The Jazz Theologian

The Jazz Theologian


The Sankofa Institute Online: Free At Last? by Carl Ellis (Chpt 1)

posted by Robert Gelinas

At The Sankofa Institute we are reading Carl Ellis’ Free At Last:  The Gospel in the African-American Experience.  Outside of the Bible this is the most influential book in my life.  Ellis is seeking to demonstrate a way for all cultures to apply biblical truth to their history.  He writes:

Though written from an African-American perspective, this work is not intended only for an African-American audience.  Using the African-American cultural experience as  the point of contact, I have attempted to forge a fresh understanding of how God by his grace is active in culture.

His thesis is this: There are parallels between African-Americans and the Israelites in the Old Testament. Just like God did for Israel, he also set African-Americans free from slavery so he could lead us to a promised land that we might be a light for the nations.  We have yet to enter God’s promised land, in large part, because of failed leadership.

Parallels in History

Ellis points out what many others have observed as well:  the parallels between Israel in the Old Testament and African-Americans is uncanny.  Both groups experienced four hundred years of slavery in which dignity/destiny were destroyed and identity was erased.  God was faithful to bring about freedom for his people; however, it is a “collective trauma from which we have yet to fully recover.”

Promised Land

Ellis asks, “Has God been guiding us toward a promised land?”  Martin Luther King Jr. was convinced the answer was yes.  King said that God allowed him to go to the mountaintop and I’ve seen the promised land.

Where have all of the Leaders Gone?

The problem is leadership.  ”We will not come into our own until a new generation inherits the mantle of leadership.  This next generation of leaders will need to build upon the gains of the past and compensate for the mistakes of prior generations.

Join the groove:  ”But questions still remain.  What is this ‘promised land?  Who is going to lead us there?  How can we get there from here?



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Pete Peters

posted April 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm


The Promised Land can be described in many different ways. Healthy functional families with a mother and father present. Full time employment with income to support one’s family. Quality affordable public primary and secondary education. Social equality, a level playing field or “not” needing to be 150% of that other person with a lighter pigment. The American Dream?

We’ll be led there by those of us who believe the Promised Land can be reached. Those who believe will need to expert salespeople to convince non-believers they’ll have to sacrifice for the sake of others. Believers will need teach the lessons of the past. History tells outside help will be required.



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Carla Elam-Floyd

posted April 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm


What strikes me about the quote from Ellis is the part about “collective trauma”. It has always seemd to me that the problem of racism, discrimination and unequal treatment has been an issue of mental illness in our country. It’s something that consumes us and influences our every day existence – whether we acknowledge it or not. The more we try to avoid it, or make it a non-issue, the bigger an issue it becomes. I was listening to a radio program about the latest Fast and Furious movie produced by Vin Diesel’s “One Race” production studio. By mixing all of the races in his movies he’s trying to make it a non-issue, but what does the reporter talk about? Race of course. So it’s unvoidable. Collective trauma will require collective therapy and healing. It seems to me that our leaders should be taking a role in that healling. Perhaps that is what God is waiting for before allowing us to see the “Promised Land”.



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