This message was written and delivered by Sonya Brown.
There’s a phrase, “you should never meet your heroes.” I wish I never met this author. My criminal justice professor invited me to meet one of my favorite Indigenous authors. I was so excited. I had all the books written by the author and one which was signed. The day arrived. The author was encouraging us to do our best and gain what we can out of the world. Then the author told us never to go back to our Reservations and communities. The author said to make life elsewhere. This was a crushing blow to me. The books I read were of Reservation life and of living in two worlds of our culture and dominant society. Why would I want to completely abandon my people and my Reservation?
My professor and I walked back to the building for class and she told me not to take the advice of the author. She reminded me that we may work individually to build our skills and knowledge, but we must use what we learned, developed, and gained to help our people and community. There will be hardship and our people have endured a lot. We can never abandon who we are and where we come from.
I think about the words of my professor and what she had taught me about criminal justice and the effects it has on Indigenous people in the United States. I think about what I have learned from professors at the Christian university I attended. All this learned knowledge and lived experience has shaped me. I come to learn that what I am called to as a pastor is not separate from the community I have come from, the communities I have been part of, and the community of believers of Christ.
It can be difficult when individuals come together as a community. We all have different ways we are brought up and have things that are comforting. If you want to test that thought, go out to dinner with a group of people or have a conversation about barbeque. Should barbeque have wet or dry rub? What’s the best wood? Pork or beef? Ribs or brisket? Barbecue varies by region and everyone has their favorite place. Me and my son love Micklethwait Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Our favorite is their smoked beef brisket. Here in Kansas City, our favorite is Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and Jack Stack Barbeque. I love to try new places and the only thing that will likely deter me going back is my experience there and cleanliness.
We may never agree on what is the best barbecue but, we’re willing to gather at the table to eat barbecue together. We may find out that we have a new favorite that we’re willing to visit over and over again.
Today, I ask that you reflect on what you have learned from the communities you have been and are part of. Think about what you learned and what you had to deconstruct. What experiences have shaped you and formed you to the person you are today.