United Church of Christ

2020 Celebrate Black History

THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST CELEBRATES BLACK HISTORY

Black History Month is an opportunity to spend time enjoying the creativity, beauty, challenging history, and uplifting journey of God’s very good creation…People of African Descent in America. The shared resources can be enjoyed throughout the month of February, as well as the entire year. Enjoy sacred scriptures and reflections, explore arts and culture, and incorporate the resources into your viewing and reading routines throughout the year. Sit down and learn more about the complex and extraordinary history of African descended people through film and documentaries, and literary works—fiction and nonfiction—written by people of African descent from various disciplines. For more information on the origins and creator of Black History Month, Click the link: The Biography of the Creator of Black History Month Carter G. Woodson

Week One: February 1 – 7 Worship the Creator

Click on the links below, visit the sites, explore your local library, and enjoy Black History!

SACRED SCRIPTURE: GENESIS 1:1-4A Creation of the World

In [a] beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light was good…

“Since African Religion belongs to the people, when Africans migrate in large numbers from one part of the continent to another, or from Africa to other continents, they take religion with them.” (Mbiti, 14)

Citation: Introduction to African Religion 2nd Edition John S Mbiti

Historical Background

The continent of Africa is the cradle of civilization, and the birthplace of the first humans who ventured out of Africa some 60,000 years ago leaving their genetic footprints still visible today. By mapping

[Map of Human Migration] the appearance and frequency of genetic markers in modern peoples, we create a picture of when and where ancient humans moved around the world. These great migrations eventually led the descendants of a small group of Africans to occupy even the farthest reaches of the Earth.

Our species is an African one: Africa is where we first evolved, and where we have spent the majority of our time on Earth. The earliest fossils of recognizably modern Homo sapiensappear in the fossil record at Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, around 200,000 years ago. Although earlier fossils may be found over the coming years, this is our best understanding of when and approximately where we originated.

Citation: Map of Human Migration

View a Documentary  

  • Africa’s Great Civilizations, narrated by Dr. Henry Louis, Gates, Jr. amazon.com
    • Africa’s Great Civilizations is a PBS documentary. Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. introduces viewers to the African continent through a series of expansive views and myth-busting revelations. His six-hour exploration of the African past begins at the origins of human existence. Through anthropological and scientific discoveries viewers learn that Africa is the genetic home of all currently living humanity. Only between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago did some of humanity's common ancestors leave the continent to spread across the rest of the world. These great African migrations culminated in the diverse global peoples and societies that viewers know today. Beginning with this great revelation, Gates then traces the roots of agriculture, writing, artistic expression, and iron working to their birthplaces on the continent.

Explore Black History through Art and Culture Museums

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture NMAAHC

Read and Learn from African Centered Resources

  • Adamo, David Tuesday, Africa and The Africans in the Old Testament, (San Francisco, CA: Christian Universities Press, 1998).
            __________Africa and Africans in the New Testament, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2006). 
  • Mbiti, John S., Introduction to African Religion Second Edition, (Oxford, England: Biddles Ltd, 1975).

 February, 8-14 Restore Beauty!

 Reflection: An African Centered Christian Experience
Growing up in the Black Church remains a sacred memory that rooted my soul in African centered spirituality, theology, and biblical teachings. I am who I am because I believe in a God who created me Black and Beautiful. As a young adult I was blessed to find a church home, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. Under the leadership of spiritual and intellectual giants—senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., and executive minister, Rev. Barbara J. Allen—I remained a member for over twenty years. Trinity UCC shaped my faith, was spiritually nurturing, theologically grounding, and biblically rich. Our congregational understanding was that we were, Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian. This statement empowered us to know we were more than an enslaved people. Our history was interrupted during the enslavement era, and our ancestors brought their faiths and many religious traditions with them across the Atlantic Ocean.

 Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain “true to our native land,” the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community. TUCC History

African descendant people are a beautiful people. We represent the image and likeness of God. And in the words of my kin folk, “God don’t make no junk.”

Prayer 824, The New Century Hymnal

Leader:Beautiful are the works of God!
People:Beautiful also are the skins of God’s people!
Beautiful is the mind of God!
Beautiful also are the hopes of God’s people!
Beautiful is the heart of God!
Beautiful also are the souls of God’s people!
God made the heavens and the earth!
To God be the glory for the things God has done.

Adapted, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago.

Restore Beauty (Click on the Links and Enjoy)

Listen to African American Music

February, 15-21 Then God Said . . . !

SACRED SCRIPTURE: Genesis 1:26, 31
Genesis 1:26, 31

  1. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness... So God created Humankind . . .” God saw everything and indeed it was very good. NRSV 

Historical Lesson

Although anthropologists, Egyptologists, and Africanists are not in agreement on the exact racial classification of the people of Africa, there is general agreement that Africa is indeed the cradle of civilization and one of the earliest and most spectacular civilizations of antiquity. Africans have been known for their trade with other nations, military acumen, early intellectual and artistic expressions, which reside in museums around the world. The term African is not an original name for people who originate on the Continent. The name Africa came into Western use through the Romans, who used the name Africa terra — "land of the Afri" (plural, or "Afer" singular) — for the northern part of the continent, as the province of Africa with its capital Carthage, corresponding to modern-day Tunisia.

