Perspectives: Andrea Caplinger

Hi, guys. I’m Kim Bandy, a director at Spero, and I’m facilitating a personal blog series. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying the national events of the past week and a half have been overwhelming. There are many steps that need to be taken personally, organizationally, and collectively. But one step that seems like the hardest and perhaps least exercised is the step of listening well. In particular, I know those of us who represent my personal demographic—a white, evangelical who grew up in the United States—must begin listening to those who are telling us that what happened in Charlottesville was painful.

So, I asked a few friends if they’d be willing to share with us and they graciously accepted. I have learned a tremendous amount from them about life, discipleship, leadership, integrity and compassion. And they have been instrumental in helping me understand their call for reconciliation in the church and in America.

I am hopeful about myself and about others in our community. I’m hopeful that we can listen well—just as we would to someone who is sitting across a table from us expressing this pain in the way they would any other pain in their life. I hope to listen without trying to determine if they are “right” or if I agree with every perspective. I hope to listen without asking them to hurry past the pain. And I hope to listen in a way that doesn’t filter their pain through the lens of how it makes me feel. I am hopeful to listen well to my brothers and sisters in the Kingdom. And I’m hopeful to follow their lead. Because, while they are brave enough to share this pain with us, they are most certainly not defined by this pain. They are defined by the strength and vision they possess as followers of Jesus who have much to teach me.

Let's talk with our friend, Andrea.


Let me begin by saying that I am humbled and somewhat terrified to be asked to share my thoughts on what has transpired in our communities and nation since white supremacists marched in Charlottesville. I'm not terrified to speak out; I'm more terrified of being silent. I'm not terrified to say what needs to be said because I am 100% confident that this message needs to be repeated over and over until we start seeing change. However, it's terrifying to speak to an issue that needs to be communicated so immediately, clearly, effectively, lovingly and strongly, when I feel so inadequate to do so. It's challenging because I want to communicate the gravity of this situation, but I also don't want to say the wrong thing and end up causing further harm to those who have already suffered so greatly as the result of words and actions committed by the white population. I am not an expert on race relations, racism, systemic racism and microaggressions. I am trying earnestly to be a student, so that I am deeply aware and educated on of all of these issues. I must understand that they do still exist and why, how I benefit from them and what I must do to be a part of dismantling them. I am white, so I have been and continue to be a part of the problem. I regret to say that I only became acutely aware of white privilege, racism, systemic racism and white supremacy's continued fervent existence when I became the mother of two precious children, who are black. So, I am going to do the best I can with all of my imperfections and flaws to answer some questions that will hopefully give some insight into our experience.

 

Question: I am a white/evangelical Christian. What do you want me to know about Charlottesville?

When I first read this question, the first thing that came to mind is this quote by Anne Braden. "The battle is and always has been a battle for the hearts and minds of white people in this country. The fight against racism is our issue. It's not something that we're called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because really, in truth, they do." That may feel like a really strong initial response, but I feel the urgency  to deal with the hard truths up front. Racism is real, and it is an issue that the white population has to deal with because so many lives and futures depend upon it. As a friend of mine shared with me, many of the white supremacists claim to be Christians, so Christians have to speak out and denounce the message, ideology and hate-filled beliefs of the white supremacists because they do not reflect Christ, and because it is the right, humane thing to do. This isn't the time to be worried about mixing politics and religion; it's the time to take a stand against hate. Obviously, the church has a lot of political power and has demonstrated that in many ways, not always positive, throughout our country's history.  So, don't we want to be on the right side of history and humanity.

Honestly, we haven't stood up to racism and fought it like we need to. I feel like the church has not stood up to racism as it needs to. Yes, statements and positions have been made denouncing the alt-right and racism in the past, this summer and in recent days, which is absolutely necessary. We must speak out; we must denounce hate, and I am thankful to see that. However, racism is fought in the day- to- day activities and lives of individuals and large entities. It's not just about public statements that are made. It's about taking a serious look at our own hearts to be aware of prejudices and biases. For example, if we read something written about racism more attentively when it's written by a white person than when it's written by a person of color, then we need to be aware of that, ask ourselves why and challenge our view. Women, if we clutch our purses tighter and become more fearful when we walk by a black man, then we need to ask ourselves why. If we see a black man walking by a nice vehicle, and our first thought is, "What is he doing around that car?", rather than understanding that is his car, then we need to ask ourselves why. If we pass over a resume for a job because of the ethnic name on the resume, then we need to ask ourselves why. Our prejudices and biases run so deep and are so unknown to many of us. This is really the part where lives depend upon our community and society understanding implicit bias because it costs people their lives when our prejudices and biases haven't been dealt with appropriately.

We fight racism when we teach the next generation the truth about racism and how we should embrace diversity in our lives and fight for equality. It's about taking a stand against it when people are making jokes, being discriminatory or making stereotypical statements about another race or person. It's about understanding legislation that we are voting on, and if it promotes systemic/institutional racism, then we vote against it and demand better legislation. It's about voting for politicians at all levels, even the highest position in the land, who do not hold and promote racist ideologies. We must take a stand against it when we see someone being treated unfairly by an individual, entity or our government. We, in the majority culture, must rise up, educate ourselves, be open to learn, be challenged in our views and stand in the gap, build the bridge and come alongside our minority communities. They should not fight this battle on their own because it isn't theirs to fight. For true change to occur and oppression to stop, then we have to step into this and put a stop to racism and all types of discrimination. I would like to quote Jen Hatmaker from her article in The Atlantic entitled, "What Obligation do White, Christian Women Have to Speak Out About Politics?" "Our days of silence are over. It's time to lay that down, move on and empower one another to speak up. It matters. I look forward to a container that is not so reticent to jump in, that is not so resistant to tension and to discomfort that they're so busy silencing their members."

 

Does this feel out of the blue to you as it does others? Why or Why not.

No, this doesn't feel out of the blue to me. Obviously, it's heart wrenching and makes me ill, but it doesn't surprise me. When I am out with my children alone, I still notice the looks of condemnation and judgment that come our way, and this has happened within the last few weeks. I won't ever forget when one of my children were told that they weren't good enough to be another child's friend because they were black. I won't ever forget that my child was told they cannot be a Christian because they are black. This came from a child their same age. I see the conversations on social media that are obviously routed in a significant lack of understanding about racism and what seems to be a lack of true desire to understand anything differently.  

When I think about social media, a certain personal experience comes to mind. I mention this because it seems to be a common observation among many families. I'm not really that active on social media, but I do add a picture every once in a while, and it's nice to see all of the responses about my children. They are always very kind. So, sometimes I also post articles or quotes in regards to racism, white privilege and discrimination, and what is interesting to many of us is that those posts don't get the responses that the pictures of our children do. It feels as though there is a disconnect there. I'm very thankful that people enjoy seeing pictures of my children, but I know many of us want to know that the white population is also engaging in conversation around the topic of racism because it negatively affects and will continue to negatively affect my children and my friends in those pictures unless the white population is fighting racism, white privilege and discrimination. Now, I know that doesn't mean that people aren't reading them or thinking about them, but when it is apparent that there is a significant difference in the response, it feels as though that could possibly be a correlation to an unwillingness or openness to engage in these difficult conversations. We must engage because that is what has to happen for change to occur. Again, I have only been acutely aware of this reality for a few years, while our communities of color have been so aware of this for their entire existence. I am continually learning from conversations that I have with my friends who are black about the experiences of racism and prejudice that they face on a daily basis. This isn't right, and we have to start taking the hard steps to change it.

 

How does it make me feel to see the lack of policing towards these hate groups?

It's very difficult for me to see. When I think about the Nazis in Germany and how they were able to incrementally gain a foothold, then seeing a lack of policing Neo-Nazis here in the US is very concerning. Obviously, we all know that over 6 million Jews and others lost their lives because of the ideologies of the Nazis. They must be stopped on all fronts.  This also leads to the concern to the differences in how law enforcement polices our communities of color.  I read a story once of a young black man who had white parents. He had strategically placed a picture of his family in his wallet, next to his license, so when he was pulled over, the police officer would see that he had white parents. The young man shared that he felt the need to protect himself in this way. He went on to share that he finally came to a point that he removed that picture. I have to acknowledge the reality that my children are protected by my white privilege for now. It should not be that way; there should not be white privilege. My child should not be safer than yours because he has white parents. This is disgusting to me, and it weighs so heavy on my heart. It is the current reality, so I also have to know that my white privilege will not always protect them as they become older and are more independent of us, and this also weighs very heavy on my heart.

Kate Riffle Roper wrote an excellent piece for daily O on the differences she has observed raising white and black children. The realities of racism and white privilege that she has seen first-hand are so imperative to understand, so we can change this reality.  Her article is a must read, and it is linked here: http://www.dailyo.in/variety/black-lives-matter-alton-sterling-dallas-police-shooting-donald-trump/story/1/11936.html.

When I read this article, it took my breath away as I thought of my little boy. My son is so sweet, smart, kind and funny.  He gives great hugs, and when he says "thank you, momma," my heart melts. He is truly amazing. He is also really cute; although, I might be a little biased.  However, many people agree because comments are made so frequently.  So, it overwhelms me with fear and sadness to think that when he is a teenager and an adult that people will not see his handsomeness, his intelligence, his kindness or his heart; they will see his black skin. This might be lead them to be afraid or suspicious of him, and this could put him in grave danger; it could cost him his life.  I honestly cannot even type that without tears welling up in my eyes and my chest tightening because it isn't right. The fact that someone would not see my son for who he really is, but only judge him based on stereotypes, biases and prejudices because of his skin color, is devastating. I have only dealt with this reality for a few years, and it has caused me significant grief. So, I don't know how all of the moms and dads in the black communities have dealt with this their whole life, generation after generation.

 

What can we do in our city right now to address white supremacy around us?

In addition to the things I mentioned above, I think Brene' Brown, PhD., LMSW, answers this well when she was asked  the question of how we truly empathize with others and understand a different perspective. She says very simply and clearly, "the answer is you believe people's stories. you believe people's experiences as they tell them to you."  We fight white supremacy when we open our lives and our homes to build relationships with others that look different from us. We listen. We actively and empathically listen without judgment, dismissing, minimizing, reasoning and explaining away their story. We sit with the discomfort, sadness, anger and fear. Annie Reneau at Scary Mommy wrote a blog post that I feel says it better than I can, so I have provided the link here: http://www.scarymommy.com/fellow-white-americans-we-need-to-stay-in-the-room-when-racism-becomes-uncomfortable-for-us/

I regret to say that I have been so naive and ignorant on these issues for so much of my life. That has to continue to change. I am trying to be brave and bold and speak to these issues head on. I have so much to learn, and I am so thankful for the people in my life who allow me to learn from them and who challenge me to learn through documentaries, films, poems, songs & books. This is about humanity. We have to do the hard work to educate ourselves on the reality, not just rely on what we were taught in history class in school. We really have to challenge ourselves to read and listen to others, authors and speakers that will give us a new perspective.  We have to move forward, so this truly can be a community that believes and lives out that all people are created equal because everyone has the right to be treated equally.


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Meet our friend, Andrea.

Andrea Caplinger is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Oklahoma City. She received her undergraduate degree from Oklahoma Baptist University and her graduate degree in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma. Andrea has 15 plus years experience in the field of Social Work working with various populations in the local community. Her primary work experience has been with adults, children and families in the areas of trauma, grief, loss, relationship-building, attachment and adoption. Andrea loves spending time with her family, friends and faith community. Andrea lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two precious children.

Perspectives: CeCe Jones-Davis

Hi, guys. I’m Kim Bandy, a director at Spero, and I’m facilitating a personal blog series. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying the national events of the past week and a half have been overwhelming. There are many steps that need to be taken personally, organizationally, and collectively. But one step that seems like the hardest and perhaps least exercised is the step of listening well. In particular, I know those of us who represent my personal demographic—a white, evangelical who grew up in the United States—must begin listening to those who are telling us that what happened in Charlottesville was painful.

So, I asked a few friends if they’d be willing to share with us and they graciously accepted. I have learned a tremendous amount from them about life, discipleship, leadership, integrity and compassion. And they have been instrumental in helping me understand their call for reconciliation in the church and in America.

I am hopeful about myself and about others in our community. I’m hopeful that we can listen well—just as we would to someone who is sitting across a table from us expressing this pain in the way they would any other pain in their life. I hope to listen without trying to determine if they are “right” or if I agree with every perspective. I hope to listen without asking them to hurry past the pain. And I hope to listen in a way that doesn’t filter their pain through the lens of how it makes me feel. I am hopeful to listen well to my brothers and sisters in the Kingdom. And I’m hopeful to follow their lead. Because, while they are brave enough to share this pain with us, they are most certainly not defined by this pain. They are defined by the strength and vision they possess as followers of Jesus who have much to teach me.

Let's talk with our friend, Cece.


If you're talking to me as a white, Evangelical Christian, what do you want me to know about Charlottesville?

For my white evangelical sisters and brothers, I would want you to know that the times in which we live are serious, and presents us with a divine opportunity. The evil we saw personified in Charlottesville is our problem.  Not black people’s and not the Black Church. It's our problem as Americans, but most of all, it is our problem as Jesus-followers. It’s time for white Christians to use their personal agency, and the power of their congregations, to address racism. 

