Growing in Love of God and Neighbor

Black History Month – February 2022

EXPLORE NEW JERSEY’S BLACK HERITAGE TRAIL:

Learn more about famous figures and Black communities located right here in New Jersey! Search by different regions in the state to explore historic sites and enjoy suggested itineraries that include cultural and historical guides, suggestions for delicious dining experiences, and the opportunity to support Black-owned businesses. Visit these noteworthy destinations here.

Biographies:

J. Charles Jones

In this final week of Black History Month, the members of the God’s Diversity Committee wish to honor civil rights activist and fair housing advocate, J. Charles Jones (August 23, 1937 – December 27, 2019).

Inspired by the courage of the college students who organized the first sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter to protest segregated restaurants, J. Charles Jones, a divinity student at the time, began organizing similar protests at restaurants across the South. Expecting no more than a dozen fellow students to join him at his first sit-in, he was surprised and deeply encouraged when over 200 came.

The son of an English teacher and a Presbyterian missionary, Jones witnessed the violence of the Ku Klux Klan growing up in his hometown of Chester, South Carolina. When he was ten, his family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina so his father could attend Johnson C. Smith University, where Jones would also later complete his undergraduate studies. During the 1960s, Jones devoted his time to civil rights activism. He became a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with Ella Baker and others. He joined the Freedom Riders, a group that sought to end segregation on interstate buses in the South and led voter registration efforts in Georgia and Mississippi. He was arrested multiple times at demonstrations, including twice with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Soon after graduating from Howard University School of Law in 1966, Jones continued his civil rights work in addition to building a law practice. He organized a high-profile four-day march around D.C.’s Beltway to protest discriminatory housing practices near the Washington, D. C. area military installations. He became the president of ACCESS, the Action Coordinating Committee to End Segregation in the Suburbs, an organization he started, and he successfully lobbied Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara who issued an order in 1967 prohibiting military personnel from living in segregated housing while stationed at Andrews Air Force Base.

J. Charles Jones spent his later years practicing law in Charlotte, North Carolina and remained an ardent advocate for civic projects. He was a frequent speaker about his role in the 1960s sit-ins. In a recent tribute written by Dr. Tom Hanchett, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Historian-in-Residence, Charles Jones was described as a “buoyant, familiar community presence…[who] strove to help neighbors join together for change. His cheery greeting, ‘Gracious good day!’ was usually followed by reference to The Elders, the previous generations who had gotten us here and demanded that we keep moving forward. He wanted you to know the Civil Rights history that his generation had made – so that you would pick up the torch, in turn, and make history yourself.”

The Archbishop desmond tutu

As part of our Black History Month celebration, the members of the God’s Diversity Committee have a prepared a tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

On December 26, 2021, the world lost Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, an indefatigable fighter for social justice, human rights and equality and against the evils of racism and apartheid.

In 1984, after Archbishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he realized that the church must take the lead in speaking out against apartheid and be the protector of the people. This is the role he committed himself to accomplish throughout his life.

As we in the United States of America celebrate Black History Month, it is only fitting that we also remember Archbishop Tutu. His life and work impacted not only South Africans and the evil policy of apartheid, but also Americans and people throughout the world who continue to fight for human rights and against racism, inequality and injustice.  In 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama who considered Desmond Tutu a “mentor, a friend and a moral compass.”  President Obama added, “Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation, and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere. He never lost his impish sense of humor and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries.”

He started his professional life as a schoolteacher before resigning in protest over the South Africa’s racially segregated school system to become an Anglican priest. After years of fighting for the rights of South Africans and the oppressed throughout the world, Desmond Tutu returned to teaching to become a visiting professor at Emory University in Atlanta and lecturer at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also became an activist and supporter for gay rights. Although Desmond Tutu retired from public service in 2010, he remained determined to fight against unjust and unpopular decisions as he felt the work against injustice was never complete. He published several books including: “No Future Without Forgiveness” (1999), “God Is Not a Christian” (2011), and a children’s book, “Desmond and the Very Mean Word” (2012).

