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I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
Back to back Black bodies building up in the streets have our communities triaging men downed in the coronavirus, racism and poverty pandemics. One hundred years on from Langston Hughes’ dreaming, this nightmare is still going.
I recently discovered the work of Kareem Lucas, who Kickstarted a theatrical event around his observational poetry. His “Rated Black: An American Requiem” sits on an unusual, dramatic device: a young man preemptively administering his own “homegoing” ahead of what he expects to be his inevitable, tragic demise.
“After consuming all this violence upon and death of Black people I decided to tell my own story on my own terms in my own way, before I become a trending hashtag that’s an unwilling martyr, or a super predator instantly shamed and blamed,” Lucas wrote in a petition for funds for “Rated Black.” “Death is not a distant thought. Death is a fast approaching inevitability that must be accepted and appropriately planned for.”
God, where am I going?
The lines in front of me
use references that lie,
and the truth is not a direction.
I need to inspect my expectation.
I wish I could talk to my destiny
and ask it ‘What will I be?
A month ago, I was ready to chuck the silly dreams for a collective destiny of co-existence. No trigger warning could have prepared my spirit for the murderous aggression we saw against Ahmad Arbery by a white former police investigator and his son. Nothing could rouse us from the nightmare of knowing Breonna Taylor perished when police shot her in her sleep. I couldn’t stomach the evil of police officer Derek Chauvin’s barbarism toward George Floyd. Nothing steals your optimism more than hearing of white Christian brothers wonder why George Floyd has been made a martyr. This has been a rape of our fragile peace.
Except, then, the people took to the streets. Now Congress is pushing through a bill—likely to face hurdles in the Senate, and risk of veto—that renounces brutish practices such as chokeholds, and “no-knock” warrants. When the people took to the streets, we see District Attorneys bringing their case against murderers, and securing indictments, and exacting justice for the depravity with which these people treat life. When the people took to the streets they mounted attacks on the symbolism of racist regimes. They turned their sights to monuments to the civil war, the confederacy and slavery worldwide. This included that of ole’ Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy, who fell with a crunch on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue. Pennsylvania Avenue, with one of the world’s most famous addresses, is now our yellow brick road, for it declares that “Black Lives Matter.” And who knew that Martin Luther King Jr.’s often repeated dream would see fulfillment, not in child’s play, but in the coming together of little children of all races to fight the power.
Can I dare to dream that this will change anything? My personal piece ‘d resistance came in the observation of a grainy image of hope, when police vehicles clustered in my neighborhood. While the lights swirled and officers worked, off on a side street sat a little red hatchback. Its young, white, male driver—sealed inside—trained his cell phone camera on their every move.
This article is part of our 2020 July / August Issue Subscribe –>
I praise God that even though it looks like we may have to slog through months of economic challenge, health threats, global movements and machinations, He is still in control. We don’t know what’s on the horizon, and truthfully, stock analysts, political pundits, policy makers, and executives don’t either, yet God knows. I praise Him that even now, as the earth experiences a new quiet God’s Spirit speaks to our hearts, and agitates the subconsciousness.
IN MY HEAD. IN MY FEELINGS.
Confession truth: we have nagging questions and unfinished business, made real by the realization that we, too, could contract this virus that could wipe us out in a matter of weeks. As we grieve in acute sadness and isolation the passing of our loved ones, we, too, realize this thing could come for us. There would be no time to say good-bye, no time for getting things in order if they have not already been. Answers to those nagging questions can surely be found in the Word, in prayer and through providence. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13.
The midnight madness, the 2 a.m. sleeplessness, and the 4 a.m., listlessness, are all opportunities to seek peace and alignment with the Almighty God.
