Ruby Sales — Where Does It Hurt? | On Being

RUBY SALES —Where Does It Hurt?

Where does it hurt? That’s a question the civil rights icon Ruby Sales learned to ask during the days of that movement. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now, but it gets at human dynamics that we are living and reckoning with. At a convening of 20 theologians seeking to re-imagine the public good of theology for this century, Ruby Sales unsettles some of what we think we know about the force of religion in civil rights history, and names a “spiritual crisis of white America” as a calling of this time.

[OCG NOTE: Dr. Ruby Sales is a frequent contributor and commentator of OUR COMMON GROUND.  In addition to being an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, she is an OCG Witness from the Bridge. Our visits with Dr. Sales can be found in our archives.   Please do check out a couple of  most important discussions that we had with her in our 2016 Season, “Hands Off Our Children: 300 Strong” Report from Field with Dr. Ruby Sales on 04/16; and, STOP THE WAR ON OUR CHILDREN™ • MARCH 18, 2016. We are proud of our association with Dr. Sales, our friendship and support from her and the Spirit House Project. Ruby Sales is a national treasure. ]

RUBY SALES is the founder and director of the Spirit House Project. She is one of 50 African Americans to be spotlighted in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“WHERE DOES IT HURT?”: A NATIONAL INQUIRYAnger, name-calling, and division seem to be deepening in American and global life. They are public faces of human pain and fear. But they are not the whole story of our time. As part of The Civil Conversations Project, we’re launching a national inquiry, “Where Does It Hurt?” Please join with us and take part in a new conversation in our radio and digital spaces.

Source: Ruby Sales — Where Does It Hurt? | On Being

“The Flames of Liberation: Rebellion and Resistance” ll September 5, 2015 with Ruby N. Sales

Activist and Organizer, Ruby N. Sales

  “The Flames of Liberation: Rebellion and Resistance”

Saturday, September 5, 2015    Φ     LIVE  10 pm EDT

 “Transforming Truth to Power, One Broadcast At a Time” 

           OUR COMMON GROUND  Session II 2015 SEASON 


                               We open our 2nd Session of the 2015 Season continuing to examine the depth of structural and institutionalized racism, the impact of white supremacy and the concept of #BlackLivesMatter as a clarion call and the its promise as a movement.  As always we ask, “What is your End Game?”                      We invite you to join us and be part of the response to THE STATE OF EMERGENCY.


Guest Moderator, Ruby N. Sales, Founder & Director, The Spirit House Project


To help us kick off this session we have asked Rev. Ruby N. Sales to join us a co-moderator on the critical questions and issues that challenge, trembling like a swelling tsunami beneath the ocean. A seasoned veteran of the civil and human rights campaigns of our time and a fierce and clear visionary of Black Power, we believe that she is most appropriate to help us press out an authentic narrative on these issues.

Institutionalized Racism is the concept and practice of white supremacy. It is the practice of discrimination and oppression based on skin color, physical characteristics, continent of origin and culture. It has its origins as a justification for slavery and the conquest of the Americas. From the beginning, slavery in the United States was tied to the development and growth of capitalism. Founded on the sale and ownership of human beings on the basis of their physical characteristics and color, its purpose was the exploitation of unpaid labor for super profits. As chattels, Africans were hunted like animals, transported to the “New World,” and then sold on the auction block like beasts of burden. In like manner Native American Indians were exterminated on a massive scale.

Moral and intellectual rationales were invented and continue to justify this kidnapping, sale, enslavement and genocide against human beings. As an ideology, racism provided the moral and intellectual underpinnings of slavery, the westward expansion of colonialism and the seizure of half of Mexico. Thus the purpose of this doctrine was, and still is, to put forward ideas and theories founded on the myth that Black people and other people of color are inherently inferior.

Almost 130 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the legacy of slavery remains. It is embedded in and influences every aspect of social, economic and political life. Institutionalized racism is the combined economic, political, social, cultural, legal, ideological and other structures that exist to maintain the system of inequality. #RaceMatters

Institutionalized racism has economic, social, political, ideological and cultural forms, and denies equality, justice and dignity to all people of color.  There are new problems because of the systemic nature of crisis. Our discussions should examine what adjustments must be made in these new efforts to eradicate our place in this society. We rebel and resist the effort to force us into the margins, to make us invisible and to remove us to prison for profit camps.

Our discussions must explore and examine how to elevate our voices in the fight against police brutality, housing discrimination, immigrant rights, and the dismantlement of public education to mention a few issues. At OUR COMMON GROUND provide “a place for our unfiltered voices”.  With the brightest, most loyal and insightful Black activists, community organizers and servants, scholars, researchers, journalists and social scientists we raise, clarify and illuminate the racist dimension of these issues, show how their roots lie in the system of capitalism and its new stage of crisis, and come up with concrete ideas to launch new initiatives and support existing ones.

As a set of institutions, racism is infused in the very foundations of our society and is inseparable from the economic foundations of U.S. capitalist society. The “new domestic military policing” is implemented to intimidate and destroy racially homogenous communities and put into place a ‘superexploitation’ of racial oppression that ensures our silence and to fill prisons serves to create and make real the essence of white supremacy.  We are living in an increasingly surreal special system of oppression and racism perpetrated by a narrative dictated outside of our community. None of this is new; the struggle to liberate ourselves has been before us since our time on these shores. One of our most effective weapons is to ensure that we work from an authentic narrative and that its formulation comes from our Truth. OUR COMMON GROUND for more than 33 years has focused its broadcast mission on ensuring that the Black Truth illuminates and informs our struggle.  #BlackTruthMatters #BlackVoiceMatters


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Activist Ruby Sales on Liberation and God’s Will

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Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I want to respond to a question that was posed: where we go from here when far too many Black people are in the theological and Christological grip of white right wing Christians. Chip Berlet, author and political, analyst calls this group the theocrats. He tells us, “Theocrats support a form of government where the actions of leaders are seen as sanctioned by God-where the leaders claim that they are carrying out God’s will.” This is a very dangerous claim that gives divine meaning and sanction to their actions no matter how racist, sexist, militaristic or homophobic. Moreover, this brand of Christofacism is designed to shut down critique by creating one legitimate Christian voice. Without a doubt for theocrats, the legitimate Christian voice is white, and more than likely a heterosexual male.

Berlet goes on to tell us that theocrats promote a brand of Christianity that proclaims, “People are basically sinful and must be restrained by harsh punitive laws. Social problems are caused by satanic conspiracies aided and abetted by liberals, homosexuals, feminists and secular humanists. These forces must be exposed and neutralized. “They see themselves in a holy war against the forces of evil and conspirators who are determined to destroy the divine destiny of the white American Empire. However, they do not see all white men as standard bearers for the Empire. Nor do they mean people of color when they use the term American Empire.
As we move forward in this reflection, it is critical that we make a distinction between Empire Christianity and Liberation Christianity. Empire Christianity beats in the veins and hearts of theocrats and their Reconstructionist allies. It is essential to realize that conservatism stands in direct opposition to the mission of Jesus which is a radical call to “turn the society upside down” and create a just society.

Liberation Christianity begins with the assertion that God is on the side of the oppressed rather than the side of the Empire. This is the good news of the radical Jew Jesus who challenged the Roman Empire. Jesus made clear the radical nature of his mission: (1) to bring sight to the blind, i.e. to bring a new consciousness that freed his community and others from the false consciousness of identifying with the goals of the Roman Empire; (2) to feed the hungry, i.e. a systemic redistribution of resources that is not charity, but systemic economic justice; and (3) to set the prisoners free, i.e., a recognition that the Empire uses law and order as tools of oppression and domination.

