Black History month is North Carolina Council of Churches’ history starting in 1935 because our history is founded on the black experience as seen through the eyes of the white church. Fortunately, those white church leaders early on recognized their need to ground black history in the black experience and not merely on black history as told by white narrators. Gatherings of our House of Delegates (the earliest governing body for the Council) in the late 1930s were some of the first places in the south where black church leaders and white church leaders sat around a common table to discuss matters of common concern.
This is harder to accomplish than we might think. Typically, when people with power include people with less power, the powerful control the narrative. Those with less power must draw on deep wells of courage to enter space occupied by the powerful. Those with less power must nuance truth so that it remains palatable for the powerful. Those with less power must defer to the powerful lest they soon find themselves uninvited by the powerful.
To their credit, those with less power mustered the courage to come to the table and those with more power created space around the table where truth could be told. Allowing all voices to name truth cultivated trust for the difficult days which lay ahead. Those days included lunch counter sit-ins, protest rallies, and marches on Washington. They also included the less public, but equally important, work of policy changes that might allow more people access to “The Dream.”
The work continues every day at the NC Council of Churches. In these days when many of our nation’s leaders are calling for racial reconciliation we ground our work in the truth that reconciliation is not ours to give. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18). We are humbled to participate in this God-given work of enabling sites for reconciliation to occur, and we are proud to acknowledge that Black History Month reminds us why the work must go on. “Be reconciled.”