KE: Welcome everyone to this special edition of Main and Mulberry. Typically you have Anna Bell with you, but I am joining today as we move into a holiday weekend and I have a very special guest with us from Shamichael Hallman. And Shamichael has just written an article for the Tour Collierville magazine that I read, and it really prompted me to start to have this conversation. And, welcome Shamichael. How are you today?
SH:Yeah, I am great Keith. Thanks so much for having me, and to be a part of this conversation.
KE: Yeah, absolutely. And so tell our viewers our listeners a little bit, I know that you are the Collierville campus pastor for New Direction Christian Church, but that church is bigger. It’s been around longer than what’s in Collierville. And just tell us a little bit about the church and what you do there.
SH: Yeah, so the church has a really rich history. I actually started a few days after 911. The, the main campus is currently situated in the Hickory Hill community on the intersection of Ridgeway in Winchester. And so it’s been there and done some really great work. The Collierville location is a little, a little newer, so came in right around 08, 07/08. Uh, and so we’ve had the pleasure of doing some really great ministry there. I serve as the campus pastor there, essentially. We are a multisite operation. So our senior pastor, Dr. Spencer does most of the preaching. And then I kind of fill in from there. I’m doing some preaching every now and then, really kind of focusing on the community as a whole. Right. So thinking about our overall church health things such as congregation care and checking in on people, our members, and then kind of really big voice of where the Collierville community. We do a lot of really interesting, you know, outreach initiatives. We do a backpack drive each year with Central Church, and it’s gonna go past two years. So we’ve probably given out close to 9,000 backpacks. We do a lot of mentoring in the schools and things of that nature.
KE: Okay. That’s great. I know everything’s kind of different right now with the school system and that that’s for sure. And it, and I guess there’s a new normal for churching. I, I guess in saying that you guys have two campuses and one head pastor that does a lot of the preaching, is that, is, does the Collierville campus, or are you, if you were to attend the church, are you going to see someone live there preaching or is it going to be across a screen from the other church?
SH: Yeah, he’s live. So, you know, I mean the, the, the, the benefit of being, I mean, it’s really a about a say 20 to 23 minute drive between the campuses. And so, uh, the way our services are structured, he’s able to, to be present and preach at all of the services. And even when I’m preaching, he still actually there. We had, like you said, COVID has certainly, pushed us are really to be exclusively online.
KE:Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s an asset for sure. And so, but right now with COVID, have you guys opened back up at all for anyone in the church? Or are you still just doing the remote?
SH: Yeah, we have not opened yet. We actually actually have, we’ve been having conversations about what it might look like for us to go back. We’ve actually got a conversation scheduled for tomorrow. I feel like we’ll probably start seriously thinking about what that looks like, you know, maybe sometime, in August for us, depending on, you know, what’s happening with the positivity rates and things of that nature. The good thing for us is that, you know, we have really always been online. I mean, our even that kind of the birth launch of, of, of the, of the kind of mother location. We’ve always had a kind of a younger audience. And so that’s forced the church, you know, to, uh, think about the different platforms to reach people. And so, you know, we’ve been doing, you know, services on Facebook for the last 11 years. And so, um, you know, this is not like COVID really hasn’t interrupted them. We were able to pretty seamlessly move to a completely online. Uh, but I mean, it certainly has changed, you know, the way in which we engage with each other and then the way of which we fellowship with each other.
KE: Right, right. Yeah. Well, it’s good that in a lot of churches are there are catching up because they weren’t doing the streaming, but some of the churches that have like say a younger demographic, they’re doing it already. So it was just a matter of, you know, driving people, hoping you get your attendance up and those type things, but, well, let’s move a little bit into current events. And I know that was some of the things like you say, um, you had written an article for the Tour Collierville magazine, and, um, a lot of things were going on in Collierville, there’s a, um, of course all the things that are happening with COVID and the shutdown and that’s creating, um, a lot of, um, yeah, I dunno, a frustration, I guess, with people trying to get out and, and not being able to it’s kind of dragging on, you know, and, um, and so it started to get a little bit tense around that. And then of course, um, we’ve had the racial tension, um, which is one of the things that you keyed in on a little bit in the article. Um, and one of the things I think that you said that really struck me in the article is that, um, I think that we need to start having conversations and I’m paraphrasing what you’re saying. You can clarify, but you’re saying we need to start having some conversations and you had written about that a little bit. So maybe tell me a little bit about what the church and what New Direction is doing in the community and how you’re kind of handling some of that from a church standpoint, from a, um, you know, uh, uh, an organization standpoint, are you guys doing anything? What, what, how are you handling that?
SH:Yeah. You know, so I think, you know, with COVID, um, you know, very early on were, we were seeing in the news was telling us how, um, you know, it was, it was disproportionately affecting black people, you know, with these kind of comorbidities and things of that nature, just kind of overall issues with the healthcare system. Um, and so, you know, I mean, pretty quickly, but then of course, you know, we were, we were saying because of, you know, phase one, um, stay at home orders and those sorts of things, kind of the immediate hit that many in our congregation were taking, you know, not able to work and so on, so forth. And so, I mean, there would be like kind of a number of things that we’ve had to do to respond to that. Um, of course, you know, we’re always looking for ways to meet various needs. And so, like for instance, right now we are having a, you know, a weekly of food distribution on the parking lot of our, of our campus in Memphis, so that people can come in and grab food. Um, we’ve also served as a testing site. We think it’s very important to help people get, you know, testing free testing as often as possible. We’re also going to encourage members to, to do those things. I think that, of course, they’re just normal things that we do that we’re now trying to figure out how we, how we pivot. Like I mentioned the only party, but we do this really big backpack drive, which we know is, is crucial and important for people not only in Collierville, particularly in South Collierivlle. Uh, but we’ve seen people come from all from Marshall County and Fayette County, even in the Memphis who come in and get the backpacks. And so even now we’re trying to think about, well, how do we do that? Uh, you know, how do we pivot and do those sorts of things, uh, this go around? Cause we generally try to do that right before school kicks off. And so we’re still kind of pause, trying to talk through the logistics of what that looks like and how do we support even the students who, uh, you know, when the school year starts back, who may be just opting to, uh, study from home, right. And, and not go back into the classroom. We know that many of those students, there’s a great digital divide, you know, both in Memphis, but also, you know, there are a number of families in Collierville who don’t have access to high speed internet. So we’re also thinking about, you know, do we, how do we supplement some of those, uh, current backpack distribution to maybe, you know, include hotspots or some sort of access to, um, to, to, to, to technology. And then, you know, of course on the, um, on the George Floyd, and the social justice kind of moment that we find ourselves in, I mean, this is not really, you know, new for, for, for us. I mean, as I say us, I mean the black church, you know, uh, these are ongoing sermons and ongoing conversations, right? It’s not just a, because at this particular moment in time, you know, I think I’d go all the way back to, you know, Trayvon Martin, 2012, or even before that, you know, there’s always, we always ourselves in this place where we’re having to, to think about matters of, of justice and equality. Um, but you know, in terms of what you said in terms of the article, I think this is, it really is a really great time specifically for us in Collierville to start having conversations. There was a, you know, just a beautiful moment that, uh, many of us were a part of a couple of weeks ago when we had this wonderful march where we left from the town square, went down Poplar and came back. And I think there were, you know, I was certainly, I wish they had been more, but I, it’s certainly warmed my heart to see, um, the number of people who were there and then kind of the cross section of people that were there, you know, the race and age. Um, and there were a number of, you know, people who had had handmade signs about black lives matter and justice and those sorts of things, you know, Brianna Taylor. Uh, and I think, you know, now what I hope is that, that moment, that particular moment in time will now provide opportunities for us to talk about what that actually means, and even how we might contextualize that for living in Collierville
KE: Thanks. Yeah. You said a lot there and, um, I just quickly to drill down on one thing on the, um, that you said on the COVID are, are both, for our listeners, are both of your church’s testing sites or the, or is it the one in Memphis?
SH: There’s just one in Memphis that is the testing site right now.
KE: Okay. I just want to clarify that for our listeners. So, um, and so, yeah, so there was, um, there was the march and I know that, um, you know, it ended up being peacefully. There was some, uh, a little bit of worry on the front end there I put cause of how it originated, but ended up being, um, a peaceful march. And so in regards to, in regards to that, to that march, that you’re talking to, what is the response, I know that, you know, everyone’s going out and I know that, um, you know, we’re, there’s a display and there’s a peaceful display and, and that, and it’s a protest technically, what would you like the community to do in a response to that? What, what’s the, what are we trying to achieve? What are you guys trying to achieve with those types of things?
SH: Well, you know, I think one of the beautiful things is, is, you know, that, that, that march was really organized by, by younger generation, you know? And so I think, uh, in many ways the younger generation is kind of moving us ahead. I think, you know, for, for us, you know, and I think particularly what I wanted to convey in the article was for us to think about, you know, if that statement black lives matter, if that statement is, is, is if that is true, you know, and we, we truly believe that. And we truly, uh, understand that then I think we need to start having the conversations about how do we uplift them, right. So that it’s not just a, a statement that we’re making, but it’s actually something that we’re living out. And I think there are a number of ways to do that. Um, you know, the first way is just really to, to, to educate, right. I think, I think I hear it in, so my full time job is library. Um, I managed a library downtown Memphis, um, and, and just kind of seeing the number of individuals who are looking for resources to educate themselves about racism, about, um, social justice and equity, right? And so I think for, for individuals who may not understand, you know, these things, I think there are, there are a number of, of books and really great resources to read and really phenomenal offers whether we’re talking about James Baldwin or Angela Davis or Tony Morrison, there’s really great people of color, uh, and black people who have written really great pieces. But even beyond that, I mean, there’s, I think probably one of the most requested books right now in the Memphis public library, is a book called white and Dylan, uh, which, which really is, is written by a white person to white people, um, which we cannot keep that book in, in, in, in the rotation. Um, and so I think it kind of starts us with education, right? So that we, so that we’re kind of speaking from a, um, we’re speaking from the same language, but then to kind of think about specifically what’s happening in our community, you know, and how we might think about things, but, you know, Keith, well, one of the, as we talk about how do we contextualize black lives matter, um, I think one good place to look at it as an education, right. And to think about particularly say disciplinary actions, uh, there is documented data from schools across our country, um, that show that even when black students are in the minority from a population standpoint, they’re, they’re in the majority from a disciplinary stand. And so for us to maybe have conversations around why is that? Right. In, in, in what, um, what sort of policies could we get at what sort of mid anti-racist policies could we get at, um, to, to address that? Or, I mean, I think those are conversations that we need to have. And we personally want to have school systems that have, you know, say, you know, 40% black, but they are the 60, 65% of the discipline is, you know, black students. And there there’s some discrepancy there. Um, so of course I think about the ways in which I guess this may not be equal. Um, so think about the ways in which even say, um, you know, say white flight, um, it creates a disproportionate, uh, situations around education, right? So I think this, this moment, what I hope would happen, um, and I think would be great for, for a number of us that come together and start saying, okay, well, what does this look like for us? And then how do we, how do we have these conversations in a way where we’re able to move things forward? Right? Because we don’t, the marching is great and the awareness is great, but in the end, which we’re trying to change structures, we’re trying to change systems. We’re trying to change policies that don’t necessarily deal with everyone in an equal fashion.
KE: Okay. Um, so it’s a movie on the first part, the, um, the education. So one of the things that if I’m hearing, what you’re saying is that these marches, the peaceful marches anyway, and the peaceful process, there’s sure looking to kind of prompt some action to say, Hey, maybe, I don’t know, I’m seeing what’s happening out there. Maybe I don’t know the full, but I see that this is a movement. And I see that, that, that these people are passionate about it enough that they’re going to march. Maybe I need to look into it. And a good place to start is educating yourself on books and books, things like that. And you threw out some names and that to get more, um, understanding of the, of, of what the, really, the core issues are. If, if you, if you may not know. And then second, I think probably, um, but I think probably there’s some of our people in the education system that might disagree with some of the statements that you’re making. I don’t know. I don’t want to speak for sure, but so, and I, and I don’t know, but I think what you’re saying more, more than a specific issue is there might be some things going on that once you start looking into this, that you see, there are some injustices and that your eyes might get open to some things, is that it, it at that level is that that’s some of what you’re saying?
SH:You know, and, you know, one of the things that I, that I put in the article, um, is that these are uncomfortable conversations. I, I, I, I tend to actually view them as courageous conversations. Um, and, and I think where I often see hesitation, particularly from my white brothers and sisters, um, is in thinking that these moments are calling you racist. And that’s not what we’re saying. I, I’m not calling you racist. I’m saying that we, we live in a society that, um, has socialized us to hold certain beliefs and certain patterns, and some of those patterns are racist. Right. Um, and so, and so it’s to begin to think about, I, I do believe even, and I, I do hope that I don’t offend your audiences. I do believe that racism permeates almost every system that we interact with. COVID made very clear that there were disparities in our healthcare system. But I believe we could, we could drill that down and look at other areas that we could look at employment. We could look at housing, we could look at education, we could look at, uh, prison and policing. Um, there, there, there are so many things in which, um, systems are not set up in an equitable and just way. Right. And, and, and, you know, we talked in the very beginning about, you know, how our church is adjusting, right. And how our church is doing it. And I’ll say it again, like, you know, many black churches don’t have the benefit of only talking. And I’m not saying that other churches don’t, I know there are many churches of all facing all colors that, you know, have a social justice lens, but the black churches can never, like these things are always in front of us. We’re always thinking, we’re always having to have conversations, um, around justice. We’re always having to have conversations around issues of brutality. We’re always having to have conversations around inequities in our communities, right? So like, like the content of, of, of, of our sermons and the things that we’re studying, um, those things haven’t changed just because of this particular new cycle. Um, what I’m hoping happens in this moment. And I use this analogy in another call Keith, is you see, I’ve got these glasses. Um, and I I’ve had these glasses. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was in third grade. And, and I remember very clearly when I got the glasses. So in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, I was always sitting at the front of the class. And so I can see the board very clearly in third grade, for some reason I was shifted to the back of the class. And I realized that I could not see the board. Furthermore, I realized that everybody around me who was sitting back with me could see the board. And so I go to my teacher, tell the teacher, I can’t see the board. And she writes a letter up. And I take it home. And my parents take me to the eyeglass, the doctor optometrists, and, you know, I get the eye exam, we’ll get the glasses. And then I remember the day that I went back to school and I had the glasses and I was sitting in the back and I said, Oh my God, I had no idea that everybody else could see like this. I did, it did occur to me. Right. It’s so what I’m hoping is that this moment is serving as that for, for many of our brothers and sisters. That, that, that, that this moment is, is, is providing a set of lenses through which we can see something that other people have been seeing for a very, very long time. And that in seeing that we can begin to have conversations, not just for the sake of having conversations, but for the sake of saying, okay, well, how might we change some of these things, right. Um, how might we deal with some of the evils of our society? Right? I mean, like, like in these moments, we often lift up people like Dr. King and we’d go to a particular, 1963, I have a dream message. And we forget about all the other things that Dr. King wrote. One of his most powerful speakers was on the three evils of society. And one of those racism, when you go back and read that speech, and even though it was deliberate in 67 million of those things, we still find ourselves facing today.
KE: Okay. And so, and I like your analogy. I think it applies across a lot of things and would get your eyes open to certain things. And, um, and then you can start to drill down on those things and, and starting with a conversation. And so, um, I think that, you know, just trying to figure out the, um, you know, the, the path. So if there, if there was something that, um, that we can do, literally, um, it’s, it’s, it’s try to start these conversations and try to look through, look at things through a different lens. That’s what you’re saying. So if you were giving me advice as a person that lives in Collierville and given what’s happening right now, your advice to me would be, start trying to educate yourself a little bit. I want you to educate yourself. I want you to see things through a lens that maybe you’ve looked through for a long time, but do you think that maybe I don’t see, and then we can start to have some conversations from a different place than, than where we are now. And, um, that’s, that’s kind of what I’m hearing. And I think I want to ask you just to kind of shift a little bit, because that conversation seems to me, and I know that you’ll hope that you’ll appreciate this as a pastor, but that is a very similar conversation to what a church is, is talking as well. When you start to look through, you start to look at the world through a different lens. Once you become a Christian, or you’re saying whatever terminology that you want to use, you start to look through, um, the, you, you look at the whole world differently and through a different lens. And so just a little bit, tell me a little bit about what role you think that plays, the faith aspect.
SH: Yeah. I mean, the, the, the faith role is, is crucial, right? The faith role is, is, is crucial there. Um, you know, uh, I a and I do appreciate, you know, you, what, the way that you just raised that, I think that’s very much, um, what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a certain look for those foundations to start happening, right. And for people to hopefully see things differently. But then also, I think I’ll add on to that, Keith, this is, you know, I was, I had this really interesting conversation, um, about three weeks ago and it, it was, it was coming to, that was that it was, it was convened by different words. They said they were just out of Seattle that was trying to, you know, kind of, uh, have some of these conversations. And there was a breakout, there was a breakout period, right. Via zoom. And you’re supposed to have in your breakout session about four or five, but in my breakout session, there was only one other person. And it was an older white woman. She was in her seventies, me, and she began to talk to me about her journey and about how her family had a very specific belief about people that were not like them. And she recognized at a very young age that the thought and the belief that her family had was wrong. And she called them out on that. And it was almost an, almost immediately made a black sheep. Um, but that did not be true her. And so she talked about kind of the last 55 years of her life and what she’s trying to do. And she said, she says, Hey, I recognize that as a white lady in America, there’s a certain amount of privilege and power that I have. Um, and she talked about kind of this three step ladder of things that she does. She does, like she said, really, the only thing that she’s really focused on right now is just trying to have conversations with other white women who, who, who were kinda like her parents, like, like her family was right. And she says that at this first kind of first ladder, he’s asking people she’s, so she’s giving them books to read and essays to read and, uh, podcasts and this, right. And then at the second level, she’s asking them to then make some sort of commitment, right? Cause like this is going to cost you something. So she’s asking for them to say donate financially, uh, to an organization, NAACP, uh, you know, some organization that’s doing some work in that area that they’re passionate about. And then, um, at this third level, she she’s asking them to then go and kind of, and kind of use that power, use that privilege to bring in other people who are, where they used to be in terms of their, their thought pattern. Right. And I think that’s so, so powerful in terms of the faith conversation. There are so many scriptures that, that, that speak to us about, um, taking care of those who, who wears my name, right. Of feeding those who were hungry of clothing, those who were naked of, of, of, of, of that the hands and feet of Christ. Right. And that’s very, very important work, but we also find throughout scripture, old enough old and new Testament, this notion that we are to seek justice, that we are to deal with and dismantle systems, systems of oppression. Like that’s very much in scripture, just as much as the other stuff. And so what I often, as I’m having conversations with the churches, I’d say they’re really kind of three things that we need to do. The first thing is relief, right? Meet people’s immediate needs, right? There are a lot of hurting people in our