What will it take to organize and mobilize your organization or congregation on justice issues?
At the Progressive National Baptist Convention, we believe that is a critical question as we face our current environment and look toward the 2024 elections. We’ve been on a mission to find out what it will take to motivate people to make their voices heard. We know it’s not a lack of empathy or apathy that causes people to disengage from the political process.
As a denomination committed to social, racial and economic justice, we believe the next year will be a critical time for all of us. And we’re forging new partnerships.
In March, we listened to leaders at a Summit on Black Political and Economic Power, held in Washington, D.C. This event itself was more than a year in the making, and it came out of a newly revived partnership. In 2022, we engaged the AFL-CIO (the largest federation of labor unions in the United States) to discuss the historic relationship Black church leaders and labor leaders had in the past, including during the Civil Rights movement. We wanted to see if there was a way to imagine “repair as an action” by co-creating and planning some intentional engagements with the Black faith community.
The Summit on Black Political and Economic Power was one of our first steps. We engaged more than 35 faith leaders across four denominations to discuss issues that disproportionately impact BIPOC and poor community members. Over the two-day discussion, we received feedback on how faith leaders saw many different social and economic issues play out in their pews, and we had open and honest conversations about what people need to get others excited about engaging in issue-specific and electoral work.
When we asked those gathered what they need as “faith leaders of leaders,” we heard some eye-opening answers:
- Leaders need visioning support, including access to important information and resources that allow ministries to equip congregations to make an impact.
- Leaders need steady communication on the primary issues impacting others and what efforts are under way.
- Leaders need messaging support, helping them ground conversations in values and biblical principles no matter how the online culture wars might try to distract.
- And leaders need financial resources to support their congregations and their work for marginalized communities.
So, what are we to do?
First, we at PNBC are — as always — grounding our work in Liberation Theology and Abolitionist Theory. We need to ensure and brightly illuminate that our mission is clearly directed through our faith, making our theological grounding clear about the need to serve and stand with others.
Second, we need ways for individuals to duplicate the national-level work in their communities. We are working on toolkits and webinars to equip local pastors and leaders with the support they need, and we want to make these resources available to all.
And third, as the denominational home of Martin Luther King Jr., we need to reclaim the holiday our country has in his name. King’s life was one of motivation, inspiration and action — not empty platitudes and cherry-picked quotes. And we need action now.
There are currently several pieces of legislation PNBC cares passionately about, including the Farm Bill, protecting access to health care for all, and criminal justice reform. But we are also focused on the future.
At our summit, we heard passion from and saw the tenacity of our diverse leaders and allies. As we continue to dialogue on economic and social justice issues, we hope you’ll join us in putting your faith into action, speaking out against injustice and making your voice heard in 2024 and beyond.
Darryl Gray serves as the PNBC’s director general of social justice and as senior pastor of Greater Fairfax Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Mo.