This message of liberation galvanized the Southern Freedom Movement in the United States, South African liberation movement, and liberation movements around the world. It is a dynamic message that changes the status quo and rearranges our relationship with God and others. It is a justice message of non violence. It is a message that reminds us that we are not entrapped by history. We have the collective power to free ourselves from the bonds of a tyrannical state. It reminds us that we have the power to make a new history and a new world. The view of our collective power challenges the notion that history begins and ends with the Empire.
For the Tea Party members and their allies God is the keeper of the status quo. Theirs is a cynical status quo view of God that allows them to be “on the wrong side of history and issues” without taking moral responsibility for their actions. Their God talk also obscures the nature of their radical wrongs by hiding behind liberation and freedom sounding language that they stole from the Southern Freedom Movement and other popular struggles for justice.

The Empire religion espoused by the Tea Party and their white Christian conservative allies and their misled colored allies is headed by a white supremacist patriarchal upper class God who stood on the side of enslavement and the genocide of native peoples throughout the globe, including North and South America. Their God issued a direct order to destroy the Iraqi people and their culture. In their eyes, Iraq is a pagan Babylonian culture that worships a false God. They root their religion in an over and against paradigm that tears down the world and relationships, gobble up resources and relationship. Although they claim to stand for law and order, they operate from a theology of chaos where God summons them that to tears down the world rather than build it up.
Like their forefathers, right wing and conservative militaristic, white supremacist, and homophobic Christians believe that God is on their side and gives them the theological authority to build an oppressive white supremacist patriarchal world. They misuse scripture to justify this, and they hide their intentions behind self-centered and pious God talk that under girds and propels exclusion and domination whether it is about the inferiority of women, black people or lesbians and gays.

Nor is their Jesus the Jesus who wept over the oppression and suffering of his people. Nor is there Jesus the Jesus who came from a colonized community where the Roman Empire used violent measures to stifle unrest and resistance. Or the Jesus who was executed by the Roman Empire for proclaiming that God and not the Empire owns the world or the people in it. This Jesus who acted in history for those people whom the Empire minimized moved generations of enslaved Black people to assert, in the face of an Empire that said they were property without any civil or spiritual rights, “I have a right to the tree of life.”
What Black Christian conservatives must understand is that the God of the Empire can never be our God. Nor can their Jesus be our Jesus. Nor can their Empire Theology or Christology be ours. The Empire Jesus is their emissary and the messenger of war and oppression. For them, Jesus is not as the Black old folk understood, a poor little shepherd boy, outcast and belonging to a people whose backs were “up against the wall.”
The next step is to unveil the lies of White Christian Conservatives so that Black folk understand that these lesbian and gay hating folk come out the same tradition of the people who broke and battered Emmett Till’s fourteen-year-old body and threw it into the Tallahatchie River. Their teachings birthed and fermented the hatred that poisoned the minds and spirits of the killers of Samuel Younge and Jonathan Daniels. Their God can never be our God. Nor can their theology or Christology be ours. They are inheritors of a Biblical tradition that believed that Black oppression was ordained by God because of a curse where God proclaims, “Canaan shall be the lowest of slaves to his brothers.”

We must unveil their hypocrisy and slight of theological hands by remembering that these right wing conservatives barred Martin Luther King, Jr. and other southern freedom workers from the doors of white churches even as they proclaimed their connection with God. They stand today in the doorways of Christian academies and universities like Bob Jones University. In these spaces Christian conservatives still see Blacks as inferior and the bearers of a theological taint that places us on the lowest rung of humanity.

Our job is to have these conversations that help Black Christian conservatives remember so that we as a community do not fall prey to demagoguery. For those of us who remember, we are called upon to stir within Black Christian conservatives the reminder we serve a God that brought us out of the tyranny of enslavement and southern apartheid. This same God enabled Black southern sharecroppers and their allies during the Southern Freedom Movement to bring down southern apartheid, one of the most powerful governments in history, without firing a shot.
There is a great spiritual and social danger of not remembering this God and what God has been with us and for us. When we forget we allow other people to reconstruct God in their own image and to make us believe that their God of hate and injustice is our God. When we bow down to their God, we bow down at the altar of the Empire and men who believe that they are God and the overseers of creation.
Finally, it is important to remember that our ancestors, these magnificent and ordinary people had a vision of God that broke with the enslavers’ view of God. Their view of God moved them to a theology of agape that enabled them to say in the midst of enslavement: “I love everybody, I love everybody, and you can’t make me hate you in my heart; you can’t make me hate you in my heart.”

