Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Black Life Lessons

by Cintia Listenbee

February is Black History month here in the United States. I believe the need to celebrate Black History is still great. African Americans went through so much injustice and through God’s grace, acquired civil rights, which gives dignity to this strong and valiant people. I am not a U.S. citizen, but I am of African descent, which makes me part of a people who fought and won freedom.


I learned to be proud of my blackness through the influence of my parents and grandparents in Brazil. They also taught me that the color of my skin does not equal inferiority. The most important thing in life is to look at the author and finisher of my faith, a God who has a wonderful plan for my life.

I have lived in the U.S. for 17 years and have learned many things about my upbringing in Brazil. One thing I noticed after moving to the U.S. is that my paternal great-grandfather was black. I did not notice it before because there was no need to question the skin color of my family members. Living in a society that at times separates us because of skin color changed the ways my eyes looked at family albums.
I didn't know my great grandfather was Black until
I moved to the U.S. and looked at this picture.
From left: my sister Lady, my cousin Felipe,
mysef, my great grandfather Ponciano and
my brother Jefferson

Another thing I experienced firsthand is that some light-skinned Brazilians living in the U.S. are prejudiced against black Brazilians. After experiencing a bad situation of racism in New York, I became hesitant about talking to light-skinned Brazilians because I am afraid of discrimination. I am asking God to change my heart. I know not all people discriminate.
When I visited my hometown in Rio de Janeiro, I noticed that sales people were not as eager to help me as they would a white person because of my skin color. When they saw that my credit card was international and I told them I live in the U.S., the first thing they asked me was, “Are you a maid in the States?”

Before I had kids, I was off work and on my way to walk around a lake. I heard there was a Brazilian visiting my workplace, so I decided to say “hi.” I was wearing a T-shirt and jogging pants. He looked at me up and down and asked if I cleaned the hotel where we were. These stories are only to show you that racism also exists among Brazilians. No matter where people suffer this injustice, God teaches us an unchangeable principle.

Overcoming evil with good
I believe God, our creator, loves all of our diversity. God created us the way we are on purpose, and God’s love is everlasting. Humans are not perfect, but God is just. Romans 12:21, NRSV, says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” I believe the Civil Rights Movement led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great example of overcoming evil with good. I thank God for God’s plan of equality and peace on earth. Black History Month is important, but not only in the United States, because we can pause to celebrate the achievements of blacks all over the world.

It is important for me to teach my three children to thank God for the freedoms we have as blacks; to share the histories of blacks in Brazil, the U.S. and Africa; and to help the African continent with their God-given resources.

Some of us already help Africa in different ways. My dream is to make an impact on the continent in the name of Jesus Christ, with both with the gospel and financial resources.
Let us pray for Blacks all over the world, especially those still suffering injustices because of the color of their skin.

--Journalist Cintia Listenbee blogs at www.simplycintia.com.  Her new e-book is called “Tweeting with God.”
-- This story at UMC.ORG