Black History Month at Queen’s: Top 10 Contributors to Christianity

24 October 2022

As we celebrate Black History Month, staff, and students at Queen’s have shared who they would add to a list of great contributors to Christianity and why.

2Clotilde nominated Dr Willie Jennings “for his academic and personal contribution to Christianity today, not only helping the church to understand itself but also by helping discipleship with his commentary on Acts.  He also talks about what the saved life looks like on the podcast “reclaiming my theology” and I believe that everyone would benefit from reading and listening to him.  He really advocates for an embodied faith and an embodied Christianity, one rooted in justice, love and freedom.”
2Our next black contributor to Christianity is Anglican minister Dr Pauli Murray. Allison reminds us that she was “brave and pioneering. She shifted boundaries of prejudice”
3Next on our list of black contributors to Christianity is Mary Mary, “gospel duo who had a chart hit with ‘Shackles’ in 2000”. Commenting on her suggestion for this list Kate says: “it’s the only time I ever remember seeing an overtly Christian song in the Top Ten charts!”
4Speaking of bell hooks’ legacy, Jen says: “I love her determination to call others to bold action. In the last few years, I have particularly enjoyed her work on education and learning – on how we can be those who encourage others to skillfully cross boundaries and break oppressive frameworks.”
5Next on our list of some of the most influential advocates for Christianity is American activist James Cone. Dr Cone is known across the globe “for his towering influence on Black Theology as a movement, and for not flinching in being blunt”.
6Speaking of Dr Lawson, here is what Dave shared with us: “On a personal level, I wrote my UG dissertation on aspects of his work/practice, but on a wider level, it would be his modelling and practice of active, non-violent resistance/protest. Where MLK was the public / prominent face of such action, Lawson was the theorist – and the one from whom King learnt. He networked across the South, modelled how faith and (nonviolent, peacemaking) action were inseparable and mutually informing; he ‘lives out’ what he believes and teaches. “
7Hayley reminds us how “Desmond Tutu set an amazing example of how to speak out for justice even in difficult circumstances and how to truly be inclusive and show Gods love to all.” Joseph particularly remembers his “honest leadership and especially during truth and reconciliation in South Africa.” For Rachel, many words come to mind when thinking of the life and work of the charismatic leader: “Infectious giggle. Striving for justice. Speaking out for what he believed.  Standing up against racism.  Faith.  Believing there is essential good in everyone.  Being imprisoned for what he believed.  Being harassed by his opponents.  Promoting and enabling reconciliation.  Outstanding integrity and courage.  Perseverance.  Helped to bring an end to Apartheid.  Ordaining women priests.  Speaking out about injustices around the world. Campaigned for gay rights.  Recognising the virtues of love, hope, tolerance and courage.  A leading moral voice.  Assisted apartheid victims.  Advocate of social justice.  Raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.  An icon of hope.  An elder world statesman.  Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a host of other awards.  Mediator and conciliator.  Inspirational speaker.  Humility and emotion.  Making people believe that they can make a difference.  Believing in the power of the human spirit.”
8Val’s nomination for our Black History Month list is “the forgotten poet” Phillis Wheatley. She was the first black and also a women Poet in American History, born in the Gambia her childhood was very traumatic born in the era of slavery, Lots on her history has failed to be heard. My love of Poetry was also evident from a young age. I too write Poetry and I identify with her words and style.  She fought against stereotypes, prejudices and ignorance, becoming a highly recognised and respected poet for her poem Brought from Africa to America. But more for her poems on religious and morale subjects. I too have had 2 books published and she was an inspiration in using my life to write my first book around my faith and life.
9Gary invites us to celebrate the legacy of Rosetta Tharpe who was a “pioneering Gospel singer and guitarist who worked the thresholds between Church and Society, influencing along the way people such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner…. “
10A Methodist Local Preacher, Sybil Phoenix has been a foster carer, community worker and activist. As Jane recalls, “she was a leader of the Moonshot youth club through the 1970s, a club notoriously burned down by the National Front in 1977; she was active in the aftermath of the New Cross fire, supporting families. She has worked in community relations and for racial justice in a range of settings, including setting up the Methodist Leadership Racial Awareness Workshops of the 1980s and 1990s.”
11To end this list of incredible leaders, poets, activists etc. we would like to share Bernard’s nomination: “I don’t wish to name any single “great contributors to Christianity over the years, i.e., saints, theologians, martyrs, artists, poets, but also church leaders and pioneers”. Instead, I would like to see an acknowledgement and honouring of the generations of Black people past and present, within the UK. These invisible giants, thousands of them across all parts of the UK, provided the foundations for the so-called “great contributors”, without them, great contributors would cease to exist. I refer to the ordinary Black British citizens, making their way through life, raising Godly, generous, kind, compassionate children. Mums, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents etc, all instilling Godliness into the souls of their children…That, in the face of increasing hostility and racism, extraordinary, ordinary Black people do this, deserves acknowledgement amongst the ten. None of the nine would be anything without the foundations set by the invisible giants.”

Watch this list grow with daily additions.

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