Using the Past to See the Present and Chart a Course for the Future
Sankofa
Bishop Eugene Johnson, head of Madison Pentecostal
Assembly
And it is within these imperfect systems and cultures that the complex forces within human beings are shaped and formed.

“How one approaches the imperfection of people who acted out through our institutions, our laws and our practices and the system we build on our imperfect
nature is important,” Johnson said. “The one that strikes a lot of passion is hatred. And hatred based upon differences. These were expressed early in the Biblical
times between two brothers, Cain and Abel. But the hatred is because of fear. With that fear, people then strive to address their fears. And we see it played out in
so many ways in the past and now into the future. The fear of people of a certain group will eliminate or overcome me or will rule me and limit my own wellbeing
or limit my pursuit of my own goals and objectives. It’s me, me, me instead of us trying to work together to coalesce to accomplish the things that I want. I fear
that person. And not only that, but one of the most economical ways to exercise your fear is to hate.  Hate can be baseless. And so that is the efficacy of hate. I don’
t need to be taught how to hate.”

And it is systems molded by hate and fear is what drove Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and others to embrace love to change those imperfect
institutions.

“The ferocity of the hatred to curtail the other person’s civil rights has to be matched with the intensity of the love,” Johnson emphasized. “Now love is not
popular. It’s not longstanding in the eyes of many people. But the Bible says that love will be the only thing that will remain standing at the end. It talks about that in
Corinthians. Now I understand man more than just what you see. You look deeper. You look at the essence. And most everyone knows this in the Book of First
Corinthians when it says, ‘Now by the faith, hope and charity — charity which is divine love — the greatest of these is charity.’ What that is saying is that after
everything else has failed, love will prevail. And I believe this is one of the reasons why we continue to honor Dr. King. We appreciate all of the other civil rights
leaders and all of the predecessors. It’s not to say that they ought to be done away with or forgotten or things they did are unimportant. Going all the way back in
the culture to the Antebellum times and period up until now, those who played roles in violence, those who played roles in subverting then cruel laws and helping
people get to their freedom to live with their human rights and their inalienable civil rights, they had to use various means. But the ultimate one that is going to
prevail is love. Love is the thing that is going to prevail. And love is complicated.”

Within that context, Johnson brought his analysis to the present.

“It started with Roger Ailes and Fox News giving a blueprint to promote hatred and meanness,” Johnson reflected. “Newt Gingrich talked about being tough and
negative and hatred. And that energized people. It’s easier to energize people to hate because that’s a built in part of our cursed nature. It’s easier to do that, to
make people hate. And so, that now has lived within a certain political party and it is getting to an exponential level to the point where it can only be matched by
the counter intensity of love. If that intensity is not there, hate for the moment, will prevail. We need a lot more people to really manifest and to express that love in
so many different ways. This whole hatred thing has taken us back to what African Americans were experiencing in America in terms of the whole human rights
thing. First of all, whether you are subhuman, whether you are some other creature, whether you are full human and then whether you are a total person. That took
years to overcome — centuries — and it is still there. It is so easy to hate. It doesn’t take training to hate. However, that can be programmed in a person. You can
be programmed to hate where you don’t have to think. You just hate anyways. I think that is what made the civil rights struggle so tough in the past. People aren’t
treating you like a human. They are treating you like an animal. And sometimes, they treated you worse than an animal. The police department wouldn’t beat a dog,
but they beat Rodney King back then.”

Sometimes it seems that history repeats itself over and over again, especially the repression in Black history. But Johnson sees signs that things may be different
now. The signs are there if one only looks.

Next issue: Change
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling

Sankofa - Sankofa is a word in the Akan Twi and Fante languages of Ghana that translates to "Go back
and get it"
 — Wikipedia

In many ways, Sankofa is looking at the past to understand the present in order to chart a course for
the future.

When asked to reflect on the civil rights movement through the lens of Sankofa, Bishop Eugene
Johnson, head of Madison Pentecostal Assembly, takes it back to the beginning of humankind to
understand the present state of civil rights and to chart a course for the future, seeing it also through a
Christological lens.

“I think the essence of the whole question of civil rights and the way that we see it now being
expressed, I’ve got six imperfections,” Johnson said. “We have imperfect people. We have imperfect
institutions. We have imperfect laws. Imperfect people build imperfect institutions. They promulgate
imperfect laws. They have imperfect practices based on those laws. We have imperfect systems. And
we have imperfect cultures.”