April 30th, 2008
01:07 PM ET

What I saw when Reverend Wright preached

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Editor's note: Eboo Patel is founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes interfaith cooperation. He adapted this from his On Faith blog posted by The Washington Post:

Ebo Patel
Author, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.

I discovered in the African American tradition – the poetry of Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks, the novels of Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison, the scholarship of Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates, the sermons of Martin Luther King and, yes, Jeremiah Wright - a way of being that gave an honored place to my heritage as an Indian and a Muslim, and an invitation to bring those parts of me to the American project, which is fundamentally about people from the four corners of the earth building a nation together.

When I first moved back to Chicago in late 2001 to start the Interfaith Youth Core, it seemed like I heard Jeremiah Wright’s name mentioned every place I turned. All kinds of people –rich folk and poor folk, traditionalists and progressives, young people and old people, black and white, believers and atheists – told me I had to go see him preach.

Nobody said anything about radical politics or hating America or stirring up a race war. The one word I heard used in reference to Jeremiah Wright over and over again was the word that University of Chicago divinity professor Martin Marty used to describe his ministry: “Hope”.

Here is what I remember most about that morning: At the end of the service, Reverend Wright read aloud a letter that a young woman had sent him. She had grown up in the congregation, was now studying for a PhD in oceanography, and was writing to thank Reverend Wright and Trinity for all they had done to support her.

This is what we’re about, Jeremiah Wright said, waving the letter from the pulpit, proud enough to be her own father. The congregation cheered wildly.

At this point, everyone has an image of Jeremiah Wright. But that moment made a lasting impression.

Read Ebo Patel's entire blog here

soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Amir

    Rev. Wright is right. If it was not for America and Britain, there would be no such thing as racism.

    June 9, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  2. Nick Moore

    Its time America acknowledge its racist blood lines and control. Rev. Wright is Right and lets be honest. People of African descent especially African Americans have been abused so much mentally and socially. If we dont start being real honest this problem will explode in Americas Face. Also Hillary's Supporters who want to change parties are the same old Whites who work the middle class of America to keep thw black man down. And they should realise one day we will rise. If they force us to do it with odds so be it. Take it sweet or sour. We will lead again!!!!!

    June 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  3. Maggie

    It amazes me. Rev. Wright is a perfect example as to why "white folks" act the way they do the "black folks". Thats right, I said it. Slavery has been over a Long, long time. I hear "black" people talk about how they have been kept down by the white man and how it is all the fault of those who enslaved them. WHO was selling them to the white man????Thats right, thier own tribal leaders. Black men have a higher rate of being imprisoned. Black women have more fatherless children. The number of Black folks on government assistance is twice that of white people. That is Who's fault? According to Rev. Wright and his thoughts, the white man is responsible. My first 21 years I spent in the Northeast and the last 9 years in the Southeast. I have experienced more reverse racism in the South, than "racism against blacks" in the North. Black people in the South walk around with a chip on their shoulder, as if everyone owes them something. Guess what, the war is overm, you are free. Blacks have more help available to them than whites. I do not qualify for the UNF, as I am not a "negro", I have lost out on jobs, as Affirmative action takes over, i have been passed over for Jobs to meet a "demographic" quote. So now Blacks wonder why the "whites" are angry? We are tired of hearing the complaints. You have more opportunities than most "white folks" do. It is time to get over it and get on with it.

    You Obama supporters envy Sen. Obama for his accomplishments and you think if you vote for him, he is somehow "gonna set things right, for the black folk"? NOT, he is more "white" than he is "black" he is just using his color to get your vote.

    The fact is the fact. You control your own destiny. I am a small business owner, working a second job for minium wage and am still behind on most of my bills. It is not for the lack of trying. I receive not assistance from my goverment and I am working 7 days a week. Try doing it on your own for a change and stop blaming everyone else for your short falls and your pure laziness.


    May 22, 2008 at 11:13 am |
  4. frank

    Wright came out because he finally realized that he had been used by Obama to gain black support for his political ambitions.

    May 2, 2008 at 2:15 am |
  5. PSMaine

    I disagree with many of Rev. Wright's views, but I respect that he says what he actually believes. He is what he seems. What Mr. Obama is suddenly "outraged" at is less Rev. Wright's political views, more that Rev. Wright is ruining his image. Mr. Obama did not successfully negotiate the initial situation with Rev. Wright. Clearly his pastor was not satisfied and did not think it to his benefit to lay low. Mr. Obama did not persuade and contain Rev. Wright-instead, Mr. Obama transformed an ally into an enemy. These men have abandoned their common ground. This is good evidence that Mr. Obama is not ready to deliver on his promise to bridge political divides. If he can't negotiate with Rev. Wright is he really ready to manage Washington and beyond?

    May 2, 2008 at 1:07 am |
  6. Soji from Texas

    Jena, from Australia, why don't you look at all the rich white ministers? Falwell and others? Why do you focus only on black? Racist.

    April 30, 2008 at 11:47 pm |
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