Thursday, December 31, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015
Justice Is A Verb!
December 31, 2015

            Did you know that police tactics in the United States are being modeled after the tactics used by Israeli security operatives, the Israeli Defense Force, and Israeli police involved in the illegal occupation of Palestine and abuse of Palestinians?  Consider the following information about the Israeli National Counter-Terrorism Seminar that one can find on the website of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“Every year, American law enforcement executives travel to Israel with ADL to study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies to combat terrorism. The National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) is an intensive week long course led by senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces. More than 175 law enforcement executives have participated in 12 NCTS sessions since 2004, taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”
            Do you remember seeing tear gas deployed against peaceful protestors in Ferguson, Missouri one night shortly after Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, Jr.?  Do you remember the way peaceful protestors with the Occupy movement were violently treated in several places around the United States?  Do you remember how the killers of Michael Brown, Jr., Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Dillon Taylor, Monroe Isadore, Eugene Ellison, and countless other victims of police homicides were exonerated, and treated by some in the media as being protectors of society? 
            I twice saw Israeli Defense Force (IDF) units deploy tear gas against Palestinian youth during my recent visit to Israel and Palestine.  I smelled the tear gas.  I felt the eye and nasal discomfort.  What were the Palestinian youth doing?  They were congregating on streets in their own neighborhoods protesting Israeli occupation of Palestine, just as neighbors of Michael Brown, Jr. protested that he was shot and killed, and just as they were attacked by armored police units, snipers, and tear gas while in their own neighborhood.
            I met and spoke with an IDF veteran and member of the Breaking the Silence veterans movement during my trip to Israel earlier this month.  The man told our group how IDF units treat Palestinians as likely terrorists even when Palestinians are minding their own business and tending their own olive groves.  IDF personnel who abuse or kill Palestinians are not punished; they are protected and held up as heroic figures. 
Our group immediately recognized that poor and communities of color in the United States are treated by the police the way Palestinians are treated by Israeli police and security forces—as if we are an occupied people.  And we recognized that police in the U.S. operate as if the laws that govern the use of force, including deadly force, for the rest of society do not apply to them.  Police in the United States behave the way I saw IDF personnel behave toward Palestinians, like an occupation force.
            Then I remembered a case from years ago, when I was a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, involving a partially disabled black man who was attacked and beaten by police while standing outside the house of relatives waiting on a taxi in a neighborhood one prosecutor termed “a high crime area.”  The attacked and beaten man was then charged with disorderly conduct and terroristic threatening because he cursed the police and accused them of harassment.  The police were not punished for attacking and beating him. 
Members of an occupation force are not punished for oppressing (and even killing) indigenous people and dissenters.  Oppression tactics, use of excessive force, deploying tear gas against people who are merely expressing opposition to mistreatment, and condoning those and other abusive practices go hand-in-hand with occupation force government, otherwise known as tyranny or fascism.
            Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Monroe Isadore, Dillon Taylor, Eugene Ellison, Sandra Bland, and numerous other victims killed by police or while in police custody were treated like suspected terrorists.  Their killers did not behave like community police in a neighborhood. They behaved like members of an occupation force in militarily occupied territory.
            We are sending law enforcement leaders from communities across the United States to learn occupation force tactics and strategies from security operatives affiliated with the illegal occupation of Palestine.  U.S. tax dollars have financed and supplied the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine since 1967.  U.S. tax dollars provide diplomatic cover for it in the United Nations.  U.S. tax dollars are spent sending state and local law enforcement leaders to Israel where they learn to unjustly treat us like suspected terrorists, the same way Israeli security personnel are trained to unjustly treat Palestinian men, women, and youth. 

