Christian colleges and universities implement changes to support students of color.
At Cleveland, Tennessee’s Lee University, Mykah Smith stands inside a silent, candlelit circle of peers, professors, and administrators. A Bahamian graduate student, she relays her own pain to the group: “I was not black until I came to America.” Smith is one of three students of color speaking at Lee’s Vigil for Racial Solidarity.
Several months after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a small group of Lee professors planned the vigil as way of inviting members of the university community to stand together in solidarity against racism with their brothers and sisters of color.
Over 700 attendees sang along with a gospel choir and listened to administrators advocate for inclusion. Theology student Franco Crosby, one of the event’s speakers, described being followed by local police officers one evening after a resident reported him for looking suspicious as he walked across campus in his hoodie. The event had a profound effect: In the days following the vigil, speaker Charity Parris said she found herself “in more racially conscious conversations with professors and students of all backgrounds.”
Making progress on racial issues is a challenging process—one to which faculty and staff must remain faithfully committed. For instance, Lee has a racial justice advocacy group and hosts various events to educate students about diversity and anti-racism work, but if that work is not ongoing and evolving, it cannot be effective. At these institutions the largest strides are usually taken after the photographer packs up and the event is over; consistency and commitment cannot be overvalued. As with most institutions in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities …
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