top of page

Our Focus During Black History Month

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

A pastor friend of mine asked me, “How should I bring attention to Black History Month in our worship services?” Of course, every month can be Black History Month if we make that conscious effort despite living in what Austin Channing Brown calls “a world made for whiteness,” but I addressed his question.* “I recommend working things into your services that focus on Black life to outshine the public fixation on Black death.” By a “fixation on Black death” (not the fourteenth century bubonic plague), I was referring to news story after news story of a Black person killed while [insert activity], and the ensuing narrative that tries to “make sense” of how and why their death happened; all of which can cause and exacerbate trauma. “So, instead of talking about the murder of Tyre Nichols, for example, talk about how he lived,” I suggested.

The Christian narrative also has a tendency to fixate on the death of Jesus; not only on his death, but on the brutal way that he died. Several times I’ve heard the saying in Christian circles, “three nails plus one cross equals ‘four’ given”; the emphasis being on the method of Jesus’ execution, not so much on the forgiveness. Jesus died, yes; but we who follow the living Christ are not people fixated with the powers of death that tried to overtake him. We are resurrection people who are heaven-bent on the life of a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew from Nazareth named Jesus whose life outshined and outshines death then, now, and always. This is our story. “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you” (John 14:18), says the living Christ. This is the story we are called to remember and celebrate always. Death is real, but it is never the victor. So why give it power it doesn’t deserve when we can remember and honor how Jesus lived instead?

On this first day of Black History Month, I’m donning a t-shirt gifted to me by a church member that says on the front, “Dream like Martin. Lead like Harriet. Fight like Malcolm. Think like Garvey. Write like Maya. Build like Madam C.J. Speak like Frederick. Educate like W.E.B. Believe like Thurgood. Challenge like Rosa. Inspire like Obama.” I wear that shirt today to remind myself and others of how those named on it lived and continue to live. (And if you do not know all of those names and how they lived, Google them, learn, and celebrate! There is nothing shameful about not knowing, but we must choose to change what we do not know.) And, as a Christian, as a follower of the living Christ, as a person of the resurrection, I pledge to remember and focus on Black life during this Black History Month in witness to Jesus, who drew people’s attention to the neighbors they overlooked in their time and context saying, “Do you see this person? They are right here. They are your neighbor. See how they live.”**

Tyre Nichols died on January 10. He lived for 29 years on this side of eternity. He was a father of a four-year-old daughter, a FedEx employee, and a devoted skateboarder whose positivity gave people life. A friend of Tyre’s who met him when they were in high school at a skateboard park, Austin Roberts, remembers that “he would set his board down, grab [his] camera, and he would film for hours and just wait for you to land this trick. And he would keep you in positive vibes even if you’re getting frustrated ‘cause you couldn’t land it…I want him to be remembered as the kid that was smiling in a skate video and not the kid that was frightened for his life.”*** For Tyre Nichols and the ongoing blessings his life grants to those who know and love him, thanks be to God.

*Why not dive deeper, especially during Back History Month, and check out I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. See the author’s website:

**See Luke 7:36-50, where Jesus turns Simon the Pharisee’s attention to a nameless woman, inviting him to see her and learn from her actions.

***From the NPR story “Tyre Nichols’ childhood friend remembers him for his positivity”:


Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page