communities. People who need food, who need clothes, who need shelter, we need to be who needed to get out of an abusive relationship. Right? I mean, they’re, they’re these very tangible needs. Um, and so we have to do that, relieve them. But on top of that, we must then do some resource work, right. That we want to begin to equip people, um, so that they can live lives well, they’re not dependent upon always looking for that handout. We want to both do the handout and they can’t up that we can’t can’t do that. You need both of them. So you have to do relief work, you have to do resource work. But at the very top, you have to do reform work. And reform work is looking at it and saying, Hey, there are the way that the systems that we interact with don’t treat everyone equally. Right. It goes to the school system. That’s not a fun conversation to have. Right. And, and again, I don’t, I don’t say that. And I don’t, I don’t throw that out there. I mean, and that is, we can go to actual data. That’s put out and look at that, but I don’t throw that out to point a finger or, or, or, or to make someone feel bad. I say that because I know what it’s like to be a black student in a majority white system. Um, it, there, there, there there’s, there’s, there’s a lot that comes through that. And so even then I’m asking you to pull the lens of, of, of what that’s like. Right. Um, and so this is more, so this is not less so pointing a finger at people and say, Hey, you’re not doing a good job. More So put a, putting a finger on it and spotlighting these students and say, Hey, these, they are not, they’re just as valuable as the white students. They’re just as valuable as the Asian students are just as valued. Right. Let’s, let’s make sure that we don’t have any implicit bias or policy in place that might be harming them. And we’re really wanting to educate, we want all these students to do well. I feel, I know every educator wants to see that, but then we have to think about what are the things, what are the policy is structured there in place that might [inaudible].
KE: Okay. So yeah, I think I see what you’re saying. And there’s a couple of a couple of three, three steps there. And I think that is, I like the practical aspect of it though. The woman you were speaking to in the breakout, how she’s doing something as an individual, and this is how the how she’s decided to do something is I’m seeing things through a different lens. And I’m going to start to communicate that with other people, I’m going to send them materials, things like that. And then at the end, I’m going to say, Hey, if you start to see things through a different lens, I’m going to ask you to communicate that as well. Um, from a very practical standpoint, um, that’s something that, that myself, I think that when I hear things, um, that are, that are larger, um, me as an individual, it’s hard for me to figure out how to, how to really affect that change in any immediate way. Um, because I think, okay, we need to reform these systems, or we need to recognize that there’s something systematic going on. Well, um, you know, that’s hard for me to, as an individual to say, okay, well, I don’t know where to go with that. That’s something that, you know, I need to consider and we’d get some bigger conversation that you know, about elected officials and the, you know, all that type of stuff, but what, what I can do, you know, but what I can do is I can try to educate myself and then start to spread that and move that on. So I think that’s, uh, that’s very practical advice. I think that, um, that, that resonates a little bit. I know we’ve probably gone over your time a little bit. I appreciate you being with us today. I appreciate all the things that you shared with our listeners and, um, I’ll, uh, uh, hope to see around you live in Collierville right now.
SH: Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I’ve been at Collierville for a little over a decade now, man. And, uh, I say it’s, it’s, it’s a great city. Uh, I do appreciate, um, all of the ways in which I’ve been able to interact with different churches and different houses of faith. Um, so we have come together over the past years to do a really, a lot of great relief work, you know, together, we have fed people, we have clothed people, we have provided resources for people. And I think this moment, we now begin to ask ourselves, what’s the next step, right? Do we continue to do those things, which we should, or do we now start looking at the reasons why some of these things like this and also tack them notes. And I think in doing that, we fulfill the call of Christ. Um, and we, we, we show ourselves to be, uh, to be the hands and feet of Christ. And so, Keith, I really do appreciate, um, you are providing you this platform.
KE: Absolutely. Yeah. And I appreciate those final words for you from, from you and then appreciate the message and, um, hope you have a great day. Appreciate you being on the show.
SH: Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
KE: Thanks guys. And that wraps up this episode of Main and Mulberry. You can see more episodes at mainandmullberry.com and until next time, I’m Keith.