Black August and criminal justice reform

In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

By Angelique Walker-Smith

Black August is back.

Black August is a complement to Black History Month in February. During this month, we have another opportunity to connect with our historical narrative and recognize the contributions of people of African descent in the United States and the world. Regardless of our racial or ethnic background, we embrace an inclusive narrative of all peoples. But during Black August, we specifically engage the reverence and resilience of people of African descent.

This month’s devotionals have been written with Black August in mind. These devotionals specifically invite us to consider ways to honor children, youth, and young adults of Africa and of African descent. Black August was and is mobilized by young people’s movements that address many of the same legislative priorities that Bread for the World cares about—such as prison and sentencing reforms. Bread for the World has made the link between these issues and hunger and poverty.

The August devotionals pose biblical and theological questions raised by imprisonment and harsh sentencing. At heart, the devotional lessons ask one fundamental question: “How do we honor our children, youth, and young adults?” The devotional answers with biblical reflections, prayers, and a lesson from Pan-African history.

Rev. Dwight D. Fraser, pastor of the Etham/Angels Circuit of Baptist Churches in Jamaica, begins his biblical reflection by saying, “We honor our children when we welcome their contributions and facilitate their participation.” He says, “Jesus did this when he accepted the meager lunch of a little boy who sacrificed for the good of all” (John 6:9-10).

Rev. Waltrina Middleton, former associate dean of the chapel at Howard University, offers a devotional prayer that invites us to dream with courage, just like six-year-old Ruby Bridges did when she integrated a predominantly white school in 1960 in Arkansas.

Derick Dailey, convener of the Bread Pan-African Young Adult Network (PAYAN), reminds us that the invitation to honor and support the advocacy of our young means working alongside global movements led by them. He names several youth-led movements and organizations.

You are invited to join Bread for the World’s Black August campaign, which includes promoting an end to hunger and poverty by:

  1. Educating Bread members and partners about Black August and how it connects with ending hunger.
  2. Elevating the importance of bipartisan criminal justice reform.
  3. Getting one to three additional congressional cosponsors to the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act by the end of August.

Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

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