Grit Calls Out to Grit



When I was little, my daddy was friends with a street minister. If you were homesick, Brother Richard would pray healing over you in a phone call, and you almost always went to school the next day. My daddy used to say that he could see the Holy Spirit shining on Brother Richard, that when he was outside he would notice the gleam on his forehead and assume it was from the sun, but when Brother Richard would step inside he would keep on shining. Like Moses coming down from that mountain, the close encounters with God were literally radiating from Brother Richard. You could see the anointing.

I don’t know that I ever really believed in the shine of the Spirit, until I met Bree Newsome. The woman literally shines. Last month I was at a Christian festival with an emphasis on arts and justice, and somehow, someway, they got Bree Newsome and her accomplice James Tyson to come speak to us about taking down the Confederate flag in Charleston, South Carolina. She told us about the reconnaissance missions and the team of people behind her. She told us about the moment she knew this was hers to do.

But mostly, she told us why. Why would a black woman scale a flagpole in the heart of Dixie to take down those “beloved” stars and bars? What would possess someone to shout Bible verses from a flagpole as she scaled it in front of police who would  arrest her once she made her way down? I mean, they were just going to put the flag right back up, so what was the point really?

The point was that the state flew a symbol of hate and it was time to do something about it. The point was pointing out the state-sanctioned white supremacy running rampant in our culture. The point was that God told her to, so she did.

God told her to, and she did it. Talk about grit.

I am not a daughter of the south by blood, but I moved down here ten years ago and I’ve flourished in this rich soil. I y’all with abandon and make a mean macaroni. I love how everything from streets to goats and even children get named Eula Mae. I like knowing my neighbors by their first names, but how we add Miss or Mister to the beginning as a sign of respect. I wasn’t born here, but the south has worked its way into my blood.

And so have the problems of the American South found their way into my blood. Even the silent parts of the south, the ways we avoid discussing certain topics in mixed company, like race or gender. The way we pretend we don’t see, or how we declare something “none of my business.”

I had declared the Confederate flag none of my business.

I’m just a Yankee transplant; what do I know about that thing anyway? I knew it freaked me out a little, but I didn’t think I had a place to say whether or not it should come down.

But then I shook hands with the woman who tore hate from the sky, and I knew that I didn’t have a choice. I knew that I would have to take a stand. If a woman can risk her life, and go to jail, if she can prophesy as she climbs up a flagpole, then surely I can take a stand in my own community. Surely I can speak up about injustice to my colleagues and loved ones and city officials. The grit she embodied called out to the grit in me. Racial reconciliation work won’t be easy, but it must be done. And I must do my part. The confederate flag will not wave silently while I am around it.

Later on, as I saw Bree speak from the big stage, I realized why her name wasn’t on the schedule. Her session was announced just hours before where she would be, because it is no longer safe for her to be in public. The death threats she and James Tyson are receiving are real and it is best that she doesn’t announce ahead of time where she will be.

I don’t know that I have the grit yet to scale a flagpole, but I do have the grit to fulfill what the Lord is calling me to do.

Every morning and every evening I pray for Bree Newsome, for a hedge of protection, that the Spirit will continue to protect and fill her. Every morning and every evening I pray for the hearts of her enemies to turn toward our God. I pray for other activists like her, who are risking their lives to protest and speak out against oppression, that the Spirit will protect them and that we will hear them. And I pray for my heart and the hearts of people around me, that we learn to tear down white supremacy in our midst.

Grit calls out to grit, and I can feel it pulling us all toward freedom.