Two years ago, I preached a sermon (I’m sure you remember) in which I mentioned the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. I praised the amendment for giving women the right to vote…then I paused…and reminded the congregation it only gave white women the right to vote. It was not until the Voting Rights Act of later years that discriminatory state and local laws were struck down and African-American females gained access to the election process. I continued to make several sympathetic statements with regard to the plight of black females in our culture…and thus ended the lesson. Following the sermon and service, one of our African-American female church members approached me and with a lovingly sly smile said, “Thank you for so eloquently attempting to speak on behalf of black females.” I got the message. Once again, the privileged white male – even with the best intentions and proper perspective – was speaking for the unheard voice; the black voice was not heard.

February is Black History Month. Our worship theme for the month is – Black History, Black Future. Rather than simply lament where we have been, we are going to be challenged to imagine and live into a better present and future with regard to issue of race, and rather than hear just my voice each Sunday, I will be co-preaching with four African-American voices. On February 4, our own Kristan Pitts will share her voice with us. Kristan has a passion for social justice and a keen interest in the intersection of faith and economic systems. On February 11, Katrice Hardy will add her voice to our worship hour. Katrice is the Executive Editor of the Greenville News and the USA Today Regional Southeast Editor. February 18 will give us an opportunity to hear the voice of Dr. Scott Porter. Scott is a local surgeon and also serves as Vice President of Equity and Inclusivity with the Greenville Health System. Finally, we will end the month’s worship experiences on February 25, graced by the presence of Loretta Holloway. Loretta is South Carolina’s Official First Lady of Song. She will be sharing both music and testimony with us that day. Their pictures are included in a separate article in this issue of The Branch. Read on.

Every voice is important as we work toward equality and justice. I’ll be sharing my voice each week…and look forward to being challenged by these voices.

— Jim