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Reviews & Endorsements

“Waters, an African American pastor and civil rights activist, delivers a blistering critique of white supremacy and racial injustice in this trenchant collection of sermons, poems, and commentaries. This concise, incisive work should be a wake-up call to Americans in general and the church in particular.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Michael Waters reminds us that America’s original sin of racism is insidious and ever-present, and must be boldly confronted and thoroughly dismantled if we are ever to move forward as a true multi-racial democracy. This is a compelling and transforming book that is coming out at exactly the right time, and I would especially urge all Christians to read it–and be inspired to both speak and act.”
–Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and New York Times bestselling author of Christ in Crisis

“I am grateful to know that through Waters’ words, my journey has not been forgotten, and through Waters’ work, the moral arc is still being bent towards justice.”
–Sarah Collins Rudolph, author of The 5th Little Girl: Soul Survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

“Every white Christian like me needs a black pastor and teacher. In Rev. Dr. Michael Waters, I also get a prophet as well. I am grateful that this rich collection of insightful writings is available so that more and more of us can be among his congregation — not just to be instructed in mind and inspired in spirit, but also to be motivated for action in our ongoing movement toward a more perfect union and beloved community.”
–Brian D. McLaren, author and activist

“The voice of Michael Waters booms from the pages of this book like a thunder-call for justice. The perfect combination of historical journal, personal essay, and poetry, this book should be required reading for every American.”
–Kerry Connelly, author, Good White Racist: Confronting your Role in Racial Justice

“The Reverend Dr. Michael Waters is a faith leader with a deep moral conscience who inspires with his words and actions daily. Having been by his side through many moments of struggle, it is a blessing he lets us into his thoughts that keep him going, and keep us thinking.”
–Imam Dr. Omar Sueiman, professor, and founder/president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

“Something in the Water is a must read; a refreshing narrative about what we continue to face in America with a new fresh context and raw truth-telling by one of today’s most esteemed scholars, young, woke pastors, and teachers.”
–Rev. Sharon Risher, author, For Such a Time as This: Hope and Forgiveness after the Charleston Massacre

“Michael Waters wades into the liminal space between the Civil Rights Movement and the current movements for racial justice in America and reminds us of just how far we have not come. Through his narratives, Waters shows how the personal is always political and the private easily becomes public for black and brown people from the sea to shining sea of white supremacy in America. However, the current movements for racial justice afoot beckon us to jump in and get into “good trouble” as a prophetic witness that God’s gonna trouble the water.
”–Leah Gunning Francis, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Christian Theological Seminary and author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community

2022 Wilbur Award for Children’s Book of the Year

Reviews & Endorsements

“On an interfaith, family-based road trip, a young Black girl visits important landmarks of the civil rights movement. . . . A unique and valuable perspective.”

Kirkus Reviews

“This introduction to historic individuals and monumental locations is both inspiring and a useful teaching tool, and will see wide use in most collections.”

School Library Journal

“An accessible, anecdotal introduction to pivotal civil rights events and luminaries.”

Publishers Weekly

An NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People

Featured in National Civil Rights Museum’s 2022 Small but Mighty Storytime Series

Featured in nationally-syndicated article “Want your children to learn Black history? Read these books with them” (February 2022)

New Title Coming Soon

For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World

Winner of the 2020 Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice and 2021 Wilbur Award for Children’s Book of the Year

“Dad, what happened?”
“Why are they shooting?”
“What is this vigil for?”

The shootings keep coming, and so do Jeremiah’s questions. Dad doesn’t have easy answers, but that doesn’t mean he won’t talk about it—or that he won’t act. But what if Jeremiah doesn’t want to talk anymore? None of it makes sense, and he’s just a kid. Even if he wants to believe in a better world, is there anything he can do about it?

Inspired by real-life events, this honest, intimate look at one family’s response to racism and gun violence includes a discussion guide created by the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, a multicultural center and museum committed to promoting respect, hope, and understanding. A portion of the publisher’s sales proceeds will be donated to nonprofit organizations that facilitate the empowerment of Black communities.

An extended version of the guide and a printable coloring sheet featuring Jeremiah and his friends are available for download at


Winner of the 2020 Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice

Named a “Must-Read Book About Race” by Essence

“One of the most important and timely children’s books of the year. . . . Waters’ powerful words and Keisha Morris’ beautiful illustrations give families struggling to come to terms with the systemic racism of American society a way to talk about these extraordinarily challenging  issues.”

—Beto O’Rourke

“Jeremiah’s reactions serve as a starting point for facilitating discussions about racism and violence against Black people.”

—Publishers Weekly

“This book is a must-have.”

—Imam Omar Suleiman

“There’s a candor here that’s not always found in picture book treatments of social issues and racism, and the specificity mirrors conversations likely held in many households.”

—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Understandable and relatable, this timely book shows social justice issues and gives readers action steps and hope.”

—Imagination Soup

“Essential reading . . . touches on the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Edwards, and more, but manages to end on a hopeful note, providing a gentle way of broaching the topic with kids.”

—D Magazine

“Uses a narrative structure to convey both the gravity of this collective trauma and the unrelenting nature of racism in America.”

—The Englewood Review of Books

Stakes Is High

Race, Faith, and Hope for America

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.

Download FREE Companion Guide HERE


2018 Wilbur Award for Non-fiction Book of the Year

“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.”

Rahiel Tesfamariam
Urban Cusp
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
Evanston, Illinois

“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
Nashville, Tennessee

“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
Indianapolis, Indiana

“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.
Vanderbilt University
Co-author of Unified We Are a Force
Nashville, Tennessee

“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.”

Sharon Risher
Chaplain and Gun law reform advocate
Daughter of Emanuel 9 martyr Ethel Lance

Reflections on Faith, Family, Justice, and Pop Culture

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