I Have A DREAM: Normalcy No More!!!

Did you know?:

MLK’s speech almost didn’t include “I have a dream”. I read this in several articles.

King had suggested the familiar “Dream” speech that he used in Detroit for his address at the march, but his adviser the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker called it “hackneyed and trite.”

So, the night before the march, King’s staff crafted a new speech, “Normalcy Never Again.”

King was the last speaker to address the crowd in Washington that day. As he spoke, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out to King, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.”

Then he paused and said, “I still have a dream.”

Walker was out in the audience. “I said, ‘Oh, s—.'”

“I thought it was a mistake to use that,” Walker recalled. “But how wrong I was. It had never been used on a world stage before.”

The rest is history. And we all know the impact of using the phrase.

I, Gary Francis, LOVE knowing that there are two titles to King’s speech. Of course I am riveted by the later, ” I Have a Dream”, but I am equally dismantled and transformed by the aforementioned title, “Normalcy Never Again”.

It is the anthem and scream of a selfless, sacrificial, justice-filled life (and community) living in the middle and on the periphery of revolution. It is a reminder that status quo living entrenched in marginalization, bigotry, hate, prejudice, stereotyping, and victimization is not to be the regular heartbeat of our or any society.

It is a check in our spirits and hearts that reminds us to LOVE ALL people well. It a judgement placed on us if we keep silent about the evils in our society both near and far. Especially if your ethos, belief system, faith, and way of living beckons your soul to do so. You and I have the ability to choose a better way.

Normalcy Never again is an encouragement to be radical and prophetic in the way we live.It is to be unafraid and unashamed to call out what is wrong while simultaneously living a new and better way of life! But let us live it first in our actions then dictate with our words(as much as we can)!

I Have Dream.

It is this:

Normalcy Never Again!!!

Give What You Got!

Give what you got

Here’s what I have today my friends:

1. I love you.
2. You are greatly loved.
3. Our Father loves you! Jesus loves you (not in the cheesy phrase way).
4. Your life is worth it!
5. Fear not! Do not be afraid of what others think. You have an audience of One!
6. You are looking pretty fly today!
7. Smile… from the inside first.
8. It’s ok if are crumbling right now.
9. Let’s lean on each other. We need each other.
10. Take 7 Deep Breaths.
11. Take a Step of Faith.
12. Give. Start with what you have and what you know best. Give what you got!

embracing humility

embracing humility

Jesus, I want to be great. Just like the way you have prescribed in the scriptures.

But if I am honest I also want to great like the world has prescribed.

Help me to choose the former.

Help me to choose love, humility, the low position, sacrifice, service, and my brothers and my sisters before myself.

I submit to you my propensity to want stardom, notoriety, significance among my fellow compatriots of the flesh.

By your grace let us walk the walk You walked. Help me to embrace humility.

Uganda Reflection: What’s in a name?

Uganda Refelection: What's in a name?

One of the most cherished moments of my trip was receiving two Ugandan names. Both names were unexpected blessings to my heart. To me, they spoke into two realities: my past and my future as they intersected my present.

Prior to this trip I believed in the idea of names having great significance to a person. When I received my first Ugandan name it solidified this thinking. The first name that my Ugandan family gave me was Mugerwa.

Mugerwa means Mighty Warrior. Which is awesome all by itself. But get this! My name Gary also means Mighty Warrior.

In its most pure sense Gary means spear or spear carrier. But I always grew up knowing my name to mean “Mighty Warrior”. I have lead my life, not without struggle, with this thinking- I am mighty warrior.

When I first heard Pastor Dennis say the name and its meaning I was stunned. That moment of shock then turned into gratitude. Again, God was speaking to me in a beautiful way.

What I took from that moment was this: “Wherever you are in the world, my son, you cannot escape from the reality of who you are. Your name and your identity is one and the same. I have made you a mighty warrior.” It was God’s way of letting me know that I should be confident in my identity.