The Old Testament cites ancient Kush (Cush/Ethiopia 13,000 – 7,500 B.C.) over forty times and Egypt, over one hundred times. Kush (modern day Ethiopia) and Egypt are countries located in the northeastern region of Africa. Kush is the home of the Garden of Eden, also known as the cradle of civilization. Two of the four rives mentioned in Genesis 2:8-13 flowed through ancient Kush, the Pishon and Gihon.  Kush, the Hebrew term was later renamed by the Greeks and transposed into Aithiops (Ethiopia), which literally meant “burnt faced people.” (Original African Heritage Bible, Page 94)

View RACE: The Power of An Illusion

  1. RACE: The Power of an Illusion
    1. Episode One: The Difference Between Us https://vimeo.com/265754359
    2. Episode Two: The Story We Tell https://vimeo.com/265756174
    3. Episode Three: The House We Live In https://vimeo.com/265756935

Post Video Dialogue
Create an opportunity to bring people together after viewing each episode of RACE: The Power of an Illusion. Use the study guide as a resource for conversation and ongoing learning.
Click the link and download the study guide: RACE The Power of an Illusion Study Guide

  1. Use the Race Guide associated with each episode.
  2. Engage the group with the material from the guide.
  3. Encourage the group to discuss lessons learned and how they’ll use the lessons to teach others
  4. Allow time to process the video and allow the group to ask questions
  5. Remember to begin and close dialogues in prayer.

February, 22-29 The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Us!

SACRED SCRIPTURE: Luke 4:18-19 NRSV (Revised to reflect inclusive language)

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Liturgy as Subversive Activity

Safiyah Fosua is a clergy member of the United Methodist Church and assistant professor of congregational worship at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. She is also the associate editor of the 3-volume Africana Worship Book series. In Companion to The Africana Worship Book, Safiyah introduces a chapter entitled, Liturgy as Subversive Activity. I’ve always been drawn to African descended scholars, preachers, and theologians who lean into portraying biblical narratives as liberation strategies for God’s people. Justice, liberation, and freedom are particularly themes I identify with. I also identify Jesus as a compassionate man with highly evolved intellectual capabilities because he’s fluent in Aramaic and ancient Hebrew. He’s a subversive radical who boldly speaks against the Roman Empire’s oppressive occupation and unfair treatment of indigenous peoples. Jesus, a Palestinian Jew is able to crossover into Egypt as a child, and culturally engages with Africans.

Dr. Fosua provides a relevant and necessary interpretation on page 34. She offers us some context for the Luke 4: 18-19 texts. Jesus informs his hearers of some of his public ministry goals.

“While appearing to be an innocent recap of Isaiah 61, Jesus’ words were subversive. His words hinted that poverty and oppression were not acceptable to God. Jesus’ words hinted at the principles of Jubilee that the people had repeatedly failed to observe. Jubilee was intended, once every fifty years, to level the economic playing field—a time when property reverted to the original owners and debts were forgiven. By proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor Jesus was certain to get into trouble with the rich, the powerful, and anyone with a vested interest in established order—especially after it became evident that he was willing to risk death in order to turn the world right side up!”(Fosua, 34)

The challenge for the Christian Church is to read the Bible from the margins, listen to the narratives of the oppressed, and return to a reading that is subversive and anti-imperial for the sake of a liberating gospel.

Explore Equal Justice Initiative and African American Museums

Restorative Racial Justice Resources
Online Reading Resources

  1. 1619: Virginia’s First Africans, Hampton History Museum Click here 1619: Virginia's First Africans Resource
  2. Association for the Study of African American Life and History Click here 400 Years of Perseverance
  3. Project 1619 Click here Project 1619
  4. National Public Radio Interview 1619 Project Click here NPR Interview 1619 Project
  5. International UN Decade for People of African Descent UN Decade for People of African Descent

Precolonial and Post-Colonial Readings,

  1. They Came Before Columbus: The Ancient Presence in Ancient America – Ivan Van Sertima
  2. Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race From 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. – Chancellor Williams
  3. Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice
  4. Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenges to Womanist God-Talk – Delores S. Williams
  5. Enfleshing Freedom, body, race, and being, -- M. Shawn Copeland
  6. Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation & Transformation – Emile M. Townes
  7. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism – Edward E. Baptist

Reading Resources: History, Womanist & Black Liberation Theology

  1. Higginbotham, Leon A., Jr., Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the
             American Legal Process,
    (New York, NY: Oxford Press, 1996).
  2. Morrison, Toni, The Origins of Others, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).
  3. Byron, Gay, and Vanessa Lovelace, Womanist Interpretations of the Bible: Expanding the Discourse,(Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2016).
  4. Grant, Jacqueline, White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response,(Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1989).
  5. Kendi, Ibram X., Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, (New York, NY: Nation Books, 2016).
              _________How To Be An Antiracist, (New York, NY: Random House, 2019).
  6. Brown Douglas, Kelly, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, Books, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015).
  7. Cone, James, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2011).
  8. Bridgeman David, Valerie, Safiyah Fosua, Companion to The Africana Worship Book, (Nashville,
             TN: Discipleship Resources, 2007).

 Become a Restorative Racial Justice Church Today! For more information please contact Rev. Dr. Velda Love, Minister for Racial Justice (216) 736-3719 Lovev@ucc.org

Latest UCC News

UCC pastor: We need Advent more than ever Commentary: The Gender-Based Violence Pandemic