The other thing I’d want evangelical Christians to know is that black folks are getting tired of serving in multicultural churches and feeling like the social issues that impact us don’t stir our white brothers and sisters toward action. My question to white Evangelicals, especially those who feel they get a pass on the race conversation because they attend church with minority groups is, who am I to you? Because we talk a lot about being sisters and brothers. But family shows up for each other- bears one another’s burdens.  So, it makes me wonder why many white evangelicals seem disengaged from the issues of our time. Charlottesville is just the latest reminder of how far we have to go in race relations, the ideologies that fester beneath the surface of our society, and the ways in which history has been revised so that racism can remain propped up in the public square.

The incidence in Charlottesville is not just about hate, but something I think is just as dangerous, which is apathy. The fact that so many would rather hold on to a symbol of their ‘heritage’-- a statue-- than understand the pure terror that the statue represents for African Americans, lets you know that we have a problem yielding to truth and relenting ‘whiteness’.  For me, that’s a pretty clear indication of willful ignorance rooted in ideas of dominance. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for prominent historical figures. Museums and history books. Not the public square. Not on a campus. Not at the courthouse.

 

Earlier you mentioned to me that this was not shocking to you. It did not feel out of the blue or like a disconnected event. But many white Christians were expressing shock based on their belief that this movement of white supremacy was a thing of the past. Help us bridge that gap. Why wasn’t this shocking to you?

It's not shocking because the narrative that racism ended when slavery ended, or when Jim Crow ended--black people have always known--is a myth. And while African Americans are no longer swinging from trees or sitting in the back of the buses, racism continues to show itself in various forms.

I think it was surprising for all of us to see the visible numbers of white supremacists show up in Charlottesville. We were surprised to see how young they were. We were surprised by the venom they spewed. But I, and most African Americans, were not shocked by the fact that people still organize themselves for the express purpose of hating blacks, those that are Jewish, Native Americans, and the LGBTQ community. We’ve heard the stories from our grandparents and parents. We have experienced the ‘N’ word at stop lights and on Facebook. We saw how the first black President of the United States of America was demonized through the birther conspiracy, while his wife was called a monkey.

I grew up in the '80s in Virginia where we knew very well that the Klan was still active. Just a few years ago, there was Klan presence, in broad daylight, in my hometown. I think it's easy to kind of bury our heads in the sand when a particular evil is not directed toward us, or posing a threat to us or our tribe. The hate present in Charlottesville was not at all a shock to me, or to any black person I know.

 

Speaking of social media, we saw a great variety of responses, of course. But there was one in particular that caught my attention. The responses of “this isn’t the majority of white people” or “this is such a small group compared to society as a whole.” Certainly, there were those responses in a defensive tone, but I’m talking about those responses I think were meant to encourage you or make you feel better. I think it was a well-intentioned attempt to say ‘you don’t have to be scared. Nothing is really that wrong.’ Can you respond to that idea?

I think racism and, certainly bias, exists as spectrums.  At the extreme end, you're wearing a hood and waving a Nazi flag or something outlandish like that. But then there are other degrees of racism and bias.  And I think that we have to come to terms with the degree of bias that may reside in us and informs our worldview and behavior. So, one can’t just say, "I’m a good white person. That's not how the majority of us feel." Well, okay. That's not how you feel, but how do you feel?

And further, how do you feel, when black men in America are denied due process of law and  continue to be killed in the streets by police? Or when black men are pulled over for a minor traffic violation, tell the cop that they have a registered firearm-- in an open carry state-- and get shot anyway, with a four year old in the backseat. So it is not a matter, anymore, of being a ‘good white person’. Because the standard of ‘good’, especially to me now, is not that you don’t say the ‘N’ word or participate in KKK rallies.

And I think we have to get out of these notions of goodness about ourselves in order to examine our frailty, our brokenness, our bias. Then determine what are we going to do about it.  What are we going to do about our bias?  What do we really think about ‘those’ people? What are the conversations we have at dinner tables when we feel safe to say whatever we want to say, whatever is in our hearts. It's not enough to be a ‘good white person’ if you are a Christian. Because as we know, at our core, we are sinners. And truly, there are none ‘good’ but God. The question really is,  what are you going to do to reflect the goodness not of ourselves, but of God? How will you participate in moving the ball of humanity forward? Especially as Christians. Especially as folks who believe everybody is made in the image of God.    

