What Was the Date?

It’s all a blur. And time is basically irrelevant at this point. It doesn’t matter what day it is, it never feels like that day to me and I am always surprised when I find out. And if I tell you a story of something that happened in quarantine, please be aware that it could have taken place two days ago or mid-March. So I get it, dates can be hazy. But I really need someone to try. For the people in the back, i’m asking the people in the front: What was the date? When the complete viciousness of our history lost its teeth? When a country built on land that was stolen through cruelty (torture, genocide) and then built with cruelty (the torture and genocide of slavery) and then reluctantly (when forced through civil war) gave up its most blatant forms of cruelty, only to regroup to reshape and refashion them (Jim Crow, lynching, massacres, mass incarceration, poll taxes, redlining, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) – when did that entire system built for and by white supremacy cease to have an effect? Because that is your premise when you want to “wait for all the facts” when you see us (Black people) being routinely over-policed, by both police and regular-degular citizens who for some strange and completely untraceable reason feel they have the right (almost like a birthright…) to determine when/where/how we can live and move and have our being. Inconveniencing us (at best) and slaughtering us (far far too easily) in ways and for “reasons” that you would never begin to consider reasonable if the shoe was on a foot in your family.

But we are in your family, white christians… allegedly. And yet, your power structures look no different (and often much worse) than “the world” with the seats at your tables held predominantly by white men. While your silence on issues of injustice is deafening, your platitudes as empty as they are plentiful and your support of cruel (hello old friend!) and corrupt characters disappointingly sickening. All of which is double baffling when you consider that a tenet of the faith for most of you is that we all are fallen and prone to sin; yet it is somehow unfathomable to you, that you (yes you), a product of a white supremacist root system might actually have a racist bone (or two or more) in your body… and I figure that it must be because you know the date. So please, just give me the date.

But in the meantime, forgive me if I have a hard time telling the difference between “saints” and sinners, and clearly prefer one over the other.


Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.

Four Hundred o’Clock

I threw away 15 copies of my book last week. They got caught up in one of my pandemic purges. (Note: Time has lost all form and structure, when I say “last week” it could be referring to any span of time including yesterday, a month ago or this morning.) They were proof copies that got caught in the middle of my process: perfectly fine except for missing a few lines in one poem that I changed at the last minute. For months they had been stacked in a corner of my closet while I wrestled with what to do with them. Wrestling that had become increasingly more complicated as I’ve become increasingly more ambivalent about my book in general. I love it. And I’m proud of it. But I’ve also outgrown parts of it. Because my religious state, much like this quarantine situation, is nothing I could have ever seen coming. Most Christians won’t be in church this Easter Sunday, due to the ‘rona; I won’t be there due to deconstruction. Not this weekend. Not ever again. But this blog isn’t about that. This is about versions of books that I have thrown away. Including the Bible. Metaphorically. No physical copies of the Bible have been harmed in this transition, but the way I read it has been trashed (or become trash, depending on your view), but again, this is not exactly about that. This is about a piece of that book that made it into my book: a passage from Genesis 15.

13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.

That’s a passage that jumped out at me in November of 2016 and had me very intrigued about 2020. Because, as I noted on the very next page in my book – In other news, the slave trade in America began in approximately 1620. Approximately four hundred years ago. Hmm.

And however you read (or don’t read) the Bible, if nothing else, it is a book about life and people, that reinforces several universal truths, including this one: Nothing lasts forever. Every life eventually ends. And every empire falls. Every empire. And despite everything American Exceptionalism would like us to believe, The United States of America is no exception. This is an empire in decline. As it should be. Literally: America is collapsing on what America was built on – cruel capitalism.

At it roots, America is a nation that has always valued profit over people. From the colonizers who killed, raped and tortured to steal land from indigenous people, to the slaveholders who tortured, raped and killed to drive the workforce that built this economy – cruelty has always been the not-so-secret ingredient. And over time, as the recipes have changed to become a little more sophisticated, the cruelty remains. Deep-rooted in every one of our systems. Name an American system that doesn’t profit, not just at the cost of people, but at their expense. I’ll wait.

Actually, I won’t. I’ve got nothing but time and I ain’t got the time for that. Because it’s 2020, it’s four hundred o’clock and the empire is falling. Right on time.

Whether observing Passover or Easter this week, thoughts of before-and-after are all around us. Major events that split time to show us the seams of the systems we live in. And give us the opportunity to lean into the breaking point, let the unraveling finish and choose something different. Which is scary. Both Passover and Easter are marked with death and darkness, loss and confusion, empires going overboard to retain power, reinforce the structures and revert to status-quo; and bedeviled people who are comfortable with the devils that they know. We know our systems don’t work, but they’re all we’ve ever known, so we’ve clung to them. Trying to make the best of them, when we could be doing so much better. We can do better. And I hope we do. Because the other option is that things stay the same by getting worse.

“And afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

You know what I just realized? (As I was trying to end this post on a not-completely dystopian note…) When the Israelites left Egypt, as the story goes, they took a lot of stuff – silver and gold and treasure and such – but even if they had left completely empty-handed, they still would have left with great possessions. And when Jesus did what He did, whether you believe it was to free people spiritually from sin, psychologically from an empire and/or theologically from a religion, He also left with great possessions. Because it wasn’t things that they removed from the system to render it worthless; it was themselves. We are the greatest possessions. Our greatest possessions. And we deserve a nation that honors that. With liberty and with justice. For all. But for real, with real things like liberal and just access to healthcare, housing and safety.

So while we’re all staying inside, I hope we all decide to take ourselves out. To accept the inevitable discomfort of the end of an empire, but also look with hope to what the future could hold. The new world we could build. A better version of this book we’ve been writing. It’s time.

Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.

ps… you can also read her book, The Divide (aka the book she spent this entire post trashing).

WWJD? He Would Stop Trying To Be Like Jesus

My friend loves Friends. Loves it. That show was, is, and as far as I can see, always will be her jam. So in most any situation, at almost any time, she can relate a real life situation to some situation in that comedy, or one of her flesh and blood friends, to a character in the cast. “That is so Monica/Phoebe/Joey/Chandler/Ross/Rachel.” I could say that I’ve heard it all (and could I be any less enthused?) but I recently realized that I actually haven’t. There are two essential character I have NEVER heard her compare anyone to. Never has she ever said to me or anyone else, “You are being such a Marta Kauffman/David Crane right now.” Who and/or who? The creators of Friends. Who along with their production partner Kevin Bright were the joint force that spawned an entire pop culture. If Friends was a universe, (and let’s be honest: it is) it’s trinitarian god would be Bright-Kauffman-Crane. And S, knows that. She knows the bible of that show front to back, but she has never compared herself or anyone she knows to the gods of that gospel. 

And I really wish Christians would keep that same energy. 

There was a twitter flare up recently, re: slavery and the myth of the benevolent slaveholder. Because apparently present day United States is doing so well, some Christians on twitter (Christtwits?) are finding it hard to believe the horrific history of our nation was as horrific as some of us keep insisting. We’re at a 10 and they’d like us a negative two, but they’ll settle for a three. Protip: If the conversation is ever about slavery and you’re on the side saying it wasn’t that bad; kill yourself. (I’m sorry, is that mean? Okay, but it’s not that mean.) Anyway, white folks be whitefolkin’ and one of them said the reason some of us have a hard time believing in the myth of a benevolent slave owner is because we can’t conceive of a benevolent Father who calls us all slaves to his son… okay, Christtwit. 

Benevolent Father, I’m tired. All the women in me are tired. And all the slaves in me are tired… of Your shit, Dad! Let me go!

Whoops! That escalated quickly. But you know what, let’s go with it. Imagine with me, a slave saying that to their benevolent slave owner. Whether it was whispered through tears, shouted in anger or stated calmly through gritted teeth — what would the response have been? WWBD? What would Benevolence do? 