The second name I received was Muteesa. Muteesa was a king in Uganda according to my friends. They gave me this name because it was easier to pronounce. And more importantly they gave it to me because they said Muteesa was a king who knew how to give good counsel. This is what they saw in me- I gave good counsel.

My heart was filled to the fullest of full. I felt like God was challenging me to step into a greater reality. Not only has He made me to fight but he has made to counsel. These names are true of my life.

God has made me to fight. I am fighting to stay in his presence. I am fighting with and for those who are neglected, overlooked, ignored, and marginalized. I am counselor. I am bridge connecting the worlds of the rich and the poor. I am repairer of broken homes and hearts. I will sit, chat, share, and connect with people that both society and the Church has forgotten. It’s in my name. It’s in my nature. It’s in my identity.

What’s in a name? A lot!

What’s your name? What does your name mean? Are you living accordingly?

Uganda Reflection: I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!

Uganda Reflection:

(The Picture of above is with Pastor Joel Bukenya, a man a greatly admire and respect!)

Uganda Reflection: I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!

Uganda had a wonderful way of surprising me continuously. One of the most pleasant surprises that I experienced was the healing of my skin condition. The condition of being black in the States. The condition of having dark-skin in America.

Now, when I say healing, I simply mean that I can say this with confidence “I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!” Being dark is an incredible blessing!

You see, while in Uganda, I was afforded the opportunity to step away from the negative imagery of blackness in the States. And I was granted the gift of embracing the loveliness of being dark-skinned.

My experience in Uganda shed light on an inner conflict.

In the States

In the States, at the subconscious level, there is always a war going on within me about my darkness- my blackness. It is not a war that overtly hampers my daily life but nonetheless it is a struggle.

In the States I fight against falling prey to the negative stereotypes. The ones that our media portrays of black people- especially of black men. All around me there are tokens of expression that say black equals less than, ignorant, threatening, and dangerous. I know, of course this is not true, but the messages are relentless.

In the States I fight myself about my own skin color. The question I sometimes ask is this: Am I black enough?

There are often times where I have not felt black enough for other black people. In particular, among those who are of my own skin color, I have been cited as too white. Or better yet, “You sound white.” What does that mean? And what does that mean about what makes a black person black?

Does it go beyond the skin color?

Conversely, among white people, sometimes I am too black. This is rare, though. In some cases my blackness comes as a liability, a threat, and an unwelcomed feature. Seeing past my character, there have been some who have made judgments solely on my skin color.

But in the same breath, some white people, also don’t think I am black enough. They quote me as not, “being like other black people”, or, “You are not really black”. They relegate me to having the Oreo Syndrome. You know, black on the outside, white on the inside. As an “Oreo” I wouldn’t be classified as one “those” black people- the ones that we see on television or hear on the radio. This further perpetuates the negative image.

To make it a little more complicated, let’s throw in one more thing.  In the States there is also an awkwardness I have because of my ethnic heritage as well. I am a Jamaica-born man who was raised in South Florida. Due to this complexity I have also run into multiple issues because of the cultural differences of my blackness.

But, like I said, these issues are not detrimental to my daily life. It is mostly an inward conflict. The damage this inner angst has caused has primarily affected my identity. The chief problem is that I cannot fully appreciate my dark skin as I would like to.

However, Uganda, changed a lot of that. Being in Africa was a freeing experience! There, my blackness was honored, appreciated, and normal. I loved that!

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In Uganda

In Uganda, from my first step, I entered into a whole new worldview of my darkness.

For starters, it was the most incredible feeling to be engulfed in sea of dark-skinned people. It was the first time in a very long time where I was a part of the majority. And I don’t mean Atlanta majority- I mean er’ body was black. Like 99.79 percent.

Everywhere we went there were all shades of dark skin.  Consequently, I quickly became comfortable in my own skin. In fact it made me wonder, is this how white people feel on a daily to basis in the States? Comfortable? Relaxed? At home?

