26 items found for your search. If no results were found please broaden your search.
When people think of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they may think of what he said—especially, “I have a dream.” Those famous words come from an unforgettable speech delivered before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. King was certainly a gifted orator rooted in the Black Church tradition, but what people sometimes overlook is that his prophetic speech had deep roots in an inconspicuous source: silence.
Judging by the cherry blossoms outside of Duke Chapel, spring must be here. I welcome it. It’s a time many people decide to get their hands dirty tilling the soil, planting seeds, tending shoots and pruning branches–all so that the plants will bear their delicious fruit. With this natural turn to nature, I want to share a lesson from a Great Gardener: You are made of matter—the dust of the earth—and for that reason alone your life matters.
Duke University is a top-level research and educational institution that aims to integrate a high level of academics with excellence in athletics. If you were paying attention at all recently, you would know the important role Duke men’s basketball plays at this university, especially during the 42-year tenure of Coach K. And now we are headed into March Madness, Even I know that, for some, the number one religious building on campus is not Duke Chapel; it’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“No one ever wins a fight.” That’s what the theologian Howard Thurman’s grandmother told him when he was a boy after he had a fight with another child from his school. Those words are true not only for schoolyard battles but also when nation rises up against nation.
Every day I’m reminded of human brokenness, particularly those whose bodies have been broken by hatred and violence. That’s because on my Duke Chapel office desk, sitting side-by-side, is a physical memorial: a communion cup and plate to remember Jesus Christ, and next to them a can of Arizona iced tea and a packet of Skittles to remember Trayvon Martin. When I look at these elements, I hear a faint cry, “Remember.”
There is what I call “a turn to the human” happening in academia. Universities across the nation, including Duke, have been altering their academic approaches by including in their curricular and co-curricular offerings themes related to the meaning and purpose of life. It is a trend that recognizes that students are more than heads on a pile of research papers, chemistry lab findings or the latest computer algorithms--they are whole human beings.
In his Nobel Prize Lecture on December 11, 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke the following words:
When I was on the faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary, I used to teach a course called “Speech Communication in Ministry.” It was a class that helped first-year seminary students with public presentations. Students would work on vocal, eye and hand gestures while presenting various literary forms. I’d draw on the oral interpretation of literature in which the aim is congruency or matching what one says with how you say it. For instance, how could someone say, “I despise you” with a smile? In that case, the words and the embodiment of those words would not match and would break up the communicative event and perhaps cause confusion.
Joy in a pandemic? It may seem delusional, dishonest or even crazy to talk about experiencing joy in the midst of our current world situation, but it is a real question, interrogating joy’s possibility and presence at such a time as this.
Whether you’re 18 years old or the ripe age of 80, you have probably experienced loss in life, whether it is the end of a friendship, the loss of a parent or leaving a community. In the face of such emptiness, there is not a single answer for everyone but there is a response that all human beings can make. As creatures, we can create.
I grew up in a very musical family and I’m the last of five children. My father is a preacher and whenever he traveled to speak somewhere, we would go with him to sing. We weren’t The Jackson 5 but The Powery 5! My oldest brother played the trombone. My second brother, the saxophone. My third brother, the drums. My sister, when she got older, played the piano. My mother played the harmonica. And I, the youngest, walked around looking cute.
From the ancient days to our modern times, poets have played an important part in human civilizations. As Edward Hirsch says in the book "A Poet’s Glossary," “Poetry is a human fundamental, like music.” Robert Graves calls poetry “stored magic.” And poetry can be magical.
This first month of the new academic year has been very sobering. As if a health pandemic wasn’t enough to wake us up to our reality as mortals, there have been several unexpected deaths—Duke staff members, alumni and others at the university and health system. Tragedies seem to persist, and death seems to be pervasive.
We are at the beginning of a new academic year and even with COVID protocols and their restrictions in place for our health and safety, there is a sense of hope in the Duke blue air. There’s a deep sense of gratitude from students whom I’ve encountered for being in-person, masked and all.
As we approach the end of this semester and imagine our short-term or long-term futures, it’s important that we confront the F-word. I mean the really bad F-word—fear.
It is still Women’s History Month, and I can’t help but think about all of the women who have made an imprint on our lives. “If it wasn’t for the women” is the expression sociologist Cheryl Townsend Gilkes uses when she describes the importance of women in the Black Church. She’s so right—and not just about the presence and work of women in the church to keep it going and thriving, but in all of life. If it wasn’t for the women—their voices, their courage, their strength, their wisdom, their ingenuity, their expertise, their love, their care and concern—where would we be?
As we walk through the current health pandemic and related social pandemics, there’s a lot of grief and lament, but as people get vaccinated and the virus metrics move in a better direction, there is also talk about healing. There is hope as we anticipate a healing process of sorts, one in which a kind of wholeness of relationships is restored, where we are no longer socially distant and people no longer get sick with the coronavirus at the same rates. As we look forward to these positive developments, it’s worth remembering something less obvious: the newness and change of healing come with costs.
This semester, I’m teaching a class at the Divinity School called “Deep River: Howard Thurman, Spirituality, and the Prophetic Life.” It’s one of my favorite classes to teach because while it engages my mind, it also nourishes my heart. I believe Howard Thurman’s wisdom will lead anyone to that “inward sea” that overflows into an “outward sanctuary.”
Dreams can be fleeting and ephemeral, but there are also transformative dreams that birth new realities. These enduring dreams are worth holding onto and sacrificing for. The Bible describes dreams that are prophetic, such as Joseph’s dreams in the book of Genesis. His dreams of rising above his older brothers get him into trouble. At the age of 17, just when one is supposed to be dreaming of bright hopes of being accepted into Duke University, life is the pits for Joseph, literally, because his older brothers throw him into an empty pit. Why? His older brothers hate him because he’s a dreamer. His dreams make them want to destroy him—“we shall see what will become of his dreams,” they say.
In the Bible, one of Jesus’s followers asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The question may seem obscure, but it points to a principle that can guide us today in navigating our political and social divisions and injustices.