Monday, September 2, 2013

50th Anniversary of the Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church: The Cross and the Lynching Tree

16th Street Baptist Church bombing
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on Sunday, September 15, 1963 
as an act of racially  motivated terrorism. The explosion at the African-American church, 
which killed four  girls, marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for 
passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although city leaders had reached a settlement in May with demonstrators and started to integrate 
public places, not everyone agreed with ending racial segregation. Bombings and other acts of violence 
followed the settlement, and the church had become an obvious target. The three-story 16th Street Baptist 
Church in Birmingham, Alabama had been a rallying point for civil rights activities through the spring of 
1963, and was where the students who were arrested during the 1963 Birmingham campaign's Children's Crusade 
were trained. 

The church was used as a meeting-place for civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ralph David Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth. Tensions were escalated when the Southern 
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Congress on Racial Equality(CORE) became 
involved in a campaign to register African Americans to vote in Birmingham. Still, the campaign 
was successful. The demonstrations led to an agreement in May between the city's business leaders 
and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to integrate public facilities in the city.

If one wonders how such barbarity could happen in a so called Christian nation, see the remarks of Rev. James H. Cone. Then read my essay on the assassination of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey.--Marvin X, Editor

Rev. James H. Cone on 
the Meaning of the Cross and the Lynching Tree

James H. Cone
James H. Cone, Photo by Robin Holland
Watch Video
Read Transcript
November 23, 2007

"Black churches are very powerful forces in the African American community and always have been. Because religion has been that one place where you have an imagination that no one can control. And so, as long as you know that you are a human being and nobody can take that away from you, then God is that reality in your life that enables you to know that."
--James H. ConeProfessor James H. Cone is the Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Cone is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is the author of eleven books and over 150 articles and has lectured at more than 1,000 universities and community organizations throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Watch Dr. Cone's lecture, "Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree," at Harvard Divinity School
Dr. Cone is best known for his ground breaking works, BLACK THEOLOGY & BLACK POWER (1969) and A BLACK THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION (1970); he is also the author of the highly acclaimed GOD OF THE OPPRESSED (1975), and of MARTIN & MALCOLM & AMERICA: A DREAM OR A NIGHTMARE? (1991); all of which have been translated into nine languages. His most recent publication is RISKS OF FAITH (1999). His research and teaching are in Christian theology, with special attention to black theology and the theologies of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as twentieth century European-American theologies. Dr. Cone has also written on faith and music in THE SPIRITUAL AND THE BLUES: AN INTERPRETATION. His current research focuses on THE CROSS AND THE LYNCHING TREE, exploring the relationship between the two theologically.

James H. Cone and Black Theology

Books by James H. ConeDivinity schools and universities around the world include James Cone on their reading lists. Cone is known as the founder of black theology — a philosophy Cone first laid out in BLACK POWER AND BLACK THEOLOGY in 1969:
As we examine what contemporary theologians are saying, we find that they are silent about the enslaved condition of black people. Evidently they see no relationship between black slavery and the Christian gospel. Consequently there has been no sharp confrontation of the gospel with white racism. There is, then, a desperate need for a black theology, a theology whose sole purpose is to apply the freeing power of the gospel to black people under white oppression.
Cone furthered the idea with A BLACK THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION, which stated: "Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology. Liberation theology became and remains, a powerful philosophy and movement throughout the world.

Marvin X on Chauncey Bailey--The Cross and the Lynching Tree

The Cross and the Lynching Tree
from Oakland Post

From the 12th floor office of the Oakland Post newspaper at 14th and Franklin, one can look down the block to a tree at 14th and Alice. Chauncey Bailey was lynched near that tree, although it was not in the tradition of a white lynching, but in the neo-America, his lynchers were black. And although the suspect is a young black man, there are witnesses who say the killer was an older person. Does it really matter, except for the fact that we are now doing the work of the KKK. We wear the hoods these days, and the fad is to wear gear with “stupid” designs, including skull and bones, thus signaling to the world our deathly intentions. We have become death angels, as sinister as the suicide bombers in the Middle East, although we have no purpose, no mission, except to kill another black, for of the nearly 130 killed in Oakland last year, not one white man was killed by a black. And for the most part, this is true throughout America. Our youth exhibit an
animal consciousness as opposed to their spiritual consciousness. No, they do not use the mind God gave them, as my mother told me to do, but they seem motivated by a demonic spirit of hatred of self and kind, causing them to perpetuate the internal violence Dr. Franz Fanon wrote about in Wretched of the Earth.

Mao Zedong told us some deaths are higher than Mount Tai, some deaths lighter than a feather. At least Chauncey gave his life for the cause of truth, no matter that we did not always agree with his abrasive attitude, who can deny the man was dedicated to seeking the truth? We all have defects of character, but are we fulfilling our life’s mission as Chauncey was doing? Are we trying to inform the blind, deaf and dumb, to educate the ignorant? Many of us say let the blind stay blind, and that the youth are a lost cause, yet we saw in the film the Great Debaters, youth will do the right things when guided right by sincere and dedicated adults. The only excuse for youth behavior is adult behavior!

The tree at 14th and Alice stands still, a monument to a fallen soldier. From the window, our eyes zoom down to the tree, eyes full of tears and heart full of sorrow. Bill Moyers asked Rev. James Cone the meaning of the cross and the lynching tree. He said they are one and the same, for on the cross Jesus was crucified and on the tree the black man was done the same. And just as Jesus transcended the cross, the black man must rise above his self crucifixion and ascend to spiritual consciousness. The crucifixion ends when the resurrection and ascension begins. We must rise up from the grave of ignorance, from the lynching tree of hatred, jealousy and envy. We must heal from the wretchedness that allows us to kill another brother at the drop of a hat, yet never approach the real enemy. And perhaps the real enemy doesn’t exist except inside of our selves. White supremacy/lunacy has no power over us except when we allow it. As Rev. Cone explained, the
lynching tree has no power over us because in our crucifixion comes resurrection and ascension.

Paul Cobb observed how white women can jog past West Oakland’s Campbell Village housing projects at night without fear. No one dare harm them because they are white and thus sacred. To speak harshly to them is a terrorist threat, to harm them is a hate crime that qualifies for the death penalty. But there is no crime for speaking harshly to another black, and killing another black does not qualify as a hate crime, although most surely it is the absolute essence of hate, self hate.

And so we dig our own grave these days. We put the noose around our necks, as some rappers have demonstrated. We killed our brother Chauncey because he was just another nigguh, therefore worthless, in the imagination of the killers, whoever they are. And then perhaps they recognized his importance and were instructed to eliminate him, for writers and journalists are killed around the world, simply for their dedication to telling the truth.
But we see after the thousands and thousands of words written about him, we see death has no sting, it has no victory.

On a horrible day last August, the tree at 14th and Alice gave forth a strange fruit that shall rise from the earth and give blessings from high heaven. Because Chauncey lived, we shall be a better people, a people who shall one day fulfill our radical tradition and destiny to free ourselves and the world. The attempt was made with the Oakland branch of the Pullman Porters, and it was made with the Black Panthers. Chauncey extended that tradition into the present era, for he gave his life in the cause of truth, freedom, justice and equality. Yes, he transcended the lynching tree. His death was not lighter than a feather but higher than Mount Tai.


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