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Resistance meant affirming one's own cultural heritage, in this case an African-American or black heritage (Lincoln and Mamiya 15).
By the 1990s, the problems encountered and caused by young black students in public schools had become a national priority and among the initiatives proposed by black leader at the time was the establishment of special schools exclusively for young black males. The rationale for this educational initiative was that this would provide the possibility of concentrating exclusively on the learning potential, learning styles, and the learning and behavioral difficulties of these students in a more effective manner than can be done in the traditional coeducational interracial settings that were typically dominated by white and feminine cultures (Billingsley 107). According to this author, "It was an idea, simple and straightforward, that grew out of the best motivations to improve the performance of these boys. It seemed to have a great deal of merit. But the idea was resisted, particularly outside the black community, often by the same forces that originally resisted efforts to the integrate schools" (Billingsley 107).
Nevertheless, there is a strong historic basis for the emerging independence of the black church in such situations: "While public authorities and advocates and opponents were debating the merits, the legality, and the politics of all-black boys schools, a number of black churches put the idea to the test. They could do so in part because of their private status, their independence, their commitment to black progress, the allegiance they hold in the black community, and the claim they can exercise on resources in the larger white society" (Billingsley 107). As Billingsley emphasizes, "The secret to independence is land. Ownership of property. That is what makes the black church such a strong, independent, and self-sustaining institution" (emphasis added) (28). As Pearl Buck so rightly observed in the Good Earth, for many struggling people, the possession of land does in fact represent the path to independence and African-Americans in the early 1960s recognized this connection straightaway. For instance, in 1971, Cornish Rogers reported that, "American blacks are emphasizing not only black history but also the development of skills leading to self-reliance - for example, biomedics and agriculture. Recent attempts by black nationalist groups to acquire rural property in the south attest to the growing importance of the land to black Americans" (3).
The impact of these black churches on American society at the time and thereafter has been truly significant. In fact, as one of the few totally black controlled and independent institutions, black churches played a major role in resistance (Lincoln and Mamiya 15). From a political perspective, the type of social resistance advocated by the black churches has included both self-determination and self-affirmation; indeed, since the Civil Rights movement and the efforts to desegregate American society, the accommodative pressures on black people and black institutions have increased steadily and one of the major roles of black churches today and in the future will likely be as historic reservoirs of black culture and as examples of resistance and independence (Lincoln and Mamiya 15).
Conclusions, Personal Evaluation of the Issues and Possible Solutions.
Complex problems require complex solutions, of course, but the problems that continue to face African-Americans in the 21st century are vastly different from those that their predecessors encountered just a few decades ago. While no one would likely argue that the Civil Rights movement is completely over and the black people won, it remains clear that much has been accomplished over since the 1960s in the form of legislative initiatives and fundamental shifts in the social fabric that have provided African-Americans with most of the same opportunities that mainstream American society has traditionally enjoyed. Unfortunately, though, racism continues to pervade American society in some insidious ways, and is even remains firmly institutionalized in some parts of the country in carefully crafted ways. Nevertheless, progress has been made across the board it would seem, and much of this progress has been attributable to the role played by black churches in mobilizing their congregations to become more socially active and accept nothing less than their fair share of the American pie, but more remains to be done.
Generally speaking, minorities in America - especially blacks - continue to earn less, have shorter lifespans, are more likely to be in prison, and have higher incidences of substance abuse than their white counterparts (Freudenberg, Galea and Vlahov, 2005). Therefore, possible solutions to overcoming these constraints among minority populations would be to use the same methods that were successful during the Civil Rights movement: encouraging grassroots movements and self-help initiatives intended to address the problems facing people in local communities through partnerships with faith-based programs including - and especially - the black church. In this regard, Smith (2001) recommends that new church infrastructures that are designed to approach ecclesiastical relationship-building differently than in the past, will be required to "connect up the dots" of black church institutional life in the 21st century. The author suggests that there is a need today for church infrastructures that empowers laity and not just clergy, that provide seats at the table for local congregations and not just national church leadership, and that establish a sense of covenant and accountability between participating churches (Smith 3). This author also recommends developing a national inventory of black church-related organizations, programs, and resource persons that are considered strategic to black church public advocacy and witness to help in these initiatives (Smith 3).
Billingsley, Andrew. Mighty like a River: The Black Church and Social Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Billingsley, Andrew, Cleopatra Howard Caldwell, and Roger H. Rubin. (1994). "The Role of the Black Church in Working with Black Adolescents." Adolescence 29(114):251.
Buck, Pearl. The Good Earth. New York: Washington Square Press, 1931 (2004 ed.).
Frederick, Marla F. Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
Freudenberg, N., Sandro Galea and David Vlahov. (2005). "Beyond Urban Penalty and Urban Sprawl: Back to Living Conditions as the Focus of Urban Health." Journal of Community Health 30(1):1-3.
King, Sharon V. (1998). "The Beam in Thine Own Eye: Disability and the Black Church." The Western Journal of Black Studies 22(1):37.
Lincoln, C. Eric and Lawrence H. Mamiya. The Black Church in the African-American Experience. Durham, NC: Duke…[continue]
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