I’m not gonna lie. It was kind of nice to just melt away in the crowd for a few minutes, hours, days, weeks. Just to be one of the many black people. Normal. Not a minority. Not an aberration.

Although I did like that feeling, the real healing came from living and doing life with my Ugandan brothers and sisters.

In Uganda I experienced almost the complete opposite of my inner battle in the States.

In Uganda my brothers and sisters took my blackness as an automatic commonality. It was a positive thing. Right away they said, “Welcome home”. There was so much meaning in that. I cannot begin to tell you how much that meant.

There is a holistic wave of peace and wholeness that a black person feels when they return to Africa. Especially when they return home for the first time.

Coming home feels good.

I was at home. I felt at home. I truly belonged.

I did not have to work for it. I did not have to prove anything. I was dark-skinned and that was good enough.

What made this even more delightful was that my Ugandan family gave me a Ugandan name. In fact they gave me two names- there will be more about that in another post. It was more than just an expression of mere kindness. It was a reminder that I was a part of something bigger and grander.

In Uganda I was floored by the character of black people everywhere I went. This place did not follow the protocol of Western media. Everywhere I went, both in the Christian community and other communities, I was greeted by people who dismantled the American stereotype of black people- in particular black men.

In Ugandan I experienced hospitality so wonderful that I could cry. There were black angels everywhere. Almost everywhere we went people were so kind, so open, so giving and so loving.

People were incredibly welcoming. And they were so gracious and loving to foreigners- those who looked different than themselves. My teammates on my trip were all white but they were treated so well. People gave them their babies to hold, their homes to live in, and their hearts share, even without knowing them.

I’m sure if we looked further in to the fabric of Ugandan culture we would see some of the negatives but I was too overwhelmed by the goodness to notice it.

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In particular, the black men that I met in Kampala and Jinja were of full of utmost integrity and humility. They had such incredible character. The men I met were men who thought way beyond themselves. In their hearts and in their actions they were concerned about generations. Their minds were on the well-being and prosperity of their nation and their children’s children’s children. Their hands, work, and actions matched what they believed. They lived far above and greater than the pettiness of today!

These men were true fathers. Not only were they fathers to their own biological children but they were fathers to the fatherless. Their scope of family and togetherness was unrivaled. And the wisdom that the possessed was akin to the lineage of Solomon.

As a man who grew up without my father, my heart was beyond filled with joy and admiration. These men are my heroes.

Day after day I grew to love my skin color more and more because these men and women were living a life that I aspired to live.

All in all I left Uganda proud! I was proud to be black. I was proud to be a Christ-follower. Although my primary identity is a son of God and Christ-follower, it was definitely a nice bonus to enjoy my skin color too!

It was such a blessing to be around great people. In general it was great to know that there are men and women of God doing great things across the seas. But it was extra special, in this particular time of my life, to see that these people were ones with dark skin. They were people, people with my skin color, that were peeling away the stereotypes, prejudices, and misconceptions that pervade throughout many societies.

There is so much more I can say on the subject but I will stop here for now. I am very grateful for this healing and blessing. It was so simple and yet so profound.

Questions of the Day

Are you comfortable in your own skin? Do like all the features that God gave you?

Let me know your thoughts. Let share our experiences.

I love you friends. Thanks for taking the time to hear my thoughts.

Friar Francis

Uganda: Day 1

Uganda: Day 1 

Hey Friends,

I am so glad you are joining me on this journey of reflection. Webale Nyo! (“Thanks so much” in Luganda). Welcome to Day 1!

New Years 2014!

As you can tell from the video, we arrived on New Years Eve and jumped into the heart of New Year’s Celebration in Uganda. It’s crazy to think that I spent New Year’s Eve in two different countries and continents, shifting from the Netherlands in the morning to Uganda at Night.  And it was even more baffling to think that my first two few weeks of 2014 was to be spent in the continent of Africa!

