UCC seminary to inspire new leaders for social justice
An upcoming two-day event at Chicago Theological Seminary, one of the six seminaries of the United Church of Christ, hopes to inspire participants to take on some of the most current and urgent social justice issues, such as racialized violence, police brutality, and poverty through conversation, practical workshops, and action. The “Selma at 50: Still Marching” conference, taking place April 24-25 on the Illinois campus, will trace a thread through the legacy of civil rights activism to the current activist movements in Chicago and around the country, seeking to inspire a new generation of leaders working toward a more just society.
The UCC minister for youth advocacy and CTS alumna, the Rev. Waltrina Middleton, will be part of the forum and is eager to sit down with young people and hear their perspectives on continuing civil rights activism.
“I appreciate being invited as alumna, but also as a minister for youth and young adults,” Middleton said. “When I’m invited to be part of dialogue that could help expand or broaden the way we look at young people as agents for justice, I love being a part of that … The youth are the future, but they are still present, leading and teaching as well.”
“There are people of faith who want to work inter-generationally for social justice,” Middleton added.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, conference minister of the Southwest Conference of the UCC and nominee for the next general minister and president, is also attending the conference, which will include addresses by civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and Michelle Alexander, a civil rights attorney and author of “The New Jim Crow.” Other prominent UCC leaders scheduled to present include the Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity UCC in Chicago, and the Rev. Traci Blackmon, pastor of Christ the King UCC in the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, Mo.
The gathering will include two keynote addresses, two panel discussions, and training as a way to organize communities for civil activism.
The seminary, which had a presence in Selma, Ala., at the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches last month, is using the conference as a way to continue its social justice activism. Three marches began in Alabama a year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when disparity and discrimination was still rampant in the South. Selma eventually became the center of the fight for voting rights as the Rev. Martin Luther King and thousands of supporters marched from Selma to Montgomery. The action led President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“CTS was part of the original Selma march in many ways. CTS students left their classes against the expressed wishes of then-President Howard Schomer, only to find President Schomer himself taking part in the march,” said Alice Hunt, CTS president.
For Middleton, the Still Marching theme “speaks to this bridge between generations, that there is still work to do and, just as it was at Selma 50 years ago where young people helped lead, “we have young people marching in Cleveland and Ferguson and Chicago for those same ideals,” she said.
For more on the conference, visit selma.ctschicago.edu.
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