Black Church Scholar Conferences

IMG_1498 - CopyIn mid-October 1989, the ITC held their third Research and the Black Church Conference. This conference, and two subsequent conferences, were dedicated “to define the causes, scope, and nature” of incarceration trends, to uncover the effects on the Black community, to publish their findings, and to attempt to put an end to patterns of “depopulating” the Black community of its young men (Wilmore 1990:1).

By the final conference on this matter, held in early June, 1992, Baker-Fletcher, Baker-Fletcher, McCrary, Solivan, Smith, Islam, and Stephens (1992) proffered that the Black American church had not been able to turn around incarceration or recidivism trends. Costen (1993) added that the gulf was widening between the reentering offender and the church because of the Church’s reluctance to participate in processes of their successful community reentry. Costen also suggested that drug use had become “pandemic,” the country was losing the war on drugs, and patterns of incarceration had become intergenerational (1993:7). Since this series of conferences, United States’ incarceration statistics are still alarming. Black American men continue to be disproportionately represented in jails and prisons, and the Black community suffers as a result of pulverizing criminal justice practices.

From the Black Church Scholar series of conferences (1989 – 1992), the following observations and resolutions were proposed:

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  1. there is a perceived tension between chaplain as a servant of the State and chaplain as a servant of the Church. They recommend discussions between these institutions for the purpose of further investigation and reconciliation;
  2. holding plenary conferences regarding incarceration and reentry inside the prison walls with prisoners and jail officials;
  3. holding plenary conference sessions with local, state, national, and international politicians, government officials, and the news media to discuss “Black male imprisonment” highlighting Black male incarceration in a global context;
  4. holding a conference focusing on the issue of Black American female imprisonment;
  5. holding a conference to take a look at root norms of our society contributing to hyper-incarceration;
  6. creating a comprehensive document of prisoners’ voices in order to reveal root norms without academic or institutional distortion;
  7. creating a “Basic Biblical-Theological Concepts Manual” that explains “the critical-prophetic perspective of our faith communities” (Being that many of the imprisoned belong to other faith communities, this type document for all faith concepts could be considered);
  8. holding a conference for current and former inmates in an attempt to share knowledge about prison and post prison life;
  9. provoking disciplines of sociology, economics, political science, ethics, theology, and the academic study of the Bible and the Koran for further analysis of our economic infrastructural connection between fear of violence and crime, racism, and the industry of prison-building; and
  10. findings of these discussions to be presented to the Steering Committee and Prison Commoners and Administrators in all regions of the country, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, and local congregations and mosques in the various regions represented by the conferees.

Baker-Fletcher, Garth, Karen Baker-Fletcher, Carolyn McCrary, Samuel Solivan, Abraham Smith, Abdul Q. Islam and Melvina Stephens. 1992. “A Position Paper” in response to ‘Reclamation of Black Prisoners: A Challenge to the AfricanAmericanChurch’.” Pp. 113-118 in “Reclamation of Black Prisoners: A Challenge to the AfricanAmericanChurch.” Black American church Scholar Series Vol III. The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center, edited by Glorya Askew and Gayraud Wilmore. Atlanta: The ITC Press.

These initiatives do not appear to be unrealistic, in fact, they appear to be very doable and apropos!

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