A pastor for 20 years, the Rev. Norman Redwing now is two years into a move away from the more traditional practice of Christianity through The Afrikan Village in Memphis.
“We visited The Afrikan Village in St. Louis in 2019,” said Pastor Redwing. “It was completely enlightening for us. Christianity is hindering our people. The Afrikan Village is Christian-based, but we believe our people, especially our children, should know their history.”
The Afrikan Village in Memphis is anchored at 1225 Vollintine Ave. in North Memphis, across from the site of old Northside High School
Redwing said traditional Christianity “is not working for Black people.”
“We go to church and there is a church on every corner,” said Redwing. “Churches are like liquor stores in Memphis. There’s a liquor store on every corner. Every week, people come to church and go to the altar with the same problems week after week. They cry and shout. People get an emotional high in church. And then, the money collections start.”
At the Afrikan Village, service looks somewhat different, Redwing said. There is prayer, a therapy session and libations poured out to the ancestors.
“Our people have real problems we need to address,” said Redwing. “Religion is killing us. People need emotional emancipation. They need therapy. The same thing keeps happening in our communities. Doing the same old things in our worship experience is causing our communities to die.”
Angela Redwing, wife of Pastor Redwing, said the pilgrimage to St. Louis was an awakening for her as well.
“I was raised in the church,” she said. “But now, I’m learning more and more about the truth. I’m learning about so many things I had no idea about: things like the Lynch letter and the destruction of Black Wall Street.
“It is important for our children to learn their history, learn to honor our ancestors, and to love themselves and their people.”
Pastor Redwing said “honoring the ancestors” is important because “they struggled for us, never having known our names.”
People come to the cultural center and Afrikan Gift Shop through the week just to take in the Afrocentric spirit of the former police precinct where the ministry is housed.
“You see we have Black art on every wall,” said Angela Redwing. “Creating this space is important for our people, especially our children.
“Pastor has a saying, that he has to unlearn before we can learn, and teach. So the process is unlearn, learn and teach. That is critical if we are going to have a spiritual experience that helps us to expand our circle of knowledge. In traditional churches, we are taught not to question God. We must change that mindset and encourage open discussions about everything that pertains to us.”
Dr. Ray Hagins of St. Louis founded The Afrikan Village & Cultural Center in 2017.
“One of the greatest joys that a teacher/spiritual leader can have is a congregation who is excited, motivated and inspired as a result of learning and growing in the truth,” said Hagins, in a letter posted on the organization’s website.
“…Every week, we have been blessed by the testimonies of others from all over the world about how the Spirit of God has reached out to them via the various auxiliaries in our organization.”
(For more information, visit www.theafrikanvillage.org. Or, call The Afrikan Village Memphis at 901-859-1689.)