(From Left-to-Right): Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Rev. Mark Whitlock, Rev. Michael Beckwith, Rev. Dr. Mary Minor, Rev. Sonya Dawson, Rev. Kelvin Sauls, Rev. Najuma Pollard and Pastor Xavier Thompson. (courtesy photo)
(From Left-to-Right): Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Rev. Mark Whitlock, Rev. Michael Beckwith, Rev. Dr. Mary Minor, Rev. Sonya Dawson, Rev. Kelvin Sauls, Rev. Najuma Pollard and Pastor Xavier Thompson.
(courtesy photo)

2016 has been a tumultuous year, especially for communities of color. The list of challenges ranged from repeated police shootings of unarmed black men to increasing numbers of incarcerated African American and Latino males to countless reports of economic injustices.

Anxiety levels peaked even higher following the results of the presidential election as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against President-elect Donald Trump.

As Americans prepare to observe the Thanksgiving Day holiday, many are wondering if there is anything to be thankful for.  According to local faith leaders, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

From a political viewpoint, Pastor Mark E. Whitlock, Jr., of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine, declared, “We are thankful for eight years of great leadership, presidential leadership from Barack and Michelle Obama. They are the reflection of Christian leadership in turbulent times. We are also thankful for true Christian leaders called to monitor, challenge, criticize, and condemn the oppressive, racist political oligarchies elected on November 8, 2016.

Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church, insisted, “Even in a time of political and social unrest, may we be thankful that we live in a land that allows us to express our displeasure with the condition of our country, thankful that the King of Kings reigns over the president; thankful that He shall reign forever and ever and ever.”

The Rev. Dr. Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center, noted, “The attitude and practice of giving thanks is healing for the soul and opens one to greater blessings. We can give thanks that great disappointments lead to exciting times of creativity, innovation and the elimination of complacency and apathy. These can be times of reexamining our priorities and searching ourselves for our assignment and mission to be given at this time in human history.”

Urging people to remember the Creator, Pastor Mary Minor of Brookins-Kirkland Community AME Church, observed, “African Americans can be thankful for a God who remains the same, who sustains God’s people even in times of uncertainty, and who maintains the position as the ultimate leader of the universe!”

Agreeing, Pastor Sonja R. Dawson of New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church said, “African Americans can be thankful for our enduring faith in God which has carried and will continue to carry us through as a people. As long as we keep our focus and reliance on God and His ability to provide for and care for His people, we will be alright.”

Pastor Xavier L. Thompson of Southern St. Paul added, “Though things have caught man by surprise and man may feel that because of occurrences in our land, such as the recent election, police brutality, racism and sexism, I’m thankful because ‘the steps of a good man is ordered by the Lord.’  He is in control. I’m grateful and thankful for the faithfulness of God. He is committed to take care of those who put their trust in Him.”

Repeating the words of recording artist, Kendrick Lamar, Pastor Najuma Smith-Pollard of Word of Encouragement Community Church, maintained, “We gone be alright! We are not short of resources and resistance fuel to weather the storms that appear to be on the horizon. We have been ‘here’ before!

And, what we possess most to be thankful for is a heritage and inheritance that informs us in the 21st century.”

Offering even more reasons for gratitude, Pastor Kelvin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church said, “Even though these are troubling times, African Americans can be thankful for family, friends and communities to share tender loving care with. Our ancestors, who survived worse times, taught us to lift every voice and face the rising sun!

“We can be thankful for an overcoming faith in a liberating God that said, “… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:37-29).

“Finally, we can be thankful for the opportunity to serve the greater good and continue the struggle for a more just and fair America.”