Black History Month Questions for Troy
For Black History Month, we took the time to sit down and have a candid discussion with Pastor Troy on his reflections on Black identity, joy, and promoting resiliency in the community.
Black Americans represent a disproportionate majority of those experiencing homelessness and those effected by the Covid-19 Crisis? What do you feel are the root causes of this? What direct actions can we take to address this disparity?
- “The disparities are systemic to the issues of racism in our country – institutional racism, systematic racism that has contributed to the dismantling of healthcare systems, particularly in communities of color. What COVID-19 has done is just expose that disparity even further. We need to make sure that we are being very intentional about doing several things in our community around people of color. To breakthrough to our youth, we need to make sure that they have the interest and access to jobs and training in the medical field. We need to make sure that people who want to go to school to be a biologist, a doctor, or a dentist – that we are encouraging those interests within our communities of color. If we don’t start understanding that our progeny and our youth are the key to us reversing the yields of the past, we will never be able to solve it. In addition to that, we need to make sure that we are cultivating resources as it relates to the creation of community clinics, federally qualified health care centers, and health care systems. Those safety nets need to be put back in communities of color and built up in a way that ensures equitable access. The third thing we need to do is make sure that the people that are most impacted by the system are being brought into a position where they can now influence the system itself. Until we are able to do that, we’re not going to be able to solve the disparities we have in our country.”
What do you feel have been the biggest resiliency factors for the Black community when confronting these historical and societal challenges?
- “I think there is an awakening. The thing that makes Black people particularly resilient, is the fact that we’ve already overcome so much and, historically, it is embedded within us to survive. We need to make sure that we pass that type of legacy on to our children. Black people have been fighting for the right to be Black in America, since we were brought over here on a boat. Almost every immigrant that’s here in the United States of America came of their own volition except for Black people. We were brought here to do work and to build a nation that never has accepted us. Our resiliency is proven in the fact that we have caught up in many cases, but there is still more work to do. Other groups in this country have had a 250-year head start and Black people are still here, finding a way to thrive. We have to do a better job in terms of understanding who we are, to coalesce from a mantra, to a mission, and then to a method to really understand how we can begin to attack these disparities. We appreciate the Black Lives Matter movement, because it has brought an awakening. The movement has been successful because young people of all walks, all levels of diversity, educational backgrounds, ethnicities, and races coalesced together to stand up and say ‘that this is not right.’ The Black Lives Matter movement took off because other groups joined in. You can only bring about change when you have all people understanding that until everybody moves together, nobody is moving at all.”
One criticism of public discourse of Black History in America is that it often glosses over the “truth”. Alice Walker says, “Healing begins where the wound was made,”. In your opinion, what does “truth-telling” look like and how can spiritual healing of these “wounds” begin?
- “I think, the first step is to ‘be the truth that you seek.’ A lot of times, when we have been wounded for so long, it’s important to understand that we need to begin the healing within ourselves before we can have the healing outside. Many times, when we approach a situation from a place of harm instead of repair, we almost do more harm than good. I think we have to learn how to be the truth that we seek. When we do that and come to any situation with our authentic selves, we don’t have to hide from the past of who we were and what made us who we are today. We can stand in the integrity of that experience and be true to our own selves. We say in the word of God, ‘to thine own self be true,’ which is an invitation to really examine ourselves and see whether or not we are who we say we are, that we are in the faith that we believe. That is the important part of understanding what it means to ‘be the truth that you seek.’
It has been said that “Black joy is an act of resistance,” how can we work to center joy in social justice work and everyday life? What joy do you center in your life?
- “For me, joy is the cornerstone of who I am; it has nothing to do with happiness. I think joy is something that is internalized, it’s something that you have within yourself, and you have to connect it to your ‘why.’ For example, why do you get up every day and what brings you joy in your life. Happiness has to do with the external things that you put in your life? But joy is internal; it is something that’s rooted deep inside of you. The reason why joy is activated and the pursuit of it is able to counterbalance the negativity in the world, is because it can’t be destroyed. If there’s something that’s on the inside of you, it cannot be taken from you, because it belongs to you. Our Black Ancestors had joy even when they were enslaved, even when they were in chains. They had something on the inside of them that could not strip away their dignity. It is through the art of storytelling that they were able to pass on that legacy of resilience that is rooted in joy, their Creator, in their relationships, their sense of family, and staying connected to the root of who they are. It’s like a submarine that goes down into the deep waters – the deeper it goes the more pressure it takes onto its hull. The way the submarine can withstand that pressure is by equalizing the pressure within, that is what joy is like for the Black community. Joy is that thing that allows us to equalize the pressure so that we cannot be crushed from the things on the outside.”
What does it mean for you to be the first African-American CEO / President of Los Angeles Mission? How does this experience shape your perspective and vision for the work you will contribute as a leader?
- “For me, to be the first in anything means that you cannot fail, because you never want to be the last. When you are the first, you do not just represent yourself – you represent your family, the legacy you stand on, and you represent a group of people – so at every point and every turn you have to be excellent at what you do. That means you have to master your craft, understand more than the ordinary person understands, and most importantly, you need to be true to yourself. I am not going to be a ‘whitewashed’ person because, I am not. I am a Black man who is educated, who has lived experience of homelessness, and I want to bring my total self to the table – that was a prerequisite I had when I came in the door. As a leader, it was foundational that I would be allowed to be my total self. I think that anytime you get into any situation, you want to bring your full authentic and total self to the table. As a black man, the first in eighty-four years at the Los Angeles Mission, I want my total self to be on display, because that is how we really magnify the transformative power that comes from our Creator. I think that’s the most important thing that I can be – is my authentic self at this moment in time”
Which Black Historical figures inspire you and your work the most? Why?
- “The first Black historical figure that inspires me and my work is Jesus. He does not represent color in my mind; however, I see him through the eyes of color. Jesus represents who I want to be as a Black man in this world. After Jesus, my biggest hero is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr – I have him all over! I have studied his movement, I’ve studied his ability, his public persona of who he was as a leader, and as a man of God. As a preacher, I admire his ability to articulate the Word of God through the art of storytelling, and how he made it relevant to his day and his time. Dr. King is my hero because he understood that he needed multiple people and multiple types and levels of diversity to move the needle in his movement. That is the key – when you understand as a Black man, or any leader really, that you can’t get anything done without a level of diversity that in your work. Harriet Tubman is another hero in my life because she did her own thing and took a chance, in terms of being creative. She went against the status quo and became the type of person that I think we all aspire to be, which is to lead a people out of darkness into a possibility into hope. When I think about people that I would like to emulate in my life, whether they were well known heroes or not, those are the ones that I try to cling to, because they really speak to who I am as a leader.”