Note: To learn more about the life and contributions of this remarkable leader,
we urge you to go to the Legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu at www.episcopalchurch.org

The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas

As the members of the God’s Diversity Committee continue our celebration of Black History Month, we wish to recognize The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas.

Kelly Brown Douglas is a African-American Episcopal priest, theologian, and the inaugural Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary. She is a leading expert in the field of womanist theology, racial reconciliation, social justice, and sexuality in the Black church.

Graduating summa cum laud from Denison University, Dean Douglas went on to earn a Master of Divinity, Master of Philosophy, and a doctorate in Systemic Theology from Union Theological Seminary where she studied under James Cone (The Cross and the Lynching Tree, 2011).

Dean Douglas was ordained in 1983 as one of the first 5 Black woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. She was an Associate Priest at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, for more than 20 years. While as priest she also taught at Edward Waters College, Howard University, Goucher College, and Union. Then in 2017 she was named the Canon Theologian of the Washington National Cathedral.  Most recently in 2018, she became the inaugural dean of Union Theological Seminary, a first for the Episcopal Church.

Dean Douglas is widely published and has lectured both nationally and internationally. She received accolades for “her literary boldness and leadership in the development of a womanist theology and discussing the complexities of Christian faith in African-American contexts.”

The author of six books, her most recent, published in 2021, is, “Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter”.  “How do we really know God cares when Black people are still getting killed?  How long do we have to wait for the justice of God?”  These questions and others from her son, after the recent murders of so many Africa Americans, spurred her to write this courageous and visionary book.

The Most Rev. Michael B Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church said of this book: “Douglas takes us with her on a journey in which she gives herself and every other Black person in America good reason to walk away from the Christian faith, and then tells us why she perseveres in hope. In this, her most devastating critique of white supremacy and passionate homage to the faith of her ancestors, Douglas dares us to believe that it’s possible to create a world in which Black lives matter.”

Written by Sandy Hay

Claudette Colvin

The members of the God’s Diversity Committee, begin our celebration of Black History Month by honoring Claudette Colvin.

On March 2, 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks defied segregation laws by refusing to sit in the back of a bus, Claudette Colvin, a defiant 15-year-old girl, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, when she refused to give up her seat on the bus. According to Colvin, who is still living and in her 80s, the white passengers were already seated at the front of the bus and Black people were at the back of the bus. The bus driver had the authority to assign the seats, so when more white people got on the bus, he told the Black people to move and give up their seats.

On the afternoon of March 2, Colvin and three of her Black classmates from racially segregated Booker T. Washington High School, boarded the bus and took their seats in the designated Black area, away from the white riders. As the youth were chatting, the driver told them to move so that a white woman could sit down because there were no additional seats in the white only section. Colvin’s three friends quickly and quietly moved; but Colvin remained sitting next to the window. Under the twisted laws of segregation, the white woman still could not sit down on the same seat as a Black person. Colvin told the driver she had paid her fare and it was her constitutional right to remain where she was. Whenever folks asked Colvin, “Why didn’t you get up when the driver asked you?”  Her response was, “I felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hand was pushing me down on the other shoulder.”  The bus driver stopped the bus when he saw a police car and two police officers dragged Colvin from her seat as they threw her schoolbooks to the floor. Instead of taking her to the juvenile detention center, they took her to the adult jail. After 3 hours her mother arrived with their minister and bailed her out of jail.

After Colvin was released from jail, there were fears her home would be attacked by the Ku Klux Klan. To protect the Colvin family, members of the community acted as lookouts. In that moment, Colvin was one of the first people to be arrested for peacefully challenging segregation laws in Montgomery. Nine months later, Rosa Parks was arrested for the same cause, leading to the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott and the U.S. Supreme Court decision ending bus segregation in 1956. Colvin became a plaintiff and a star witness in that landmark case (Browder v. Gayle).

More than six decades after her brave act of civil disobedience, Colvin, an 82-year-old great grandmother of five, determined to clear her name, filed a petition to expunge her record and on December 16, 2021, Judge Calvin Williams of Montgomery, Alabama, granted her request.

Written by Stella Horton