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The Black Church and Africentric Celebrations


The evolution of the Black Church in the African Diaspora is seldom perceived as a cultural critique of Eurocentric theological thought and practices.  In the fields of education, literature, and history, for example, there are considerable discussions about decolonizing the curricula. There exists, however, in the Black Church an operational tension. On the one hand, the Black Church has control of its own spaces and places, and on the other hand, it desires to be accepted as a bonified or credible institution based upon European/Western standards.

Nowhere is this tension seen more starkly than when the Black church has to interact with African-centred traditions or events such as Kwanzaa. How can the Black Church engage in a prophetic cultural outreach to persons who are Africentric in outlook? Let me make a few recommendations.

First, prayerfully research your local community. What is happening in your area? Who are the movers and shakers representing Africa and things African in your city, town, or state? Where do they gather, what activities do they hold, and is there an area of assistance your church can give?

Second, evaluate your local church. How do your current physical plant, literature, and programs reflect an Africentric welcome in a time when white supremacy and racism are prevalent in society? What are the limits to your resources?

Third, are there already Africentric evangelists in your congregation and community who could be recruited to join a small exploration group with a clear brief on Africentric ministry engagement and sustainability?

Fourth, how can we craft an all-age/all-departments involvement in this Africentric prophetic outreach so that it dovetails with the wider church ministry?

The primary challenge and opposition to such a prophetic cultural outreach will be ideological.  The Eurocentric orientation of Western culture, with its prejudices and biases, is also a part of Black Church practice. For example, the color-blind approach to personalities in the bible, the de-Africanization of the Biblical text, the colonial way we still speak of Africa and international events, and the discussion of Africa and things African as if they are somehow wholly different from our experiences in the African diaspora.  How do we, therefore, fix this disconnect between our historical evolution as a Black Church in the Americas, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa with our African heritage? 

My fifth and possibly most important recommendation is that we begin with the bible.  Through bible study, sermons, and discussions, an environment of exploration can reveal that the cultures in the biblical text are not so different from that of African cultures. This can then lead to repentance and a creative mindset towards a prophetic Africentric outreach.

Whether your church will celebrate Kwanzaa, African Liberation Day, Black History Month, Emancipation Day, or Juneteenth in the year to come, it is necessary for us all to take the gospel into the whole world, and that includes persons who may have a different cultural perspective to ourselves.

The Black Church, Africentric Celebrations, European, Culture


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