Psalm 142: I Say ‘You are my Safe House’

Family of Michael Brown gather at Greater St. Mark's Family Church in Ferguson, MO.
Family of Michael Brown gather at Greater St. Mark’s Family Church in Ferguson, MO.

Rev. Otis Moss III is preaching this Sunday on Marvin Gaye’s “Make Me Wanna Holler,” Ferguson, and Psalm 142. He says it’s “a psalm of lament and cry for help when the writer felt like an outcast [or] criminal, and not a citizen in his own nation.”

 

 

Here is my adaptation of a portion of Psalm 142 (for Dorian Johnson):

… On the street where I walk
the powers have hidden a trap for me.
Check to my right hand and see—
no one one in this country takes notice of me;
not but a second from home,
yet there’s nowhere to hide;
and no one cares.
I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my safe house,
my quiet crib in the land of the living.’
Listen up, O Lord,
for I am felled very low.
Save me from my persecutors, and prosecutors,
and perpetrators, and police,
for they are too strong for me.
Bring me out of this prison,
so that I may give respect to your name.
Then the mob surrounding me will be the righteous,
and You will be my judge and jury.
–adaptation of Psalm 142 by Rose Berger

Video: Ya-Ya Says, ‘A White Man Ran Around the Corner and Punched Me in the Face’


(Video photography and Editing: Travis Houze)

Here’s a taste of the devastating testimonial given at a demonstration last night in Columbia Heights, D.C., by two young African-American women, Erica and Hadaiyah Ya-Ya Bey, from D.C., on their return from Ferguson, MO, where there have been nearly two weeks of demonstrations against the police regarding the murder by the police of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man, on Aug. 9 and rising questions of police responsibility, police brutality, militarization of police, and more. (You might recognize the woman in the white shirt in the opening section.)

Ya-Ya said through her tears, “The first night that we got there … it was 8:30 and the police started gassing and shooting. And Erica, Erica was my partner down there, we were running from bullets and I was right behind her. Maybe a few feet behind her. And a white man ran around the corner in between us and punched me in my face … and told me to ‘sit the F down.’ Uhhhm, that’s why I have this black eye …”

This is what the principality and power of death looks like when it is “at home, rather than at work in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, Afghanistan, Egypt, or the Corrections Corporation of America. It has no problem using whatever tools are at its disposal to crush the souls — and sometimes bodies — of living human beings.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke about this mechanism of Empire and what it does to those who are righteous and trying to live in the land: “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14).–Rose Berger

Video: Living While Black and Michael Brown

More at The Real News

In 1917, white mobs attacked a black neighborhood in East St. Louis. The memory remains. Michael Brown’s murder happens in a context of 40 years of a mass incarceration strategy. (Here is a good primer and bible study on Mass Incarceration and the New Jim Crow by Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association in 2013. It’s perfect for a traditional Christian or evangelical audience.)

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released a report on police brutality against African Americans and extrajudicial killings called Operation Ghetto Storm. Read this report while holding it in one hand and Lamentations 3 in the other.

I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’
I called on thy name, O Lord,
from the depths of the pit;
thou didst hear my plea, ‘Do not close
thine ear to my cry for help!’[c]
Thou didst come near when I called on thee;
thou didst say, ‘Do not fear!’