Obviously, Benevolence would turn in their bible to our very helpful text of the day: Romans 6:22. And having read such clear wisdom, Benevolence would immediately set their slave/child free. Immediately. They would have obviously have to, because they would read it and either: a) see themselves in the slave character and do unto others as they would want others to do to them or b) see themselves in the slave character, be honest about the fact that they don’t want to set their slave free, but accept that the mandate of a slave is to do things they don’t want to do. Either way, Christian benevolence begins and ends with the enslaved being freed. There’s no other option. Unless… No. No way. No one would do that. No one would read a bible verse involving God and slaves, and see themselves in the God position. That would be downright devilish. 

And yet here we are. With Christians likening slave owners to God, instead of humbly recognizing themselves as slaves to supremacy. 

Because a flaw in our theology has become a feature. We have made the goal of Christianity becoming Christlike. **record scratch** Wait… What’s so bad about that? Nothing when you say it like that because we’re used to hearing it like that, but let’s switch things up a little bit. Jesus Christ was God, right? So let’s go with that. Switch Christ with God — and now, when I say we have made the goal of Christianity becoming Godlike… yikes… it just hits different; right? Godlike. Like God. You will be like God… where have we heard that before? 

So what’s a Christian to do? Aren’t we supposed to be like Jesus? Wasn’t that the point? Isn’t that the point? I don’t know. Was it? Is it? Did He die to take our place? Maybe. Did He die to change places with us? Absolutely not. How do I know? Because He still alive. Remember? That’s the whole deal, right? He lived and died and rose from the dead and now *checks notes* He’s alive. So why would I ever ask myself What Would Jesus Do as if He’s missing in action and needs me to fill in for him? He’s present and accounted for. He’s got it covered. And yet we’re steadily out here trying to assume a role that is not open. Trying to become like a man who was God. And doing a terrible job of it. Because we just don’t have the range.  Jesus was man and is God. He can play both positions. We cannot. We never could. We were never meant to. We have only ever been meant to be man with God. We are best, when we are man with God. We are worst when are trying to be man and God. We need to stop trying to live like we’re Jesus, and start trying to live like we’re with him. 

What’s the difference? Let’s take a quick look at another two-character scene we’ve probably all heard a few sermons on — the Temptation of Christ. What are some of the common takeaways from that story: being led into the wilderness to be prepared, having your identity questioned, being hungry, being tempted, overcoming by knowing the word… cool cool cool. Message received. Narrator voice over: The message has not been received. Because again, we’re looking at this story and we’re just automatically seeing ourselves in the God position. Jesus hasn’t even died yet and we’re stepping into this scene like “Oh, this is my part!” But is it? Two characters were led into the desert, one following the other… be honest, which one are you more likely to be? The one not using their power to take shortcuts or the one trying anything and everything to talk Jesus into taking one? But how many of us have ever looked at the story and seen ourselves as anything other than Jesus. 

That’s a problem. 

We have literally lost sight of ourselves. And our view was never reliable to begin with. You realize that not one of us has ever actually truly seen ourselves, right? We’ve only ever seen reflections. So if my bad theology centers Jesus in me and tells me to see myself as Jesus in the world, the view can only grow more and more reflective. Not of Jesus, but of me. Because I am bad at recognizing myself. And that’s how we end up being able to imagine such a thing as a benevolent slave owning God. Because we want to be like Him, almighty, all powerful Him. At any cost. Including our own humanity. 

So we need to change the question, stop asking What Would Jesus Do and start asking Where Is Jesus Now and then be honest about where we are in relation to Him. Because while we can do bad all by ourselves and Jesus can do Jesus all by Jesus-self, we can only do Jesus badly. So let’s just stop. Please Christian, for God’s sake, stop trying to be like Jesus.

Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.

Miss Misrepresentation

I was already on my way out, but the brown little Black girl was the final straw. Well, the first final straw. It has been over two years now and I have gone on to go much farther in leaving church than I would have ever thought possible. But that’s a story for a different day. Anyway, we were standing outside the venue where church was being held that week. It was before service and after service, so I was coming or going or staying, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. It’s all the same. Anyway, two kids were playing. A brother and sister. Running around and jostling each other, the way kids do before and/or after church, but you know the saying: It’s all fun and games until somebody messes up somebody’s hair. So when the younger brother reached out to mess up his older sister’s hair, the game came to a sudden stop. And as Big Sister turned her attention to fixing what Little Brother had done, I turned to Little Brother with a laughing, but real reminder: “Come on man, you know better — you never touch a black woman’s hair.” 

