Honoring Black Heritage
By *Victor Cyrus-Franklin
The commemoration of Black History Month in the United States began with the vision of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the Journal of Negro History and spearheaded 'Negro History Week' to promote the heritage and contributions of people of African ancestry in the United States. The second week of February 1926 was chosen to commemorate the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Since then, other nations throughout the world have created time to affirm the heritage and ongoing contributions of people of African descent. Canada commemorates Black History Month in February, the United Kingdom, observes Black History Month annually in October and Brazil (which has the largest population of black peoples outside of the African continent) celebrates its "Day of Black Awareness" on November 20th.
Throughout the month of February, United Methodists of all "colors" designate time to celebrate the heritage and contributions of black people within the church. The stories of black people in the Methodist church are still under-told and under-appreciated by many, thus creating time to honor this heritage is an important way to affirm the witness of all members of the body of Christ.
It is important to note, that celebrating and commemorating black heritage is not a task for black people alone! At a discussion on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-atlantic slave trade in England, Paul Gilroy, a British scholar in trans-atlantic black culture, suggests "Those of us who were property, should not relate to this history as if it were somebody's property. It doesn't belong to anyone." In fact, Gilroy suggests, such thinking assigns parameters to what our ancestors are "allowed" to say and places artificial limits on to whom they can speak. The voices of our ancestors of African descent are a gift to all humankind and the richness of black heritage provides lessons and a witness that challenges all people to be more human, more free, and more just in human relations.
For the church to live into our call to inclusiveness, honoring black heritage across racial ethnic boundaries is a beginning toward tearing down racist walls between us and becoming a truly inclusive church.
Here are some ways you honor, celebrate, be challenged and become inspired through Black History Month:
- Lead a group discussion on Black Methodism: Legacy of Faith: You can print and mail an order form for the DVD: GCORR Resource Order Form. EcuFilm offers a free leader's guide for group discussion on the film.
- Learn more about the history of the Central Jurisdiction: View Unlocking the Future: Remembering the Central Jurisdiction (An online slideshow and United Methodist News Service Report)
- Purchase the BMCR Bible for yourself and/or your church library: See The Black Methodists for Church Renewal Bible is Here!
- Learn more about African American Religious History:View the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Portal: This Far by Faith: African American Spiritual Journeys
- Support the Black College Fund through your apportionments!
- Perry, Imani. PROPHETS OF THE HOOD: THE POLITICS AND POETICS OF HIP-HOP. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.
- Pinn, Anthony & Benjamin Valentin, editors. CREATING OURSELVES: AFRICAN AMERICANS AND HISPANIC AMERICANS ON POPULAR CULTURE AND RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
- Prashad, Vijay. EVERYBODY WAS KUNG-FU FIGHTING: AFRO-ASIAN CONNECTIONS AND THE MYTH OF CULTURAL PURITY. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.
- Talbert, Marilyn McGee. THE PAST MATTERS: A CHRONOLOGY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2004.
- Thomas, James. METHODISM'S RACIAL DILEMMA: THE STORY OF THE CENTRAL JURISDICTION. Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press, 1992.
- Terrell, Joanne Marie. POWER IN THE BLOOD?: THE CROSS IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005.
*Victor Cyrus-Franklin formerly served as Advocacy Organizer for GCORR. He currently serves as Assistant Pastor of East Point First Mallalieu United Methodist Church in East Point, GA.
el Intérprete Online - enero-febrero, 2011