There is a danger in responding to a film like Hidden Figures by congratulating ourselves on how far we’ve come.
civil rights movement
In 1911, Afro-Caribbean intellectual activist Hubert Harrison wrote in the New York Call that “politically the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea.” This touchstone metaphor is both startling and profound.
The young people leading this movement have heard enough about Martin Luther King's dream. It is not enough for church leaders to reply that they don't know much history.
Most white Christians, and many middle class racial minority communities, have cut themselves off from any intimate life together with poor black communities that struggle every day with a multiplicity of oppressive obstacles. But a movement is happening all around us.
Fifty-two years ago, eight white clergy penned their version of “all lives matter.” These white men of God questioned the efficacy of the civil rights movement in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. They wrote that "honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts.”
I recently had the honor of sitting down with a fourth-generation Mississippian who knows a thing or two about racial injustice because he’s spent his life fighting it: Duncan M. Gray Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi from 1974 to 1993.
“Tell me what a feminist looks like,” the woman at the microphone chanted. Obediently and enthusiastically, we responded, “This is what a feminist looks like.” It was a beautiful, if chilly, April afternoon, and several hundred students, faculty members, and administrators had gathered in front of the University of Mary Washington’s administration building to mourn the murder of Grace Rebecca Mann and celebrate her life.
In 1960, when Vincent Harding moved to Atlanta, he began trying to weld together the ongoing nonviolent activism being lived out by some in the Black Church with the peace witness of the Mennonite Church. This effort became less than a decade long experiment, because Harding would eventually break formal ties with the Mennonite Church. Though his time and effort keeping a foot simultaneously in both the Black community and Mennonite community was fixed should not suggest to us that he no longer had an important role to play in for Mennonite lived faith or that he did not continue to influence the Mennonite Church deeply. In fact, his ongoing legacy for the Mennonite Church lives on today.
The third Selma-to-Montgomery march was a civil rights watershed. It also focused the lives of many who gave it its spiritual hue.