Hope Dies Last: A Word on Kelly Gissendaner

On this day, September 21, 2011, I wrote an Open Letter to the State of Georgia about the state-authorized death of one of their sons, Troy Davis.

The blog went viral in a matter of 24 hours, finding its way on a host of news sites and it would be the first time that I would enter into public discourse about social justice and the death penalty.

Four years later, I’d find myself penning yet another article about a daughter of the State of Georgia, Kelly Gissendaner, a woman whose original execution was stayed because the drugs the State planned to use to kill her were cloudy and not fit for use. Recently, we learned that Kelly would be executed by the State of Georgia on the 29th of this month, after six long months of appeals and public outcry for her stay of execution. Continue reading

The Path

If you know anything about parking at Emory University, you know it can be quite the task to park on or around campus — especially if you’re a commuter student and don’t have a parking pass!

Sometimes I park along the street where Barnes & Noble is to save on my commuter parking swipes in the deck or when my visit on campus will be short. Today I parked in my “Oh thank you Jesus I found a spot!” location on the street. I usually follow the sidewalk around the corner and up the hill to campus, but today I noticed a few students walking through a lightly wooded area on a makeshift path that heavy laden feet have created.

I hopped out my car, followed the path that I saw them on, and actually cut through my usual route closer to Candler. I thought to myself, “Well look at Gawd!”

Here’s the thing: sometimes you don’t know the path to your destination exists until you see someone else walking it first. Sometimes we don’t understand why our lives go a certain direction but know that the path you take to success will lead other people to their destined path as well. We’ll all get there after while, won’t we? 

Share this simple lesson with someone you know who’s looking for their path, too!

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

Freedom: It’s Relative

Today, the Candler School of Theology had the opportunity to host Voices of Hope, a choir composed of women who are currently in prison at the Lee Arrendale Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison two hours northeast of Atlanta. Candler has been abuzz about their arrival for weeks; “A life changing experience!” one of my third year classmates exclaimed. “You’ll really understand what it means to worship freely,” another one commented. After seeing Voices of Hope (VOH) perform today, I’ve can say that both of them were right.

As I got dressed this morning, I began to think about the women who too were getting dressed to prepare to come sing to us. As I freely put on my lipstick and fitted skinny jeans, and as I changed my mind on what top to wear a few times, I thought about the women who may look like or even be my same age as me who are brushing their teeth in their cells, using a small mirror’s reflection to comb their hair, and doing their absolute best to make a good impression on us who were coming to listen to them. In tandem, we woke up today, prepared ourselves to come to Candler, and arrived with expectations of something great.

Words cannot really express how powerful it was watching these incarcerated women praise God in spirit and in truth. What a juxtaposition it was to see their beautiful robes swinging with every beat and their well shined prison shoes and khaki pants peeking from the bottom.

One woman told me that she had been in jail for 19 years and wasn’t sure how long she would remain in prison. She sang, however, as if she was free from everything. All of the women did. Free from the past, free from the present, free from it all. With hands lifted, they gave us a roller coaster of emotions; at one point, the entire chapel was in tears.

 

What does this have to say about our own worship experiences with God? If one can be in physical bondage but can still worship God so freely, what is keeping those who are “free” from doing the same? These women sang of victory, liberation, faith, justice, and a hope for the future despite their incarceration. Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed…even if they are confined to a prison cell. The idea of “freedom” is relative. “We” are free, yet we live bound by the past, our fears, our inadequacies, and our shortcomings. “We” are free, yet we sit tight-lipped in church, slow to speak to our neighbor, and use religion as a means to control the “others”.

When it was all over, students from the ConEd site served the women their lunches. We catered to them, got them anything they needed; I wondered when was the last time many of them had a catered lunch with a full wait staff. They disrobed and we were starkly reminded of the “labels” that had been placed on them: they were “owned” by the Department of Corrections. Their spirits, though, belonged to God.

Today reminded me that this idea of “freedom” is such a relative term. It reminded me to stop taking my own freedoms for granted and use every moment I have to give thanks and exert intentional actions into my praise and worship with God. Knowing scripture, having the most profound exegesis, or have a good Holy Ghost dance means nothing without an understanding of freedom in Him and a heart of servitude. Serving God begins and ends with serving the least of those among us.

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

Berklee Bound!

I always get requests from people to guest blog or post certain topics or issues on my blog. 99 percent of the time, the answer is no.

However, there’s always that one percent.

I received a call from my friend Tar’Ra, who, usually opens up with giddy banter and giggle filled “hello’s”, got straight to the point.

“You know Satar’Ra (her daughter) got a full ride to Berklee, right?”

“Yes!,” I exclaimed. “I remember.”

“Well, they ran out of funding and are only covering three-fourths of her tuition this year. We have to come up with the other money before August first or she can’t attend.”

Optimistically I asked, “Well, how much is it?” (Surely, it can’t be THAT much).

“$20,000.”

You can imagine how the rest of the conversation went; a single mother of two who’s made a pretty good career as a hair stylist has decided to leave her home and downsize to a two bed room apartment to free up $1,000 a month to help get Satar’Ra to Berklee.

I wrote an article about Satar’Ra in Atlanta Tastemaker Magazine  (January 2012) and told thousands of readers about this musical phenom; she plays 5 instruments and was one of The Grammy’s featured students at their annual summer music intensive in LA. In that article, she was hoping to attend Berklee to pursue music. A few months later, she learned that not only was she accepted, but had a full scholarship. How heartbreaking must it have been to learn that like many colleges across the U.S., Berklee didn’t have enough money to cover all of her expenses this year.

Her dream, however, doesn’t have to be deferred.

Her mom has set up a secure account to help raise funds to send Satarra to Berklee. The link is here. [don’t just bypass this. Click it. Donate. Not for me, for her.]

If you have any doubt about her musical talent (who’s last name is TROUTMAN… ring a musical legacy bell? Think Roger.) Check out her YouTube Page. This girl gives me CHILLS every time she opens her mouth to sing.

I’m making my donation this weekend. How amazing would it be to see this girl make her dreams come true at one of the TOP music programs in the country on the backs of those who believe in her?

If you have any questions or want to find her on Facebook, here are her links:

On the Chase for Others,
Alisha L.