How I became a Christian

  My introduction to the church came through drums beating near my neighborhood and kids my age were marching to the beat following the drums, like the Pied Piper, all the way to the church where we were served cookies and Kool aid. Later they started talking to us about Jesus and how we were sinners with a black heart (they showed us a heart shape cardboard, all pained black and another heart, all white) and they asked us if you wanted to go to heaven which will we choose?  We were recruited. I chose the cookies and Kool aid also.

  After that, there was no more instructions but I was told that I had to go to Mass every Sunday. My problem was that I didn’t like the Spanish speaking priest that hovered over me from the pulpit and told me I was going to hell if I didn’t repent.  Fortunately, I also wanted to sing in the choir and that was high above in the choir loft. Now I could look down at the priest.

From then on we were indoctrinated until we were ready to receive Holy Communion. I was dressed in a white suit. The candle and a prayer book were provided by my godparents. I have no idea where the suit came from but I liked the feel of it. Later on it was loaned out to my uncle Lucio. After that, I didn’t know where it went.

  Up to the time when I graduated from high school, I was always singing in the choir and when it was time to receive communion we had to go down a steep stairwell which creaked at every step going up or down. I use that as an excuse not receive communion but, so did everybody else in the choir. Besides, we were singing hymns all during that time.

  When I joined the military, Sundays were reserved for resting and recreation. Now that I was away from the family, I wasn’t attending Mass. (That had been instilled in me by my grandmother who I believed never attended church but insisted that I go in her place) Now that I was free to do what I wanted. Mass was not my priority.

  When I got married was the only time I had been back to church. My wife who is a staunch Catholic left me alone until I felt guilty enough to attend church service with her. However, my heart was not in it. (I still remember the sisters telling me about my black heart.)

  All through the times in the military, I had questioned my faith and prayed a lot during times of crisis. However, it was on my last overseas tour in Germany that a group of people from Amarillo, Texas came and gave a retreat called “Cursillos” which was a movement in the Catholic church to teach the faith to those who do not understand it. I was moved to a point that I became more involved in the church. I started reading the bible.

  When I was young the church suggested that we don’t read the bible because we might not understand it. That’s even if the readings during the Mass were taken from the bible. Rather we should continue praying the prayers in our prayer book.  That’s one of the reasons we never had a bible at home.

  The other thing is that we were not allowed to go to the other churches in the neighborhood. My parents and grandparents call them the “Alleluyahs” because that’s what they said during a sermon in their church. I visited one of them as a teenager because a friend of mine was attending church there and I was curious. It was completely different from our service. Made me want to go back but what threw me off was that they had services on Sunday all day and night. I just couldn’t be one of them because one hour was the best that I could do at that time. Besides they were Christians and I was Catholic.

  Now as an older person, I have found that we are Christians too. That was a revelation brought on by my belief in Jesus Christ. At one time I had been attending a Christian evangelical meeting with my Catholic friends. One of my Hispanic friend asked me why I was going with those Christians, I thought you were Catholic? That’s when I realized that a lot of Catholic had the same attitude.

  I am now able to say that I’m also a staunch Catholic following the rituals and traditions of my church, lighting my candles, praying the rosary. Now, I do read the bible and meditating on the Word. However, I am a christian

Protest vs Rioting

An incident happened that made the world take notice about a man’s freedom and how it was taken from him by a corrupt police man. It had happened before in the past and nobody took mind of it because he was black and everybody took a blind eye.

This time there was a video which showed how this black man was executed by a white man. The times have changed and everybody protested. At first it began as a peaceful protest and then it became violent. The cities around the country had protesters become rioters damaging property and being arrested by the hundreds. This became the norm for a few days and slowly died down. However, this “norm” was what the media reported on the violent outbreaks as if they were the primary things happening. It ended up making it easy for TV viewers to condemn the protest altogether because all they saw was the violence and chaos not the peaceful protest and reasonable conversations that protesters were having.

What was it that sparked the intense hatred of that lone police man and law enforcement in general? It had to be a series of incidents that just enraged the black community and finally had enough.

 Going back to 1968 when Martin Luther King who preached nonviolence was assassinated, the black community rioted because he was going to be the key to the freedom they wanted and they lost him.

Back in Abraham Lincolns time, he had proclaimed the negro free from slavery. The freedom they craved was equality not just from being a slave. From that time on, every black person was treated differently regardless if he had a job or even owned a piece of the land. There was no fraternization between white man and black even if they were partners in a project.

The black community knew if they were to survive as a group it became necessary to segregate themselves from the white people because they were systematically prevented from leaving their neighborhoods due to unfair housing policies which discriminated against minorities and made it nearly impossible for them to find homes in wealthier/white they created black majority businesses and churches and schools.

Even then, they were persecuted by law enforcement. Blacks were lynch for minor crimes by white vigilantes. This went on until the 1960s. However, more blacks than white were being targeted and harassed by the police. So, the black community took to the task of not trusting the police and passed that anger to their children. Growing up in a black community and seeing the injustice being done by the white policemen, they started to protest which only inflamed the police more. Riot police went out of their way to stop the protest using Billy clubs, dogs, water and tear gas. There was no getting away from the assault of policemen arresting those people whose only crime was protesting for equal rights.

This racist mentality had been passed on to white people since slavery was begun in the United States and even in other countries who believe the negro was incapable of being human. To them, he was an animal on a leach and treated as such. They were not equal even if the Declaration of Independence said so. There were some changes eventually. In 1948 or so, President Truman integrated the Armed forces and let to blacks having equal rights and training. There were still a lot of misgivings about being around black soldiers. That changed somewhat because in combat they had to back each other up if they were to survive.

The black community had policed themselves to a point where there were educated men who rose to prominence. However, not everybody had a decent life. There were poor blacks who still felt the anger and hate of the white man. They were street people who barely made a living and blame the world for their fate. Their language was crude and boisterous. They were more prone to be attracted by the police even if they were standing on the corner doing nothing but hanging out. It didn’t help if they lived in a crime infested area.

So, when this incident happened, people, white and black who saw the video were aghast at what one lone policemen did and showing no emotion for the man lying down with the officer’s knee on his neck and saying “I can’t breathe” and the onlookers asking for the officer to let him breath before he died. That was too much. What’s more is that the other policemen did not stop from doing so.

The police men who were involved were fired and charged with second degree murder and now awaiting trial. People are still protesting but in a quiet way. Memorials and prayers are being led by church pastors.

Former president Obama came on TV and told the black community that now you should enact policy changes in each city. It is time for that now. At this writing, cities are banning choke holds. Congress is having a bill to reform law enforcement.

If there is going to be a reformed law enforcement practices, let it be in the way the police are recruited and evaluated as to their mental capacity to deal with people of every persuasion. We need the police to protect us from ourselves. There is no reason for riot police to be on site when there’s a peaceful protest. However, there should be some police to check the behavior of the group. There will always be agitators.

This is not enough. There should be equality for everybody. This is what black people want. Equal access to everything. From the justice system to the education process. Not only for backs but also for those being treated differently because of their gender or sexual identity or racial identity. Let’s all really believe in the Declaration of Independence this time and follow it as it was meant to be by our founding fathers