Dr. Rev. Michael W. Waters Speaks Race, Faith, & Hope in Omaha

Dr. Reverend Michael W. Waters came to Omaha to discuss the interactions of race relations, spirituality, and activism while promoting his latest book, Stakes Is High: Race, Faith and Hope for America. 

Dr. Reverend Michael W. Waters

Dr. Reverend Michael W. Waters

“Michael W. Waters is founding pastor of Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Dallas, Texas. As a pastor, professor, award-winning author, activist, and social commentator, Waters’ words of hope and empowerment inspire national and international audiences,” according to his website.

Waters’ three-day visit to Omaha took him on a tour to various parishes and community organizations to share his message. His last stop was at UNO’s Community Engagement Center on September 9. 

Rev. Waters, who travels across the country addressing the United States’ racist past, had much to say about Omaha and the city’s relationship to its history.

“Omaha, I love you but I am disappointed in you. I am disappointed in the witness you have of such a great man,” said Waters, referring to Malcolm Little, most commonly known as Malcolm X, who was born in Omaha. “I don’t know why this community has not invested more. The place of his birth, the place of his beginning...Frankly, it’s a disgrace,” he said. 

Rev. Waters interacts with self-identified klansmen about the removal of Dallas' Confederate monuments during a demonstration at downtown's Pioneer Park Cemetery.

“Here you have a giant of man, loved and revered the world over. This is the way in which you chose to represent him?” asked Waters before he alluded to the work of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation and their board over the last 25 years, and suggested there needs to be more work and recognition.

Waters recounted the lynching of Will Brown and the modern massacres of Black and Brown bodies by the hands of white supremacists, discounting the notion that somehow today is radically different than 100 or even 50 years ago.

“Surely, the right the vote is an achievement, surely there are some opportunities, but to hang our hats as though that is the end, is just not the case. And also not recognize how much rollback we’re having, voter disenfranchisement, it is happening on our watch. And when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, children in cages? With foil blankets? Sleeping on concrete?”

During the question and answer portion of the evening a white female attendee asked how she could use her privilege to aid members of disenfranchised groups. “Some of the most damaging to movement today have been well-intentioned white people who didn’t know how to get out the way,” said Waters. “You recognizing you don’t have to lead the table to be at the table is one of the most effective things you can do.

NOISE asked, “Where do you see art playing a role in inspiring people to mobilize?”

Dr. Rev. Waters and UNO Student Body Vice-President Jabin Moore

Dr. Rev. Waters and UNO Student Body Vice-President Jabin Moore

“I see art, really, having a major role in helping to shape and form our work today,” said the reverend. Stakes Is High is the title of a song by De La Soul and is a major inspiration for Waters and his approach to writing. His doctoral studies focused on the exploration and contextualization of Hip-Hop spirituality. He did have reservations about music fueling today’s movement.

“There is one issue that I have possibly, with this generation, in our present movement. Is that every movement needs a soundtrack and I don’t know how well of a job we have done in creating a soundtrack for this movement,” said Waters.

You can listen to the audio of Dr. Rev. Waters’ lecture here.

“Art has always been an essential part of motivating, it touches places in the heart. It gives an idea and vision of what the world can be and I frankly think that Hip-Hop artists are the prophets of today, or they can be when they are their best selves. I have no problem telling you that I think hip-hop artists have far more an essential voice in American society today than the Black preacher,” said the reverend.

Learn more about Dr. Reverend Michael W. Waters at http://michaelwwaters.com/