Inspirational and thought-provoking messages informed by my faith, ministry in education and community development
Dr. Flowers' Blog
You don’t have to be a social media guru to have some recollection of the very popular platform for electronic networking and communication, MySpace. I can now safely admit to my three daughters that I found myself in circumstances where I was compelled to dive into MySpace to spy on them to keep myself informed of their activities, communications, and ways of thinking. The things we do under the classification of parental duty!?!?
MySpace of old may be irrelevant as such a tool today. I have no idea as to whether it even still exists. Yet, for this WID-WID I want to touch on a MySpace that is very present in our lives today. This year has me - and most of us - re-examining spatial distancing along with washing of hands and being conscience and considerate of surroundings. Like most, I am not only protective of my space but also selective about who enters my zone and what environments I place myself in. With COVID-19, it has been said that some of the practices we are using such as handwashing, protecting sneezes and coughs should have been practiced prior to the pandemic and should continue forever.
The concerning times we are in are not just pandemic related. In America, we have another “My Space” opportunity as it relates to race. We have frustrated African Americans, concerned, confused, and in some cases enlightened Caucasians attempting to live in the same space. On both sides the tension leads to a familiar question of “What can I do?” This sincere question is one that should not be asked of others. In fact, many African Americans become frustrated when someone white asks a black person what they can do. (For the record, feel free to ask me, just be prepared for the discussion). The question of “What can I do?” whether you are black or white is a question you should ask yourself.
Like Michael Jackson’s song ”Man in the Mirror” (click here to hear the song and see the official video), each of us have to individually take steps to make a change, just as we do in assessing and evaluating our environment.
It’s time for us to place a new lens on “My Space.” In looking in the mirror, am I allowing contaminants and contaminators to dwell in my presence? In my company? Do I connect with those who I know are approaching me with un-sanitized intentions? Do I remove the practices and conditions? Do I model in “My Space” before my children, friends, and even relatives, deep authentic relationships with a diverse group of people who have symptomatic manifestations of God’s love?
If you like what you see in your “My Space” mirror, perhaps your “2020 My Space” is as relevant as the social media platform was when it was launched in 2003. If you are not pleased that the image looking back at you is on target in embracing and promoting the oneness of humankind, take some steps. Your next steps: make decisions, approve policies, extend invitations, invest dollars, worship, and live differently.
Allow your Faith to be your Fuel
An inspiring dialogue with a former student who attended my race relations course at SMU in the mid 1990s.
On Jul 2, 2020, at 11:03 AM, Mike O wrote:
In the mid 1990's you taught a race relations course at SMU. You were the one and only African American professor I had during my entire university experience, which was 9-years of night school on the GI Bill (a combination of DCCCD and SMU).
I have vivid memories of your class, but especially one particular session. You may recall the classroom was very wide and one wall covered with dry-erase board. You drew a single line from one end to the other, then began marking dates. It looked similar to this:
1619 the first Africans arrived at Jamestown colony.
1865 the Emancipation Proclamation - 246 years of slavery.
1865-1965 began 100 years of Reconstruction, 3/5th a man, segregation, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and more.
It was a revelation - an eye-opening and convicting visual revelation that had never occurred to me (and, I'm sure, other students both black and white).
What you wanted us to recognize and acknowledge then, and even now in 2020, is 86.5% of African American history is marred by slavery and segregation and all the horrors that went with both. Or another way of looking at it, African Americans have lived with the possibility of equal rights for only 54 years - about 13.5% of the entirety of their "American experience."
I have used that revelation many times in the past 20+ years. At all times I have been truthful although it has not always been well received within the unity of family and friends. But, I reasoned, truth is more important than unity.
I am not ashamed of my race but I am ashamed my forefathers kicked the can of racial justice and healing down the road to me. Had they done the right thing it is probable I would not be writing to you now. Nevertheless, I do what I can to make sure my children don't have to, 20+ years from now, duplicate what I am doing here. Time will tell; time and the grace and mercy of The Almighty, if He decides I should live that long.
Thank you for helping me learn, sir.
On Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 12:53 PM Terry Flowers wrote:
Great to hear from you
I think back on that classroom and the various lessons quite often. Your reach out is very inspiring because teachers often wonder whether or not our lessons have significant impact that goes generational.
In acknowledging The Oneness of Humankind, the best we can do is sweep around our own front doors To make sure we are living a life that is respectful of God’s humanity and our service to Him. Sort of like Michael Jackson’s song Man in the Mirror.
