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A Reflection on Black History Month

By Barry Jones
In eLetter
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In recent weeks at IBC, we’ve been discussing the importance of wrestling with our own personal past—our life story—to better understand our present and God’s intentions for our future. This is a vitally important part of our ongoing spiritual growth and development. God has made us who we are through the formative experiences and relationships of our lives: though our heritage, our heroes, our high points, and our hard times.

As much as understanding our past is important for all of us on a personal level, it’s also important on a collective level. During the month of February, the United States celebrates Black History Month, because Black history is American history. This month, and every month, it deserves special recognition, remembrance, and honor. Black history is filled with a beautiful heritage, a passing on of cultural traditions, values, and character from one generation to the next. It has some incredibly brave heroes, some with well-known names and stories and many without. Black history is filled with moments of joy and triumph despite setbacks and adversity. And Black history is filled with remarkable perseverance through gut-wrenching hard times, through the long history of slavery, through Jim Crow, and through decades of racial prejudice, discrimination, and injustice.

In an increasingly diverse congregation like ours, we all relate to this history in different ways. But there is something powerful, something challenging, and something inspiring in this history for all of us. If you’re looking for some resources to engage this month or on into the future, there are a lot of helpful ones out there. Here are a few that have impacted me.

One of the most helpful resources in learning more about Black history has been Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s documentary series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” or the excellent follow-up series “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise.” If you’re a fan of books or audiobooks, I loved the Pulitzer-winning trilogy on the history of the civil rights movement from Taylor Branch. Or if you’re looking for a distinctly Christian perspective on our ongoing tasks of racial reconciliation and justice, I’d recommend Jemar Tisby’s “How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice” or Derwin Gray’s “How to Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says and the First Christians Knew About Racial Reconciliation.”

However you choose to engage Black History Month this year, I hope you do. Our stories—both personal and shared—matter. Let’s not miss this opportunity to lean into them.

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