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Christ's crucifixion Rosalyn Article
The Malcolm X window

Were Moses and Jesus black? Holmes doesn't offer debate, but points to Old and New Testament locations, in and around Egypt, as proof that certain biblical figures were “persons of color.” Clearly, he said, they were not white-skinned Europeans, as portrayed by mainstream Christian icons.

“Traditionally, we have not been told about the African presence in the Bible,” said Holmes. “But there is a very strong presence which has been denied us by European scholars. These are not images that we are forcing onto the Bible. This is reality. It is another way of correcting the myth.”

With Dallas-based architect Norcell D. Haywood contracted to design the 27,000- square-foot annex, (Haywood's light-filled, spacious interior accommodates about half of St. Luke’s 3,000 members), Holmes approached Lacy, a prominent Dallas artist, to design the windows based on the church’s Afro-Christian ministry. Lacy collaborated with stained-glass artisan Robert Foster of Bryan, Texas, who crafted the faceted glass windows, guided by Lacy’s color drawings. Lacy studied windows in other churches to learn the subtleties of design, particularly the use of “negative” space (created by the black epoxy that both secures the glass and enhances the contrast and contour of forms and figures). “Jean had never designed stained glass windows before, and she did an excellent job,” said Foster, whose studio restored the 200-year-old windows of another black church, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia - home of the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen. The Bethel windows, which portray Jesus as white, are conservative and traditional, like the times in which they were created. “I don't think anyone could have designed the windows at St. Luke the way Jean Lacy did,” said Foster. “Her research was very thorough, and when you combine that with her talent, you have a genuine masterpiece.”


That the St. Luke windows are specifically intended for a black congregation is further emphasized by the dozen or more black historical/civil rights panels that pay homage to such figures as Harriet Tubman, Mary McLeod Bethune, Desmond Tutu, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Initially, some congregation members took issue with the idea of a window commemorating the Muslim minister, and particularly the presence of the half moon and star, symbols of the Muslim faith. “That set of windows was designed to commemorate the Civil Rights Movement,” said Holmes. “How can we talk about the Civil Rights Movement without mentioning Malcolm X, and how can we mention Malcolm without mentioning his faith? The emblem is not there for us to worship, but to acknowledge who Malcolm was and that we have much in common with him.”

While the civil rights windows can be interpreted literally, other panels are more abstract and imagistic. In the first section, inspired by the text of James Weldon Johnson’s poem, “The Creation,” from the 1927 book, God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, bold primary colors and strong earth tones erupt in swirling patterns to depict God (a male with African features) spewing out rivers and oceans, molding mountains and populating the earth with living forms. Other windows are rich with artistic anachronism and modern references. Elders and disciples disembark at a train station to preach the gospel. Christ, shown on the cross as a black youth, serves as a reminder of the historic plight of embattled black men - a “crucifixion” whose meaning transcends the biblical event. “We have many crucifixions in our history: lynching, slavery, Vietnam, and the situation with black men in our cities today,” said Lacy.

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Emerge
December/January 1994