Religious leaders, civic leaders and community members came together March 3-4 for a conference on “Black and White in America: How Deep the Divide?” in Birmingham, Ala.
Held at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, the conference addressed the need for racial reconciliation in the United States and the path to that reconciliation.
Participating by livestream were 40-plus people at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, to watch Bishop Edward K. Braxton’s talk “Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church: The Racial Divide in the United States Revisited.”
Those who gathered were members of the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, Diocese of Brooklyn; the Office of Multicultural Diversity, Diocese of Rockville Center as well as members of various parishes in the diocese and students from Cristo Rey H.S., Brooklyn.
Bishop Braxton of Belleville, Ill., revisited his pastoral letter “The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace 2015.”
He said, “The cost of true discipleship calls us to reject cheap grace… God’s redeeming grace requires our obedience to His law of love and our concrete actions on behalf of others. St. Paul to the Christians living in Corinth tells us, ‘Love never fails.’ I believe love will never fail in the Christian community as we face the racial divide if we are willing to pray, to listen, to learn, to think and to act.”
Another speaker was professor Wayne Flynt, who talked about lawyer Atticus Finch, created by Harper Lee, in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the lessons of innocence, sin, judgment, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Josephine Cachia, director of Charismatic Renewal Diocese of Brooklyn, said: “I thought the bishop’s talk was excellent. It was thought-provoking and informative. Especially what he highlighted regarding the term ‘minorities’ and how words have meaning and that the term ‘minorities’ is, in general, misleading. Also noted was the reality that almost all Americans are all part of a minority category. He encouraged people to engage in conversations with others who have different opinions.
Pray, Listen, Think, Act
“He suggested that we pray, listen, think and act. Having the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other hand.”
Rosanne Barber, of St. Gregory the Great parish, Crown Heights, said “Why can’t we just say ‘American’ not Black American or White American? Until we stop seeing God’s people as a color there will always be barriers in building God’s Kingdom.
“I am glad I had the opportunity to have experienced this conference live. We need to continue this dialogue on racial divide and call upon the Holy Spirit to be our guide. It is easy to talk the talk, but not easy to walk the walk. I pray that we will be open to receive love and give love, listen and respect one another, learn from one another, and ponder our hearts so that our actions maybe that of Christ. God sees us as his children, not Black or White.”
“The color of our skin does not make us any less of an American than any other group,” said Charms Savery, an 11th grader at Cristo Rey. “We are all Americans.”