February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on issues of race and religion and celebrate the important roles African Americans have played in the development of the United States. Recognition of those roles from a historical perspective is an important step in celebrating the contributions of individuals and the collective changes the African American community has brought about.
Black History Month evolved from the first Negro History Week, established Feb.7, 1926, wrote Bishop Forrest Stith in a 2022 article. "The purposes have always been to learn, share and celebrate the unique story of African Americans," he wrote. "But that was then, and this is now. Why, then, do we continue to need a month almost one hundred years later?" He suggests three reasons in a document rich with insight and details. Bishop Stith played a pivotal role in establishing the African American Methodist Heritage Center.
The observance of Black History Month in the life of the Church can take on many forms. Yet any celebration without gratitude and appreciation of the contributions from the Africana traditions to the music life of the whole church would be incomplete. To give a taste of the scope and variety of musical styles and genres, Discipleship Ministries presents a four-part video series, “Lift Every Voice: A Celebration of Song from the Black Church Experience” with Bishop Ernest Lyght and the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson, Executive Director of Worship Resources.
In Western PA, the Washington District Anti-Racism Team compiled a list of movies to watch at home or with a small group during Black History Month. Many are available through public libraries or via streaming. See the list.
Unsnarling U.S. and Black History, a July 2020 Dismantling Racism Town Hall
Explore the 1619 Project, launched by the New York Times in August, 2019, to mark the 400th anniversary of the day (Aug. 20, 1619) a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia. The United States had yet to be established, but the slaves' arrival marked the beginning of the system of slavery on which the country was built, according to the Pulitzer Center, an educational partner of the ongoing project. Because the project showcases events not routinely taught in elementary or high school American history classes and points to many ways the legacy of slavery shapes and defines life in the United States, it became controversial in the run-up to the 2020 elections. Critics labeled it "revisionist history." Learn more
Visit the website of the African American Methodist Heritage Center at http://aamhc-umc.org/
The General Commission on Race and Religion of the United Methodist Church created Vital Conversations on Racism videos as a way to begin the conversations and be part of the change in dismantling racism. Through Vital Conversations and other initiatives, the General Commission on Race and Religion offers resources to facilitate, resource, guide, and support discussions on how to move to efficacy, justice, and courageous positive action. Visit the Resource Library.
The Conference website also offers Diversity Development Resources