As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” – Acts 8:36 (NRSV)
On the streets of Ferguson in 2014, I learned Assata Shakur’s words that became my personal and vocational commitments to eradicating the poisonous white supremacy that continuously seeps into every part of society:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
One night after the election two years later, I told a Ferguson friend about my despair imagining how life in America would change for me as a Black, queer, trans, immigrant person, among many others whose identities aren’t valued societally and/or politically.
My dear friend shared the wisdom he uncovered while studying Torah that tweaked the beginning of Shakur’s chant: “It is our duty to know that we are free!” He sensed my confusion before I could ask as he continued, “We have always been and are already free! The world may not recognize that yet, but it’s our duty to know that and then live like we believe it.”
The story of an unnamed eunuch who discovered freedom in the water on the side of the road reminds me of that life-changing night. Just as that roadside water created possibility for him to participate in a baptism that society couldn’t envision because of his Black, queer, and foreign self, what is to prevent so many of us from being baptized in God’s liberating love?
As I continue to witness since my friend’s reframing of our duty, the answer is “absolutely nothing” because…
…we’re already free! Remind us – often – so we can live like it. Amen.
The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is the Ambassador for Innovation & Engagement of the United Church of Christ. They are also the Founder of Salus Center, the only LGBTQ resource and community center in Lansing, MI.