On August 20, 2020, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) began #ColortheConversation as a new discussion and listening campaign to address racism in higher education and ministry. The campaign will elevate and center the voices and experiences of people of color in our agency and affiliated institutions.
It is important to acknowledge that the present conversation about racism is specific to the experience of Black people. For this reason, the first phase of #ColortheConversation will focus specifically on Black voices in United Methodist higher education and ministry.
The campaign kicks off with a video from Rev. Kevin Kosh, Jr., the Wesley Foundation director and campus pastor for Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. For his #ColortheConversation topic, Kosh discusses the recent vote to change the Mississippi state flag and what it means to preach and practice faith in a state and country that has been scarred by violent racism.
“How did I feel when the flag came tumbling down?” asks Kosh. “I, like many others, celebrated. But I also knew that there are people who I work with, who I worship with, who I conference with – who I even may call brother and sister – who don’t share in that same joy. I found myself asking the question, ‘Is this just symbolic? Or is the work of restorative justice something that we’re going to commit to?’”
GBHEM invites our Black United Methodist leaders to respond to Kosh’s piece with their own topics and video stories. #ColortheConversation is meant to carve out a safe space for Black people to share their experiences, offer criticism if they wish and discuss ideas for the future. We want to hear from you:
- What topics about racism need discussing right now?
- What do you want others to know about your personal experience in United Methodist higher education and/or ministry?
- What systems or expressions of racism are going left unsaid?
- What do you want to see from the Church and the academy in the future?
Respondents may share their video on Facebook and Twitter with #ColortheConversation or email them directly to GBHEM at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the month ahead, GBHEM will select four responses from Black United Methodists and share them on our social media channels. For those who wish to participate, we offer the following suggestions to ensure that your video is viewable by the largest possible audience:
- Record in a quiet room with little or no background noise
- Secure your phone, tablet laptop, etc. on a steady surface for recording
- If filming with a mobile device, turn the device sideways while recording to get a horizontal video
- If possible, try to keep your video around five minutes or less
- Minimize movements and gestures. Too many movements can cause video footage to blur
While the first wave of #ColortheConversation is intentionally focused on Black voices, GBHEM’s goal is to continue the conversation into the fall and expand our call for responses to all United Methodist leaders of color and from marginalized communities.
GBHEM recognizes that it has no authoritative voice in prescribing what people of color feel and experience. Thus, #ColortheConversation is an opportunity for our agency and its affiliates to actively listen, acknowledge our role in furthering systems of privilege and intentionally work toward a better future together.
About GBHEM: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry embraces the ministry of learning and leadership formation in The United Methodist Church and Wesleyan tradition; serving Christians around the world who are shaped by a process of intellectual engagement, spiritual and character formation, and leadership development. We cultivate a dynamic culture of call and vocational discernment that encourages lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in God’s ministry and mission for the Church, the academy and the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.