And, if we don’t let them, there’s not one thing that will take us away from God’s loving care. (Romans 8:38, 39)
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM
Expectancy, is a state of joy, not dread. The joys and sorrows here and now, will be completely eclipsed upon the return of Jesus. Even so, come Lord, Jesus! It helps to imagine that moment. What’s on your bucket list? Here’s mine:
5. I want to reunite with loved ones. I imagine my father clasping the hands of the angel sent to wake him up and bursting forth from that box we laid him in. That “twinkling” moment to come (1 Corinthians 15:51) reminds us that whether your heart disappeared into a hospital, never to be seen again, or whether it visits the graveside every month for decades, this is a season. Like the fragrant cherry blossoms of spring, our friends and family members, asleep in their graves spring up when the light of the Son breaks forth upon the earth.
4. I want to experience the power to sustain. Don’t get me wrong. I have experienced, and am experiencing God’s day-to-day grace. Like David, I have been young, and now I’m old, and I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25). The Mighty Rock flowed twice for Israel when they were thirsty; manna appeared every morning in the wilderness; ravens visited the refugee prophet Elijah; and, a poor widow’s meal and oil just would not run out as long as it was needed. I wouldn’t mind seeing what God cooks up this time.
3. I want to see the rescue of the saved. I often think of the story of how Jesus was taken to the temple as a baby (Luke 2:22-38). Levitical law required parents to present their son and an offering before the Lord. Can you imagine the scene when Joseph and Mary walked in and when the priest asked the baby’s name, they said Jesus? (Matthew 1:21). That day, the Holy Ghost revealed to two onlookers that this is it. This is Whom you’ve been waiting for, the consolation of Israel. Likewise, I wouldn’t mind seeing the plans for destruction against God’s people fail. I wouldn’t mind seeing the weapons falter, and, after all, the clear indication of God’s favor. I wouldn’t mind seeing the spine-tingling sight of a little cloud, the size of a man’s hand in the distance.
2. I want to fly away. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Thessalonians 5 says whether we wake or sleep, the saved are going to be caught up in the air to meet the Lord. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, space travel is in my future. Star Trek, Star Wars, no need for a time warp technology, because what is time in infinity?
1. I want to see Jesus. This theme of scripture, hymns, poems, and gospel songs fills the number one spot. Ironically, perhaps our wishes are moot, because the Bible already says of the return of Jesus: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen,” Revelation 1:7. But, as many songwriter’s have mused, I want to see Him.
Don’t despair now. Our ancestors used to sing,
I open my mouth unto the Lord, and I won’t turn back. I will go. I shall go, to see what the end’s going to be.
The Official Statement of MESSAGE on Police Brutality and Racial Injustice
In solidarity with the outcries of justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others who have died at the hands of police brutality, Message denounces racial violence and calls for the prosecution of all the officers and persons involved.
Reflecting on the recent murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, and the global outcry for racial justice, Message shares in the outrage that Floyd’s death followed an officer’s senseless restraint over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. We condemn the violent take down of another unarmed black man, father, son, and friend. And we condemn the violence that caused a most humiliating and inhumane death.
We condemn the police line of protection around this act as repugnant to everything we stand for as an organization and as a nation. Rather than serve and protect George Floyd, the police chose to stand in solidarity with their comrade Derek Chauvin. In spite of eight and a half minutes of pleading on deaf ears, pleas of a grown man for his mother, pleas for his life, not one officer intervened. This passivity counters the deadly belief of the “one bad apple,” making Chauvin’s choice their choice, and created a real time illustration of how institutional racism continues to spawn.
Here at Message we also condemn the pause in determining whether to prosecute. The pause evidenced a sense of ambivalence toward justice for George Floyd in contravention of his birthright as an American. It was this pause that stirred the feeling of hopelessness and angst in the hearts of people of color everywhere, and contributed to the unrest and protests across the globe.
While we are pleased to hear of the recent arrests of the remaining officers we believe it necessary to continue to apply pressure to ensure all four officers are indicted and convicted. It is precisely the inability of the court system to discern right from wrong and execute justice that enables the contagion of such brutality. As advocates for criminal justice reform, Message believes it critical that justice be found for George Floyd.
