With the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown this month, PW has selected five titles that contribute to the ongoing conversations on race, justice, and reconciliation.
Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was fatally shot on August 9, 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His death sparked protests in St. Louis and awakened the conscience of many local religious leaders. More fatalities of unarmed blacks followed—in Brooklyn, Cleveland, Baltimore and other U.S. cities—fueling what came to be known as the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The movement has engaged faith communities around the country in complex conversations on race and injustice, and several authors are tackling the difficult subject in an array of titles.
Dr. Leah Gunning Francis, a seminary professor and activist, introduced her book Ferguson & Faith: Sparking Leadership & Awakening Community (Chalice Press, Aug. 4) at a launch party in St. Louis on Tuesday evening. “This was a personal project,” she said, “not just a professional one. As a mother of black children and the wife of a black man, I have skin in this game. I believe the church is being called to frame these matters as a moral injustice and to demand systemic change that promotes fair and equitable treatment of African Americans by law enforcement. ”
Francis interviewed two-dozen faith leaders for the book along with a number of young activists. “These are sacred stories of courage and hope, and inherent in them are seeds of possibilities that, if nurtured, could serve us well into the future. In 50 years, if people ask, ‘What were the clergy up to during this movement? How did they respond?’ this book will bear testimony.”
Earlier this year, Chalice Press also published Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines by Rev. Sandhya Rani Jha (Mar. 17). Jha, a former pastor and currently the Director of the Oakland Peace Center, explores themes of race, oppression, and injustice through a spiritual lens. She writes, “Many of the churches I work with are far too overwhelmed with survival to realize that learning to engage in incredibly vulnerable conversations about race could help them be oases of healing in a world of brokenness...and it can save your congregation.”
On January 4, 2016, Inter Varsity Press will release Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil. Salter McNeil is an associate professor of reconciliation studies in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University. In Roadmap to Reconciliation, she presents practical ways congregations can grow in their understanding of racial injustice and social inequity. Reflection questions and exercises are included at the end of each chapter for personal or group study.
Two notable backlist titles include Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line (Liturgical Press, May 1, 2013, Illustrated) by Christopher Pramuk, associate professor of theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Addressing the “disease” and “profound poverty” of racism, he presents a mosaic of images and reflections intended to prompt candid conversations about race in America. An interactive website hosted by the publisher invites readers to continue the conversation: it features a reading guide, blog, and links to the music, art, literature and film featured in Pramuk’s book.
Also published in 2013, Cut Dead But Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men (Abingdon Press) by Gregory C. Ellison II invites readers to enter the lives of five young men, chronicling their journeys from a sense of invisibility to a sense of understanding of both themselves and the world around them. An assistant professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Ellison writes, “A community of reliable others can aid these young men in finding hope, visibility, and voice. It is my hope that this book will help us to see all people in a more human and even a more divine way: that we are all worthy of respect. That we are all worthy of an opportunity to succeed."