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Something about the name

by Justin Rogers


          It is the rawest name
          I know      The Kool-Aid is sweet
          when a nigga summons savior   I know
          the grandbabies gave their lives
          to sin when granny whispers the Lord
          over the belt before the beating

          Maybe whosoever calls upon
          the name shall be saved
          from diabetes & child protective services

          Maybe we waste our peace
          praying His name will
                    be a fence where
          it ain’t nothing but space & opportunity
                    Be a plate on a
          passover our fridge can’t afford
          His mercy       a meal
          His grace       leftovers for breakfast

Oh    I love
          How the name is exalted
          by the need of the nigga:

          Be a bus pass
          in the shadow of the valley
          of Detroit

          Be a nap after wine

          Be a cloud keeping the bullshit at bay

          Something about the Lord
          always provides     always

          Be our basic needs
          running over 

While many of my friends had been raised in the church, attending every Sunday out of obligation to their parents, I had the luxury of choosing where I fit in with God. I didn't begin an intentional journey with God until I became a young adult. Because of this much later, more voluntary engagement with church, I felt a freedom to consult and question theologies and practices rather than just go with the flow. My largest curiosity was not IF God was real, but rather in what ways is a spiritual God present in my normal mortal life? Is God present when I thank him for a particularly cold glass of Kool-aid? Is He really there when I'm $1 short on bus fare?

Through a church based in a Detroit living room and a Pastor with deep connections to his African American roots, I was able to see the first true example of not only embracing, but intertwining these themes. In everyday life in Detroit—especially among Black people—the name Jesus is often shouted in surprise, joy, or even despair. It becomes a cry to the Lord to show his presence in a particular situation, good or bad. In the church, "worldly" behavior is often condemned and made to feel like a separate life from that of the church and often comes with an air of guilt. Unfortunately, "worldly" behavior is often vaguely or extremely defined. My goal with this poem and many others in the series is to make a stronger connection between what is taught in the church and what actually happens in the world—no matter how small.

"Something About The Name Jesus" is a popular gospel song by The Rance Allen Group. In short, it talks about the power of calling the name Jesus. In my poem, I've spoken His name over some everyday experiences of many Black families to highlight how important having divine intervention is even in the simplest situations.

Justin Rogers is a Black poet and literary program coordinator from Detroit, Michigan, and an advocate for the amplification of Black voices. With InsideOut Literary Arts, Rogers coordinates after-school intensive creative writing programming. His work is published in Tinderbox, Verse Daily, The Metro TimesDetroit Action and on display at Scarab Club Detroit. Rogers is the author of Nostalgia As Black Matilda and Black, Matilda.