 

If someone is reading this and they are thinking these events were an awakening moment for them and now they do want to move the ball forward, what step would you ask them to take?   

The first step is an education--but an education with our defenses down. I’m not talking about a history lesson on names of generals, battlegrounds, and presidents. I’m talking about an education on someone else’s lived experience. And, let me say that this is not about making people feel bad about being white. You shouldn’t feel bad about being white.  White guilt does not push the ball forward. It’s about learning through the lens of the ‘other’ so that you can understand whiteness as a privilege that, if responsibly leveraged, can help advance others. It’s an education about the histories, realities and perspectives of minorities in this country, from their perspective. And being in Oklahoma, I must say this is not just about history relating to black people, but also about Native American people, who have an even smaller voice in this country. We're going to have to get an education about the whole of history and understand its impact on our present times, and commit ourselves to the truths that unfold.

Educating ourselves require more than reading a high school history book. Those books do not tell the story. They would have you believe that slavery really wasn't that bad; that white men had ‘mistresses’ and not enslaved women who were raped on a consistent basis; that Native Americans should be thankful for being ‘un-savaged’ by colonization; that the term picnic (often called pick-a-n**) wasn't used when people gathered in the public square to eat turkey sandwiches and watch black men hang from trees.   

We're going to have to give ourselves a true historical context, which can then inform our values as we move forward as brothers and sisters in Christ. We can surround ourselves with people who have different backgrounds and perspectives. We can have dinner table conversations outside our circles. And we need to come to these conversations with honest questions, and be ready for honest responses. Most of all we need to come to one another with a sense of open-heartedness. Because the goal is not to further rage. The goal is to mobilize rage and make it work for us in a productive manner. The goal is to satisfy justified anger through acts of kindness and justice.  We're going to have to surround ourselves with information, listen to other people, get different perspectives and then, when we know better, we’ll do better, as Dr. Maya Angelou said.   

And people will have different levels of involvement in these issues. I'm not here to give white evangelicals marching orders. But I am here to say that you have a significant role to play.  Particularly to white evangelical congregations who have boasted about their multiculturalism. Black people serve your churches. And if my understanding of our culture is right, black people serve your churches well. We're at the door, ushering. We're in the parking lot, for parking ministry. We're on that stage, for praise and worship. We are at those instruments. We're doing prayer ministry. We're doing all these things, because that's who we are as a tribe. That’s who we are in the Kingdom of God. We've situated ourselves in predominantly white congregations because we have a vision, too. We want more. We want unity. We want reconciliation. We know that is God’s dream. 

But we need to know that black lives matter to you. And I’m not talking about the movement. I’m talking about the statement. Black people are disillusioned right now in the multicultural/predominately white evangelical context. We are questioning why we gave up our own tradition to assimilate to a people who don’t share our pain over police brutality or white supremacy.

 

Shifting gears a bit, I think a lot of emotional response I saw was related to the difference in policing, which I noticed right off the bat. But I think I noticed because I had tried to stay aware of other protests that were minority groups. So, potentially, someone who's just looking at Charlottesville doesn't realize why there was such a response from people of color about the way it was policed. So can you give us some context for that?

We can use the contrast between Ferguson and Charlottesville.  In response to Mike Brown’s death, police responded to protesters dressed in military gear and driving tanks.  But in Charlottesville, a very different scene. As a TV viewer, I had a hard time distinguishing the white supremacist from the police officers. The hate group members had on helmets and vests and carried semi-automatics in their hands. Now, to be fair, Virginia is an open-carry state. This is what I will say, though, because I believe it's true: If black people had showed up in Ferguson militarized and brandishing firearms, there would have been very different outcomes. This problem is the history of policing of black bodies in America, particularly black male bodies. Black people have always been deemed dangerous just by virtue of being black.

You know that because a young boy named Trayvon Martin was walking down the street with some Skittles and a can of tea, with a hoodie on, on the sidewalk not bothering anybody, and was gunned down by a robocop because Trayvon looked dangerous. That tells you everything you need to know about the ways in which blackness is a crime in this country.

Another element to this has to do with the power of rage. When you have a people group who’ve experienced injustice for too long,  they eventually get tired of saying please: "Please, don't shoot me. Please, don't hang me. Please, don't beat me. Please, don't rape me. Please, don't work me to death in your fields. Please, don't sell my children off. Please allow us into your schools. Please give us equity in the workplace."  When people get tired of saying, "please," there's a righteous rage that rises up. And the oppressor, whoever the oppressor is, is always afraid of that rage, because collective, holy rage is the foreshadow of change.   