            We are subsidizing tyranny and fascism by Israel against Palestinians.  We are sending U.S. state and local law enforcement leaders to Israel where they learn to use occupation force methods and tactics of tyranny and fascism against poor and communities of color in the United States. 
             Politely speaking, that is “messed up.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015
Justice Is A Verb!
December 29, 2015

            Yesterday (December 28, 2015), a grand jury in Cleveland, Ohio delivered the decision most observers expected concerning the death of Tamir Rice, a black 12 year old boy shot to death in a public park, while playing with a pellet gun, on November 22, 2014 by Officer Timothy Loehmann of the Cleveland, Ohio Police Department.  The grand jury decided, at the recommendation of Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, Timothy J. McGinty, not to indict Loehmann for killing Tamir Rice. 

Welcome to the latest pernicious example of white privilege and racial preferences in the United States, and the one that is defended most effectively and consistently.   The killing of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, like that of Eric Garner in New York City, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Rekia Boyd and Laquan Robinson in Chicago, Illinois, Sandra Bland in Texas, and numerous other black and brown people at the hands of or in the custody of law enforcement personnel , proves why human rights activists argue that that black and brown lives do not appear to matter to people in law enforcement, on grand juries, to the judges and jurors who may decide the outcome of civil trials, and to the society that allows this perversion to continue under the pretense of “criminal justice.”

White privilege is vehemently denied and/or criticized by pundits, politicians, and other willfully ignorant people.  But white children who play with pellet guns in public places are not gunned down within seconds after police see them (the way Tamir Rice was killed).  I dare you to prove otherwise.

White people who traffic unlicensed cigarettes are not strangled to death by the police the way Eric Garner was choked to death on Staten Island last year.  I dare you to prove otherwise.

White people with mental illness are not shot to death like rabid dogs the way Laquan Robinson and Quintonio LeGrier were killed by Chicago police.  I dare you to prove otherwise.

White neighbors are not shot to death like collateral damage in wartime the way Bettie Jones, a neighbor of Quinonio LeGrier, was killed by Chicago police.  White people in public are not randomly shot to death by the police the way Rekia Boyd was killed by a Chicago police officer.  I dare you to prove otherwise.

White people and neighbors are protected (privileged) by whiteness from police homicide, not routinely victimized by homicidal police actors.  Protection from police homicide is one reality of white privilege even when white people are armed and engage in threatening behavior.

Cliven Bundy, a white Nevada rancher, mounted and led an angry and armed assault on federal law enforcement officers who seized cattle Bundy illegally allowed to graze on federal land.  Cliven Bundy has never been arrested or otherwise prosecuted for threatening the law enforcement officers.  Bundy, a white man who threatened law enforcement officers and incited others to do so, is alive.  Tamir Rice, a black youngster who played with a pellet gun. is dead.

Ask white privilege deniers and apologists for homicidal police actions against people of color about Eric Frien.  Why don’t you recognize that name? 

Eric Frien, a white man, is accused of first degree murder, attempted murder, terrorism, and other charges surrounding the death of one Pennsylvania State Trooper, the critical wounding of another state trooper, and other crimes.  Eric Frien is a white murder suspect who eluded capture and was the subject of a manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officers before being captured, alive.    

Eric Frien, a white murder suspect, is alive today.  Cliven Bundy, a white man who mounted an armed assault on federal law enforcement officers, is alive today.  Their families are not grieving their deaths.  Their neighborhoods do not wonder who will be the next victim of homicidal police action.  White men can threaten law enforcement officers and live.

Tamir Rice, Laquan Robinson, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, and Quintonio LeGrier are dead because they lacked the privilege—and racial preference—of whiteness.  Non-whiteness is the unspoken, but indisputable, reality that accounts for, but does not justify, the different way they were encountered by people in law enforcement. 

The deaths of Tamir Rice, Laquan Robinson, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Quintonio LeGrier, Freddie Gray, Monroe Isadore (a 107 year old black man shot to death by police in September 2013 as he lay in his bed in Pine Bluff, Arkansas), Eugene Ellison (a 67 year old black man shot to death in his apartment by police in December 2010 in Little Rock, Arkansas) make one thing abundantly clear.  Police kill people of color with impunity. 

