There is an old Black Gospel song that says, "If I ever needed the Lord before, I sho (sure) do need him now." I can relate these words in these hard economic times that the world is going through right now. I think about Black History because Black folks as a people have seen hard times before, and survived, leaving the world to wonder what makes us so strong. Truth be told, we should have all been dead, or crazy, with what we have had to go through, but we keep coming back, strong.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright addresses our strength in his book, What Makes You So Strong?. You recall Rev. Wright. He was Barack Obama's pastor until white folks started analyzing him and determined that they couldn't deal with the truth of what he was preaching and failed to understand the context in which he delivered his messages.
In his sermon (circa 1990/1991), What Makes You So Strong?, Wright preaches from the book of Judges (16:4-31) and asks, "What makes you so strong, Black man, after years of slavery, segregation, and racism? Jim Crow laws and second class citizenship cannot wipe out the memory of Imhotep, Aesop, Akhenaton and Thutmose II. He goes on to say, "What makes you so strong, Black man. How is it that after all this country has done to you, you can still produce a Paul Robeson, a Thurgood Marshall, a Malcolm X (El – Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), a Martin Luther King and Ron McNair? What makes you so strong Black Man?"
"This country has tried castration, lynching, mis-education and brainwashing. They have taught you to hate yourselves and to look at yourself through awful, tainted eyeglasses of white Eurocentric lies, and yet you keep breaking out of the prisons they put you in. You break out in W.E.B. Dubois and a Booker T. Washington; you break out in a Louis Farrakhan, and a Mickey Leland; you break out in a judge Thurgood Marshall and a Pops Staples; you break out in a Luther Vandross, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Harold Washington or a Doug Wilder. What makes you so strong Black Man?" He goes on to say, "I don't care what field we pick, you can produce a giant out of that field. What makes you strong? The world tried the poisons of self-hatred, of distorted history, of false standards of beauty. They taught you that you were ugly and stupid, slow and retarded, dimwitted and dull–witted, good only for stud service and getting high, and yet you keep on turning out a Sterling Brown... Kwame Nkrumah, an Alan Boesak, a William Gray, a Steven Biko, a David Dinkins and a Doug Wilder. What makes you so strong Black Man?"
Wright was thorough in his analysis and asks the question, "What makes you so strong Black woman?", invoking the name of Queen AnnNzinga, Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Makeda, The Queen of Sheba, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Hadassah, (Esther) the woman who said 'If I perish I perish.' What makes you so strong Black Woman? How is it that after all this world has done to you, after all white women have done to you, after all white men have done to you, after all Black men have done to you, you can still produce an Angela Davis, a Toni Morrison, a Barbara Jordan, a Betty Shabazz, an Oprah Winfrey, and a Winnie Mandela. What makes you so strong Black woman?"
He further says, "This country has tried negation and degradation. They have taught you to look down on your broad hips and thick lips. They taught you to hate your hair and keep it from going back. Going back to what? Africa? Going back to the way God made it? To what? They taught you that the less you look like "Miss Ann", the worse off you are. And you keep breaking out of the prisons they put you in. You break out in a ... Fannie Lou Hammer, and a Jessie 'Ma' Houston, in a Roberta Flack, an Anita Baker, a Jackie Joyner-Kersee and a Nina Simone. I don't care what field we pick (medicine, journalism, ministry), you Black Women keep turning out giants in the field, even those fields they told you were reserved for men only. What makes you so strong Black woman?"
Then Wright asks, "What makes you so strong Black People? No other race was brought to this country in chains. No other race had laws passed making it a crime to teach them how to read. No other people had skin color as a determining factor of their servitude and their employability. No other race was hounded and hunted when they wanted to be free. No other race was physically mutilated to identify them as property, not people. No other race had its names taken away in addition to its language and music. No other race was denied more and deprived of more, treated as badly and treated as less than human. No other race was treated like the Africans were treated, and yet no other race has done so much after starting out with so little, defying all the odds and breaking all of the records. What makes you so strong , Black people?"
Wright provides the answer, using the story of Sampson who revealed his secret to Delilah, because he thought he had to have her. Ultimately, Sampson allowed his desire for Delilah to take precedence over God, the source of his strength. Wright presents that "God has a work that he wants to do through African Americans - a people who have known hatred, yet who still have the strength to love; a people who have known degradation, yet who still have the strength to stand tall and produce giant after giant, in field after field; a people who have known belittlement and humiliation, yet who have maintained their integrity and kept their souls intact; a people who have been lied to, lied on, and lied about, yet have the strength to forgive and to build strong families, regardless of the configuration of those families."
Black people are a miracle people but we can't let the fact that we are miracles get in the way of our relationship with the God that allowed us to be our strength and the miracles we are. Sampson allowed the fact that he wanted Delilah to get between his relationship with God, his source of strength. If you allow the enemy to discover your strength and sever your relationship with God, you can be chained. Wright cites an example given by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Woodson says that if you allow yourself to be chained they will chain your body and mind to the point that if you have grown so accustomed to going to the back door, one day you will discover there is no back door, and you will be so accustomed to going in there, you will cut a back door.
Wright says, "They chain you by putting you in the worst schools, the worst housing, give you the worst jobs, but give you the alcohol, drugs and guns so you can kill each other and save them the trouble."
Lastly, Wright tells us that, like Sampson, they not only chained him they put his eyes out and paraded him around. Today, they psychologically chain and blind us and then they parade on TV us on drugs or intoxicated, in the news and in documentaries, to show that we are less than we are.
Remember, what makes us strong is our relationship with God and don't forget it. We need that relationship today more than ever. If we ever needed the Lord we sho' do need him now!