As truth tellers, we commend the capture of this incident and the screaming protests waged while it unfolded. Without you many would never have acknowledged the depths of the ugliness of America’s systemic racism. This infection of racism has festered so deeply into the bone that without direct action and change we are in danger of losing the life of our country. We encourage you, pray for you, and join you in your protests to ensure that even when against the highest wall of opposition truth can and will be captured and disseminated.
Our condemnation extends to the militaristic response to peaceful protests and protestors. People are more important than property, yet, leadership mobilizes the military to protect windows, while it sets off tear gas on protesters. We further decry the characterization as “violent” as it applies to passionate protestors. Violence is a word that applies to the injury of the body of George Floyd. Violence applies to the suffocation Derek Chauvin employed while restraining Floyd. It is not violent to protest, and is a constitutional right. So we decry the expenditures and deployments now to protect property. They could easily have been realigned previously to support people in need. We join the calls for redirecting police department funds–where they are especially rich in heavy equipment and tactical gear–into schools and communities.
Finally, we lament that this is one more injury to the spirit, one more layer of anguish African Americans, have to navigate. While we bury our dead in greater numbers in the midst of a pandemic, and while so many jobless struggle to find the means to support their families, we find ourselves now having to deal with more state sanctioned violence. We mourn because of the vicarious pain caused here by the police. We cling to our loved ones, afraid for them to live because they could die. We are afraid to sink into a never ending loop of grief, hopelessness and powerlessness. But while we mourn we will still mobilize; while we hope we will still help; and while we sob we will still stand for justice and righteousness.
As a publication we are committed to, in the midst of such great tragedy, bringing you truth, hope, and inspiration as we all continue to war against injustice in all its various forms.
It is our greatest hope and privilege to call on the strong arm of the Lord to assist us and you in this fight. Be encouraged that we serve a God who sits high, and looks low. He will not overlook the sins of the guilty, but in His righteous judgment bring all to justice.
In Honor of Pat Sparks Harris, Friend and Associate Message Editor
September 25, 1947 – May 20, 2020
Pat Sparks Harris, the long-time backbone of Message (1999-2018), served most recently as our Associate Editor before she retired. What distinguished her 20-year career was that she never lost the keen realization that her work mattered.
Pat’s life came to a tragic end this week, the result of a horrific traffic accident on a Pennsylvania highway. In the final, final analysis we expect to find that she was running the Lord’s errands.
Mischief and Mission
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Pat was known for her active personality and mischief. She shared that she often tasted soap as a consequence for her “smart mouth.” Growing up, Pat played the accordion, piano and organ. And, though a beloved little sister to several protective brothers, she was a true caretaker to them. She married Leonard F. Harris, a religious literature salesman, or “literature evangelist” and associate publishing director in New York.
Together they reared two children, and then Pat became a single parent. Her children devoted their lives to ministry, like their mother. Daughter Lisa Quailey is part of the Volunteer Atlantic Union Adventist Youth Ministry (AYM) Compassion Advisory, and serves in the New York City Community Partner and Faith-based Networks. Her son L. David Harris is a prolific writer and longtime contributor to Message. He currently serves as the Communication Director for the Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Pat’s children with their spouses and children held an all-consuming and treasured space in Pat’s heart.
“Sisters are really special, each one designed for us by God. Some by birth and some by Divine Purpose,” said Alvin Kibble, vice-president Vice President for Big Data + Social Media, Public Affairs & Religious Liberty, Literature Ministries, and Executive Coaching, Training & Development at the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Both a childhood friend and long-time colleague, Kibble remembered their last meal together, one that included plenty of chatter, teasing and laughter.
“She was a lovely Christian woman who loved the Lord and His people and His Church,” said Daniel Jackson, President of the Adventist Church in North America. “She would come by my office from time to time and we would just talk and laugh. She would often put on a stern face and pretend to be upset with me or the brethren but then, after a few moments she would break into laughter. Both Donna [his wife] and I loved her.”
