The Jazz Theologian

The Jazz Theologian


The Sankofa Institute Online: Free At Last? By Carl Ellis (Chpt. 2)

posted by Robert Gelinas

“De-Egyptianization” is the term for what happened to Israel in the desert.  After four hundred years of slavery their culture and identity was virtually destroyed and in need of restoration.  They were in such bad shape that even though God brought them to the brink of the promised land within a year of their release from captivity, they failed to embrace their God ordained destiny.  Instead, they wanted to return to Egypt–back “to slavery and oppression!”

Thus, God took them into the desert in order to pick up the pieces and reconstruct their culture.  God did so by teaching his people to trust him for their daily bread (manna) and giving them the law & covenant.

Given the parallels, Ellis says that African-Americans can “learn something from what God taught the Israelites.”

History–We don’t know our history.  One time I was talking to an educated twenty-something and mention in passing how Martin Luther King Jr. chose non-violence as a tactic in the fight for civil rights.  This person stopped me and said, “Non-violence, what’s that?”  Ellis argues, not only do African-Americans need to get in touch with their history but we need to do so from a “God-centered view.”  That is, what is the meaning of African-American history from God’s perspective?

Destiny–Destiny is the fulfillment of one’s history!  ”God through Moses restored to Israel a correct view of destiny,” says Ellis.  He continues, “After four hundred years in slavery and a few months wandering in the wilderness, the people had forgotten where they were going.  God had to remind his people of his specially chosen direction for their lives.”  As African-Americans we need to be able to answer the question, “What is the destiny of our people?”  Not where do we want to go but rather, where is God taking us?

Consciousness–African-Americans need a new sense of collective consciousness–seeing ourselves as God sees us.  Understanding our shared values and calling.  This won’t be easy given our Dis-integration.

Ellis concludes that “this must be the task of a new generation of leadership.  Such a noble task will require the wisdom and understanding available only from God.”

Let us embrace the desert!



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Sue-Lin Toussaint

posted April 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm


What is our unique destiny as African-American people? Is God trying to use us to demonstrate His character to the rest of the world, like He did with the children of Israel? The parallels between Black folk and the children of Israel are obvious and unavoidable.

I wonder to what degree Black folks see ourselves as a united “us” anymore. I even see less race unity than I did ten years ago. What is our common destiny, and who are “we?” How does biraciality figure into all of this, I wonder. When I was growing up, biracial kids were just considered Black. Is that still the case? It definitely is for Barack Obama. :)

I crave a clearly defined destiny for our people.



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Carla Elam-Floyd

posted May 12, 2011 at 11:26 am


Good morning! I really enjoyed our “jazz shaped” conversation last night. The diversity of thoughts and ideas was invigorating. I was thinking about the whole question of what would unite us and remembered a story I heard on NPR last month about a virtual choir. I looked at the youtube video about it and it reminded me that I’ve always felt that music was God’s language. His way of cutting through all the stuff and getting to our hearts. It’s true for jazz and it’s true for the music produced by this virtual choir – 2,000 singers from 28 countries (my numbers could be wrong!) all singing together virtually. Check it out:

http://storify.com/robertraines/virtual-choir-20-by-eric-whitacre-music-art-and-so



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