Speaker: Black Lives Matter is about “conversation, exchange, action”
The Black Lives Matter movement is not only an example of public theology, it also exemplifies Christian teaching, a lecturer at the University of Notre Dame said on October 7.
“To put it in more explicit theological terms, each sees the other as an icon of the transcendent divine, as another human made in the likeness and image of God,” said Mr. Shawn Copeland, professor emeritus of theology. at Boston College. .
The Copeland Conference on October 7 kicked off the 31st Annual Black Catholic Theological Symposium hosted by South Bend University, Indiana, and sponsored by its departments of African Studies and Theology.
The symposium also included two days of private meetings and an invitation-only listening session for Black Catholic students, community members, faculty and staff. Retired Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, gave a lecture on October 8 on the Catholic Church and racial division in the United States.
The event was to end on October 9 with a mass celebrated by Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington.
Copeland has written and lectured on Black Lives Matter almost since the movement’s inception in 2013, when it was founded by activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullurs and Opal Tometi in response to the acquittal of white man George Zimmerman , in the shooting death in Florida of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, in 2012.
The movement went national in 2014 after the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York at the hands of the police, and it is now seen as a global form of activism against police brutality.
Brown, 18, was shot dead by a white policeman. Brown was apparently unarmed, but the officer said he was acting violently and shot him in self-defense. The officer was not charged, but left the force.
Garner, 43, who was also black, was arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. He resisted and died after a white policeman suffocated him. The officer was fired and his actions raised questions about the use of force by law enforcement.
Copeland said that Black Lives Matter “imagines and shapes a new public space … for conversation and exchange” as well as “creative public action”, and is rooted in the ideas on public theology shared, among others, by Reinhold Niebuhr and the Rev. Martin Luther King jr.
And what she called her “poetics of testimony,” she said, “speaks to the truth” about extrajudicial killings of black men as well as those who die at the hands of the police.
Although led by black women, she called the movement “everyone-centric.” All children and young people from all socio-economic groups.
Copeland, a former nun of the Felician and Dominican orders, said the movement also reflects the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in her call to conscience: “a sense of obligation to do what is right.”
“We are responsible for each other,” she said. “We are responsible for the reality in which we live.
She called the movement “to share the bread of experience – to drink the wine of struggle.” Black Lives Matter is what theology looks like.
This year’s symposium comes as new data clearly shows black people are leaving the Catholic Church in surprisingly high numbers. In February, the Pew Research Center report said only 54% of black adults who were raised in Catholicism continue to practice the faith.
In contrast, 81% of black adults raised as Protestants continued this way; for white Catholics raised in the faith, the report said 61% stayed into adulthood.
The survey also reported that 77% of black Catholics said opposing racism is “essential” to their faith.
There are approximately 3 million black Catholics in the United States.
The Black Catholic Theological Symposium was founded in 1978 to foster “an ethical community” of scholarly dialogue with a commitment to the “fundamental humanity” of all peoples; respect for the plurality of cultural, ethnic and religious origins; and the development of an “authentically black and Catholic theology”.
Spiritan Father Paulinus Odozor, professor of African studies and theology and symposium member, said ahead of the gathering, it would be “an opportunity to celebrate and academically engage with the Black Catholic Church in the United States. “.
“It is wonderful to bring people to Notre Dame who will address what is happening theologically, pastorally and socially within this church and highlight its contributions to the worldwide communion of Catholicism,” he added.
The symposium’s public lectures by Copeland and Bishop Braxton, the priest said, would help raise awareness of contemporary tensions in racial politics, “highlight the possibilities of what can be done and then enable those ideas to take root in people’s minds “.
“You never really know what these discussions will inspire or what the results will be,” he added.