© All rights reserved. The SpiritHouseProject

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Visit the SpiritHouse Project Website

Witness On the Bridge l In Conversation with Ruby N. Sales l March 23, 2013 l OUR COMMON GROUND

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham



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In Conversation with Ruby N. Sales


Civil Rights and Liberation Activist – Community Activist and OrganizerCommunity Education and Development Leader

 Human Rights Activist

March 23, 2013       10pm ET


“They came to Change a Nation and Lift Up A People”
The Women of the Black Power Movement



Ruby Nell Sales is a highly-trained, experienced, and deeply-committed social activist, scholar, administrator, manager, public theologian, and educator in the areas of Civil, Gender, and other Human Rights. She is an excellent public speaker, with a proven track record in conflict resolution and consensus building. Ms. Sales has preached around the country on race, class, gender, and reconciliation, and she has done ground-breaking work on community and nonviolence formation. Ms. Sales also serves as a national convener of the Every Church A Peace Church Movement.

Along with other SNCC workers, Sales joined young people from Fort Deposit, Alabama who organized a demonstration to protest the actions of the local White grocery-store owners who cheated their parents. The group was arrested and held in jail and then suddenly released. Jonathan Daniels, a White seminarian and freedom worker from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts was assassinated as he pulled Sales out of the line of fire when they attempted to enter Cash Grocery Store to buy sodas for other freedom workers who were released from jail. Tom Coleman also shot and deeply wounded Father Richard Morrisroe, a priest from Chicago. Despite threats of violence, Sales was determined to attend the trial of Daniels’ murderer, Tom Coleman, and to testify on behalf of her slain colleague.

As a social activist, Sales has served on many committees to further the work of reconciliation, education, and awareness. She has served on the Steering Committee for International Women’s Day, Washington, D.C.; the James Porter Colloquium Committee, Howard University, Washington, D.C.; the Coordinating Committee, People’s Coalition, Washington, D.C.; the President’s Committee On Race, University of Maryland; and the Coalition on Violence Against Women, Amnesty International, Washington, D.C. She was a founding member of Sage Magazine: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. Sales received a Certificate of Gratitude for her work on Eyes on the Prize. Additionally, she was featured in Broken Ground: A Film on Race Relations in the South, by Broken Ground Productions. From 1991-1994, Sales founded and directed the national nonprofit organization Women of All Colors, dedicated to improving the overall quality of life for women, their families, and the communities in which they live. Women of All Colors organized a week-long SisterSpeak that brought more than 80 Black women together to set a national agenda.

In 2000, Dan Rather spotlighted Sales on his “American Dream” Segment. In 1999, Selma, Alabama gave Sales the key to the city to honor her contributions there. In 2007, Sales moved to Columbus, Georgia, where she organized: a southern summit on racism; a national write-in campaign to save Albany State from being merged into a White college; a grassroots and media campaign to shed light on the death of seventeen year old, Billye Jo Johnson, who allegedly killed himself on a dark road in Lucedale, Mississippi when a deputy stopped him for speeding; Long Train Running Towards Justice, which celebrated the work of Black teachers during segregation and explored the ways that the Black school culture has been destroyed by White officials under the guise of desegregation; and a meeting with students at Savannah State to assist them in organizing and mobilizing a move by officials to merge Savannah State with a White college.

03-09 RubySalesIn 2009, the History Makers named her a History Maker for her contributions to civic affairs. The Veterans of Hope Project selected her to be a part of its video series. Her video “Standing Against the Wind” has been shown at colleges around the nation.