Cliven Bundy and Eric Frien make something else clear.  Police exercise restraint and resist the temptation to use lethal force against white people, even when white people are armed and dangerous.  White privilege and preference for whiteness is one of our nation’s open damning secrets, despite what white pundits and other apologists for white privilege claim.

I ten times double dog dare anyone to prove otherwise.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015
New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR
Christmas Eve (December 24) 2015

         We gather on this Christmas Eve, like followers of Jesus perhaps are gathering or preparing to gather across the world, to commemorate that God has lived among us in the man born to a woman named Mary in Bethlehem, Palestine, and called Jesus. 

         We gather to celebrate what the introduction to the 4th Gospel calls at John 1:5 the light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

And as we gather, there is still darkness—in personal lives, in communities plagued with inequality and suffering, in societies afflicted by violence, fear, and hatred, and in a world obsessed with “security” and terrorism in all its forms.

Hear this message from Patriarch Emeritus Michael Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem between 1987 and 2008, that appeared in an op ed column in The Haaretz newspaper.  Patriarch Sabbah writes:

At this holy time of the year, Bethlehem, the city of the Nativity, stands at the center of attention of the whole world. What the world might overlook as it watches is that the very city where Jesus was born celebrates yet another occupied Christmas. This year, Israel, a self-proclaimed “safe haven” for Christians, has presented to Bethlehem a few unwelcome Christmas gifts.

Israel’s Christmas gifts to Bethlehem this year serve towards consolidating the separation between Bethlehem and its twin city, Jerusalem; the city where Jesus was born and the city where he was resurrected – the essence of the Christian faith. Aside from the daily violations that the besieged Bethlehem suffers as a result of the occupation, Israel issued a military order last week announcing that it has confiscated 101 dunams [a dunam is 1000 square meters] of Bethlehem’s northern lands. In the same week, the Israeli government approved the expansion of the illegal settlement of Gilo - built on privately owned lands of Bethlehem - by 891 new housing units.

Right to the west of the Gilo settlement lies the Cremisan valley in Beit Jala with its two Salesian monasteries and privately owned agricultural lands. Despite a nine-year legal battle, tremendous diplomatic lobby efforts and civil resistance, Israel continues to build the annexation wall in Cremisan, leaving 58 Palestinian Christian families robbed of their lands. Where do these families go now and to whom do they have recourse?

Despite Israel’s claim that it is the only country in the Middle East where Christians prosper, the unspoken message it sends on the ground is that it has no respect whatsoever for their rights as Palestinians and for their existence in their homeland. It is claimed that Islamic extremism is the reason behind the massive emigration of Palestinian Christians. In reality, the problems of Palestinian Christians stem essentially from the fact that they are Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation. What drives a Palestinian Christian out of his homeland to seek a better future elsewhere is the daily harassment of the occupation, and Israel’s land confiscation policies fall at the heart of the matter. 

The Israeli government is quick to cite “security” justifications for its oppressive policies - while in reality, land grab and settlement expansion motives – under the pretext of security - cannot be concealed.[1]

God came to us in Jesus to shine the light of divine love, truth, justice, peace, and hope into human darkness.  And although hate and fear led to the death of Jesus, the light still shines.  We, and others across the world, are the result of that light.  The darkness cannot overcome the light in us because the darkness is not stronger than God’s love, truth, peace, and hope.

So we will not draw back from the holy call to shine in the darkness.  We who are followers of Jesus, God’s light of love, truth, peace, and hope, will shine for Bethlehem.  

We will shine the light of God’s love, truth, justice, peace, and hope on the darkness of police brutality and state-sanctioned homicide. 

We will shine the light of God’s love, truth, justice, peace, and hope on the darkness of violence, be it physical, psychological, economic, or moral, wherever that violence takes place.

As followers of the Jesus born in Bethlehem, killed by Roman occupiers outside Jerusalem, who was resurrected in Jerusalem, and who will come again to govern the world for God in love, truth, justice, peace, and hope, we gather to declare that the light still shines in the darkness.  And now, as on that first night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the darkness does not overcome the light. 