“We have lost a great friend, sister in Christ, soldier on the battlefield, and prayer warrior of God,” said Alex Bryant, Secretary for the Adventist Church in North America and Chairman of the Message Executive Committee. “I will forever cherish her warm smile and thoughtful compassion. She seemed to always know intuitively when things were not quite right with you. At those particular moments for me, she would often come and just say that she was going to send up a special prayer for me. She did it in a way that you knew that she knew something was on your heart but she would not pry.”
“She was just texting us last week,” said Dwayne Crawford, Owner of Byrd Tire in Hagerstown, Maryland. While they may not have always known her name, everybody in town knew the kind lady who stopped to chat, and leave books.
“As a former vice president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association and Editor of Message Magazine (1999- 2007), one of the distinct privileges and experiences I enjoyed was the hiring of Pat Harris as my Executive Assistant and Associate Editor,” said Ron C. Smith, PhD, D.Min., President of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “I was always impressed with her missional heart for the salvation of underprivileged people. Our professional, but, fun-loving relationship as brother and sister transcended geographical relocations over the years since we worked for seven years together in the same office. I’ll never forget her passion for prison ministry and the circulation of Message Magazine copies in urban communities.”
In 1985, as an adult learner, Pat completed her Bachelor’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in alcoholism counseling from York College, part of the City University of New York network. She became the owner of Sparks Funeral Home in Brooklyn, the business her beloved brother Chester Sparks built from the ground up. Once, for a major protest, Pat loaned an empty casket to activist and civil rights leader, Al Sharpton. The casket was an important statement against police brutality and killings, a cause that stirred fire in Pat’s spirit. She also worked with influencer and activist Dennis Dillion, a pastor whose Brooklyn Christian Center ran a long-running black, weekly newspaper called the New York Christian Times.
Another central value for Pat was advocacy in the interest of young people and children. Fiercely protective and always engaged, she would often chastise senior adults who were less than patient and understanding. She hated their dismissiveness: “Excuse me,” she would point her finger, “how old was Jesus?”
It was the work of literature evangelism that defined Harris most. This intensely personal, middle-of-the-sidewalk kind of introduction to Jesus still works. She would regale, but not with stories of conquest. Instead, her eyes would moisten when she recounted the Spirit’s leading, the providential meetings, and the opening of hearts. She was grateful to play a part.
We once took a six-hour road trip. Every gas station attendant, toll booth operator, and passerby received a book, magazine or tract. Sometimes she made me give it to them. I once told her I found an unpriced sharing book on the shelf in the media department at Wal-Mart. She looked away with a wryness that let me know she had been sharing in stealth mode. And, true to Christ’s mandate, Pat made sure she attended church services monthly at a Maryland prison from which she always left inspired.
“The first time I met Ms. Pat,” said Garrison Hayes, Pastor of the Community Praise Center in Alexandria, Virginia where Pat attended regularly, “we sat down at Sabbath lunch and talked for over an hour! We talked about how much she loved her family and she shared some of the fascinating and complicated parts of her upbringing. I was captured by her outstanding and honest storytelling abilities, and befriended by her endearingly infectious smile.”
Pat Harris was not one to stand in front of a crowd—ever—to tell her shockingly painful life-story. Yet, she shared it, personally, one-to-one. Though so many knew of her personal heartaches, we also caught her testimony of forgiveness. Though we often shuddered to think of her history of childhood trauma and mistreatment, she schooled us in people-loving. Never one to waste a good lesson, she encouraged the habit of seeking God in prayer for everything. “And, I’m not just talking to you,” she would say, “I’m talking to me.”
The Thinking Man’s Vegan
Behind the marketing, the untold impact of animal products menaces communities of color.
Vegetarians and plant-based eaters bite off a little more respect these days. Overall, vegetarians make up 3% and vegans only 2% of the United States population. However, being plant-based is increasingly more popular with African Americans and other people of color who chuck the chicken at three times the rate of their white counterparts (Gallup.com; Pew Research “The New Food Fights: US Public Divides Over Food Science”).