Sales serves as the founder and director of the SpiritHouse Project. SpiritHouse Project is a national organization that uses the arts, research, education, action, and spirituality to bring diverse peoples together to work for racial, economic, and social justice, as well as for spiritual maturity.

about SPIRITHOUSE Project

SpiritHouse Project houses The Jonathan Daniels and Samuel Young Institute for Racial Justice, which (1) supports and prepares a new generation of peace and justice workers who want to discern a call to social justice and nonviolence; (2) strengthens their courage, hope, resolve, and reason to do this work; (3) prepares them to play leading roles in public policy debates about issues such as poverty, prison industrial complex, militarism, the shrinking budget for human needs, voting rights, privacy and judicial issues, and neo-conservatism; and (4) helps grassroots communities meet their urgent need for trained and committed volunteers or staff. Throughout her career, Sales has mentored young people and provided support and venues for an intergenerational community of developing and seasoned social justice performing and creative artists. Sales has a deep commitment to providing the education, practical experiences, and frame of references to contest racism and add their voices to a public conversation on the many streams of oppression that emerge from it.

SpiritHouse also houses SisterAll Programs that bring Black women together in assemblies, classrooms, and performance spaces to renew our historical roles as a community of activists, spiritual guides, and leaders who stand and work on the front lines for racial, economic, and human rights using the tools of nonviolence and participatory democracy. SisterAll One was a community-building project that called together black female scholars, activists, artists, students, workers, practitioners, and lay and ordained spiritual leaders between the ages of 18 and 35, alongside older Black women who have been long distance runners for justice.

Ruby Sales’ Spirit House Project interns will share what they have learned in their work tracking the different points of connection within the Prison Industrial Complex and Criminal Justice Reform.

Spirit House is located at 1884 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE #1, Atlanta, GA 30307

Join us in the conversation with one of our most powerful, prolific and important figures in contemporary Black History.

LIVE: OCG Meetinghouse:

For More Information:

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves


Community Forum:

Twitter: @JaniceOCG #TalkthatMatters                   Web:

Witness From the Bridge l OH State Senator Nina Turner


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March 9, 2013

Rebroadcast, OH Senator, Nina Turner

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March 16, 2013

Rebroadcast, Barbara Arnwine, Lawyers’ Committee for CRUL


March 23, 2013

Ruby Sales, SNCC and Civil Rights Movement Veteran, Freedom Warrior, Director, Spirit House Project

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April 6, 2013

“An Evening with Runoko Rashidi: His Life and Work”

04-06 Coming up Rashidi2

Critique of ABC’s primetime series, Scandal l SpriritHouse and Johnathan Daniels and Samuel Younge Fellow, Dean Steed

Critique of ABC’s primetime series, Scandal

Written by SpriritHouse and Johnathan Daniels and Samuel Younge Fellow, Dean Steed

A variety of communities, including the Black community, continue to praise the American Broadcasting Channel’s (ABC) latest prime-time television series, Scandal. They celebrate it for being the first one-hour dramatic network television series produced and written by a Black woman (Rhonda Shimes) for an African American woman lead. Among such shows as Basketball Wives, Housewives of Atlanta, and Love and Hip Hop, capitalizing upon the racist mythologies of Black women as Sapphires and Jezebels, Scandal appeared as the beginning or genesis of a new Black woman who does not fit into these stereotypes. Scandal, presents the leading character, Olivia Pope, as an intelligent, independent, and resourceful Black woman. However, contrary to this representation, Olivia is not a new Black woman, Olivia is the quintessential Mammy, Jezebel, and Tragic Mulatto, wrapped into one. As a Mammy figure, she cleans up the messes of White men, covers their flaws, and protects their interests, while overlooking the needs of her own community. Essentially, her work is in the big house. Not only do White men see her as the Mammy, for them she is the tragic Mulatto and Jezebel. With her mulatto-like acceptability, she allows them to think White, while sleeping Black.

John Mayer, a White folk artist, reflects this attitude, when he states in Playboy magazine interview, that he possesses a “white supremacist ‘d–k” and that he would deviate from this and sleep with Kerry Washington, a black woman, because she is “super hot, white girl crazy, and would break your heart like a white girl.”

Although the series presents Olivia as a new woman, the center of gravity remains the same. The real scandal is that we accept the interracial love affair of Olivia Pope and the Republican president without recognizing that the image of Powerful White men, who sexually use Black women, is not new or liberating. It has it’s roots in a racist history that extends back to enslavement.