Because the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, darkness does not overcome the light.

Because truth crushed to earth will rise again, darkness does not overcome the light.

Because the truth will always set us free, darkness does not overcome the light.

Because God is love, darkness does not overcome the light.

Because Jesus came, because Jesus lives, and because Jesus will return again, darkness does not overcome the light!

Beloved, let us faithfully live as people of God’s light confident that darkness, whether here, elsewhere, or across the world, does not overcome the light!

Thank God for Jesus, the light of the world!  Hallelujah!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015

            I recently spent eight days visiting Israel and Palestine—the place called “the Holy Land”—as part of a group that included progressive faith leaders from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, activists from the Dream Defenders human rights movement, progressive-minded religious scholars, and a journalism professor. 

Our group enjoyed sunny days, visits to sacred sites on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Shiloh, a visit to a small community of activists struggling to preserve their religious community in Iqrit, and stops alongside the Mediterranean Sea in Haifa and Tel Aviv. 

We traveled through fertile agricultural land.  We enjoyed delicious meals in popular restaurants in Haifa, Jaffa, and elsewhere.  We shared meals and listened as Israeli citizens and Palestinians in various locations people gave us eye-witness insights about life beyond the customary religious tour group destinations. 

We watched Israeli military forces shoot tear gas at young people in Bethlehem.  Our eyes burned not only from the tear gas, but also from remembering how peaceful protestors and journalists were similarly attacked in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after Michael Brown, Jr. was killed by former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. 

We met and spoke with a young veteran of the Israeli military who told us about how Israeli military occupation of Palestine (commonly known as “the West Bank”) is producing deep emotional and moral wounds to members of the military and to Palestinians.   We listened as he talked about being ordered to protect illegal Jewish settlements and attack Palestinians who dared to even approach settlements, but was not authorized to take action against settlers who attacked and terrorized Palestinian farmers.

We took a field visit to Shiloh Valley, viewed an illegal Jewish settler outpost, and heard settlers speak of their community as a “homeland” for Jewish returnees while they stereotyped Palestinians as a group as “terrorists.”  After one settler had the audacity to declare that there has never been a Christian religious terrorist organization in the United States, I politely told him that his assertion somehow managed to ignore or trivialize the hateful and deadly history of the Ku Klux Klan.

We met with village leaders and family members who face ongoing harassment, violence, and threats of violence because of the illegal settlements condoned by the Israeli government and defended by the Israeli military.

We spoke with visionary-minded and determined physicians, entrepreneurs, educators, lawyers, mental health professionals, and community organizers and learned about their efforts to resist despair in the face of ongoing injustice from the Israeli military and civilian regime.

We spoke with parents whose children have been detained for days without being allowed to see their relatives.  We saw a military court order a young Palestinian man who had been detained for several days without being charged with any crime to continue being detained.

We met and spoke with the grieving father of an unarmed Bedouin teenager who was shot to death last year by Israeli police.  The cop who killed the man’s son is back on the job and has not been charged with committing a crime. 

We listened as women told about trying to protect their families from abusive and homicidal conduct by Jewish settlers, Israeli military personnel, and Israeli police.  We met boys who had been detained for days on suspicion that they had thrown stones at Israeli security forces.

We toured Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts & Culture and met with Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb who told us about the challenges he and his colleagues are facing and determined to overcome.  We saw how the spirit of resistance is honored, portrayed, and courageously affirmed by people from various generations, locations, and ethnic backgrounds.

           We saw Bedouin communities and met a Bedouin family affected by decades of Israeli policies aimed at displacing Bedouin people from the land they have lived on for generations and pushed into "unrecognized" villages not served by municipal services.  Meanwhile, the Israeli government funnels money, resources, and military protection to Jewish settlements in the Negev.

These and other experiences have left me with the following impressions. 

First, the Israeli government is plainly carrying out a systematic, calculated, and oppressive program that smacks of all the vestiges of the immoral regime of apartheid in South Africa and the equally wicked history of Jim Crow segregation and genocidal manifest destiny perpetrated against Africans and indigenous native people in the United States. 