It helps that a star-studded A-list of African Americans claim the lifestyle. Status or not, Americans have suddenly and drastically cut their consumption of dairy products, cheese in particular, from an average of 35 pounds a year, to 15 pounds a year leaving an industry that is already propped up by massive government subsidies to survive, even while consumer demand plummets (“What Will the Government Do With 1.4 Billion Pounds of Cheese?” PSMag.com).
Other antiquated policies masquerading as dietary standards continue to push meat and dairy on the unsuspecting. Therefore, milk, cheese, and meat are still very much part of the diet given to low-income individuals, school lunch programs, and food pantry programs.
The Health Evangelist
Enter Milton Mills, a Stanford University Medical School graduate who did his residency at Georgetown.
As an Internist and specialist in preventive medicine, Mills is an evangelist of good health. You can watch him dish on YouTube with a comparative analysis of all God’s creatures, and what it means to be a natural carnivore (meat-eater), herbivore (plant-eater), or omnivore (eats both meat and plants). Watch him confront members of a dietary recommendation panel where he skewers the idea that anyone needs to consume dairy for good health. You may have also watched Mills in the 2017 viral documentary “What the Health?”
The clapback from those whose dietary recommendations include dairy is very strong. (“What You Should Know About the Pro Vegan Film, ‘What The Health?’” Time.com) Read and think between the lines, Mills insists. A majority of Americans of color experience symptoms of illness when consuming dairy products, yet, the recommendations to drink milk, for it “does a body good,” persist.
Government recommendations persist, partially because of the idea that dairy calcium and protein prevent osteoporosis in women. Black women, however, are “genetically protected” from osteoporosis, and unless they have another disease that leaches calcium from the bones, black women don’t get it.
Further, there is more at stake than symptoms of “mild discomfort” from eating dairy. Ingesting hormone-rich milk increases the risk for hormone-related cancers. Consuming dairy products markedly increases the risk for breast cancer among African American women, and worse than that, the mortality rates are higher.
For black men consuming animal products is the number one risk factor for prostate cancer. The rates of prostate cancer are 60% higher among black men, and once it occurs, black men are twice as likely to die from it. It’s a much more malignant form of the disease.
The Creation Diet
Mills believes it was God who taught him, from an early age, through the most trying of circumstances. Growing up in a Pentecostal Christian home, Mills’ family prayed at meal times and attended church regularly, however, his journey into the Word didn’t occur until the relatively happy family broke apart. Upon his parents’ divorce, 13 year-old Mills approached his pain very methodically:
“My response was like, wow. Is life going to be this random series of unknowable, unavoidable painful events? Or, is there some way to navigate through life and minimize these painful occurrences? The first thing I needed to figure out was, was God real? If God was not real, then I didn’t want to waste my time in a useless round of religiosity and ceremonies if He wasn’t. But, the opposite was equally true, that if He is real, then it’s absurd to try to live your life without acknowledging Him and making Him a part of it.”
God’s voice penetrated Mills heart early. When as a young man he prayed for a resolution to personal struggle, he was thus impressed that a plant-based lifestyle would clear his mind, and his ability to perceive God’s leading.
Subsequently, three truths sprung from the pages of his Bible when young Mills began to read it: 1. God created the world, and did it in seven days. 2. On the seventh day—the Sabbath—He rested. 3. God gave His first people plants to eat.
Knowing God became the ultimate intellectual experience, and the spiritual activation that caused Mills to be the strident seeker and proponent of truth. It propelled him to seek a medical career.
“If I weren’t a doctor, then my whole life, when I told people ‘you need to stop eating meat,’ they would say, “You can’t tell me that. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Mills aced his prerequisites for medical school while working nights and attending the former California State University Hayward (now California State University East Bay). He became the first Cal State Hayward student accepted into Stanford Medical School. From then on, he researched, taught and refined his case against the consumption of animal products.
