Churches have a long history of advocating for civil rights. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Baptist, Methodist and other religious denominations united to support civil rights for African Americans.
Many churches, for example, provided shelter to protesters during civil rights marches. They organized food assistance programs, assisted homeless with housing needs and provided counseling to alcohol and drug abusers. More than ever, churches play a vital role in communities of color especially in the chaotic and fear-driven pandemic era that we currently reside in now.
What can churches do to assist Black Lives Matter and other non-profit organizations that are vital to serving communities of color?
- Get involved with local HBCUs: HBCUs serve as safe havens for many students of color. While many HBCU campuses have long-standing ties with African American churches, predominantly White churches must do a better job of interacting and collaborating on issues relating to African American and other people of color.
- Create networking opportunities: Connect and create dialogue through mini-conferences and virtual panels with other non-profits that work in communities of color such as the Center for the Healing of Racism, Pure Justice and Sankofa Research Institute.
- Local university partnership: Churches are non-profits and as such, have a unique understanding of the budgetary and fiscal challenges of working with less and doing more. Churches can provide assistance in the form of sharing services such as food pantries. Church leaders can also serve as guest speakers and adjunct faculty, particularly at universities which offer degrees in non-profit management, public administration and social work.
- Promote authors and establish book clubs: Churches should establish antiracist book-of-the-month clubs to promote authors who are active antiracist. Books such as Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist; Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Dr. Beverely Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, promote critical thinking and lively discussions, bridging the gap between interpretation and action.
Establish micro-scholarships for HBCU students: Create, establish and increase funding for micro-scholarships for first generation, low income minorities of color who attend HBCUs. HBCU students now more than ever need increased and sustained scholarships as HBCU graduates often tend to have higher student debt than graduates at predominantly White institutions. Budget cuts in state legislatures across the nation are already happening, and even a $100 gift card could provide a world of opportunity to an incoming and ongoing HBCU student.
Volunteer: Churches have a long history in organizing community-based volunteer activities. Churches should once again take the lead with church leaders and their followers to continue to work with other non-profits and HBCU’s to create increased visibility and connections within the African American community.
Dr. Gautam Nayer is a professor at Texas Southern University and a board member of the Center for the Healing of Racism.
Mickey Ary is a pastor and alumni of Texas Southern University.
Dr. Michael Adams is a professor at Texas Southern University and the director of the Executive Master’s in Public Administration program