Second, that program of injustice is financed by U.S. tax dollars.  It is carried out by people armed with weapons supplied by the United States.  Even as I write these words (and you read them) the candidates who aspire to become the next President of the United States are trying to out-do each other in pledging continued and greater support for this program of injustice.  Yes, that includes whoever may be your favorite (or disfavored) candidate. 

Third, a well-financed and multi-faceted Zionist propaganda program now targets black and Latino communities.  It involves recruiting students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and indoctrinating them to support Zionist claims.  It involves lobbying and financing Holy Land tours for black and Latino faith leaders and their congregants.  Zionist notions of manifest destiny are contributing to flawed theology, principles of Biblical interpretation (hermeneutics), and ethics being preached from black and Latino pulpits and other evangelical positions of influence. 

Fourth, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like other tyrants of manifest destiny, segregation, apartheid, fascism, racism, and genocide before him, is leading a government that deserves to be condemned as unjust, not supported and defended. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, although the moral arc of the universe is wide, it always bends towards justice.  My pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine inspires me to declare that the wickedness the world witnessed surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. and the ensuing injustice in Ferguson, Missouri does not become sanctified when Arabs and others are killed and otherwise mistreated by government sanctioned actors in what is commonly called “the Holy Land.”   

I am a survivor of the U.S. version of such wicked policies and practices.  In the name of all that is just, honorable, true, noble, and hopeful—and inspired by the courageous people we encountered over the course of eight busy December days—I will use whatever strength and moral authority I can summon to join the people I met in denouncing the wickedness I saw during my trip to “the Holy Land.”  

We shall overcome.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Mr. Milton Pitts Crenchaw, one of the primary flight instructors for the famed Tuskegee Airman of World War II and the undisputed "father of black aviation in Arkansas" died November 17 at the full age of 96.  I was privileged to deliver the eulogy yesterday during the service that celebrated his life.  The manuscript of that eulogy is reprinted, in full, below.

©Wendell Griffen, 2015
St. Mark Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas
Tuesday, December 1, 2015, 10 o’clock A.M.


         I come, with you, to this place and moment aware that we have each been touched by the long and wonderful life of Brother Milton Crenchaw.  Together, we have come to comfort and strengthen Brother Crenchaw’s daughters and son, their children, their children’s children, and his other dear ones whose lives are most affected by the passing of this family patriarch, neighbor, follower of Jesus, running buddy, confidante, mentor, and friend.  Together, we have come to celebrate the gift of his fellowship.  Together, we have come to thank God for the way Brother Crenchaw lived,  taught, served God and his neighbors, and inspired us and many others who cannot be here today, in countless ways.    Together, we have come to bear witness that God blessed us, God blessed Little Rock, God blessed Arkansas, God blessed the United States, and God blessed the world through the life and faith of Brother Milton Crenchaw.

Let us acknowledge, with thanks, the children of Brother Crenchaw for allowing us to celebrate their father’s life with them.  And because every team has a captain, let us acknowledge the loving ways that Sister Dolores Crenchaw Singleton led the family effort to care for Brother Crenchaw.  Brother Crenchaw and Sister Marian Torrence were blessed to love and care for one another so well that the Crenchaw and Torrence families share an especially tender bond.  Together, we affirm that Brother Crenchaw, as patriarch, partner, soul mate, running buddy, mentor, teacher, and aviator, has been a wonderful example of what we would like to project about our capital city, our State and Nation, and about the noble and valiant people who serve in the military. 

Brother Crenchaw inspired patriots, preachers, parents, students, politicians, and everyone else who knew him.  He was truly “a man for all people,” at home wherever he went.  He worshiped God as a follower of Jesus with people from every background, creed, and tradition, and he lived an inclusive faith that welcomed others without pretense or fanfare.  Brother Milton Crenchaw was “the Good Samaritan” for any bruised, battered, and oppressed person he encountered on the roadway of life. 

A passage in the fourteenth chapter of John calls, comforts, and challenges us today.  Hear the words of Jesus, the One to whom Brother Crenchaw trusted himself, his life, faith, love, and hope, found at John 14:12.

John 14:12
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. [New Revised Standard Version]
        I will speak with you today about The Call from Greatness to “Greater Works.”
         Gardner Calvin Taylor, who was ushered into Glory earlier this year on Resurrection Sunday also at the full age of 96 and who is considered by many to have been the greatest African American preacher of the gospel of Jesus, admitted publicly that he had “always fallen back” from these words of Jesus, “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”   These words are part of the “good-bye talk” Jesus gave his closest friends.  They were, understandably, distressed by the thought of being separated from the one who had re-directed, re-defined and re-informed their lives. 

         Imagine, then, how they must have felt when Jesus told them, “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”  Remember the people who heard these words?.  Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the other disciples (excepting Judas Iscariot who had left the fellowship by that time), heard those words.  The women who supported the ministry of Jesus heard those words.  Like you and me, these were ordinary people being told by Jesus, the most extraordinary person in history, that they would do “greater works” than he did.

         But Jesus was not engaging in hyperbole.  He was not engaging in rhetorical over-reach in an effort to comfort his distressed loved ones.  Nor was Jesus putting himself down.  Jesus was calling them to look beyond the powerful greatness of his life to the potential—no, the promise!—that they could be agents of “greater works.”

Jesus, who called people from the far country of death back to fellowship among the living, told these anxious souls they could be agents of “greater works.”

Jesus, who spoke with so much authority that raging winds became a gentle breeze and turbulent waves became a calm sea, told these anxious souls they could be agents of “greater works.”

Jesus, whose presence and prayer turned a child’s lunch into an impromptu banquet for thousands, told these anxious souls they could be agents of “greater works.”

These words are part of the “Do not let your hearts be troubled” farewell address of Jesus.  In a sense, the words “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” are part of the last Will and Testament of Jesus.   It is as if Jesus was saying, “Do not be troubled that the greatness of my presence will move from you.  “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

“I have done great work, now I am going to the Father.”  I have restored life, health, and hope, now I am going to the Father.  I have lifted people from sorrow to joy, now I am going to the Father.  I have confronted and defeated demonic forces that oppressed people, now I am going to the Father.”

“I am going to the Father, but the work must continue.  I am going to the Father, but the great work of healing wounded hearts and bodies must go onward.  I am going to the Father, but the great work of liberation from oppression must go on.  The great works that I do can, must, and will continue with you, ‘and greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.’”

They did not get it at first.  It took some time for them to realize and claim their inheritance.  They knew what Jesus proclaimed and promised in this part of his Will and Testament, but they couldn’t lay hold on it then.  Their sense of grief was too acute.  They were unable to get beyond the pain of anticipated parting to claim the promises of doing the great work Jesus did, let alone “greater works.”

But this bequest of Jesus is true.  Jesus spent his short lifetime and ministry in Palestine.  His followers continued that ministry, not only in Palestine, but elsewhere.  Great works of healing, liberation, and hope nurturing became “greater works” in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and elsewhere.  Wherever else and whenever any person or people build their lives on the radical, extravagant, subversive, and unconquerable divine love and truth Jesus personified, we become agents of not only the “great work” of Jesus, but “greater works,” because Jesus has gone to the Father.

This brings us to Brother Milton Crenchaw.  Brother Crenchaw built his life of faithful service and powerful humility on the radical, extravagant, subversive, unconquerable, divine love and truth that Jesus lived and inspired.  Jesus did great works, but never flew an airplane.  Jesus did great works on earth; Milton Crenchaw continued those great works and then “greater works” by teaching aviation. 

I will share but one example, because there are too many to recount here or at any other gathering, of the “greater works” result of following Jesus that defined the life of Brother Milton Crenchaw.  His obituary reports that Brother Crenchaw “arrived at Tuskegee Institute in 1939 and enrolled in the school’s first Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) class.”  After completing CPT, Brother Crenchaw remained at Tuskegee and eventually became one of the primary instructors to prepare black pilots for aerial warfare. 

