Prince Abdul Ali Seraj is a direct descendant of nine generations of Kings of Afghanistan. He is the nephew of His Majesty King Amanullah (1919-1929), who was known as the Victor of Afghanistan, the grandson of His Majesty Amir Habibullah (1901-1919), and the great-grandson of His Majesty Amir Abdurrahman (1880-1901), who was known as the Iron King. His ancestry continues back for ten generations to His Majesty Amir Dost Mohammad, who assumed the throne in 1827. The Seraj part of Prince Ali's name comes from the title given to King Habibullah -- 'Seraj -ul- Millat wa deen' (Light of the Nation and Religion).
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Jeremiah Camara was once a member of one of the largest Black churches in Cincinnati, Ohio, his place of birth.
Baptized at an early age, Jeremiah moved to Cleveland, Ohio, shortly after high school, where he began his quest toward a deeper understanding of spirituality. He also taught himself to play the flute shortly after graduating from high school, and later took private lessons at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
While in Cleveland, he began to diligently study the Bible and gave serious thought to becoming a minister, or at least living an active life in the church. During that time, he attended a Baptist church, at least two or three times a week. Despite Mr. Camara’s heavily Jazz-infused upbringing, the only music he listened to at that time was gospel.
Like many, he felt the church could provide him with the substance he was missing in the way of answers, meaning and purpose in his life.
Growing up, he had not been raised in any one particular church. His parents were not consistent churchgoers, and never insisted that he nor his brothers and sisters attend church. Nevertheless, he did manage to go quite often.
There came a time, however, when he began to distance himself from the church; not because of a particularly bad experience or negative incident, but because he had begun to expose himself to other forms of thought, spiritual concepts and ideas.
“I began to see the church as just one source of guidance and inspiration. The diversity of the world and its kaleidoscopic array of infinite ideas and wisdom, would not permit my spirit to be confined only to the teachings of the church. It also disturbed me deeply to witness Blacks praising so much, but producing so little,” says Camara.
Jeremiah Camara returned to church, but this time as an investigator. Visits to churches of varying denominations, brought to light a common thread linking the vast majority. Mostly all, in his opinion, were preaching a gospel of powerlessness.
As the former owner of Word Up Bookstore, Camara created a videocassette documentary in 1989, Psychological Wars, which examined subliminal messages in sit-coms, cartoons and commercials that negatively impacted the psyche of African Americans. The documentary received international attention and endorsements by noted Black educators, Na’im Akbar and Jawanza Kunjufu.
Following a long investigative hiatus, he rediscovered this same theological impotence when he moved to the Atlanta metro area, where he quickly discovered that church was big business. He knew then the time had come for him to write a book shedding light on the many psychologically crippling aspects within the church that keep Blacks in a state of “Holy Lockdown.”
Jeremiah Camara is the author of the books:
•Holy Lockdown: Does the Church Limit Black Progress? and
• The New Doubting Thomas: The Bible, Black Folks & Blind Belief
Camara is also a poet and has won several poetry awards; the most notable at The National Black Theater in Harlem, New York. He has performed poetry at the prestigious Apollo Theater, and is also the author of Smoke & Haze, a timeless collection of poetry, which reflects his vivid imagination, along with his prolific and sometimes humorous outlook concerning social injustice.
He branched out to blogging with video production by creating Camara’s Classics, Camara’s Contemplations and the acclaimed 10 minute, or less, video series, Slave Sermons. which addresses the perils of religious intoxication and the deleterious consequences of being theologically conditioned to rely upon supernaturalism and divine intervention to deal with critical issues.
Additionally, Jeremiah is the producer, writer and director of the full-length, documentary film entitled, Contradiction: A Question of Faith. Contradiction explores the impact of religious loyalty and how an unyielding commitment to faith in an omniscient and omnipotent being is affecting society, particularly the African American segment.
Camara made the film seeking to understand the paradox of the saturation of churches in Black communities coexisting in the midst of poverty and powerlessness and if there is a correlation between high-praise and low productivity.
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Scot got his first job as a community organizer in 1979, and since then has worked in community campaigns, social research, public policy analysis and advocacy. He has been a literacy teacher, a service provider, and an activist ever since. Before forming ChangeLab, Scot served as the Field Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Associate Director of the Western Prison Project (now the Partnership for Safety and Justice), Executive Director of Social Justice Fund Northwest, Executive Director of the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, and as Education Co-Coordinator of the Highlander Research and Education Center. Scot’s primary work in progressive social change has been as a social movement analyst with a particular emphasis on analyzing and creating strategies to counter racial violence and structural racism.
Scot's writings can be found at: racefiles.com
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