As to your family history, being embarrassed might be unfair .......... they too were born into a camouflaged, socially-engineered system of inequity, injustice, and hatred compounded by fear.
I don’t know if you watched the movie called The Help. If you did, there is a scene from the movie where the mother of the Writer tells her that she was proud of her for being an upstander. She tells her daughter that courage sometimes has a way of skipping a generation. ..... you are moving your family forward.
Our charge is like the symbol of the Sankofa bird where we have to move forward by looking back over our past.
Your children and mine have some systemic dismantling to take on. It makes me think about a quote from Picasso, who said, “Every act of creation is at first an act of destruction.”
Because of you, and now your children, darkness will not overtake the light. There is more goodness in the world than we give credit to and take comfort in because media overwhelms our perceptions. Keep being the light.
As an educator I still say “a day without learning is a day wasted.” Therefore, I am going to encourage you to watch a Netflix documentary called 13th. After you watch it I would encourage you to watch an old 60 Minutes special called “The Delinquents.” These will provide you with enlightenment over the times we face and the challenges ahead.
Thanks for reaching out - your note is encouraging.
If you are open to it, I would love to share your letter and our exchange with others??? I can remove your identity you, if you were comfortable with that.
Last I would like to ask if you recall the written assignment that you submitted as a part of the course??
Take care and stay blessed
From: Mike O
Sent: Friday, July 3, 2020 3:10 PM
To: Terry Flowers
Subject: Re: Thank You For Helping Me Learn
Thank you so very much for responding and giving me more learning (I mean that) and encouragement (I mean that too)!
Yes, I have watched "The Help" and the documentary "13th." The latter was in 2018 and shortly before I retired. Truthfully, I probably would not have watched "13th" at that time had I not had an African American boss, Tyrone. He was only the second in my 38 years with AT&T. I was his Chief of Staff, and we would often talk about matters of race. It was about this same time that Jordan Edwards was shot and killed. I was in a conversation about Jordan with another African American colleague of mine, Warren, who lives in Chicago. Warren made an off-handed "matter of fact" reference to coaching his son what to do when pulled over by a police officer, and I stopped him for explanation. I'm sure it is no surprise to you, Warren took his son into the garage, closed the door, and coached him what to do and do when pulled over by the police. I was surprised to hear this, and Warren was surprised I hadn't heard it at all. He asked me how I "coached" my son and daughter. I told him it was about a 30-second conversation at the dinner table one night. It was simply me telling them to be respectful and say "yes sir" and "no sir." That was the end of it and "it" was 180 degrees different, I learned, from some (all?) in the African American community. Another revelation.
Today I watched 60 Minutes' "Delinquents." Before commenting further I will give it a day or two of thought, and in the meantime will probably watch it again. I was not expecting elephants. Without question there are parallels to humanity being inhumane.
I had not heard that quote from Picasso, so thank you for the reference and I plan to use it in a future writing. The first image that came to mind was the destruction of monuments made and erected in honor of the dishonorable. My naïveté will show here because it is only within the past few weeks I learned about Alexander Hamilton Stephens. After reading his 1861 "manifesto" I was shocked to learn there is a monument to Stephens in the U.S. Capitol building (as an aside, I wrote a message to the Capitol for its removal, and told them even Stephens's family wants it removed). In my humble opinion, part of the process of creating a state that effectively recognizes and promotes the equality of all men and women, is removing monuments honoring men and women who neither recognized nor promoted such equality. Those monuments, regardless when they were created and erected, glorified, and still glorify, an era that mandated, by law, racism and segregation. They should all be destroyed.
If memory serves me correctly, I believe the class assignment you asked about was a paper I wrote titled "A Man of Color." Is that right? My mother, God rest her soul, loved that story because it was based in part on her father. He was half-Cherokee, half-white. Mom told me she had once seen a government document (she couldn't recall the exact document) where someone had hand-written my grandfather's race as "A Man of Color." I have his registration card which lists his race as both "White" and "Indian" and his complexion as "Dark" but have not yet found the document Mom described. While the rest of my paper bore no resemblance to anything he did, he was, in fact, a violent and physically abusive alcoholic who hated his own race (I recall there being an academic or medical word for someone who hates his/her own race, but I don't remember the name). Neither I nor my siblings ever met him. Mom and Dad kept him away from us and he died when I was five years old.
As I wrote before, I've never forgotten that evening on campus and I can't overemphasize how deeply it affected me. I drove home that evening in silence pondering a lot of things, not the least of which was how terribly disappointed the Lord must have been in me. All those years silent, but recently not so. This is a good thing. Perhaps the Lord will look at me as the one hired at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and have mercy (Matthew 20). My current (and future) speaking up and speaking out is not necessarily out of guilt, and it is certainly not an effort to earn a heavenly reward (were that even possible would mean no need for Christ). No, I do this because the Lord is no respecter of persons, we are all made in his image, and not only does he expect the same of me (all of us), but it's simply the right thing to do. Humans being humane - to love my neighbor as myself, which is second only to loving God.
Dr. Flowers, I won't write anything that I wouldn't write to family and friends, so if you find value in what I say that could benefit or encourage others, by all means share (I don't mean for that to sound presumptuous). I truly hope to keep our dialogue open, but if at any time it becomes a burden or annoying please let me know. You won't offend me. I tend to go long when writing, and even shortened this email quite a bit (smile).
Praying for us all,
You may be familiar with the quote “some is not a number and soon is not a time.” It speaks to the uncertainty of two words that start with “s.” If we are honest with ourselves, there are times in life like today when the ambiguities of “some” brings us discomfort. Clearly economic crisis, political corruption and turmoil, climate change, poverty, inequality, racial strife, and the devaluing of human life can all be unsettling.
Despite ALL of these circumstances and more, there is The Good News for some of us. In fact, it is more than news, it is a promise that keeps me and others from becoming overwhelmed amidst crisis, injustice, pandemics, and even death. Because of it, in the time of sorrow we do not weep as though we have no hope. We can manifest what many perceive to be a peculiar optimism in troubling times. Our faith is affirmed by certainty of promise that replaces the doubt of “some” with the assurance of ALL.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (KJV). ALL things, ALL things, ALL things!!! Every sickness, road block, every set back, and yes even the 17 deaths of loved ones for my family in the last twelve months (three to COVID-19), is included in the ALL that’s working together for my good.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 (KJV)
A point of clarification in order! Scripture says, to them that love God. It suggests the possibility of exceptionalism. Do you love God? If the answer is yes, you are halfway there. “He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” John 21:16 (KJV)
Simon is asked a third time about his love for God as a reminder of the calling and purpose God had issued to His followers. Feed My Sheep.
Loving God AND doing His will provides you a bridge over troubled waters where poverty, prosecution, policies, preachers nor politics, even pandemics, and ALL things work together for your good.
As we solidify our protocols, adapt our facilities, staffing, and instructional delivery for the reopening of school, I want to encourage the faithful lovers of God who are doing His will; our faculty and staff, our parents, and especially our children.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)
As Simon was being reminded THREE times: If we love God, let’s act like it. ALL does not equal some. ALL is not a number because God’s power is without limit. Had His word said “some,” He would’ve also given us a spirit of fear.
Allow Your Faith to be Your Fuel
Previously published July 18, 2019, still relevant during this time of pandemic and protests.
Good morning God,
Lord we come to you amidst troubling times. Lord help us to apologize to our children. Help us to request their forgiveness for our failure to figure out how to live as fellow humans on earth as it is in Heaven. Lord forgive us for missing the mark sixty years ago when we inadequately pivoted as a nation towards tolerance for one another when we should have embraced LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.
Give us this day God as an opportunity to understand LOVE MATTERS. We know this truth to be comprehensive of the value of every life. Help us God to deliver YOUR message to our children during these troubling and seemingly uncertain times. “Love will prevail”one way or another. As it is proclaimed in 1John 4 v 8: You are Love.
God, as we navigate through week after week of turmoil and hardening of hearts please cause us to edit our individual souls to the extent that causes us to live our lives in a way that results in our going to funerals or weddings and not know the ethnicity of the deceased or the couple by the faces nor skin colors of those in the audience because LOVE MATTERS. Let us make sure that no longer can a Caucasian, Latina or African American child be born and make it to adulthood and authentically be able to say they know of no person(s) from other races that truly love them.
God, move us away from using Google as “gospel”and allowing social media to be the dominant source that informs our perceptions of humanity. Let us lean not unto our own faulty understanding but by understanding that LOVE MATTERS.
God help us to embrace and engage each other on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Allow your Faith to be Your Fuel