“So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy.

When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”” Mark 9:20-21, 25 NLT

Recently Dr. Delavega from the University of Memphis revealed a report that tracks poverty in Memphis for the last 50 years. It was disturbing! African Americans in Memphis, while making great strides in education and career advancement, still lag behind whites economically by at least 50%. The more telling fact is that 48% of African American children live in poverty in Memphis. This is a far cry from what Dr. King envisioned for Memphis. This has been getting worse since his death.

We must call out the spirits of systemic racism, generational poverty, and economic injustice that hold our children in bondage in Memphis. We cannot expect our children to want to stay in a city that does not reward their effort. We must exorcise the demons that perpetuate a hold on poor black children.

Jesus’ disciples were arguing with some religious leaders as to why they couldn’t help a demon possessed boy. We spend a lot of time discussing why our children act out violently. We spend a lot of time having political gridlocked conversations on why our children are victims to gun violence in school and in their neighborhoods but the greater question is “How long has this been going on?”

For the last 50 years African American children have been living in ever-increasing poverty in Memphis, Tennessee! Enough is enough!

Three things happened to help this impoverished boy in the valley:

  1. Jesus asked how long had he been like this. His father said he had been like that since childhood. When we look at the poverty report of Shelby County we see this has been going on for too long. This is a deliberate plan in Shelby County to keep minorities impoverished. Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t!
  2. We must believe that God has the power to call out this oppressive spirit. The father told Jesus, “I believe but help me with my unbelief!” The reason it was hard for him is because he had seen his son suffer for so long. People in Memphis are drowning in hopelessness. As believers we must organize to help them have hope again.
  3. Jesus called the spirit out of the boy. When we organize and build coalition it is not to maintain the status quo of our children’s suffering. We surround our children to call out the injustice weighed against them. We call out inadequate educational resources. We call out low minimum wages that keeps their parents impoverished. We call out juvenile criminal centers that are just farming camps to put more African Americans in prison. 

It’s time to call them out and to know that these kind only come out through prayer and fasting. But not just fasting in the religious sense but fasting in a social justice sense as outlined by the prophet Isaiah:

No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Isaiah 58:6-7

Dear God,

Help us to set our children free from poverty in Memphis once and for all.

In Jesus’ Name,