Now let me tell you, New Year’s in Uganda is the real deal.  Everywhere we went there was a party or some sort of celebration! It was crazy to see how packed the streets were. Every corner was flooded with people. The atmosphere of the night and early morning was electric. It was such a sight to behold. One could not help but be excited.

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I am in Uganda… How Surreal is that?

Although excitement and celebration were not short supply all around me, I found myself quiet, reflective, and inward. It wasn’t that I was tuning out the festivities. Rather, I was tuning into something deep within my heart. God had truly answered the desire of my heart. I was finally in Uganda. I  was finally in Africa.

That moment was inexplicably surreal.

Ever since I was little kid I have dreamt of that moment. And there I was, sitting in a vehicle with Americans and Ugandans driving from Entebbe to Kampala. I felt like a little kid. My senses were easily overloaded. The best I could do was sit there- and take it in. Deep within my heart I just kept on saying, ” Thank You God, Thank You God”.

Due to the fact that we came in late and that the roads were inconceivably congested, we had to forego our original plan of going to a New Year’s celebration at a stadium. Many Ugandans gather together, pray, and worship by the thousands in these stadiums. They come in unity from all over the region and from various denominations in hopes of ringing in the New Year with style- Holy Spirit style. Included in the celebration is much dancing and praising!  Although we missed that particular opportunity, we had several opportunities to experience something similar later on.

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Mosquito Net

I don’t know why this bugged me out, pun unintended, but the fact the were sleeping in Malaria nets tripped me out! It was another level of surrealness to me. Many realities were made real to me in that simple moment. I am was going to bed in Kampla, Uganda that night.

Question of the day:

What has been one of your surreal moments in your life? Either with travel or with life in general?

Here are some random Pics from Day One:

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That’s all for now. Join me for the next post. Enjoy your weekend friends!

Friar Francis

I am back!!!

I am back!!!

Hey Friends and Family,

I am finally back home!

Embracing the bittersweet feeling

It is something of a bittersweet feeling to be back home. A recent Facebook post sums up my feelings on this conundrum quite well. I said this:

” … My heart is full … To say this moment is bittersweet is to take hold of an inadequate term and claim as the whole truth … The truth is that I will fully miss Uganda and I am fully excited to return home and live more vibrantly … (Sigh)…”

My heart has been grafted to my family in Uganda and it will be evident in the way I will now love and live with my family and friends in the States. I have learned so much and I have experienced a lifetime’s worth of joys and wonders during my time in the Pearl of Africa. I am more than ready to share that with you guys.

So…. How was it? What was your experience like in Uganda?

Yes, my friends. This has been the running question of the last few days.

Curious minds want to know.

And this guy wants to answer those questions.

So, I have decided to utilize my blog as my place and space to answer these questions. In the next few days I will begin my attempt to give reflection(s) on my journey/our journey in East Africa. I say slash “our journey” because I went with a team. There were seven of us travelling with Forgotten Song. I, however, will primarily be writing from my personal perspective.

To give myself frame work, I will try to blog about each particular day’s events, highlights, and lessons. In between these I will write stand-alone essays, reflections, thoughts, and lessons that were profound to me.

Bear with me though. Some of this may turn out disorganized and messy. But that makes it more authentic to me. And I think you will appreciate it.

I also want this to be interactive. So please, please talk to me. Whether it is through this blog, phone calls, meeting up with me, or through some other media outlet. Although, i don’t drink coffee, let’s meet for coffee and chat!

You can also join me on Instagram and Facebook. My name is Friar Francis on there as well.

On many of my posts I will be asking questions in hopes for answers and dialogue. I want to learn from your experiences as well. This is my gift to you. This is your gift to me.

To begin with the dialogue. Here is the questions of the day:

What has been one of the most profound trips/experiences of your life? Why? 

I am answering this question through this blog. Maybe you should the same. What’s YOUR answer to this question?

Thank You SO SO SO SO Much!!!!

The last thing I want to say in this post is this: Thank You soooooooooooooooooo Much friends and family!!!