Holy rage is a threat to the norm. It is a legitimate threat, because it signals again, that things are not working and we're not going to say, "please," anymore. And so that also plays into the ways in which policing happens, because the job of institutions is to keep the status quo by any means necessary.  

 

Anything else you thought about this weekend, that you wanted to share?  

I thought this weekend about how important it is for us to name things. Evangelical church--we do a really good job talking about, naming, sin. We have not talked enough about racism and supremacy as sin. We have not called them by their names nearly enough.    

Bigotry, racism, supremacy, privilege--these are the idols of our culture. And one of the things I thought a lot about in the last few days is the importance of us not continuing to distance ourselves from the problems around us. I think in tough times we tend to say, "Well, the world is gonna do what the world is gonna do." But if that’s the case, why is the Church here? Why are you here, and why is this Gospel here if the world is ‘just gonna do what the world is gonna do?’

We can’t just say “Jesus is the answer.” Jesus is the answer. But the nature of Christ has to be deconstructed in a way that is understandable, tangible and evident. In other words, what does Christ require me to do in the midst of all this that will cause me to reflect His attributes best? We can’t rock on our porches waiting on the rapture.  He’s coming back for sure, but in the meantime, there’s a mess for us to take care of. Get involved in what is happening around you. Because you can't tell me that when Jesus comes back, He won’t see racial injustice as a spot and a wrinkle on His Church.   

 

What would you say to someone who says, "The actual problem is that we are even defining what happened in Charlottesville by race, and not by sin and hate."   

For centuries, whites used the Bible to condone slavery and segregation in America. The KKK used the Cross to brand its hate.  Where there is a specific fruit, there is a specific root. And the sinful root here is racism. We have to name it, be specific.  Repentance is specific. We don’t just say, “well, God, sorry for everything.” That is not repentance and doesn’t lead to reconciliation. And we also have to remember that racism is not just a sin against God, but also against our neighbor. The Lord’s Prayer says, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, which affirms this truth.

“Everything” didn’t kill Abel. Jealousy did. “Everything” didn’t enslave the Hebrews. Racism and greed did. And the collection of our specific sins killed Jesus.     

 

For people that are unfamiliar with or hesitant to use the term systemic racism or systemic oppression--what is an example of systemic racism that we may be part of and not realize it?   

Mass incarceration.  I’d encourage people to watch two documentaries,  The Kalief Browder Story and 13th about race and mass incarceration. I’d also recommend I Am Not Your Negro and Hidden Colors for more context on race relations in America.


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meet our friend, CeCe.

Cece Jones-Davis is a minister from Halifax, Virginia and a graduate of Howard University and Yale University School of Divinity, as well as the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Worship and the Arts.

Devoted to her call as a worship leader, artist, speaker, social advocate and writer, Cece's work is deeply inspired by the social ministry of Jesus Christ. She is the founder of Sing for Change, Inc., a social justice initiative that works to mobilize faith-motivated musical artists and communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS. She is also the founder and facilitator of the Women & Girls Working Group, raising awareness regarding issues impacting female reproductive health globally.

Cece has been featured on worship albums, including Stephen Hurd's "In the Overflow: Volume II" and "Times of Refreshing." her first single, "Dreams" is currently available on digital media sources.

Cece was honored to serve the Obama Administration and now lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with her husband, Mike, and their children, Halo and Honor.

A note from Spero: we encourage and invite you to learn more about CeCe on her website, and book her for speaking engagements! www.cecejonesdavis.com

Perspectives: Lee Roland

Hi, guys. I’m Kim Bandy, a director at Spero, and I’m facilitating a personal blog series. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying the national events of the past week and a half has been overwhelming. There are many steps that need to be taken personally, organizationally, and collectively. But one step that seems like the hardest and perhaps least exercised is the step of listening well. In particular, I know those of us who represent my personal demographic—a white, evangelical who grew up in the United States—must begin listening to those who are telling us that what happened in Charlottesville was painful.

So, I asked a few friends if they’d be willing to share with us and they graciously accepted. I have learned a tremendous amount from them about life, discipleship, leadership, integrity and compassion. And they have been instrumental in helping me understand their call for reconciliation in the church and in America.