“NOT BLACK!” The words were fast and panicked. And Big Sister was upset. With me. Her brother completely forgotten as she turned her full focus on correcting me. “My hair is brown. Brown. Not black.” And after years of instigating and being part of “diversity” conversations that culminated with leadership favoring “organic” change over making intentional choices, when I looked at her, this brown little Black girl, so upset over a cultural joke she misheard, distraught at the thought that something brown would be called Black, and already heavy with a burden I recognized from working so hard to be rid of, I knew I had to go. 

To be completely fair and clear: the church I was part of did not cause that little Black girl’s discomfort with being associated with Black. That need to draw a distinction between brown and black, that automatic aversion to Black as a descriptor — that’s the signature work of America. That church did not do that. But there was nothing about that church that was undoing it. Based on what types of people were (and were not) consistently deemed worthy of being seen, heard and followed, the messages I had to sort through about myself, my worth, my purpose as a Black Christian in church weren’t any different than the ones I faced as a Black American in the secular world. And with a healthy dose of Trump voters on staff, that church definitely wasn’t helping me feel any safer or more hopeful about America in general. In the fight for equality, there was no rest for the weary, no sanctuary in that particular sanctuary. And as someone I used to know, used to be fond of saying “If you ain’t helping, you ain’t helping.” And for all it’s posturing, that church wasn’t helping. 

Representation matters. Where we see people and what we see them doing matters. And when we get used to seeing certain types of people in certain types of positions, it matters. We subconsciously begin to not only associate, but disassociate certain traits, strengths and status with certain demographics. I remember bringing a white male friend to that church for the first time and the speaker that day was not just a white male (no surprise there, there was a 9/10 chance), but happened to be one that happened to look very much like him. It was his first day and he could already (literally) see himself in leadership. Imagine that. No seriously, women and people of color (and especially women of color!) — you better imagine that. Because your actual glimpses of it are going to be few and far between (specifically sometime during Black History Month, Mother’s Day and immediately before/after the women’s conference). 

And why is that? The first stab I ever took at addressing the diversity-slash-representation topic was two or three years in, after a mid-week service when a brand new white boy was unveiled as a new associate pastor. He was the MC for the evening. And he was bad. So bad. So so bad. Like seriously, and I cannot stress this enough: bad. So I texted the lead pastor… “Hey, next time the roster opens up, howsabout we slide a woman and/or a person of color in there??” and his response was… agreeable? “I’d love that! So let’s pray for God to send one!” Send one? I remember looking around, at a crowd heavy with women and people of color, and wondering how not one of us was sent… 

And that’s where this all this “representation” talk gets super dicey, super messy and super important, super fast. Because when Christian leaders couch their leadership choices as God’s will, God’s revelation, God’s choice — they make harmful assertions about God. Riddle me this: When it comes time for this all-knowing, far-reaching, wild, redemptive and unpredictably creative God, who created such a wild, varied and colorful array of humanity, to choose someone to represent Him; why would He continuously makes the same standard, uninteresting and predictable choice? It’s a real puzzler. And very troublesome. Which is why we need to start calling it exactly what it is… 

Conversations about diversity are awkward and often difficult; and as marginalized people trying to coax often reluctant leaders to engage in awkward and difficult exchanges, we have had to learn how to cushion all the blows: being overly appreciative of any little effort, allowing for certain false equivalencies, overlooking boundary oversteps and softening language. So when we address issues of diversity in leadership, we tend the name the problem as gently as possible, and always as something that is a struggle for us that we need the powers-that-be to assist with — Let’s talk about how you (well-intentioned leader) can help us (disappointed minority) with the lack of diversityThank you (champion among men) for being willing to hear us (needy women) re: our issue of under-representationBless you (white savior) for being willing to explore solutions to our (complaining Blacks) lack of representation… but what if we started calling it what it actually is: 

the action or offense of giving a false or misleading account of the nature of something. 

