"I have never felt closer to a higher power than since the protests began." - Deray McKesson

There is a lot of truth in this statement. I feel this way, in part, because I am living out God's calling on my life. As a Christian I have always felt the call to use my faith to become an agent of change and to be a part of a community that is seeking to transform society. In various ways I have worked toward accomplishing that throughout my life. But never before has my work felt so validated. And never before have I felt like the presence of God and the activity of God was so abundantly clear.

I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past seven months. My life has completely changed since August 9th, the day Michael Brown was murdered by police officer Darren Wilson. Despite this tragedy and the hardship that has followed there have been many good things that have come as a result of our fight for justice. I think about the community that has been built. I think about the friendships that have been formed. I think about the art and music that have been created. I think about the theology that has been constructed. In all of this I see the face of God. In my attempt to follow the advice given by the psalmist to "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always," I have found confirmation that God is truly on the side of the oppressed, marginalized, and downtrodden. It might not seem this way because we have a long battle to fight and the odds are constantly stacking up against us, but it was at that exact point in the life of Jesus, when the world had thrown all that it could throw at him, that the ultimate power and will of God was revealed.

The work that is being done through the Black Lives Matter movement is righteous. It is a faithful witness to the radical ministry of Jesus Christ and evidence of obedience to the mandate to love. Although this movement began as a result of the growing intolerance to the unjust and brutal treatment of Black people by those sworn to protect and serve us, it is deeply rooted in love. It is not anger, fear, or frustration that motivates most of us, but it is hope and love. Had the foundation of this movement been anything other than love we would be at a totally different place right now. Throughout history there has only been one type of response to the kind of injustices the Black community faces today in America and that is one of violent resistance. But for the betterment of society we have chosen a different path, for as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." A special kind of love has to be cultivated and diffused to both overcome evil and sustain a people whose humanity has been violated for centuries and whose dignity is threatened on a daily basis.

This special kind of love exists in the midst of Blackness as Black love; a love that emanates from God and is a central place to where we find the perfect image of God. Black love is powerful because it functions as a strong bond formed between brothers and sisters caught up in the same struggle; it is expressed romantically unrestricted by sexual and gender norms; and it overflows as redemptive goodwill seeking to preserve and create community. Every expression of love is triadic therefore every expression of love points to the triune God.

When the great theologian and early Church Father Augustine wrote about the Trinity he reasoned that we could not catch intellectual sight of the Trinity directly, but because we are made in the image of God we should expect to see something that reflects the Trinity in us. In his work, De Trinitate (On the Trinity), Augustine details several psychological analogies of the Trinity, one of which is the mind, self-knowledge, and self-love. Based on 1 John 4:8,  he links the triads found in loving something (the act of one who is loving something, the love itself, and the object that is loved) and in the process of contemplation (the mind that desires to know something, the activity of knowing, and the object that is known) to God's own movement found in the Trinity.

You cannot love that which you do not know therefore self-love implies self-knowledge. As Augustine writes, "The mind is not able to love itself unless it also knows itself." In a similar manner Black love is imperfect without knowledge of Blackness. Black awareness is a co-product of the love of Blackness. In other words, Black love implies Black awareness. Thus, producing a trinity of Blackness, Black awareness, and Black love. This trinity is a reminder of God's proximity to the disinherited people of this world.

Blackness exposes many evils that exist in society, some of which become internalized. When we push back against these evils through love we align ourselves with the will of God and become in tune with the vision that God has for this world. As we move forward in the fight for justice and continue to discuss and improve our understanding of Blackness and all that it encompasses we will undoubtedly continue to see reflections of God.
Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, protest leaders from Millenial Activists United held a very quiet and peaceful demonstration outside of a church in St. Louis. There was no chanting, just humming and signs being held. Signs that carried messages such as, "crucifixion = lynching" and "Mike Brown was the least of these." Their goal was to remind Black Christians of the radical message of Christ and the implications his death and resurrection have for the today's world. Some church members greeted the demonstrators with support and love. Others felt the demonstration was disrespectful. In the end, apparently, the church went as far as to call the police on the demonstrators. The demonstration was live tweeted using the hashtag #BlackChurch.

This action reminded me of a piece I wrote not too long ago but never got to share. Like those demonstrators I too wonder why many congregants of Black churches have been silent on the issue of police brutality, especially considering the parrellels that can be drawn between the cross, the lynching tree, and police brutality as it exists today. It would seem that the revolutionary life that Jesus lived and the history of activism that exists within many Black church traditions would be enough to garner support across denominations. However, this has not been the case and many young people involved in the nationwide movement to change the culture of police and bring justice to the victims of state sponsored violence have felt abandoned by their local churches.

The questions being raised and the pressure being put on the church can bring nothing but positive change. As more churches respond to the criticism from protesters the more likely it will become that the church will be an even better transformative force in society.

Undiagnosed mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and many others are at an epidemic level in the black community. This stems from a variety of things but is mainly due to the stigma that is placed on mental illness within the black community. We are often shamed for seeking mental help because we have been taught to view it as some sort of weakness. Others believe that we should have faith and that religion can solve all of our problems. It is said that black people don't suffer from these disorders at a higher rate than any other race, but I would argue that we experience more trauma and receive less treatment than any other group in America. As a black person in America you are constantly bombarded with black death. Every 28 hours a black person is murdered by police. That fact alone is enough to make you feel depressed.  Not to mention the poverty, poor education, lack of equality in health care, and state violence that disproportionally effects black people.
The vast majority of people in society are able to deal with these issues on a surface level or are privileged enough to be able to overlook them altogether. I have been called by some higher power or force within me to face these issues head on, and when you do that, you really sacrifice a piece of yourself. Its almost like you sign a contract for mental anguish.

Being involved in any type of resistance or social justice movement is taxing physically, mentally, and most of all emotionally. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for about 4 years now. Dealing with these issues by themselves is hard enough, but add on the stress and strife of literally fighting for your right to live, and it can feel like living in hell. The waves of negative thoughts. Wanting to get out of the rut you're in but feeling hopeless. Not wanting to eat. Having trouble sleeping. Feeling sad for unexplainable reasons or no reason at all. And on top of feeling all of this, we deal with the burden of being ashamed of our condition and not wanting to inconvenience others by talking about it.  Most people who are close to me have no idea that I deal with this as I have developed a sort of social mask over time. My story is not unique as I have noticed that quite a few of my comrades in the movement deal with similar issues.

The frustration, anger, and sadness that comes along with this work can be very hard to deal with. So how do we deal with it? I personally just try to suck it up and keep moving, but at times it can feel unbearable. I've felt like "Why am I even doing this? It's not something that we can win." I'm not ashamed to have had these thoughts because I am human and at times the odds can seem insurmountable. I'm actually proud that I am able to battle these negative thoughts and emotions and continue to push forward and fight against injustice.

One place I have been able to find solace throughout these personal battles is with my fellow activists, writers, and organizers who are fighting alongside me. I have lost a lot of the person I was before August 9th, but I have gained so much more than I ever was alone. I have gained a community; a family. Without this community I would have given up on this work months ago. I would have given into the belief that this is just the way things are and this is just how things are going to be. I would have believed that I deal with these issues alone and that no one can relate to me. You all have given and continue to give me the strength to carry on. You all inspire me to keep fighting and reaffirm my belief that as long as we are in this together we can overcome all obstacles; personal or community.
Chad Golden is a father, activist, and writer. Follow him on twitter.
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