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What I failed to learn about the value of Black Voices in our movement | by Jennifer Garrett

Updated: Jun 30


As a Person of Color, I should have known better.


I should have taken a moment to rest, grieve, and reflect on the ways to better communicate the St. Pete Underground’s response to the racism, white supremacy, and police brutality that’s affecting our communities and cities.


But just like any other church space or advertising company, I scrambled to find our Black leaders. To put them on display. To give them a platform, in a way that was forced and trendy.


The idea was to create a blog that was going to be called “Black Voices: An Open letter to the Church." But as I reached out to check in with the Black leaders in our movement, I quickly realized that my blog series on Black Voices would join the droves of “give us the Black perspective” ploys that Black folk are often put in by their jobs, or organizations they're a part of. It would have posed another burdened responsibility for our Black leaders to “educate us, explain to us, and challenge us,” about their racially traumatic lives that are more than 400+ years in the making. In fact, in August, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. had already written a letter from his Birmingham jail cell to the Church and for many, his prophetic voice was ignored.


So at best, the series would have resulted in what Anthony Patterson, co-leader of Melanation: As You Art, described as “a complete echo chamber, falling on deaf ears, again.”


His response wasn’t pessimistic, because the truth is, Black folk are tired, especially in the Church and they're not interested in educating Christians on why their white privileges are not "white blessings."


Black folk are tired, especially in the Church.

Exhausted by the lack of authenticity and inaction from people and organizations around them, our Black leaders sighed at the thought of this. And it’s been evident that a blog series like this would have trended for Juneteenth, but then been a resounding gong of hurts and demands clearly laid out in plain sight.


“It’s more Black pain on display,” said Evan Garrett, co-leader of @TheTable Homechurch.


I felt the words as he spoke them.


This could have easily been another vulnerable space for Black folk to share their deep stories and experiences, just to be met with silence and seasonal sympathy.


And while the St. Pete Underground has a history of uplifting voices of color, we’re far from perfect. Our 18-core value manifesto only identifies what we believe, it is up to all of us to put those values into action.


As I reflect about my own Afro-Latina journey, there’s tension for me as I write this and think about including my own experiences with those of the Black leaders in this movement. I identify as a Black Latina but that comes with so many layers and knots to untangle. I’m still learning how to serve my Black brothers and sisters, but as I was forming the structure of this blog series, I realized quickly that this way wasn’t it. And for that, I am truly, truly sorry. You all deserve way better.


I’m still learning how to serve my Black brothers and sisters, but as I was forming the structure of this blog series, I realized quickly that this way wasn’t it.

I’m still learning how to protect our Black Lives in this movement and honoring space to grieve, while at the same time giving insight to those still struggling to press in.


I wrote a blog post back in February about How to Love: Your Enemies and in it, I specifically tackle my run-ins with racism and apathetic Christians not willing to do the work. This is a sequel to that February blog post.


Our voices are tired. We’ve lost them crying out to God for justice.

Our tears are dried up. We’ve wept so many times, we’ve lost count.


But our hearts march on to hope in a God who listens to the cries of her people and who weeps with us in mourning and grief.

So to those who wish to hear, learn, and grow from the Black folk and people of color around you, listen to their exhaustion, question and examine your own history, and make tangible steps towards change.


And when you’ve done all that, let your actions speak in return.


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The St. Pete Underground Network exists to inspire and equip local missionaries to act on God's calling to create impact in our cities. To learn more about Anti-Racists resources developed and created by Michelle Ilugbusi, M.A., view our home page here.


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