Keeping And Sharing The Promise

By Fred Whitted
Updated: May 29, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — For as long as there has been America, the church has been a valuable part of our history. Whether it was the abolitionist movement, Underground Railroad, education, or, civil rights, the church has been at the forefront of our culture.

During the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Dr. King’s assassination, questions were raised about the modern church and their relationship to the King Dream.

Some within the church community were taken aback. Still others were offended. I think it was a question that the church should have welcomed, and, should have been in position to readily answer it.

The unfortunate truth is while most communities have more than enough churches, they have too few willing to do those necessary things to bolster and maintain their communities. Yes, they have strayed from that path that many of us grew up on.

It was the path where the church filled in the gaps between common people, the wealthy, community organizations, and the government. All too often, the church is the most expensive and underused facility in our communities.

If you have read previous columns from me, please grin and take this. One of the greatest areas of neglect is in the teaching of Black history. No one in the Black community is in a better position to teach Black history than Black churches.

No one does less than the Black church, based on their potential.

For more than a decade I have tried to work with churches with various Black history programs. In many cases, I have had better responses from white churches that happen to find out about what I offer than the Black churches that I have targeted.

I admit that the primary programs that I have offered require work. Well, if our churches were doing their real jobs it would be fairly easy. I designed my programs to work within the framework of what most churches are already doing.

What I propose is teaching young people Black history beginning at age ten. From there, we provide a systematic process of adding information to what they begin with on a regular basis.

After the first few years of actually learning our history, we will have a core group that can teach what they know to their peers. All it takes is a few dedicated people who can work with the youngsters during the initial stages.

It is not very complicated. It just takes diligence and dedication.

A quick look at other cultures tells us that what I proposed is not an insurmountable task. And, looking at the ages we work with, it actually starts quite late with the kids. Jewish kids begin going to Torah schools about age three.

By five or six, they know the first five books of the bible. By age 12, they know most of the rest of the bible. This is just part of the high expectations Jews have for their young people.

In essence, high expectations yield high results. Low expectations get us more of what we presently have: low test scores, under achievement, high dropout rates, etc.

What if our churches would devote an hour or two each week to Black history?

What if our churches became that proactive conduit to get Black history to young our people? What if Black churches did what others do and incorporate Black history into the fabric of their daily or weekly activity?

If those who work with young people would simply ask a few questions, they would discover that Black youngsters will learn what is presented to them. We all know how fast they can learn a rap song.

We know how fast they pick up new technology. We even know how fast they learn bad habits. What if we applied those energies to learning their history?

I am all too aware of how many non-athletic Black kids get sent to sports camps each year. Most come back more frustrated than before they left. They cannot be “Like Mike” because they do not have “Like Mike Skills”, nor, the drive to go the distance it takes to “BE LIKE MIKE.”

What they do have is a brain and the ability to learn. We have to challenge them to learn who invented the Fast-Break as much as we challenge them to learn how to run it.

We must challenge our kids to learn as much about who really helped send men to the move as much as we teach them to moon-walk. We must challenge them to learn about those things around them that are a part of their history that they have no clue about because we have never taught them.

The only thing that set our children apart from Jewish children is what the families expect of them. What I propose is that we set more before them through our churches. The information has been prepared.

We only need to begin to use the church as the pipe line of knowledge as we once used it as the pipeline to freedom. Everything is in place. We just need churches to step up and take part in the program.