Black history in America is the perpetuation of a progressive dream for Black Americans to overcome the “isims” (e.g., racism, sexism, classism, ageism) in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s also the story of a people whose faith is rooted in a sovereign God with a track record of compassion towards the marginalized. Considering the context of history enables us to move into a dialogue with Black history.

When seeking to grasp the significance of the past concerning the present, the context of stories, family, faith, culture, and community matter. The more we excavate the context, the greater our understanding. The same holds for grasping Black history. As my pastor puts it: “A text without context is a con.”

I wrote a previous article on LUV talk, citing the importance of seeing others (discovering context) before serving others. When LUV talk engages with the conviction that context matters, it paves the way for an authentic conversation with Black history. I invite you to join me in a LUV talk with a contemporary voice who told me her Black history story during a recent interview, paying attention to her context along the way.

Step #1—Listening: Dimple, a 77 year-old mother, grandmother, sister, and poet, was employed with the federal government for thirty years before retiring and venturing into real estate. When asked for her assessment of the state of Black America, Dimple indicated that while Black America has come a long way, it still faces oppression.

“I wrote a poem quite some time ago called Song of a Black Man that carries you through where I feel our journey has gone from coming over on the slave ship to being on the plantation to being set free and not knowing we were free for months. And then supposedly being given 40 acres and a mule, and that didn't happen. And then many of us thought we'd go North and be much better off. But we've come a long way from a slave ship to having a Black president. And now we have a Black vice president, but we’re still oppressed.”

When asked about the struggles Black America continues to face, Dimple points to prejudice, unequal opportunities, and poor living conditions stemming from racial and economic disparities. A central issue is the "being Black" syndrome, resulting in a lack of acceptance as equals.

“And no matter where we go in the United States of America, Black people are Black people and White people don't think that we measure up to being treated as well as them.”

She recommends seeing people as individuals and giving them equal opportunities as a remedy. When asked about the potential or possibilities of America, Dimple states:

“We are a great country, but it's possible for us to be even greater if we learn to love our neighbors, love each other, and accept Christ in our lives. Just try to help each other. Like the homeless people out on the street, help them. You know, if you see somebody that needs help, try to help. Don't try to kick them down. Just try to help them get up. Because when you help them get up, we all become greater together.”

Step #2—Understanding: Let’s explore Dimple’s context for a deeper understanding of her story: Dimple was born in a small East Texas town, Lovelady (405 population), where she lived until age three before moving to Houston, Texas. At age seven, her mother died. Dimple attended junior college in Dallas, Texas, and completed a clerical course at a historically Black university in Texas. She grew up in the 50s and 60s, experiencing racism first-hand in every aspect of life, from segregated restaurants and water fountains to restrooms and schools. While Dimple prefers to use the term American when referring to herself, she is proud to be Black and identifies with the Black community. Dimple cherishes Black traditions celebrating historical events and civil rights. Religiously, she is a Christian who loves Jesus and believes in showing love and compassion for others.

Step #3—Validation: In 2022, I took a summer intensive course on faith, philanthropy, and fundraising at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. Our professor, Dr. Dustin D. Benac, provided a context-driven approach to understanding the connectional points of practical ministry. Below are three diagnostic questions—informed from Dr. Benac’s course—for reflecting on Dimple’s story of Black history.

1. What do you see (or hear)?

2. What do you wonder (or perhaps wrestle with)?

3. What is now possible in light of this LUV talk about Black history?

As Christians, we know that love is an action, not a noun. Likewise, the call to action of a LUV talk with Black history is to move from our steps of mental deliberation to compassionate action which validates the African-American sisters and brothers within our circles of influence.

Here, Jemar Tisby’s Awareness-Relationship-Commitment (ARC) model provides a helpful roadmap. The journey begins with gaining a greater awareness of the African-American context. Numerous African-American resources are available for the road trip (e.g., The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American’s Church’s Complicity in Racism and How to Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby; Faithful Antiracism: Moving Past Talk to Systemic Change by Dr. Christina Edmondson and Chad Brennan).

Next, the task is intentionally entering into meaningful relationships with the African-American community (via a person, church, or organization) within or beyond our circle of influence, inviting them to share their unique Black history experience. Finally, an ongoing commitment to partnership with the African-American community is paramount in realizing a koinonia (caring and sharing) community, which is the ultimate destination.

While you may never know Dimple (my mother), countless stories of unseen and unknown Black Americans provide the focus, aim, and purpose for continuing the upward climb in pursuit of the African-American dream of overcoming in solidarity. The African-American dream is an American dream, analogous with the call of faithful followers of Christ and in step with Jesus’ praxis of a gospel that spreads the Good News of holistic salvation intended for all humanity.

How might your LUV talk with Dimple's story, mobilized by Tisby’s ARC, help you in becoming a Better Samaritan?

Arbra Bailey is a community leader, writer, speaker, consultant, strategist, and a Postgraduate Student at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. He brings a unique ability to develop people and networks, fostering community into his role as President of Bailey Consulting. Arbra utilizes a relational approach to develop transformational leaders that transform organizations. He holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Trinity University and an MDiv in Theology from Truett Seminary.