We Are In This Together

The Crucible Project is one of the most authentic places I have ever experienced … where men of color like me can get a glimpse of what co-equal relationships with our white brothers can look and feel like.

You see, even today there are certain injustices that African-American men face on a relatively routine basis:

  • Educational injustices
  • Economic injustices
  • Racial profiling by police
  • Housing discrimination

I only have a few hundred words in this blog post, so I can’t unpack each of these to give them the attention they each warrant. But, I do believe there is an underlying core theme to each of them, and that’s what I’m writing about today. The underlying core issue here is NOT BEING SEEN. The picture I chose to accompany this post is from the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. It depicts several African-American men (and a lone white man) marching for the strike and wearing signs that say “I AM A MAN.”  The signs they wore are more than messages for a sanitation strike. To me, the picture symbolizes a pervasive frustration that many men of color experience today … NOT BEING SEEN.

Nearly 50 years after that strike, men of color still resonate with the message on those signs. In his book, Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Dubois called this “dual consciousness,” which is constantly looking at yourself through the eyes of others. Because of our color, we are sometimes not viewed as men or co-equals, but instead as “projects,” “categories” or perhaps “special interests.”  People do not see a man with a heart, head and hands. They typically see a black man (African American) or maybe a brown man (Asian). Fill in the blank. When this happens, most of the time men of color have just a few ways to respond in their best effort to make sense of things:

  • We can join the crowd and try to fit in. To some, that seems accommodating.
  • We can stand against it, even when the odds are against us, and be seen as the unique and Godly creations that we are. To some, that seems adversarial.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a cop-out. Its not. I’m just painting a picture of the modern-day reality that many men of color continue to face in our ongoing efforts to be seen. Granted, there have been some amazing and valuable changes across our country in the efforts of equality and racial reconciliation.  But, as a man of color, I’ll concede that many times I still feel invisible. One of the hardest issues I continue to face in my life is being seen equal as a man. Will I be seen as equal? What do I have to do in order to be regarded as equal?

However, I don’t experience this tension when I’m in a community of Christian men called The Crucible Project.  I did my initial weekend with The Crucible Project back in November of 2011. Since then, I have staffed more than 16 additional weekends. Time after time, the truth and grace that emanate from the men across this community remind me that there is a place where men are seen as men, where they are embraced and honored for their differences, where they are called out on their bull***t, and where they are still loved unconditionally.

In The Crucible Project, I have seen men of all kinds of backgrounds confront each other, pursue reconciliation and choose love above all else. They see me, and they accept me, just as I am. I am a man. As Crucible men who comprise the community we all love, a question for us is this: What cost are we willing to pay to extend what we experience within The Crucible Project to other areas of our life? If we feel co-equal when we’re on a Crucible Project weekend, in a group, or at an event, then how can we create that ripple effect for other men in our world?

We can only do it together, men. With the integrity, grace and courage that we value so deeply. And if we can get this right during our brief time here on Planet Earth, I believe we’ll all get a taste of the powerful, and healing community of co-equals that awaits us all in eternity.

– By Phil Jackson

Phil completed his initial Crucible Project weekend in November 2011. For nearly 30 years, his passion has been to bring the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to young men, such as in Chicago’s north Lawndale neighborhood. He has served as a youth pastor, associate pastor and lead pastor of Lawndale area churches in addition to founder and executive director of The Firehouse Community Art Center. He also is co-author of The Hip-Hop Church, the Urban Devotional Bible and is a contributing writer for A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry.