On this past Sunday, February 26, Brooklyn, New York, the church that I pastor, Abundant Life Church hosted a special sermon and panel discussion on “A Spiritual Community of Resistance." It was part of the church’s Black History Month Celebration and featured keynote Speaker, Reverend Kirsten John Foy, the Northeast Regional Director of the National Action Network (Reverend Al Sharpton’s network), panelists Rev. Gil Monrose, Harold Williams, L. Joy Williams, David Grant, and New York Councilman Jumaane Williams.
The event was planned to be an inspiration for the church’s ministry of social justice advocacy. As a seven-year-old church, we feel strongly called to be engaged in social justice advocacy and youth development as part of our spiritual growth and our Christian calling. Hence, it is only fitting that I use this occasion to launch my new blog on Positive Youth Development and Social Justice Advocacy.
It is also an appropriate time to have the difficult conversation surrounding social justice during our country’s current climate of xenophobia, Islamophobia and in the midst of the threat that this country will abandon its moral obligation to care for the poor and protect civil liberties for all. It is a very necessary conversation that this blog is honored and anxious to join. I also hope to be a part of an expanded conversation that includes a discussion of city and state policies regarding healthcare systems, educational systems, housing systems, employment systems and all the other various systems that create barriers and cause disadvantages for poor children.
Let’s get to it: In this inaugural post, of a blog focusing on youth social justice advocacy, a natural and obvious question would be, "what is 'youth social justice'?". I offer that social justice, from a faith-perspective, is creating the world that welcomes and honors all of God's children and ensures systems that prioritize enhancing opportunities, not imposing barriers. Justice is a concern for peace and respect for all human beings without regard to ethnicity, economics or other determining factors.
Unfortunately, that is an ideal and not a reality. We have systems that have disproportionate negative impacts on people based on their race and their income. For example, we don't have equity in access to quality health care service, opportunities for employment, equal access to quality educational or equal treatment by the criminal justice system.
One of the definitions I appreciate the most is by Mae Elise Cannon (Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World) who describes social justice as "...the way that material resources and social advantages are distributed and made accessible in society."
Conversation and blogging do not alone lead to meaningful change, but change also does not happen without meaningful conversations. Hence, engaging, passionate dialogue, hopefully, gives a reason for optimism. As Plato, noted, "Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as First it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens." The Biblical, prophetic voice of Amos reminds us to, “…let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never ending stream.
Karim Camara is a Motivational Speaker and Life Coach. He serves as Pastor of Abundant Life Church, Brooklyn, New York and CEO, Camara Strategies International. For his blog on individual and organizational development check out www.KarimCamara.com