Nikki Giovanni: The Blues

THE BLUES

Some folk think the blues
Is a song or a way
Of singing
But the blues is
History
A way of telling how
We got here
And who sent us
The blues may talk about
My man
Or my woman
Who left me
Or took my money
And is gone
But what they mean
Is I was stolen
In an African war
And ignorantly sold …
(Read the whole poem in the Oxford American, Winter 2016)

Caf-Pow! NCIS’ Goth Grrrrl on Prayer and God

Here’s yet another reason we love NCIS‘ punk-forensic-grrrrl Abby. She’s Methodist.

NCIS is a classic American “police procedural.” The JAG spin-off is now one of America’s most watched dramas. NCIS’ winning formula involves comic elements, ensemble acting, and character-driven plots.

Like the best detective novels or murder mysteries, it assumes a world of high moral standards and in each episode that world is disrupted by crime and the team works to restore the balance of justice.

Integral to the team is goth, tattooed and pierced Forensic Specialist Abigail “Abby” Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette. Her skillful acting in this delightful, wicked smart, funny, and powerful role has singlehandedly empowered girls to pursue careers in science. It’s even got a name: The Abby Effect.

“Part of ‘The Abby Effect’ has been this incredible role model for young girls,” she says. “I hear from them or their parents and their grandparents all the time. Some of them started watching the show when they were 12 and now they’re going to college. ‘Abby’ has made it a viable opportunity for them. You can go into science and math. That’s amazing. Women were never encouraged to go into hard science or math. Now there have been girls going into science and math because of a television character,” she says.

Perrette has degrees in sociology, psychology and criminal science. She’s also regularly attends Hollywood United Methodist Church. More recently she’s joined the UMC’s Imagine No Malaria campaign.

Check out the short video below to hear Perrette talk about her relationship with God, how she prays, and what her church community means to her. (A shout-out to Julie for sending this video.)

Pauley Perrette is the narrator of a TV special called Killer in the Dark: An Extraordinary Effort to Combat Malaria. The program documents the daily struggle in Africa against malaria and highlights the work of Imagine No Malaria to wipe out the disease. The program is presented by the National Council of Churches under the auspices of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission and produced by United Methodist Communications.

The Catholic Sisters Who Resisted Genocide

During the 1994 Rwandan genocide the Benebikira Sisters, a Catholic order of religious women, at great risk to themselves, sheltered hundreds of orphans and others who sought refuge in their convents.

Last month, 6,000 miles away from their homeland, the sisters were honored with the Courage of Conscience Award by the Peace Abbey. The women were cited for “their courage, faith and integrity during the genocide in 1994.”

Read the whole story by Kathleen Sullivan here.

Learn more about the Benebikira Sisters and the Peace Abbey.

Is Nationalism a Heresy? Bishops of Africa Discuss.

african synod posterCardinal Sodano, dean of the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals, addressed the Synod of African Bishops (happening this week in Rome) on how Christian values shape patriotism, nationalism, and love for one’s country.

“Nationalism,” of which the U.S. seems to have a very bad case, is a deviation or heresy that is wholly anti-Christian.

“Love of one’s nation — concretely, of one’s people, one’s compatriots — is certainly a Christian duty, but we also have to add that the deviation of nationalism is wholly anti-Christian.

Christianity has always condemned every deformation in this concept of nation, a deformation that frequently descends into nationalism or even racism, the true negation of Christian universality.

In reality, the two basic principles of the Christian community have always been as follows: the dignity of each human person, on the one hand, and the unity of the human species, on the other. These are two inviolable frontiers, within which various concepts of nation can evolve, depending on time and place.”–Angelo Sodano, Roman Catholic cardinal

Read Cardinal Sodano’s whole address here.

Pirates or The Horn of Africa’s ‘Greenpeace’?

piratewebWhat’s behind the Somali “pirates”? Are they sea-thieves or rebels against empire? What are we not being told?

More importantly, who’s dumping nuclear and medical waste in Somali waters? I guarantee you, it’s not the Somalis. Is it possible that these “marauders” are the Horn of Africa’s desperate version of Greenpeace?

Read Johann Hari’s article You Are Being Lied To About Pirates.

Here’s an excerpt:

The words of one pirate from that lost age, a young British man called William Scott, should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: “What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirateing to live.” In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”

Also read Marcus Ridker’s great book Villians of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age for an historical perspective on pirates as organized rebels against empire.

Pope Uses “C”-Word

popeafricaThere’s been a bit of a tempest about the comments made by Pope Benedict XVI to the press pool on Shepherd One (the Pope Plane) while en route to Cameroon. Apparently, he used the C-word (ahem … “condom”).

That’s a first for a pope. Despite plenty of rulings eschewing birth control and promoting the sanctity of the family, it appears no pope has actually ever said the word publicly before. Wow? What next?

It also appears that the Pope’s comment about “French letters” (so quaint!), was then cleaned up by the papal translators. All this has caused a storm–and rightly so. With the devastating prevalence of AIDS in Africa, religious leaders–especially one as prominent as the Pope–absolutely need to be part of the solution.

The Pope has legitimate moral and theological issues with anything that he thinks is an attack on human dignity and on the culture of the family and the culture of life. I don’t agree with all of them, but they are reasoned. At the same time, he needs to be very careful about overemphasizing ideals that are not possible in the present situation–especially when lives are at stake.

So … what did the Pope actually say? Here’s the original quote–before the papal fixers got a hold of it. The question’s premise was “The Catholic Church’s position on the way to fight against AIDS is often considered unrealistic and ineffective,” and the pope responded:

“I would say the opposite. I think that the reality that is most effective, the most present and the strongest in the fight against AIDS, is precisely that of the Catholic Church, with its programs and its diversity. I think of the Sant’Egidio Community, which does so much visibly and invisibly in the fight against AIDS … and of all the sisters at the service of the sick.

“I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with money — which is important, but if there is no soul, no people who know how to use it, (money) doesn’t help.

“One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.

“The solution can only be a double one: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; second, a true friendship even and especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering. And these are factors that help and that result in real and visible progress.

“Therefore I would say this is our double strength — to renew the human being from the inside, to give him spiritual human strength for proper behavior regarding one’s own body and toward the other person, and the capacity to suffer with the suffering. … I think this is the proper response and the church is doing this, and so it offers a great and important contribution. I thank all those who are doing this.”