In recent weeks, American cities, suburbs, and small towns have seen an explosion of protests reacting to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Even as many have commented on the racial diversity of the demonstrators, many of those organizing the marches are young African Americans activists.
But while black pastors have organized several marches in major cities like Chicago and Washington DC, they have not been at the forefront of a movement that arguably began back in Ferguson in 2014.
“While you may have had many black pastors and clergy who may have shown up at events, and you may have had a lot of people from black churches who were at these marches and protests, from 2014 to the present, by and large, this has not been a theological movement,” said Watson Jones III, the senior pastor of Compassion Baptist Church in Chicago. “It hasn't been a movement that has started in the basements of churches, in prayer meetings, and altars that flooded out into the streets.”
Despite this, Watson believes that some of what is fueling many of the young black activist leaders ties back to this institution.
“Much of how they do what they do are examples of things that early clergy and faithful Christians did in the ’50s, ’60s, and even ’70s, but there is an absence of clergy leading this movement,” he said.
Watson joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen to discuss why the black church’s approach to activism has never been a monolith, how the community’s preaching is speaking to current events, and the extent to which the black church is struggling to keep young people engaged.
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