After reflecting upon the events of last night where a noose was hung on a tree in the Bryan Center Plaza, and after attending the lecture today by Dr. James Cone at the Divinity School on “The Cry of Black Blood” as well as the university forum held today on the Chapel steps, I offer this prayer for the whole Duke community:
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far along the way; Thou who hast by Thy might, led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray today. We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come treading a path through the blood of the slaughtered.* Many today come with tears of sorrow, tears of anger, and tears asking challenging questions. We ask our own question to You, God, “Why this, again?”
We remember what happened last night on campus calling to mind how – as Billie Holiday sang:
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees.
[This] strange and bitter crop that still bears its rotten fruit even at major research universities, dangling from a Bryan Center Plaza tree.
I am reminded also, as a Christian minister, that this is Holy Week and we are approaching the Friday when we will even gaze upon the strange fruit of God hanging from a tree on Mount Calvary.
Yet, we stand in solidarity at the foot of the cross with our feet firmly planted on the ground of crucified hope and as we cry out for justice and cry out for truth and cry out in despair, we ask that we may look for ways to sow seeds that will bear the fruit of love, justice, mercy, righteousness, peace, understanding, and hospitality, and that we might lift every voice until they ring with the harmonies of liberty and freedom. Set us free.
In the name of our crucified God, Jesus Christ, who cried out for us. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery
Dean of Duke Chapel
* "Lift Every Voice and Sing," James Weldon Johnson