Westminster College student Mahogany Thomas was the guest speaker at the local MLK Day service in Mexico, MO on January 18, 2016. Thomas is working toward a double major in the field of Religious Studies, with an emphasis on theology, as well as a minor in education. Following graduation in December 2016, Thomas hopes to further her education by pursuing a Master’s in Divinity. With her interest in global ministry, her journey in 2015 included preaching and teaching in areas of the Philippines as well as Israel.
Presented at the Audrain County Courthouse Rotunda
By Mahogany S. Thomas
For nearly five years of my life, I inhaled race relations. Every single day and nearly every extracurricular activity I participated in, my focus was on looking for possible solutions to fix racial inequalities. In my focus, I was determined.
Determined to make a difference.
Determined to create change.
Determined to bridge the achievement gap.
Despite the clichés of bringing about change, my mind was focused on determination, because even at the age of 13, I understood something needed to be different. My spirit was unsettled and my soul felt uneasy. The puzzle wasn’t complete because the edges weren’t fitting together. Our world was fragmented into pieces and our actions weren’t enough to make a difference.
Eventually, something happened, reality hit me and I knew. I knew life would require not just more of me, but more of us. I knew that as a people we would have to be collectively inspired. Inspired to create a shift in our being and to be more considerate towards the lives of others. The truth is there’s privilege and discrimination. There’s prejudice and then there’s love, however, it is our responsibility to live where the change is and refuse to perpetuate ignorance.
Ignorance that brings about hate, ignorance that breeds despair, ignorance that makes our relationships and interactions with others stagnant. Stagnant: never outgrowing our state of infancy. Never maturing to harbor sustainable change. This continued infancy state left me discouraged. Somewhere along the line I then gave up hope. After every conference I attended and speech I gave, there was a time when too, I bought into the ignorance that society wouldn’t change. My mind became subject to the perpetuation of ignorance. I was tired. Exhausted by the time that I was investing in the issues concerning race relations because I felt like progress should have already been made. Then life happened, nature took it’s course and just like the situation that occurred on the campus of The University of Missouri – Columbia, only months ago, what was buried had been uncovered. The soil on top of racism began to erode, and as it rained and poured, people tilled the ground, and racism presented itself all over again.
I realized in that moment, I couldn’t be tired. I couldn’t give up hope. I couldn’t throw in the towel because the world needs me. It needs each of us, individually and collectively. But in order for us to be of assistance a change must happen within us. This journey of peace, this journey of hope, this journey of unity, consist of a willingness to want to see a difference. We have to shift our mindsets. An internal change that shifts from just thinking about self and the needs we see individually but also those which include our world.
Too many of us are walking around with blinders. Blinders which are disabling our vision and desensitizing our heart. Existing in a world that’s all about what I need to make it to tomorrow, or what I need to push through this hour but understand that we have an obligation. An obligation to be more, to do more, to love more and to create more. When our minds shift to including more love and including more peace, then we can bring about change. Change which actually breaks the strongholds of racism instead of burying it. We have an obligation and when we can understand that it is our responsibility to care, to love and to nurture, then we will then see results.
Love sees no color. Neither does love sees race or denomination. Love abides in each of us. Love is our model, our indicator, and our measuring cup; for how effectively we love each other indicates our success of collaboration. Love is the measure of how we interact with one another in times of agreement and disagreement. Love bears respect and fosters responsibility. Our obligation coincides with love.
I love God, and I believe in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I put my faith into the body of Christ, because Christ has taught me personally, how to love. The same God who rose for me, the same God who died for me, the same God who lives for me, the same God who reigns for me: My desire is to emulate that love. To the best of my ability, I put the investments love has planted in me and share my love with the nations. It is crucial to be a good steward of our love like we are the stewards over the rest of our lives. Love breeds peace.
The Lord brought to my remembrance, when thinking about ways in which to obtain peace: Christ-like love. I reminisced on my very first day in Israel last year, as I stood in Caesarea and Lord brought to my remembrance the story of Peter’s vision and interaction with Cornelius. There Peter was met by a voice, that told him to kill and eat. Peter’s response was no and that he would not partake in things that were considered unclean. The voice replied that which God has made clean, do not call profane. This happened three times before Peter came to understanding that the God, we serve, shows no favoritism.
Acts 10: 34-36 states:
“Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him. You know the message He sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.”
Through this text, I understood that love is the answer to our much wanted peace, but the love we have been receiving isn’t being demonstrated in our being. While this text began in a vision concerning food, the underlying revelation concerned relations between people. God showed no partiality. The love of Christ covered all nations. We cannot ignore our responsibility to care for one another. Our current actions have been conveying a love that no one can see, therefore like racism, love has become buried.
Too many of us have become inactive, our stewardship has fallen short because we don’t acknowledge the investment in us. In financial terminology, bank accounts can go dormant. Dormant, inactive, subject to close watch and observation because a lack of activity. There are a lack of balance inquiries, deposits and withdrawals leads to the status of the account. In these instances, the problem isn’t a lack of funds but that the account holder is choosing to do nothing with it. This begs the question, what are you doing with the investments that are inside of you? If we are stagnant and show no signs of change in the way that we interact with people, then we have made a mistake.
We ought not be dormant.
We ought not be quiet.
We ought not be still, because our world depends on our movement.
Our movement is rooted in love, our peace is obtained in love. Just as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous, I Have a Dream Speech,
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’ This is our hope, and this is the faith…With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
I understand in order to let freedom ring, I have to accept my obligation. I can’t show partiality because the peace of our world depends on it. Journey with me. Understand your responsibility and make it personal. Love is the root of our acceptance and love is a solution to our problems of inequality.
We can seek peace.
We can arrive at peace.
We can obtain peace.
We have the resources that we need but we must execute impact. However, the shift must happen internally. If your mind has become desensitized to things of this world, then you must wake up. A change must occur inside of us in order to obtain the equality that is essential to survival. Live where the change is and refuse to perpetuate ignorance. Journey with me on this road of peace, for we can obtain it. Our hopes of today impact our views of tomorrow. Change is in reach, encourage one another not to be stagnant. Thanks be to God, Amen.