WHEN PROPHETS SHOW UP
©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is a Verb!
February 28, 2017
Today in Little Rock, Arkansas, Michael Poore (Superintendent of the now state-run Little Rock School District), is scheduled to appear before the Little Rock City Board of Directors. The announced purpose of Mr. Poore’s appearance is for him to address the elected leaders of the largest city in Arkansas about his plans for the facilities of four public schools he intends to close: Franklin Elementary School, Wilson Elementary School, Woodruff Early Childhood Learning Center, and Hamilton Learning Academy.
Little Rock residents (along with supporters of public education in Little Rock, elsewhere in Arkansas, and across the United States for that matter) should pay close attention to this meeting. The effort to murder and cannibalize public education has been underway in this state for years. Civic and business leaders have been part of it (covertly and openly). Sixty years after 1957 – when Little Rock and Arkansas made world history because white supremacy tried to defy the claims of black people to justice in public education – political and business leaders of the capitol city and state of Arkansas appear poised to plunge their city and state to an even lower dimension of disgrace and shame.
This is a day when prophets must show up.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Day, L.C. and Daisy Bates, Cesar Chavez, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jesus, John the Baptist, Amos, Micah, Elijah, and other prophetic figures were not politicians. They were not profiteers. They confronted, condemned, and ultimately moved people to defy more powerful characters whose primary motivations were political power and financial profit.
Prophets are defiant people. They defy political leaders. They defy business tycoons. They defy mealy-mouthed religious folks. They even defy threats to their own safety, personal and financial security, and sanity. Prophets defy cowards and crooks, fools and fiends, rascals and folks who consider themselves righteous. Prophets are defiant people.
Prophetic people are intrusive. Prophets show up where they are not invited. When invited, prophetic people challenge conventional standards. They damn things politicians and profiteers want to dedicate. They declare profane situations and arrangements politicians and profiteers would rather call pristine, if not pure. Prophets intrude on our thoughts with subversive ideas, intrude on our relationships with the subversive demands of justice, and overturn things politicians and profiteers considered settled.
Little Rock, Arkansas, the United States, and our world need prophets, now as ever before. The current president of the United States is a narcissistic psychopath whose civic incompetence is surpassed only by his moral depravity and outsized insecurity. Across the United States, public institutions are being captured and converted into quasi-private instruments for corporate greed. In this society and across the world, religious nationalism, racism, sexism, authoritarianism, and imperialism have become more violent, vicious, and virus-like. This community, state, society, and world need prophets.
Yet, most preachers, pastors, rabbis, priests, and other religious folks do not live and serve prophetically. People with the prophetic insight and boldness of Jeremiah Wright, Allan Boesak, Angela Davis, or William Barber are not likely to join the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, deliver invocations and benedictions for public gatherings, and confer over meals with civic and commercial bosses. In fact, people like Wright, Boesak, Davis, and Barber seem at odds with the methods, motives, and goals of the folks who cherish and brag about that stuff.
When prophets show up, stuff gets stirred up. Conversations become more intense, and sometimes fractious, when prophets show up. Prophets disrupt meetings, force agendas to reshape, and dare to obstruct plans and processes with their obsessive concern and demand for justice, truth, protecting the vulnerable, and including the marginalized.
I hope to be present this afternoon for Michael Poore’s presentation to the Little Rock Board of Directors. I hope to find the meeting charged, challenged, and changed by prophetic people from across the generational, income, religious, ethnic, and location landscape. I hope Michael Poore’s presentation turns into something he and other political and commercial schemers haven’t planned and won’t be able to manipulate.
In other words, I hope this afternoon becomes defined by prophetic people, not politicians and profiteers. I hope those prophetic people boldly confront, denounce, and condemn the brazen tyranny of the Arkansas Department of Education toward public education in general, and the black, brown, and lower income children, parents, patrons, and other stakeholders for public education in Little Rock specifically. Why? Because when prophets show up, tyrants and tyranny are challenged.
I hope prophets show up today.