Hoping to play a part in bridging the racial divide in education, a North Charleston church is planning its first national conference this week.
The Charleston Racial Unity Leadership Summit, sponsored by the Charleston Metro Church of Christ in partnership with the Abilene Christian University Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action, will be held from Thursday to Saturday.
The theme of the event, which will take place at the Alfred Williams Community Center in North Charleston, is “Education of the Negro,” after the works of the late African-American writer and historian Carter G. Woodson.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be educated as to where some turns have gone in the wrong direction as far as education in particular for African-Americans," said Bobby Lee Green Jr., minister of the Charleston Metro church. "It’s no secret that improvement is needed, but if you don’t know what to do, then you just don't know what to do,”
Discussion topics will include: The Color of Law, Power & Religion; The Education & Miseducation of the Negro; What the School Ratings/Scores are Telling Us; The Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome; Mary McLeod Bethune’s Last Will & Testament; The 1979 Greensboro Massacre; and What Should Be Our Spiritual & Collective Response to White Rage in light of the Mother Emanuel 9 Massacre?
“We have a variety of speakers who are coming, male and female, younger and older,” Green said. “Some are academians, others are coming from the work sector and some from the clergy perspective, so it’s pretty eclectic.”
Jerry Andrew Taylor, an associate professor of Bible and Ministry at Abilene Christian University in Texas, is the conference director.
“There have been peaks in public education for blacks,” Green said. “It’s not as if it’s always been on the bottom. There have been valleys and mountain peaks, and we’ve got to figure out what we were doing that went well and return to those, and the things that are not working, they’re just not working and we’ve got to be honest about those things.”
The conference began in 2014 as a collective effort of black and white Christians who met in the Atlanta area to discuss racism from a spiritual and practical perspective, Green said. It grew into the Racial Unity Leadership Summit, a program bringing together leaders to work for racial reconciliation in Churches of Christ.
Green has attended several of the conferences across the country.
Charleston event organizers hope to draw 200 participants.
“We’re not looking for a large crowd to come to us,” Green said. “It’s about the individual cities in which they host trying to garner the support there and so we’re hoping that we will have a good turnout from the people in the community.”
He realizes that the conference is just the beginning of a dialog.
“I hope that we’re enlightened and that we come out of this more unified and more motivated to seek solutions as a result of being educated about what some of the problems are and what some of the solutions are as well,” Green said. “I would like to see also, from a spiritual standpoint because we are people of faith, to not just simply look as this as something that can just be solved in a board room and by making policies.
"I think it’s going to take something bigger than all of us to recognize that we have more similarities than differences," he continued. "A lot of issues we have in our city and our country, they didn’t get there overnight, so we know that it’s going to take multiple efforts on multiple fronts."