Leadership teams, church staffs, pastoral rotations and church boards that consist primarily of white men are misrepresentations. They give a false and misleading account of the importance, ability and significance of white men. Of women. Of people of color. Of women of color. Of everyone. And worse: they give a false and misleading account of the nature of God. Of God’s will and of God’s all-knowing, far-reaching, wild, redemptive and unpredictable heart. And misrepresentation is always harmful. For everyone involved. Even you, White Male. With your restricted view of who God can use, coupled with your colossal (colonial) mandate to lead people in God’s will, which almost always seems to be the call of someone who looks/thinks/lives like you… how can you not be a bit of a self-important monster? Favor ain’t fair, amiright? So why should you be? And why shouldn’t you congratulate yourself (and be congratulated!) for just being willing to humor conversations about how you can help the under-represented? 

But what if… Here’s an interesting humble thought experiment: What if we (the long-suffering marginalized) have actually been sent to help you (over-represented demographic) give up some of your power? It’s hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it… and you, white male, literally can not. No offense, but you just don’t have the range. 

But honestly, and unfortunately, neither do a large number of your followers. Years and years of misrepresentation have done their job. And we (everyone/anyone who is not you) has gotten so used to seeing you lifted as the standard, our own imaginations and expectations have been stunted. We’ve settled into accepting the way things are as the way they’re supposed to be. And we credit every minor concession as a revolution, because we’re not completely convinced the God we believe in, believes in us. 

But God does. So much so, that They has left it up to us to see “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” So we each have to do the hard work of taking stock of the spaces we occupy and asking ourselves: Is this as it is in Heaven? And when it’s not, we have to speak up. Speak truth to power. Speak truth in love. Speak. And when the time comes, step out. Of our comfort zones. Of line. Of places that foster misrepresentation. For others. For ourselves. For God’s sake. And for all the brown little Black girls who need spaces that see them and show them differently; churches that actually reflect Heaven instead of mirroring America. Because it’s not going to happen without intentional and sustained effort; and if you ain’t helping, you ain’t helping.

Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.

A Quiet Place: An Extremely White Parable of Black Life

Left to my own devices, I NEVER would have seen A Quiet Place. But as the designated plus-one of a friend in the industry, it was my duty to attend the screening premiere, so I did. With great fear and trembling. Horror movies are not my cup of tea. When I went to see Get Out last year, (with great fear and trembling, dragging equally reluctant friends along) I was only doing it for the culture. And I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. The fear stoking was expected, the thought-provoking was not. But there must be something in the water because the kids these days are Making Horror Movies Great Again. (Says I, with my completely inadequate knowledge of the history of horror movies, but I digress…) 

A Quiet Place is a white movie. It is so white that it just touched my hair. The closest we get to a person of color is when John Krasinski’s character tries futilely to reach out to Japan in Morse code. But it’s fine. It makes sense – the whole film is centered on one family and this one family happens to be white.  And what is this white family doing? They are trying to survive after earth has been overrun by mysterious and (seemingly) invincible monsters who hunt by sound.  In order to stay safe, they need to stay quiet. 

Does that remind you of anything? Anyone? Any certain people? No? 

It took me a while, too. Mostly because I was annoyed with choices made by the family in the opening scenes. As a family of five (mom, dad, 3 kids) they are out on a post-apocalyptic shopping trip – all barefoot, tiptoeing through emptied streets and deserted stores, communicating with looks and sign language. We quickly figure out that quiet is key, but we don’t know why yet. And it’s not exactly clear how quiet they need to be or how high the stakes, because the youngest of the children is given, what is in my opinion, a nonsensical amount of freedom to run around – grabbing and very nearly knocking a loud toy off a shelf.  Then later, when walking home, in a formation that is SO STUPID it can only be ascribed to plot contrivance; the little troublemaker makes a noise that sets off a sequence of events that reveals how very high the stakes actually are. And how imperative their silence is to their survival. 

But, I’ll be honest, I initially felt more apathy than empathy for that oblivious little kid, because if he would have just followed what he was told and kept quiet instead of acting like… any normal child would under normal circumstances… wait… do you hear it yet? 

