Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner
  • Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner
  • Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner
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    Soul Rythem

    Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner

    When a Black woman screams out loud, it’s bad. It’s not that she never screams; surely she does and often. But seldom out loud.

    Surely she had to scream during slavery when some slimy creepy body climbed on her belly to use her as a receptacle. I know she screamed then but not out loud. Or when she – in the name of survival – had to give her breast to nourish somebody else’s child, while her child lay home thirsty, craving her warmth.

    Or when she busily moved around in the kitchen, keeping her back to her children so they could not see the leaky tears burn her face or hear her groan in prayer. They were unaware as they sat at the table chattering that the stove was cold, the ice box warm and the cupboards bare.  

    Scream she did, but not out loud. Romans 8:26 says the Spirit intercedes for us with groans words cannot express.  

    Thankfully, these horrific moments are bits of second-hand history for many of us. Our lives are generations removed from those oppressive days. But on the scream-worthiness scale, we’re right there. Today’s Black woman, like her internally screaming ancestor, has much for which to scream. Like when she begins remembering at 25 what happened to her at 5, when her uncle used candy to entice her to come near. She kept it at bay for two decades, but now the specter of the memories won’t go away and she’s afraid for every little girl she sees near any grown man. Not only does she try to re-suppress the memory, which she’s not even sure is true since it was so long ago, she now also tries to quell the scream.

    Or when in the courtroom she sees her teenage son or daughter, whom she put to bed each night with thoughts of Morehouse and Spelman on her mind, now standing before the judge with hands and feet chain-linked between some other mothers’ children over something stupid. No more Morehouse, now the big house. She can’t scream in the courtroom, lest they haul her away, too, or think it’s her fault that her child turned out this way. So she holds it.

    Or when she  arrives home early and finds her man in bed – her bed – with another man and he declares before her eyes it’s not what it looks like.  Her intention is to scream out loud, but nothing comes out.

    As bad as it gets sometimes, rarely do we get to scream out loud. Throughout history, our survival and the survival of those around us have hinged on our postponing, camouflaging or suppressing the out-loud scream. No wonder we major in heart disease. This inward shout to human ears sounds like groans. Our saving grace has been in knowing that the Spirit speaks our language of groans and translates them into prayers according to God’s will. Our hope is in knowing that there’s always a groan – an inward shout – before the glory.

    So when can a Black woman scream out loud?

    Is it at 20-something when her childhood friend’s father blindsides her with a proposition now that she’s all grown up? Or is it when she has the dream career, dream house, dream car and dream appearance at 30-something, but wakes up to realize that the dream duped and deluded her by not measuring up to all that? Or how about when she looks around at 40-something and realizes her chances of ever marrying, experiencing childbirth, or even having a lasting committed relationship have faded with last year’s underbrush?

    Can she please scream then? Or how about this: when she realizes she no longer has a clue who the man beside her in bed is, even though she has laid with him under the same blankets for nearly two decades. He’s a stranger to her and her to him. Or is it when her son starts acting like her daughter and her daughter starts acting like her son? Though she loves them just the same, can she scream out loud then? Or when she suddenly realizes the reflection in the mirror resembles her, but that person is 30, 40, 50 or 100 pounds heavier than she ever thought she’d be. Please, can she scream now!

    These are glimpses into the real-life stories some Black women share.

    And yes, there surely are those whose charmed lives may never have experienced such tragedy. Even now someone is standing up in protest to declare that all her days have been good days and all her decisions have been right. I’m not mad at you. Work it. But work it realizing that what the old preacher used to say is still true: “If tragedy has not visited you yet, keep on living, daughter.” All I ask is that you have compassion. Realize that if you scratch just beneath the surface of many of your sisters, there’s an ear-piercing, eye-squeezing scream waiting to get out.

    I once heard a poet say “every woman needs a day.” I agree. So here’s what I suggest. Once a year, we take a day for a Black woman to scream. B-W-S-D. Black Woman Scream Day. Rather than sleep the pain away, we’ll scream. It’s a day to fill up your lungs, stretch wide open your mouth, shake your head side to side in fury, and let out a loud noise that shakes the very foundations of the earth.  

    One woman screaming is plenty, but just imagine if we all got together in an abdomen-tightening fellowshipping exercise, like the wailing women of the Bible, and just let it all out. And I don’t mean to be exclusionary, so I invite all of our Latina and Asian sisters, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist; White, Pacific Islanders, American-, East- and West-Indian; gay, straight and bi-sisters to join in. (I’m not changing the name, though. We unapologetically and unashamedly must take ownership of this.) Take the day off and scream. Scream for yourself and for the woman who cannot scream.

    We don’t scream because we are weak or because we have lost it or because any of this has gotten the best of us. We scream in protest because we know that this is not how life is supposed to be. We scream because we have the strength yet left in us to do so. Because we have not been defeated. Our screams are not in despair, rather they push out new life, new hope. They declare these dry bones still do live and they cry out not just with breath, they cry out with a loud screeching ear-piercing noise to say to the world “though you thought I could not, or would not, today – maybe just for today – I can and I will scream, because if I don’t I think I’ll lose my mind.”

    And afterward, at sunset or perhaps the day after BWSD, we will do like we always did: Begin weaving together the frazzled remnants of our sanity, gathering up the tiny pieces again, and putting it all back together so everybody and everything can be all right.

    Can I get an amen?

      26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. – Romans 8


    The Rev. Dr. Cynthia T. Turner, pastor of the Dayspring Community Church in Lanham, MD, writes occasionally about the “Righteous Mind” on the Soul Rhythms blog.

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    1. AMEN, Sistah!

    2. I actually didn’t want to scream when I read this, I wanted to cry. Because I need to scream, but don’t feel I should. Or deserve to.

      Thank you. I could hear this as a passionate sermon, truly. God Bless you.

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