At the gracious invitation of friend & Detroit Library Duffield Branch manager Christine Peele I was privileged to sit on the panel of judges with Pastor Shaun Marshall (Citadel of Faith) and 3 others in the 34th Annual Albert H. Mallory Sr. Black Heroes Oratorical Essay Contest. It was a blast listening to over 20 3rd – 9th graders present essays on some of the great african-american leaders of the past 2 centuries. Wow, was it informative for me! Through the hard-work, preparation, and lips of these kids I learned a great deal not just about African-American history, but about American history in general. As a nearly 43 year old college educated white guy who reads fairly widely I was struck by how much of our American history I have not know about. I suspect my experience, as shaped & limited by my background & education, is not unique among the anglo population. Simply put, many of us are largely ignorant of the role African-Americans have played in our nation’s history. We only have part of the story.
And then I was double struck by how this is a bit of an analogy for the ignorance of all ethnicities – red, black, yellow, brown, & white – of the ultimate story, the Story of our Creator & Redeemer. Some have never even heard of the Living God & others have heard only part of the story about Him as shaped & limited by their traditions. The ignorance many white americans have of the role of blacks in american history serves as an illustration of the ignorance that all people have of Christ until he is revealed by His word through the Spirit.
So after chowing on the delicious buffet that concluded the contest I left not only with a full stomach but also with a renewed commitment in my gut to pursue ( & help others pursue) two things — a greater understanding of the role of african-americans in the story of our nation and a greater understanding of the ultimate story, the story of God.
Here’s two tangible action steps you can take to continue on this journey with me. First, go the Duffield Branch Library and choose a book from the african-american section. My latest read, complements of the recommendation of Mrs. Peele, is The Warmth of other Suns, a book that chronicles the migration of 6 million blacks from the south. Many have been asking me for recommendations so I’ll add three more of my own. Free at Last? The Gospel in African-American Experience by Carl F Ellis Jr (who’ll I’ll get to learn from next Friday in Philadelphia for 8 hours with about 20 pastors!), On being Black & Reformed by Anthony Carter (No, not the AC of Wolverine history. but I can’t resist – here’s one of the greatest plays of UM history.) and Liberating Black Theology: The Bible & the Black Experience in America by Anthony Bradley (you’ll need strong coffee for this informative read!). Second, participate in our interactive Bible study THE Story Sundays 3-5PM at 1926 Virginia Park Blvd. In a few days I’ll do a blogpost (& possibly post the video) from last night’s study Paradise Lost, the first of our eight sessions. We’re going to set up some more chairs so there is room for you!