LOVE in the City By Grace Lee Boggs

LOVE in the City

By Grace Lee Boggs

June 10-16, 2012

Last week I was the commencement speaker at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, which is located in the historic First Presbyterian Church at Woodward and Forest in Detroit.

 

ETS educates students for urban ministry.

 

In the more than 75 years since my first commencement, I have participated in many commencement ceremonies. But this was my first gig as a commencement speaker.

I didn’t even know how to begin until I was asked to provide a scripture, That prompted me to choose the familiar passage from Corinthians about Love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I chose this scripture because it was probably the one Dr, King had in mind when he described different kinds of Love in a 1957 speech.

In this speech, MLK not only talks about Romantic Love (or Eros) and Friendship (or Filia) but also about Agape or the willingness to go to any lengths to restore community.

The concept of Love as Agape explains King’s constant advocacy of the “beloved community” in the few years he lived after the 1963 March on Washington, which was more about the struggle for integration.

We are living today in a state of fear of one another because we have not taken King’s concept of “beloved community” or Agape seriously enough.

Especially since the success of the civil rights movement we have emphasized integration without realizing that in doing so, we have been raising our young people to value material things more than community or our social ties to one another.

I’ll never forget one of my neighbors saying after Selma ‘I’m going to give my children the things I didn’t have.”

She meant well but she didn’t realize that success in any struggle gives rise to new contradictions and new challenges which require a deeper exploration into what it means to be human.

 

The uniqueness of human beings is that we are constantly in the process of striving to become more advanced in our uniquely human capacities: consciousness, responsibility, self-criticism.

We are constantly evolving. That is what it means to be human.

Blacks did not rise to this challenge when the success of the civil rights struggle gave them their first opportunity to elect black politicians. On every question except racism, the values of these black politicians were no different from those of white politicians. So blacks became black politicians, accepting and practicing the values of a thing-oriented or capitalist society.

That is why in his 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech King said we need a radical revolution of values, not only against racism but against materialism and militarism.

Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, after four decades of materialism and militarism, our neighborhoods have become so dangerous that some people, especially church congregations, have begun to realize that we must begin to practice Agape.

Thus , on the east side of Detroit a collaboration of seventeen diverse faith communities have come together on one accord, that is, to show the east side some LUV. They call themselves the Riverfront East Congregational Initiatives (RECI)

RECI is practicing Agape, It is growing the souls of congregations and of east side community residents:

• by providing free food and clothing for those in need.

• by supporting local businesses,.e.g. the On the Rise bakery, run by returning citizens, and Korash Florists, a company which has remained in the neighborhood through good times and bad.

• By organizing annual Peoples Festivals to bring the Neighbor back to the ‘hood.

Last year’s East Side People’s Festival, on the grounds of Genesis Lutheran at Grand Blvd and Mack, was a great success. It was especially inspiring to observe how teenagers pitched in, watching over younger children and picking up trash on their own, without being asked.

RECI’s Second Annual Peoples Festival will take place next Saturday, June 16, at the same site.

Enjoy Food, Fun, Games. Giveaways, Performances, Information!!!

PUT THE NEIGHBOR BACK IN THE ‘HOOD!!!

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