Empowerment comes from within, but it is only achieved when you feel fully supported emotionally, spiritually and holistically. A symbol of our community, family, justice, freedom and faith, you, the Black church, is where we go to celebrate God and each other.
Now more than ever, we look to you to bring us together as you always have, since your humble beginning as secret gatherings for enslaved Africans brought to the Americas. We know that many of the first churches were started by freed slaves, and today, we stand on their shoulders to preserve these safe havens for our black brothers and sisters. As a congregation, we raise our voices each week, singing the same spirituals that our ancestors did. We feel their energy and use it to break down barriers that separate those with different economic or social backgrounds, uniting us as a whole in joy, love and hope. We honor the generations of the past who paved the way for us, those who stood in these same churches and called of positive change across our communities.
Even now, you, the Black church, continue to speak truth to power, even in the face of systematic racism. During the civil rights movement, you became the gathering point for rallies and marches, all while providing the emotional, physical, and spiritual support that we needed then and still need now. We look to church leaders from the past, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who preached at Atlanta’s Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and from the present, like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., the minister from Chicago’s Trinity Church, and those of the future, like the pastors at our local church. They offer wisdom, knowledge and the Word of the Lord, transforming our communities through engagement and service.
You also create a safe space for self-expression that extends beyond the pulpit and into the congregation. Within your walls, parishioners are free to show themselves as they truly are, whether that means dressing to the nines in their Sunday best, complete with hats and crowns, or more casually, through an ensemble that allows their true self to shine through without fear of prejudice or racism.
And where would we be without the music that you so graciously and passionately give to us? People come far and wide to experience the electrifying and transformative energy that is felt as choirs minister worldwide. Not bound by language, even without understanding the words one sings, the vibrations transcend the English language and are undeniably relished by all. This space continues to birth many major artists from various genres, crediting God and citing the Black church as the breeding ground and sharpening of their musical talents and careers.
We know your value and weave your story of faith, community and healing into our biggest moments and yearly events, as you are an integral part of the Black experience for many.
Black church, we along with PBS, celebrate you this Black History Month and give you the flowers that you truly deserve.
On February 16 at 9/8c, PBS will premiere The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, a new series examining your lasting influence on nearly every chapter of the African American story.
Black church, we thank you and we honor you.
Watch The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song on February 16 at 9/8c on your local PBS station (check local listings) or the PBS Video app. For a closer look, preorder the companion book written by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., — available everywhere books are sold on February 16.