Tonight’s post will be a short one for two reasons: 1) Day 3 was a shorter day, and 2) I need sleep. We began at a new church, the Chapel of Peace, where we had a bible study at 9am. We discussed Genesis 16, which I greatly enjoyed. We talked about some of the difficult passages in Genesis 16, and brought a couple of different translations into the discussion. We asked many questions. Why did Sarai offer Hagar to Abraham? What does this story tell us about Hagar and her status? Why were there problems afterwards? What did God’s messenger mean by telling Hagar to go back and “submit”? Is it significant that Hagar is the first person in the bible to whom a malach (messenger/angel) speaks? And many more questions.
The bible study ended when we were told that lunch was ready for us. A member of the congregation had made us delicious chicken, rice, gravy, beans, and sweet potato pie! I must say… I have been eating incredibly well while here. Much better (and much more) than I ever expected. After lunch, we tried to walk some of it off with a community walk around the neighborhood of Chapel of the Peace, which is also in Inglewood. We saw a variety of neighborhoods, including some apartment buildings and single family homes.
We returned to the church to get into cars and drive to the Crenshaw Mall and Leimert Park. At the mall, we met an African-American pastor from Philadelphia, who showed us around the area. We toured the mall, which seemed very odd to me at first, but then I realized that where people go to shop is a big part of a community’s culture. We talked about the history of the mall, and the original belief that an African-descent community would not be able to support a mall as nice as this one. Well, this community proved those naysayers wrong. After the mall, we continued our walk through a neighboring commercial area, filled with individual and privately owned shops with lots of African art, books, and other mementos. I greatly enjoyed this part of the commercial tour much better than the mall, and I even bought a few things.
I must admit, though, I was checking the scores of the Ravens/Broncos game throughout the tours. Being from Baltimore, I was rooting for the Ravens, and was disappointed to see that we were down 7 points with only a minute to go in the game. As we walked by one of the stores on our way back to the cars, I heard a sudden commotion inside the store, and looked in to find people crowded around a TV. Without even thinking, I ran inside the store, and watched the last 30 seconds of the game with the store owners and customers (all of African descent). Everyone just looked mildly amused that I busted into the store to watch the game with them, and we all cheered the Ravens on.
A couple of times during the day, as we (a group of about 7 white people) walked through the mostly black neighborhoods, a person walking on the street would ask us, “Where are you from?” or “Are you from California?” Obviously, we stuck out as not belonging to these neighborhoods, and people were curious about who we were. We would answer and a friendly conversation began each time. A bit later in the day, I reflected about how different our experiences as white people in a black neighborhood are from the experiences I have heard about of black people walking through a white neighborhood. It seems that, when the roles are reversed, the whites who live in the neighborhood often look upon a black person walking through with suspicion, and are sometimes even encountered in a hostile manner. We, on the other hand, were encountered in a very friendly and curious manner. I never felt challenged or unwelcome. How might the Trayvon Martin case have turned out differently if, instead of following Trayvon, George Zimmerman had casually walked up to Trayvon and asked in a friendly and welcoming manner, “Where are you from?” It is these subtle differences that make all the difference.
After our tours, we headed back to our host families. My host family was home, and I greatly enjoyed finally having some time to talk and get to know them. I watched the end of the Ravens game with them, and we cheered the Ravens onto victory together. My host family cooked a fabulous dinner, and we watched the beginning of the next game together. After awhile, my fellow seminarians headed out to a local bar for a drink and to watch the end of the 49ers/Green Bay game, and so one of my host family and I headed out to the bar together to join the others. We had a great time watching the end of the game, talking, and even dancing a bit to the DJ music. It was fun to hang out not only with my fellow seminarians and my host, but also with the locals in the bar. They all were incredibly friendly, chatting with us, dancing with us, and inviting us back. If only all communities could be so friendly!
Now, I am back at the host family home, and exhausted. I hope any readers will forgive me for being somewhat short this evening in my post. Tomorrow is another day with worship at Holy Trinity, another community walk, and gumbo for lunch. I will write more then. Good night, all.