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'The Power of Dreaming Out Loud'

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On Feb. 7, Wesley Theological Seminary hosted its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture. The featured speaker was the Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta and a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  She spoke on “The Power of Dreaming Out Loud.”

Fry Brown, a mentor to powerful and prophetic preachers like Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, introduced herself asa 71-year-old Black woman, a seminary preaching professor, an academic dean, a woman, a scholar, a social activist, an ordained itinerant clergyperson in a predominantly African diaspora denomination that was founded on religious and social-political protest, but sometimes loses their way.”

“I am,” she said, “a weeping woman thinking about what my grandson will have to endure as a Black boy born in this United States. I'm wary of the continued apathetic acquiescence, the existence erasure, the gentrified grouping, the jaundice justice, the mansplaining mutants, the mind manipulation, the monetized miracles, and the parasitic policing going on.

“I am the dream, I'm the hope, the feeling of expectation, of the desire of certain things that should be happening in this country. I am the hope, the chariot aspiration, the ambition, the ideal of my ancestors and my lineage. My grandparents instilled the precept and example that I was to learn more, to achieve more, to do more, to experience more, to help as many as I could.

“Their sacrifices, disgraces, wounds, successes, joys, sorrows, and dreams were dinner table conversation and daily prayers, Sunday morning worship, unnecessary activist learning, desegregating whatever they could.  … I believed freedom was possible because they said so, they hoped so, they believed so, they dreamed so.”

During her lecture, Dr. Fry Brown spoke about her personal engagement with dreaming out loud, delivered a brief analysis of Martin Luther King's dream, explored a few contemporary dreamscapes and nightmares, and shared some of her womanist musings about how to dream out loud. She challenged those present in the Oxnam Chapel at Wesley Seminary to begin to act with greater intention.  See her entire lecture.

“God, I'm tired of reaction and not action,” she said. “I'm tired of every time we get to look at the news, people react for 15 minutes and go back to business as usual. Maybe we are weaponizing exegesis of King's words for political patronage, maybe we're so comfortable with the status quo we don't want to act, maybe we thought we achieved the American dream, at least until the next Supreme Court ruling.

“Dreaming out loud is active engagement, not reactive to social media-driven photo ops; it's not waiting for the next leader; it's not seeking permission to be the persons that we know God called us to be. … Why are we reciting the same words from 60 years ago? Re-envision the dream, learn to think out loud, do a re-memory.”

Drawing on her “womanist imaginings and active womb work,” Dr. Fry Brown encouraged people of faith to ask questions, probe deeply, to make new horizons and have faith in the substance of dreams -- even in the midst of discomfort.

“My womanist leaning says we all have agency,” she said. “Why are we waiting for the next leader when everybody in this room can be a leader? Use your agency. Carpe diem. You’re responsible for your own healing, stop waiting for a savior.”

If we are to survive and thrive, Dr. Fry Brown said, we should “practice love of ourselves, stop waiting for someone else's affirmation that we have self-discipline,” and “stop going along to get along.”

Everybody, she stressed, “is empowered to dream and to lead.”

Dr. Fry Brown also cautioned people to “leave the crooked rooms.” The crooked room, she explained, comes from an experiment in the post-World War II era on cognition. Scientists would construct a room that was leaning on a 35 percent angle. They would put a person in the room to see if they would adapt to the room or stand up straight.

“I declare too many people are adapting instead of learning to stand up straight in a room. Don't be in a box,” she said. “You can only be in a box if you allow them to put you in a box. Lock the door and close the key. Stand up straight. Align yourself with your godliness.”

“… Even in the face of justice fatigue, to keep doing the work and to put in the justice time to move ahead from divine dissatisfaction,” she said, calling on people to imagine the already and the not yet. “Imagine equality -- fully awake and fully engaged.”

“I end with the words of a woman who was a hidden architect of the moderate civil rights movement,” Dr. Fry Brown said. “Ella Baker intoned, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it's done.’ Dream out loud.”


Ophelia Brown Carter Feb 13, 2023 1:06pm

WOW !!