One of his colleagues at Tuskegee, and no doubt someone who Brother Crenchaw influenced, was Daniel James, Jr..  Daniel James, Jr. came to Tuskegee after completing high school in Pensacola, Florida, entered CPT, and later served as a flight instructor with Brother Crenchaw.  Daniel James, Jr. became, in time, the first black four-star General in the U.S. Air Force, and commander of North America Air Defense Command (NORAD).  Milton Crenchaw nurtured General Daniel “Chappie” James to become an example of “Greater works!”

“The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”  Milton Crenchaw claimed his bequest from the Last Will and Testament of Jesus to live for “greater works.”  And we who are beneficiaries of those “greater works” are, in turn, now called by the One who called Brother Crenchaw.  Jesus, who called Milton Crenchaw to do the great works Jesus did, “and greater works than these,” calls us.
Jesus and Milton Crenchaw call us to greater works of liberation.  Jesus and Milton Crenchaw call us to “greater works” of service.  Jesus and Milton Crenchaw call us to “greater works” of sacrifice.  Jesus and Milton Crenchaw call us to “greater works” of mentoring.  

Let not your hearts be troubled, beloved family.  The One who called Brother Crenchaw calls you to “greater works” with him.  Let not your hearts be troubled, veterans.  The One who called Brother Crenchaw calls us to “greater works” with him.  Let not your hearts be troubled, people of Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Nation.  The One who called Brother Crenchaw calls us to “greater works” with him.  In the face of separation, we are called beyond the sentiments of “good-bye” to the greatness of Jesus, and beyond that even, to claim our legacy as agents of “greater works,” because the One who has gone to the Father calls us. 

On November 17, the One who called us to “greater works” called our beloved patriarch, mentor, patriot, neighbor, and friend, from “greater works” to the “greatest observation tower.”  I imagine a counsel took place in the celestial realm.  I imagine that the One who called Brother Crenchaw to “greater works” looked over to Gabriel and said, “Gabriel.  Brother Milton has been grounded long enough.  Restore his wings!” And Gabriel moved!  Before quick could get ready, Brother Crenchaw was restored to flight status. Before quick could get suited up, Brother Crenchaw was promoted from aviation history into the celestial astronaut corps. 

Now, from that greatest observation tower, Brother Crenchaw joins the One who called him, in bequeathing us the potential and promise to be agents of “greater works.”  Now, Brother Crenchaw joins Jesus in calling us to “greater works.”  Greater works of faith!  Greater works of love!  Greater works of justice!  Greater works of peace!  Greater works of hope!  Greater works of healing!  Greater works of service!  Greater works of sacrifice!  Greater works of joy! 

Greater works!  Greater works!  Greater works!

I close by borrowing from a ritual cherished by our Navy brothers and sisters.  When a respected shipmate passes away, someone from among the crew recites a poem titled, “The Watch.”  I have amended it to conclude this commentary about our brother’s service. 

The Watch
For 96 years
Airman Milton Crenchaw has stood the watch
While some of us were in our beds at night
Airman Crenchaw stood the watch
While some of us were at school or work
Airman Crenchaw stood the watch
Even before some of us were born into this world
Airman Crenchaw stood the watch
When the storm clouds of war were brewing
Airman Crenchaw stood the watch
Many times Tuskegee Airman Milton Crenchaw would cast a distant eye
To see his family standing there
Needing his guidance and help,
But he still stood the watch
This Tuskegee Airman stood the watch for 40 years,
So that all Americans could sleep safely, each and every night
Secure because this Tuskegee Airman stood the watch
Today, we are here to pay our respects, as it is said, for the final time,
Relieved by those You fathered and loved, Relieved by those you trained, Relieved by those You guided, Relieved by those you led.
Sir, you stand relieved of duty, we have the watch.”