Olivia is the mistress and not the legitimate heir to the power and status of her White lover. Olivia’s position as mistress, echoes Sally Hemming’s affair with Thomas Jefferson. In season one, Olivia Pope engages in a heated argument with Fitzgerald Grant, over their torrid affair in which she likens their relationship to that of Thomas Jefferson and his slave mistress, Sally Hemming. Although Olivia draws on the example of Sally Hemming, she acts if her relationship with the President exists without a history or context. In other words, in a racialized society, the relationship is stripped of any racial meaning.

Despite the fact that many in the audience view Scandal as a groundbreaking series for it’s position in history as the first primetime series to be written and produced by a Black woman to feature and an African American woman as the lead, the show remains profoundly silent on the issue of race. It ignores that racism and White Supremacy are core values and organizing tools of the Republican party. In reality, members of the Republican party exploit and mobilize White resentment towards the gains that we achieved in the 1960s and 70s, viewing these gains as a loss of White power. Building on this resentment, the Republican party strategically uses codified language, distorted images, and a rhetoric of colorblind post-racialism to cover their racist assaults against our community.

The real scandal is that Olivia Pope, helps these men manipulate the public and to promote an anti-black agenda.

As I became further involved in the series, watching episode after episode, season after season, I slowly became increasingly aware of the incredible deception of the the producers who present the Republican party as supportive of democratic values while using a Black face to encourage the support of a Black audience.

In the first season, we witness Republican President, Fitzgerald Grant and his administration lobbying for the passage of the DREAM Act, a bill providing amnesty for young undocumented residents in the U.S and the support of immigration. In reality, the Republican party vehemently opposed the DREAM Act, executed under President, Barack Obama.

In 2011, Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney voiced his opposition to the DREAM Act, vowing to veto it, if elected.

Another prevalent deception in this series is the representation of the Republican party as supportive and accepting of LGBT rights. This is exemplified through the show’s representation of the Republican administration as supportive of the openly gay Chief of Staff, Cyrus. Scandal, presents Cyrus as an out gay Republican who is married to a young, male journalist.

In reality, the Republican party is very vocal in its opposition to gay rights and has strongly advocated against same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples and the existence of gay men and women in the military. It was the Democratic President, Barack Obama who repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” along with vocalizing his support of same sex marriage.

Scandal is inspired by the life of co-producer and writer Judy Smith, Washington’s D.C’s crisis management expert and former Deputy Press Secretary and Public Relations consultant to the George H.W. Bush administration.

Judy Smith involved herself in the Clarence Thomas saga, when she provided her services to clear his image during Anita Hill’s charge of sexual harassment.

Judy Smith and actress Kerry Washington, (cast in the role of Olivia Pope) together lend a Black face to a party that builds its platform upon the continued oppression of all people of color.

The real scandal is that we know this and yet we allow this to invade our living room week after week.

(In my next article, I will reveal the ways in which Scandal mask the racist deeds of the Republican party)

Writer, Dean Steed, is the Lead Educator and Youth Organzinger at the Johnathan Daniels and Samuel Younge Institute and Senior at Georgia State University, majoring in African American studies.


What Is the Institute?

Through the program, The SpiritHouse Project: (1) supports and prepares a new generation of peace and justice workers who want to discern a call to social justice and nonviolence; (2) strengthens their courage, hope, resolve, and reason to do this work; (3) prepares them to play leading roles in public policy debates about issues such as racism, poverty, prison industrial complex, militarism, and the shrinking budget for human needs, voting rights, privacy and judicial issues, and neo-conservatism; and (4) helps grassroots communities meet their urgent need for trained and committed volunteers or staff.

Visit The Spirit House


The SpiritHouse Project is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization that uses the arts, research, education, action, and spirituality to bring diverse peoples together to work for racial, economic, and social justice, as well as for spiritual maturity.

The SpiritHouse Project
1884 N. Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Unit 1
Atlanta, GA 30307
Phone: (404) 228-1715