By Missy Ward Angalla
My husband is black. Not African American, but Ugandan.
We met volunteering together nine years ago. We connected over our passion for God, helping refugees, our passion for ministry, among other things. We fell in love, eventually got married and have been ministering together with and among refugee and Ugandan communities in Uganda for the last seven years.
Four years ago, around this time, we were in the U.S. for a 6 month fundraising assignment for CBF and our ministry where we would end up driving close to 16,000 miles. Just a few weeks after we arrived in the U.S., I saw a video that would forever change my life. It was a video of a white officer shooting Philando Castile, an unarmed black man he pulled over because of their broken tail light. His girlfriend began the video screaming in terror that the officer had shot her boyfriend four times! He died.
That day, my worldview changed. While these murders had previously made me sad and angry, the harsh reality had never hit home in the way that it did that day. I realized, that could be my husband. My husband—who has a very gentle and loving temperament, who almost never raises his voice, who is one of the most gracious people that I know, who is an incredibly gifted musician, producer and friend.
Since the day that I watched that video, I have felt stress, fear and anxiety whenever my husband and I have driven in the U.S.
One evening in 2016, after we had been driving for hundreds of miles on a return trip from Florida, our car broke down on the side of one of Atlanta’s busiest highway intersections just as the sun was setting. We were still an hour away from the house where we were staying. We managed to get to the side of the road.
We were exhausted after the busy speaking schedule and the hours of driving. Cars whizzed past us at speeds above 60 MPH. We were trying to call the company we rented the car from, people in the nearby area. I literally prayed, “ God—please do not allow a police car to stop.”
I would have been happy for the police to stop and help me years before if my car had broken down but as a white person with privilege, this fear is not something that crossed my mind. It is a REAL fear and threat for black people given the number of black people who have been murdered by white officers and their crimes often going unpunished.
I would have rather been stuck on the side of the road longer than taking a chance of the officer perceiving my unarmed, loving, gentle black husband as a threat.
Everything changes when the occurrence of or threat of this violence comes to your family, to your home, to your husband, to your child and to your friends.
That video woke me up to the harsh reality in a whole new of just how unsafe my husband, future children and black friends are/will be in America. The shootings and violent deaths of black Americans since then have been constant reminders of this harsh reality.
As an American, I believe that we have a lot to learn from African cultures.
Throughout my time living and traveling in East Africa, I have seen and witnessed the presence of Ubuntu that is deeply ingrained throughout various cultures and takes various forms.
Desmond Tutu describes Ubuntu by sharing “ You cannot be human on your own. You are human through relationship. You become human. We were made for complementarity.”
This understanding of Ubuntu is an essential part of what makes East African cultures so communal, generous and hospitable. Even through the recent COVID-19 lockdowns in Uganda, where people were out of work and many came in dire situations, people helped one another. If someone didn’t have food, they were invited to share with their neighbor’s meal. Whatever they had, they shared, not because they had more than they needed. In fact, their portions became smaller because their neighbor was hungry.
We need one another. We need to become human together. We are not and will never all be the same. We all have our own cultures, beliefs, skin colors, ethnic groups, languages, etc. BUT what does need to change is that no matter our skin color, culture, ethnicity, beliefs—we ALL deserve to be treated with the same value, dignity, respect and love, having the SAME access to justice, safety and well-being. After all, we are all God’s children.
And until things change and these injustices are stopped, I will continue to listen, un-learn and re-learn from the experiences of black people. I will continue to stand with and speak out. I will continue to pray for change. I will continue to minister with the deep hope and faith that God is able to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. And I know that God deeply desires and imagines a world where all of God’s children are treated as they were created to be, in God’s image.
Missy Ward Angalla serves as Field Personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Kampala, Uganda where she serves as the Co-Director of Amani Sasa (www.amanisasa.org) alongside of her husband Francis. Amani Sasa focuses on loving their refugee neighbors by offering safety, wholeness and empowerment so that they can live into their God-given potential.