I am hopeful about myself and about others in our community. I’m hopeful that we can listen well—just as we would to someone who is sitting across a table from us expressing this pain in the way they would any other pain in their life. I hope to listen without trying to determine if they are “right” or if I agree with every perspective. I hope to listen without asking them to hurry past the pain. And I hope to listen in a way that doesn’t filter their pain through the lens of how it makes me feel. I am hopeful to listen well to my brothers and sisters in the Kingdom. And I’m hopeful to follow their lead. Because, while they are brave enough to share this pain with us, they are most certainly not defined by this pain. They are defined by the strength and vision they possess as followers of Jesus who have much to teach me.

Let's talk with our friend, Lee.


'I'm a white, evangelical Christian. What do you want me to know about Charlottesville?'

As a middle-aged, African American male who loves this country and grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance, singing America the Beautiful every morning in school, rooting for ANY American in the Olympic games, etc., I am very much saddened by what I’ve witnessed in Charlottesville.  However, I am not disappointed by the people in the streets nearly as much as the people in places of influence and power whose silence and or complicity has by all appearances fertilized the soil of bigotry and hate that pervades this country.      

In the end, as I have shared with many, I am not sure which to fear most, North Korea or the country that I call home and its leadership.

 

‘Does this feel out of the blue to you like it does to many white Christians/Americans? Why or why not?' 

What has and is occurring in our country today does not ‘feel out of the blue’ to me. I, and many like me have seen this coming. It has existed as long as I can remember, but gained great momentum with the election of President Barack Obama. It has been brewing for some time, similar to a volcano. However, a volcano does not get attention until it erupts, especially if the safety of the innocent, especially if ALL is threatened. 

 

'How does it make you feel to see the lack of policing toward these hate groups?'

I am disappointed to see the lack of policing of hate groups in our country. However, at this point, I do not think America has even the most remote capability of effectively addressing this matter via the police, short of inciting a civil war, devoid of the historic boundary lines of North versus South.  Today, the war would be in every state. Moreover, the casualties would be unimaginable as the firepower of these groups is substantial.

 

‘What can we do in our city right now to address white supremacy in structures around us?’

The only way to effectively confront white supremacy in our city and nation is the unified prayers and fight of God’s body (the church), men and women of every color, faith and denomination. However, this too is an ambitious undertaking and very unlikely, unless we have enough “volcanic eruptions” that endangers the safety of ALL.  


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Meet our friend, Lee.

Lee Roland has been an educator and administrator for almost 30 years. He currently serves on staff at The Parish in Oklahoma City, as well as working as a Motivational Speaker and Education Consultant. Lee is formerly the proud principal of 12 years of Tulakes Elementary in the Putnam City School District. Mr. Roland has always labored exhaustively yet ardently in the field to both serve and meet the needs of students, parents, teachers. His dedication and determination is clearly evident as he unceasingly endeavors to inspire and propel others who serve, to touch lives and make a difference, particularly for children.

In addition to enjoying great success in his roles as a special education teacher, principal, and superintendent liaison, Lee has spoken and presented at numerous conferences, venues, and workshops across Oklahoma and the United States, particularly on subjects of character education, working with children of poverty, and teacher efficacy. Mr. Roland has and continues to serve on numerous city, civic, and community boards, mostly involving the welfare of children. In short, he believes that it is the responsibility of all citizens, and especially educators to improve our society via the public school, which he passionately strives to do each and every single day - yes, "leave no child behind!"

A note from Spero: We encourage and invite you to learn more about Lee and book him for your next speaking engagement! www.leeroland.education

Charlottesville

As an organization, we are committed to condemning the ideology and practice of white supremacy. We are committed to listening and learning from those whose very existence is being assaulted. We are committed to taking action based on that listening. And we are committed to doing so in Jesus' Name.

For anyone feeling confused and surprised by this weekend's events, this article by a trusted organization is a helpful starting point.

In the coming week, Spero will be sharing personal reflections from Board Members, staff, SHARP Instructors, and friends of Spero who have been gracious enough to lend their voices to this space--individuals who are most affected by the ideology of hate who, but who are willing to share in an effort to move the Church toward true reconciliation. We don't take this lightly and we are honored to hear and share their responses. May we all listen well.

http://www.preemptivelove.org/charlottesville_white_supremacist_protest_may_come_as_a_shock_but_it_shouldnt

Community Partnership

This month we are Cycle 3 Sixty's partner charity! This Saturday, July 15th, is our community class and the proceeds go to support The Common network. Bring a friend and come break a sweat to raise money for our refugee neighbors! You can either drop in a class through the month of July and tell them you want to support The Spero Project or come to our community class this Saturday at 11am (donation based) and the proceeds support us! Check out their website for more details.


