The Side of Black History That’s Green Pt.3

*For those of you who missed the first and second part, I’ll leave the introduction below:

“As most do, in celebration of Black History month, I find it of high importance to honour black people who made history and changed the very fabric of our society. It’s key that we remember the victories of black people outside of the grasp of colonialism and slavery. I once heard someone say that our history did not start with slavery, but was disrupted by it, and that has stuck with me for years. But as a sustainable blogger, I wanted to honour the unsung heroes of my race. Through the month of October, I wanted to talk about three black figures who have inspired means for a more sustainable world.”

Number 3: Rev. Benjamin Chavis and the United Church of Christ

Now this would not be a sustainable, faith-based and political blog if I didn’t provide one example of where the worlds collide. He became a field officer for the church’s Commission for Racial Justice in 1968 and moved up the ranks to become the Southern Regional Program Director for the commission. By 1980 he was ordained after he had completed his master’s in Divinity. By 1985, he was the commission’s Executive Director and CEO, presiding over 1.7 million members. Not only is this a reverend, but a civil rights leader, who coined the term environmental racism upon arrest at the 1982 PCB landfill protests, and ultimately led his church’s Commission for Racial Justice to publish a report in 1987 that was able to provide empirical evidence for the relationship between race and environmental issues. Specifically, the report showed that the location of hazardous waste sites were racially motivated. If you’d like to access this report is it called “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States”, and can be accessed here: https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1310/ML13109A339.pdf

And that’s just a fraction of his work. This just amazes me because a lot of the time when the church gets involved with activism and politics it faces such heavy scrutiny and often misses the mark in terms of what is needed to be achieved, but to see such a concrete form of church activism is just amazing. This didn’t require the eloquence of conventional academia, but some black Christian scholars who saw a wrong that needed to be made right. And honestly, that moves me a lot.

I think one thing the church tends to do is shy away from these discourses but we have the resources and the passion for God and others that is needed to be a driving force in environmental issues. Not just with motivational speeches, but with concrete executions of justice. I was honestly so impressed that a church, with the people that they had, in such a place and of such a time were able to produce this – it just shows us what churches could be doing with the resources that God has given us today.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series for Black History Month. To end this month, I actually want to flip the narrative on its head with a blog post that’s going to challenge the way we see black excellence. Keep your eyes peeled, and I’ll be getting into that next week.

-Pepper

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