What happens when a people can take no more injustice rained down upon their sons and daughters? When each new travesty echoes the cries of ancestors killed for the color of their skin? How do a people rediscover hope? And how do they use that new-found hope as momentum and strength for change?
In his powerful new book Stakes Is High, pastor, activist, and community leader Michael W. Waters blends hip-hop lyricism and social justice leadership, creating an urgent voice demanding that America listen to the suffering if it hopes to redeem its soul. Weaving stories from centuries of persecution against the backdrop of today’s urban prophets on the radio and in the streets, Waters speaks on behalf of an awakened generation raging against racism – yet fueled by the promise of a just future. Through the pain and hard but holy work, you will hear the call to join the faithful struggle for racial justice.
"I just finished reading Stakes Is High. My hope and prayer is that this narrative of violence against black and brown people in the United States, finds its way into homes, churches, schools, and offices of public servants across this nation. I will recommend it to the faculty, staff, and students of the institution that I lead, Duke Divinity School. Michael Waters’ straightforward account of brutality begins with slavery and leads us forward to our own day in which killings are repeated endlessly on social media. Waters speaks with prophetic authority, calling all of us to the way of justice and peace."
Elaine Heath, PhD
Duke Divinity School
Durham, North Carolina
"Through raw emotion and critical analysis, Stakes Is High grapples with the race matters plaguing America. Shifting us away from sound bites, Waters takes us on a journey that is deeply historical, theological, cultural, and personal. In the end, we are challenged to view the complexities of the black experience in ways that are both familiar and fresh."
New York, New York
"Timely and important. Too often these words are used for books simply well written; not so here. Stakes Is High is the rare book that brings a keen theological eye to contemporary events. In the midst of what has been one of the most important movements for human dignity, Black Lives Matter, in recent decades, hearing the voice of emerging Christian leadership dedicated to both chronicling the moment and changing the world is vital! This book is a resource for practitioners of public ministry and those of us dedicated to their preparation."
Stephen G. Ray, Jr., PhD.
Fisher Professor of Theology
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
"In Stakes Is High Dr. Waters shares some of his most thought-provoking writings on race relations in the United States. Part theology/part commentary this book has a wide reach and relevance from seminaries to academic classrooms to book clubs. Dr. Waters will challenge you, inspire you, and make you question your own thoughts about the state of the nation."
John Thomas III
The Christian Recorder and General Officer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
"I appreciate the way Waters challenges us to consider the question ‘How often must we drink from this bitter well? of racism in America.’ His use of historical narratives juxtaposed with contemporary illustrations gives the reader a sense of this long arc of injustice. Waters mixes the names of familiar and lesser known people who have found themselves on the underside of this arc, and challenges us to think critically and creatively about next steps toward liberty and justice for all."
Leah Gunning Francis, PhD.
Dean of the Faculty
Christian Theological Seminary
Author of Ferguson and Faith
"The years in office of President Obama have also been years of increased racial tensions, as backlash against the first African American president took many forms, accompanied by growing economic inequality. No one will remain unaffected as Michael Waters masterfully tells the stories of the struggle and gives powerful evidence for the hope that things are about to change."
Joerg Rieger, PhD.
Co-author of Unified We Are a Force
"Rev. Dr. Michael Waters personifies the truthful image of a powerful, young, Black pastor/preacher/lecturer, raw cultural writer, boots on the ground, social justice advocate, and true lover of hip-hop music. His keen insight on the intersection of religion and the hip-hop culture is phenomenal. Stakes Is High is powerful and thought-provoking."
Chaplain and Gun law reform advocate
Daughter of Emanuel 9 martyr Ethel Lance
In this prophetic collection of essays, Michael Waters speaks truth to relevant current events with his edgy but truthful perspectives. Waters identifies as a member of the hip-hop generation living in an urban context. Based on his blogs for The Huffington Post, his essays sing with the immediacy of current events but also highlight the compelling nature of these situations as we move into the future.
*A 2014 Award-Winning Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards in “Religion: Christianity” and “Social Change”
*A 2015 Illumination Book Award for Exemplary Christian Books
“Provocative and prophetic, Michael Waters provides a fresh perspective on many issues that impact our communities, families, and the future of our country. Through his political critique, you hear the voice of a street prophet. Through his analysis of hip-hop, you hear the voice of a cultural connoisseur. Through his reflections as a father, you hear the voice of a loving parent. FREESTYLE is inspiring, convicting, educating – and in the end, uplifting.”
Romal Tune, author of God’s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens
“FREESTYLE is a thoughtful snapshot into the life of one of our preachers looking at our 21st-century world through the lens of Christian hope. His musings are poignant, prophetic, and thought-provoking and will remind you of days gone by, the present, and what lingers on the horizon of tomorrow. FREESTYLE will also make you smile inside, and we all need a smile a day.”
Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie
Presiding Prelate, 10th Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Church
“Michael W. Waters is a gifted pastor, theologian, and community activist who is uniquely qualified to provide a relevant, insightful, and challenging commentary on some of the contemporary social and spiritual issues that confront the church and community. In this book we do not hear from a detached spectator but from one who is passionately involved in the confrontation, pointing the way forward with a word of hope and reconciliation.”
Zan W. Holmes Jr., pastor emeritus
St. Luke Community United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas
“FREESTYLE is a must read. Dr. Waters’ ability to synthesize intellectual insight, pastoral experience, and cultural insight is a rare gift. Song lyrics and scripture both find themselves interwoven in a tapestry of hope, faith, and joy. He has shaped a message that will bless both the suites and the streets.”
Rev. Tony Lee, founder and senior pastor
Community of Hope A.M.E. Church
Hillcrest Heights, Maryland
“Michael Waters has drawn on his considerable pastoral leadership to compose a clear, evocative, challenging, and persuasive statement on how to be a Christian global citizen in a fractious world. FREESTYLE provides the reader with impressive and intelligent reflection on national issues, faith, family, popular culture, social ethics, and spiritual growth.”
Harold J. Recinos, PhD
Professor of Church and Society
Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
“I am singing the praises of Dr. Michael Waters and Freestyle. From page 1 I was deeply stirred and drawn in by his prophetic yet compassionate voice. Dr. Waters reminds us that God is still at work and sovereignly carrying out his great plan for every generation. Waters is boldly leading the way into the hopeful future that God has promised.”
Babbie Mason, Award-winning singer, songwriter, and author of Embraced by God