Link: http://cycle3sixty.com/community-involvement

Moved By Hope Campaign

It's here! We are excited to announce our MOVED BY HOPE campaign! Over the next 30 days we are going to raise $10,000 in monthly income to support our refugee neighbors here in OKC. We need your help! Our goal is to support 250 of our friends in the refugee community through our program called The Common. To support one person only takes $42 a month! Over the next month we are going to talk about what The Common does, how to get involved and on July 28th we are going to have a huge party to celebrate our refugee neighbors that come to OKC every year! We will have live music and food from all over the world. Please watch our video to learn more and join us as we are moved by hope! www.movedbyhope.com

Thoughts On The Executive Order

We’d like to offer a few thoughts on why there has been such a strong statement about this Executive Order. We are empathetic to people who consider this is an overreaction if they are under the impression that there, thus far, has been no vetting process in place, or that this process has been ineffective in its security measures. And we understand the sincere desire for safety in our country—we share in that deep desire.

Please understand many of the staff at The Spero Project know hundreds of resettled refugees personally. They are our friends, our neighbors (literally, not metaphorically), our kids’ best friends, the people who have brought us meals when our babies were born. So, we recognize that we’ve had years of time devoted to researching and experiencing first hand issues that affect refugees families, internationally and in Oklahoma. It feels important to say this because, while we are filled with emotion for our friends, we are also very mindful of policy, what it has been, and what this Executive Order means on the ground. We are not trying to take a personally defensive posture, sincerely. However, we would love for anyone who reads this to understand that we’ve studied and researched and advocated for many years. We may come to different conclusions, for sure, but we are confident our response is not driven solely by emotion.

These are not our comprehensive thoughts. Here is one idea for today:

We strongly support an extremely rigorous vetting process. We absolutely support this. That is why many of us are frustrated about a rhetoric that works to convince people this hasn’t been in place for a long time. Here is the link to an archived web page that shows the vetting process that’s been in place for decades. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/…/infographic-screenin…. It takes people many, many years to get through this vetting process and has since its inception. If the administration had decided to offer more resources to this existing program, bolstering it and supporting it, we would have been cheering them on. I don’t know anyone who advocates for refugees that wouldn’t.

As it stands now, this particular order has suspended refugees from every country of origin, and when and if it resumes, the total number of refugees being resettled to the U.S. will be decreased significantly. Christians refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo and Burma have been suspended. There were families—mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—ready to come to Oklahoma City after years and years of vetting, many of whom have gone 12-15 years without a safe home prior to this. This order also affects Special Immigrant Visa holders who risked their lives to aid U.S. troops in Iraq.

Further, because the vetting process has been so rigorous, the security clearance to travel after completing it is a limited window with a deadline. There is a substantial chance that a family who has been through the security process and was ready to begin resettlement will see an expired security clearance before the program’s suspension is lifted. The very real consequence of this is a family whose hope at a safe home could be gone forever.

When we hear the number of those we resettle will decrease, we can’t help but picture the faces of those thousands who will no longer come. When we hear that Syrian refugees are being banned indefinitely, we see their faces, too. We grieve with families when they hear the news that this suspension put their lives in limbo again.

We may very well come to different conclusions, ultimately. It is important to us, though, to talk about this intelligently and calmly. It is equally important to talk about this with the urgency it deserves because real lives are at stake.

Link: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states

Recent Events

Today is a day of lament. We have so few words to describe how heartbroken we are for our friends and neighbors who are affected by this week’s Executive Order. We can’t express how much we long to welcome, to hug, to share a meal with mothers and fathers from Syria who have a home for their children for the first time in years. We are mourning for our friends from Sudan whose family members have been waiting for decades for a chance at safety. We lament that yesterday they learned a sliver of hope they clung to might be closing forever. We shed big tears for the Iraqi man who risked the lives of every one of his children to support U.S. troops in Baghdad for ten years. We lament he was told there’s no place for his children because we must keep our land ‘secure’ from the very people from which he needs refuge.

We believe in the good of America. We trust that most people have been vastly misinformed about the refugee resettlement process and the “extreme vetting” that is already in place and has been for decades. We are so sorry that you’ve been told security and compassion are at odds with each other. We will be sharing some information over the next week that we hope helps dispel some myths that are bringing fear. And we hope that gives way to action.

But today is a day of lament. We owe it to our neighbors who are grieving—we are so sorry, so very sorry, and we love you so much. We owe it to mothers rocking their malnourished babies in a refugee camp with no end in sight. We owe it to them.

We lament. We lament in the Name of Jesus.