accept that I will never fully understand why God does the things He does or allows certain things to happen, I still wonder why. Last year, when a portion of Hopkins showed its true colors by posting racist remarks on Yik Yak (an anonymous social media app) after Freddie Gray's death, I remember sitting in my room crying out to God, asking "Why do they hate us so much?" Too often on the internet, I read similar hurtful statements from proclaimed Christians, following each of these tragedies and I return to this question because I can't reconcile God's love with the hate of His people.
Despite the fact that some can, I cannot call myself a Christian and remain silent in the face of injustice. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before me and Bree Newsome currently and countless others, activism is the vehicle by which we exercise our faith. For me as an artist, both of these things permeate my poetry and my fiction. I exist in all of these spaces -- being a Christian, being Black, being a woman, being an activist, and being an artist -- and I exist in them without shame. They cannot be at war with one another for me, because their co-existence enables my existence.
I have not received the answer to my question or Dominique Christina's. But, as the old song goes, I will call on the Lord all night long and I will not let go until He blesses my soul and I am made a witness that He will come through.