Dietary Myth: Animal Products Are Good for You
“We have been taught that animal tissue is healthy and necessary for human health. Nothing can be further from the truth,” Mills declared during a recent interview with Message.
“Animal tissue is completely unnecessary for human health, and is unhealthy.”
Before you call the beef lobby to report him, Mills asks a few observational thought questions. First, why are milk and dairy products— even in limited quantities or moderation—a dietary recommendation when so many people are lactose intolerant? Lactose is a carbohydrate naturally found in dairy products, and it causes discomfort in the form of bloating, diarrhea, and cramps for people who are lactose intolerant.
As many as 90% of West Africans and and 75% of African Americans are lactose intolerant. Even 30% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant. Why is a substance that makes people sick a dietary recommendation?
Second, as you think about the massive plant eating animals such as giraffes, rhinos, and elephants, when do they ever consume animal products? The answer is: when they are babies and are nursing. The proteins found in mother’s milk stimulate growth. For us, however, consuming growth stimulants when full grown does not stimulate growth in ways we may want, Mills said. The result is growth, alright, but in benign lipomas, moles, cysts, enlarged prostates, and uterine fibroids. Sometimes, those growths become cancerous.
Third—speaking of growth, how do they get the chickens that we eat to grow so rapidly? People who grew up near a farm knew that “spring chickens” hatch and then grow throughout the year.
“Now these ‘Franken-birds’ that they have, hatch and go from egg to adult weight in like, six, eight weeks,” said Mills. “You just have to imagine the kinds of growth stimulants that have to be in that animal’s tissues to make it grow like that. It’s like a child going from birth to a 200 pound adult in two to three years. It’s completely abnormal. And, if you’re ingesting these kinds of growth compounds into your body, it’s no wonder it driving cancer in so many places.”
Dietary Myth Corollary: There’s no carve out.
That leads to the second myth surrounding the consumption of animal products: “We think going to Popeyes, Chick Fil-A, and Burger King—thinking that because we’re eating chicken and fish—it is somehow healthier.” One need only to examine the processing environment and habitat of the animal products we consume to learn why disease is no respecter of animals.
Mills: “Imagine if you had to only eat the lungs of an animal. Would you eat the lungs of an animal raised in a coal mine? Of course not because of the dirt, filth, soot that the lungs have to process there. Well, think about the way fish breathe. Through their gills they filter water; and the oceans are the most polluted places on the planet; fish is the most toxin-laden tissue that you can consume. So, no, you shouldn’t be eating fish, and definitely not shellfish.”
Mills minces no words when it comes to the seafood lover’s platter at many a favorite restaurant. Shellfish are the filters of the waterways. “That’s their job. I mean lobster, shrimp, they’re just ocean-going roaches. [If] you emulsify raw sewage and flow it over a bed of oysters and clams, the water will come out clear, because what they do is they eat that particulate matter.”
It’s a beautiful thing. God made them that way; He didn’t intend for us to eat them.
Live Long and Be Meat Free
For the thinking man’s vegan, the health evangelist Mills, has one important secret of disease prevention: a plant-based diet. Anything else, is a loss physically and spiritually.
“We are being shortchanged by being robbed of our health by primary or secondary intention. It also upsets me when we do it to ourselves. Because we’re throwing away our birthright for a bunch of garbage.”
2020 March / April Issue
HARMONY: Earth Love, Health, and Environmental Justice
Environmental justice is concerned with the fair treatment of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income when it comes to enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.
7 POWER PLAY
by Michell Cook Hall / Progress
11 Entrepreneurship Calling?
by Ruthven Phillip / Planning to launch your ministry or business? Consider these questions.
