Presbyterians Today

OCT-NOV 2017

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18 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay young black children, we banned toy guns because of our opposition to gun violence, not because of how a police officer might respond to a toy gun in the hands of a black child. It took a few personal experiences of seeing how others stripped our sons' "some- bodiness" from them to fully under- stand this reality. Once, we sat in a meeting at school and listened to the principal dismiss our then-4-year-old son's chances of success because "he's a drug baby." When his brother was 10, he acciden- tally stepped on the toe of a parent at a soccer game when he was trying to save a ball from going out of bounds. He apologized immediately yet was derided by that parent as a "stupid little black boy." Last year one of them was with a group of black friends in a super- market, buying drinks after playing basketball, and they were stopped by the manager and accused of stealing — not because they were stealing or even bothering anyone, but because a group of five black teenage boys is seen as a threat. So I've been thinking about King's concept of somebodiness. I've been thinking about how no matter how much black Americans throughout these past 50 years have heeded MLK's words to develop "a deep sense of somebodiness," black bodies will continue to be unjustly killed until white America does some deep thinking on this concept as well. All God's children As a Presbyterian pastor, I want to call on my white Christian friends to look at this concept of somebodi- ness through the lens of our faith and consider what it really means to honor the somebodiness of our black brothers and sisters. MLK said in the speech, "We must feel that we count. That we belong. That we are persons. That we are FREEDOM RISING Supporting African-American males By Pat Cole With bumper stickers and hashtags, Facebook pages and com- munity partnerships, the Freedom Rising initiative to improve the plight of the African-American male is beginning to take off in the five cities designated for pilot programs. The initia- tive, approved by the 222nd General Assembly (2016), seeks to assist communities in Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York City by addressing problems specifi- cally related to African-American males. The GA set a goal of $5 million to fund pilot initiatives in the five cities. Freedom Rising seeks to address some of the most pressing problems affecting African-American males, such as high unemployment, mass incarceration and substance abuse. The initiative includes partnerships with existing programs and agencies in those communities and will be tailored to focus on local priorities. For example, Pittsburgh is working on a program of church-based mentoring for young African- American boys, while Cleveland is seeking to address struc- tural racism and is focusing on jobs as a tool to achieve that. Freedom Rising bears the nickname of a Pittsburgh pastor who started a worshiping community in one of the city's predomi- nantly black neighborhoods. Eugene "Freedom" Blackwell died of cancer just two months after the overture's passage. "Eugene Blackwell was a friend and inspiration to many. He brought together a coalition of Christians to invest in his com- munity that may never otherwise have worked together," said Sheldon Sorge, general minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery. "Freedom maintained great faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to do abundantly above all that we could ask or think. He lived in Scripture, then applied it to the great needs facing his community. He was unafraid." Supporting Freedom Rising kindles the flame of commitment that Blackwell ignited. Donations can be made at presbyte Churches may also designate a portion of their Peace & Global Witness Offering to support Freedom Rising. Pat Cole is a communication specialist for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Pittsburgh pastor Eugene "Freedom" Blackwell is the inspiration behind the Freedom Rising initiative focusing on African-American males. PAUL SEEBECK

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