If he had just been quiet, if he had just complied… 

Alright, this isn’t a quiet place, so I’m going to stop tiptoeing – in their relationship with the thing endangering them, the white people in this movie aren’t seen (the monsters are blind) and are safer the less they’re heard. The white people in this movie live in a reality where reasonable sounds and reactions can result in unreasonable danger and death. The white people in this movie might as well be Black people in America. 

It’s the fear of not being able to protect your children from a rather brutal environment.

Emily Blunt (on the underlying theme of A Quiet Place)

A Quiet Place is a white movie. It is so white, that for a moment, I felt White. For a moment, I understood the ambivalence toward victims of America’s monsters. I didn’t blame them for the presence of the monsters, but I did, fault them for not being better at playing by the rules of the monsters. But only for a moment. When there a came a point where we as the audience realized the monster had a weakness, but the white people didn’t know yet I turned to my friend and whispered “They need to hurry up and figure this out.” Because I was invested. I wanted the people to triumph. No one should have to live in constant quiet dread of monsters. 

But I’m not convinced White America is truly invested in finding and revealing the weaknesses of our monsters. Their children aren’t the ones in perpetual danger. 

Anyway, A Quiet Place is beautifully shot (shout out to upstate New York); with hardly any dialogue the acting is fantastic (everybody does a phenomenal job but Emily Blunt is a BEAST) and a few plot holes/contrivances aside, it’s scarily enjoyable and thoroughly thought-provoking. It invites the viewer to imagine how they’d fare in a world where being heard comes with a high risk of being harmed. And perhaps, taking it a step further, to ponder, who they more actively sympathize with in the real world – the silenced or the monsters? 

A Quiet Place is an extremely White movie that is an accidentally accurate parable of Black life. So even if you’re not horror fan, it’s definitely worth seeing.  Do it for the culture.

Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.

For White Pastors Who Want to Plant In Wakanda

“I think you’re wrong. But I love you, so I’ll take it down. 
But you don’t think Wakanda is for white people. And you need to own that.” 

White Pastor

That was one of the last texts I received from white pastor friend of mine after I asked him to take down whimsical snap announcing a Wakanda campus of his church. I thanked him for taking it down and because I didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding on my thoughts about white people and Wakanda, I addressed his suspicion of my underlying feelings. 

“I own it completely: I don’t think Wakanda is for white people.” 

And I don’t. Because it’s not. And let me say it one more time for the people in the back (who in this particular case are the people in the pulpit): Wakanda is not for white people. 
Look, I get it. Black Panther is what’s hot right now. And not for nothing. It is not only a stunning piece of cinema (a “marvel” if you will), but with Black Excellence on display from top to bottom, it is a moment. We can all see that. And we can (and should!) all enjoy it – multiple times, by all means. But we can’t all own it. 
Wakanda Forever. But not for everyone. 

As a Black person who lives in and loves a country that, historically, has not loved me back and still refuses to fully admit to its injustice and inequity, past and present;  Wakanda is a fantastic vision of an alternate timeline – not where white people don’t exist, but where they have not encroached.  And yet my friend’s first instinct, as a white pastor, was to immediately inject his leadership and write his name on something there.  Nah homie. Or in the words of Shuri: 

Don’t sneak up on me, Colonizer. 

So for white pastors who would love to plant in Wakanda or just want to talk about it sensibly from the platform, I’m going to ask you two questions and then give you one suggestion. Ready 

1. What is it that you like about Wakanda? 
a. Its technology 
b. Its Black leadership 
c. The Dora Milaje 
d. All of the above 
e. Other: ________________________________ 

Okay. Cool. Now… 

2. How would your presence improve whatever your answer to #1 was? 

What’s that? Yeah… that’s what I thought. It mostly likely wouldn’t, right? Because you don’t want to go to Wakanda for Wakanda’s sake, you want to be there for your sake. And whether it’s to learn from or straight up take what you like for yourself, there’s a word for that, several words actually depending on the severity, but at its most basic level it’s appropriation. And if nowhere in your burning desire to get to Wakanda or to speak about it from your platform is there any recognition for the significant role that the absence of white people played in the magnificence of it all, then you’re not actually ready to be there. So consider yourself travel banned for now. 

