My church has a tradition.
Every January the saints gather and eat a dinner called the sacrifice dinner.
It’s cooked by the church cook.
The recipe is passed down from the saints of old.
Beans, fatback, potatoes, bread, water and Jello…the red jello to be exact
The beans are called great northern beans.
The fatback is there as the meat. It’s the only meat some of them growing up in the south had. They would kill the hog, hang it in the barn and then, eat the fat.
The potatoes are the white potatoes. No special way to cooking them. Boil and season them. Sometimes depending on who is cooking they may be fried with onions.
The bread is called fritters. It’s made with cornmeal that comes in a yellow bag. It’s mixed with water and eggs.
The water, it’s usually taken from the faucet. This year the saints were served bottled water.
The jello. Well, it wasn’t always sold in a box. They used to make their jello and the tapioca. Coming up, there was always a dessert on the side.
Then the church made rules for the dinner:
The Senior Missionaries Cook.
The Junior Missionaries Serve.
The Brotherhood Clean.
All sisters, not on the choir, wear all white.
We eat in silence. No talking or laughing.
We eat and remember the saints of old.
How they were poor and did not have much
How they prayed on cold wooden or stone floors
How education did not come freely
How the church family did not have a church building to keep them warm in the winter or cool in the summer
How they had to walk miles to worship or learn
How they had to labor a bit longer and harder than us
How they had to endure
How some had to carry seats on their head because there were no chairs
How their life journey took all the smiling and laughter away from their aged stricken bodies
We think about their names: Mother Longjourney, Mother Havingahardtime, Mother Lukus, Mother Nixon, Mother Chisem, Mother Hammond, Bishop Goodwin, Bishop Johnson, Bishop Dixon, Mother Woods, Mother Frazier, Minister Richards, Mother Claudia Dixon, Mother Gussie, Mother Virgeous Bridgett, Sister Amy Hurley, Sister Rose Jones, Bishop Belton Green, Bishop Melvin Samuels
We are told it was started in Bishop Johnson days and then it was discontinued
Then, it was started under Bishop Goodwin sometime during the 80’s by Mother Lukus, Mother Claudia Dixon and Mother Virgeous Bridgett
Then, we think about us and how blessed we are.
We say peace be and go home.
~Thank You to Mother Virgeous Bridgett for helping me with the history
Taliyah who loves to pay attention to diversity and others asked Asrar to teach her how to make her scarf into a hijab. Mr. Sylvester was there to capture the moment.
A week ago during the snow storm, I left my warm apartment and went to Harlem and volunteered with i, Too, Arts Collective which is a non-profit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. They are responsible for renovating the Harlem renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, home.
When I was in college, I went on a date with a young man who grew up in New Orleans. He was crazy about the Harlem renaissance because of his high school teachers. I, who grew up in New York, was crazy about Harlem because of the books I read alone (my high school curriculum skipped majority of my history…really America’s true history). In any case, he took me to Harlem for a date and I remember us standing outside of Langston Hughes home taking about his poems. Then we spoke about what it would take for his home to become a museum. Then, we stopped talking so the conversation pretty much died like a raisin in the sun. However, the dream didn’t because I am now apart of a team of people who are preserving Mr. Hughes legacy by opening up his space and reserving it for writers and other artist to gather.
Last Sunday, my brother friends took him up on his invitation to church.
Little did they know that that night they will have to fix a flat on the mini volkswagen they were riding around in.