13Harmony: Health, Earth Love, and Environmental Justice
14 Earth Love / by Lisa Moore, Ph.D
Creation’s Stewards / by Patrice Conwell
16 Veganism: An Act of Social Justice / by Kevin Jenkins
Eating Green / by Patrice Conwell
17 Rethink How to Dress Yourself / by Patrice Conwell
19 Thinking Man’s Vegan / by Carmela Monk Crawford
Healing and Wholeness in Washington D.C.’s Historic Howard University Hospital
Howard University Hospital, in Washington, D.C., was formerly the first Freedman’s Hospital, established in 1862 for the treatment of African Americans, particularly those who were formerly
Since 1967 Howard has operated the hospital, placing it at its current location. This February, Adventist HealthCare assumed management of the hospital with an eye toward strengthening its financial standing, continuing its legacy of graduating black medical students, providing more training outlets, and building a new hospital in the rapidly changing neighborhood. The fusion of fortunes for Howard and Adventist is worth noting here.
Howard graduates more black medical students than Harvard, Yale and MIT combined. Dr. Charles Drew was one of its famous practitioners, known for his research and advancements in blood transfusions. As it did at its inception Howard cares for patients who lack means, and according to the Washington Post, 85% of its patients are public pay.
In a parallel universe, the four-hospital network Adventist HealthCare sprouted in the region from one hospital—the Washington Sanitarium established in 1907, and later called Washington Adventist Hospital. With a firm belief that one’s good health fosters one’s relationship with God and service to humanity, it incorporated modern health technique with a wholistic approach to healing.
One unfortunate link in the history of these two institutions makes this story fascinating and transformative. Washington Sanitarium received a very ill Lucy Byard one September day in 1943. A Seventh-day Adventist, known for her hospitality and vegetarian cooking, Byard and her husband sought treatment from the Sanitarium. However, when the couple arrived and the hospital staff realized the Byards were black, they turned them away. Ill as she was with liver cancer, and wasting away, the Byards left by taxi, straight to Freedman’s, the hospital that treated everybody. Unfortunately, however, Lucy died there a month later.
Seventh-day Adventists felt this loss, sorely. This faithful grandmother and church musician had been a devoted sister in the church. She entertained great and small, including leaders such as the former editor of Message, Louis B. Reynolds. Hence, in large part, her death pushed the call for equity in the denomination into a different sphere. Black leaders rightfully demanded fairness and access, immediately. White leaders—publicly chagrined and spiritually indicted—placated the request by “allowing” black leaders to govern their own affairs under the banner of Adventism. While the decision to do so may have lacked the sincere change many hoped for, the legacy has been exponential growth of the denomination among African Americans, and all people of color all over the world.
Now separated by seven decades, Anita Adams-Jenkins a black, female, Adventist hospital executive presents on the campus of the Howard University Hospital. She, and the hospital system want to redefine the relationship.
“I toured Howard University Hospital, and the workers didn’t know who we were. I was with some of the leadership at Howard. It was great,” said Adams-Jenkins, who started her profession as a respiratory therapist. She advanced into leadership, acquired her MBA, and managed virtually every hospital function until she became President of the A-rated Sycamore Hospital in Miamisburg, Ohio. Howard, though, is in a different neighborhood.
“What I really saw was Wakanda,” said Adams-Jenkins referencing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ culture-changing inspiration of “Black Panther” and its fictional,technologically-advanced African kingdom. “I saw clinicians and nurses who knew their stuff, and I could help them go to that next level. I know this can be a very special place filled with people who take care of everybody with excellence and that they are the best of the best.”
I tell this tale of two institutions for two simple reasons. Observe, the intersection of race, need, and medical care 158 years ago. It understandably required specialized institutions to address the overwhelming need of formerly enslaved people. Yet the great advancements in medical treatments of our time still fail under bias in practice and lack of access for the underserved. Read in the right light, the Byard story painfully checks the heart of every practitioner.
I tell this tale, also, for the beauty of what can be. Imagine the health of our people when “Wakanda” embraces anew the community-healing, soul-nourishing and transformational practices that extend health, life, and knowledge of the Creator’s care and concern. That truly is next level.