But it’s not all bad news. Look again at that list in question #1 – Wakanda might be fictional, but not everything on that list is. Why not try incorporating the real things you liked about Wakanda in your church here and now? Because I know it wasn’t just the technology that you liked…  So ask yourself the hard questions about where people of color find themselves in world of your church. Think about your congregation – the mix of races, ages, genders, life stages, etc. – who do the decision-makers around your leadership table more closely resemble: your congregation or you? You don’t have to answer. I can take a pretty good guess at the answer for your church, White Pastor that I don’t know. 

Wakanda, for a good many Black people, is a vision of escape from the day-to-day reality of the otherness, disdain and disregard that we face in the real world. And functioning as it should, as an imperfect preview of Heaven, the church should already feel like Wakanda on some level. But this all sprung from a social media post on a social media platform that I don’t even use. Sent to me by someone who attends my pastor friend’s church and was upset by it; because the sad fact is that his church, (and most likely your church), as great and diverse as it may look on the surface, and as wonderful as it may be for some, is nothing that we’d want to see in Wakanda. And nothing that Wakanda needs. Praise the ancestors. 

Want to ponder this topic some more? You should check out… 
This Article. A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshippers are leaving White Evangelical Churches  
This Book. The Divide: Spoken Word Unspokens on Racial Rifts 
This Book. The Politics of Jesus 

Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.


“When they go low, we go high.” 

The Sainted Saint Michelle of the House of Obama

I can almost still feel the righteousness of that moment. The cheers, the admiration, that feeling that the darkness before the dawn was actually a great sign – proof that the dawn was coming. Because, as we learn from fairytale endings and carefully curated MLK quotes, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” And light always wins. Right? 

What? You’re really going to have to speak up, because I can’t read lips in all this darkness. 

And I can’t stop thinking about Stephon Clark. Minding his backyard business, in the dark. And I wonder if he even knew what happened to him or did he find himself standing before God trying to figure it out, “I was in the backyard and then there was some noise and light…” 

Light. We all keep waiting for it to win, because that is the right and natural progression of things, right? But we keep forgetting how unnatural our lives are. When was the last time you went to bed because the sun went down? Or woke up because it was rising? I have blackout curtains in my room to keep the sun from bothering me; but guess what? I don’t live in darkness. I live in the artificial light of my choice. We all do. But we keep quoting Dr. King as if we haven’t harnessed light and made the natural irrelevant in our preference for the artificial. 

So how is any of this supposed to work now? It may be better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, but how much good can a candle do in a culture lit by white supremacy and fragility? When we’re standing here with candles and they’re rushing at us with tactical flashlights? Or worse – we’re standing here with nothing but the natural light of our humanity and they’re flooded with the illumination of certain News networks and the entire racist history of America that lights us as less than? 

Do we have a problem with darkness? Absolutely. This is a dark time in a dark nation with a dark history. Darkness is seeded into our roots and at the root of all of our problems. But we can’t even get close to dealing with it, because we can’t stop turning on lights. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”(2 Corinthians 11:14) 

You know what I would love? I would love the option to curse the darkness. For us to stand in nothing but the truth of our humanity and our brokenness and light candles together. We’d all be much safer if we were just in darkness. Stephon Clark was. Until he was flooded in too much artificial light and extinguished. In darkness, lit by centuries of distorted light we’ve been trying to rise above. 

On paper, going high when they go low sounds noble, but honestly, I don’t want to go high anymore. Not if taking the high road means just hoping, praying and waiting for truth and light to somehow burn through everything we’ve spent generations building to harness, temper, dampen and supersede them. So what does it actually mean to go high in a battle of lights? 

Darkness can’t drive out darkness, we know that; but is there anything that can drive out false light? Because the artificial can’t kill the natural – the sun will keep rising and people of color will always be resplendent – but it can override them. One of the prophets once asked “What’s a mob to a king, what’s a king to a god, what’s a god to a non-believer?” And I’d like to add: What is darkness to a candle? What’s a candle to the sun? And what’s the sun to a fool on the other side of a blackout curtain?

Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.