There were so many of you that made this trip/adventure/experience-of-a-lifetime-possible. You gave me your encouragement, your gifts, your time, your money, your kind words, and much much more. I am from the bottom of the bottom of my heart grateful.

Throughout my time of blogging in the next few weeks I want to make shout outs to you all. Today I want to start with Little Voice Talks.

Little Voice Talks is one of my dear blog friends. Although we have never met in person I am greatly honored to know her. She may not know it but she has been a great source of encouragement for this trip – and life in general.

I will never forget these words, “Donated. Go for your life. Do God’s will. I’m proud of you even if we’ve never met xx”. We have never met in person but she gave of her words, time, love, finances, and faith in order to see me advance in my life. Words can not express my gratitude!

Those words along with prior messages have been encouraging down to the core!

I thank God for you “Little Voice Talks”! I pray God’s richest blessings over your life. May you and your family receive a bounty of grace, peace, prosperity, and joy today!

Please check out her blog  here. Give her a shout out and encouragement. She is blessing to so many!!!

I love you all dearly!!!

Remember that you are greatly loved,

Friar Francis

Layover in Amsterdam

Layover Amsterdam

Hey Friends,

Just wanted to let you know that I arrived safely in Amsterdam. We spent the day there yesterday and now we are headed this morning to Uganda!!!

I won’t have the regular access to internet until I am heading back home. So for now, have a great time until we chat again.

I love you dearly!

Friar Francis

Quick Update: I am Going to Uganda

Uganda Updatw

Hey Friends,

The following is a little dialogue between you and me. It will give you a little update on my upcoming trip to Uganda:

Our Conversation

ME: Wow! Well, there is a lot going on in my life here in Northwest Arkansas. There are so many things I could share with you but let me tell you the most recent.

You: Whoa! What’s going on?

Me: I am…

You: You are???…

Me: I am … As you may already know, via Facebook, heading to Uganda.

You: What!?!?!

Me: Yeah, it’s kinda crazy. I wasn’t really planning this at the beginning of the year, but here I am ready to jump into this adventure. It’s nuts because I have always wanted to go to an African nation but it never seemed to work out.  I had thought of doing disability stuff with Joni and Friends for my Graduate Practicum, but essentially the timing never worked out. It looks like the time has come now though!

You: Wow, that’s crazy man! When are you planning to go?

Me: So, yeah, I leave around December 27 and I will be there for a little over two weeks! I am travelling with a small team connected with an organization called Forgotten Song. Forgotten Song is an organization that does self-sustainable projects in war-torn countries. (Check out the hyperlinks)

You: What will you do there? Where will you be?

Me: Well, I have quite a few objectives that I would like to accomplish on this trip but I will just list four for now.

1. I want to visit, participate, and learn from orphanages in Kampala and Jinja. In particular I will spend time at Ekisa, a home to over 20 kids with special needs. This home is connected to 99 balloons– an organization that you should check out!
2. I will glean, participate, and learn some of the best practices for self-sustainability projects and businesses. Two initiatives that I will focus on are a poultry project and a chocolate business.
3. I want to learn from and share life with my Ugandan brothers and sisters.

Here are some items on my itinerary:

– Visit orphanages, churches, schools, and organization connected with disability and/or marginalized people groups.
– Spend time with Ugandan host families.
–  Speak at churches and other organizations.
– Put on a dance therapy session.
– Attend a New Year’s stadium celebration.
– Shadow Ugandan Pastors and leaders.
– Provide at least two orphanages with volleyball, soccer, and other athletic equipment. Put on a small volleyball clinic (Maybe).
– Eat grasshoppers. A friend told me that I must do this!
– I will update you with other info when I have more time. This is just a quick synopsis.

Another thing to note, is that this trip will also be a means to cast vision for future events in my life and our community.

Ok, that’s what I have so far to say. Let’s chat soon!
Remember that you are greatly loved!
Friar Francis