By Shawntaz Crawford
Right now, racial tensions are high as ever. It seems like a lot of energy is invested in criticizing other cultures and their lack of concern for our plight in American society. However, it is hard to demand change if our institutions, which were created to support our well-being, do not evolve their methods to do so in an effort to adapt to a changing environment and a changing audience.
In this issue, we are examining whether several of the institutions, that have traditionally been pillars of the black community still serve our best collective interests. When there are transgressions against our culture, whose responsibility is it to lead our defense? Who’s responsibility is it to educate our young or advocate on behalf of our community?
It seems as though we are always in a reactive state. When things occur, we have to get organized to forge a response when we should already have infrastructures set with systems in place to immediately respond. When you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. In the past, we had the black church, black civic organizations like the NAACP, as well as administrators and students from our HBCU. But one by one, these institutions seem to be slowly losing their prominence—either from lack of progressive leadership, the changing needs of black people or a The result, the black community has been rendered defenseless.
We commissioned a local artist Omari Booker to pain a visual for our cover that depicts how making a decision to not be involved, actually, perpetuates and condone more of the mistreatment that we endure as African Americans. Booker chose to highlight the black church as the focus of our cover because the black church traditionally has served as the center of our defense. It now seems as though the church has become a silent bystander in the fight for the social injustices we face today. Rarely, we see Black pastors and deacons lending their voices and their leadership in creating strategies to dismantle systemic racism and police brutality.
Even from a more practical stance, it is not often that we see Black churches taking on issues more close to home, here in Nashville—like poverty, homelessness, and mental health. However, like clockwork, African Americans parishioners across the country continue to line up Sunday after Sunday, to fill the church coffers with more of their money.
What benefits are we seeing from that investment or any other investment we are making in our institutions? How are our communities improving as a result of our continued physical and financial patronage of these establishments? But an even better question to ask is, what do we actually expect from these institutions who’s mission is suppose to be to serve our community. Further, who is responsible for holding our institutions accountable?
We are making demands from mainstream society, but what demands are we making from our own community? What demands are we mak- ing from our pastors, our politicians, and our community leaders? We are not only going to have to decide, and demand, what we want from America and how we want to be treated by others, but also, what we want from ourselves and our own institutions if we are really serious about seeing improvement.
That was the aim for the creation of this issue. We felt that by asking the question, “Do Black lives matter to Black people?” we’d be able to start an important dialogue about what we can do make up for years of progress. While there are people still being oppressed by police and plenty of glass ceilings to shatter, we hope that there are very practical small changes that will be made real impact on our community.