Include the black church in recovery plans in the event of a pandemic


The 2002 film “Antwone Fisher” shows how determination helps overcome adversity. In a powerful scene, the main character, played by Derek Luke, revisits the childhood foster home where he was abused. Once there, Fisher said to his former tutor, “You tried to destroy me. I am still standing. I am still strong. And I always will be! ”His words always inform and inspire.

Earlier this year, billionaire businessman and media mogul Tyler Perry discussed the impact of the pandemic on the black community. Exasperated, Perry asked angrily: where is the black church?

“What are you good for?” Perry said in an interview with COVID-19 Resources.

Perhaps this stinging rebuke was necessary for the few who allowed his goal to be pushed to the periphery. However, he does not fully appreciate the challenges black churches face in making a difference.

The Black Church is where it always has been: fighting to serve with limited resources. Despite marginalization in the nonprofit space and the antipathy and apathy of contemporaries, the black church – without equitable external support and without fanfare – continues to overcome systemic hurdles to help everyone, not just the Church. black community.

During the pandemic, the black church assumed the role of champion of public health by promoting safety and immunization, although equity and equality of access to stimulus resources were limited. Less than 25 percent of churches have requested rescue funds, according to a report. Like us, a few black churches have received them – but most never. Recently, the Small Business Administration revealed that systemic flaws were preventing these resources from reaching black organizations.

Could the same fate await US $ 1.9 trillion bailout law? Apparently, some officials prefer centralization and old partnerships rather than new avenues with frontline practitioners. Hopefully these dollars are not going to connected and inflated municipal budget coffers and favored projects instead of actual recovery from the community crisis.

Additionally, the black church is still building community solutions with agencies that receive funding that the church will never have access to. Even in this recovery-oriented environment, government, business, and philanthropists are neglecting the first and most important black institution in American history: the church. This is unfortunate because the church has a history of effectively delivering programs that include social justice, health, and economic literacy. It’s no secret that if you want to fund change in the black community, find a pastor with a plan.

A sermon was delivered in 2013 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Black churches are a powerful American institution and should be part of COVID relief efforts.

Curtis Compton / Associated Press

Contrary to stereotypes, the black church has a long history of the best and the brightest leadership. For example, I worked at the corporate level at the Pentagon and advised private sector business leaders. I also have a master’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in ministry, and I took executive training at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. I am enrolled in a doctoral program focused on crisis leadership and community resilience and lead a 501 (c) (3) organization with a board of business leaders and owners. Yet, like the literacy tests used in the South in the 1940s and 1950s, some lending institutions are questioning qualifications, leveling out superfluous layers or delaying applications. They listen to the vision but miss the value, masking their actions by calling it “risk” – but the correct word is “race”.

As a result, the black church experiences discrimination in access to credit and capital. Even when it is just as healthy as other organizations in terms of finance, administration, and organizational excellence, the lending disparity persists. The American City Business Journals notes an 84% drop in SBA 7 (a) loans to black businesses since 2008. In this difficult lending environment, black churches are treated as a double minority.

Finally, the black church is fighting to join in conversations about national challenges with the aftermath of Main Street. On the whole, the intellect and skills of the black church extend beyond matters of race and religion. However, offering different perspectives on national issues such as healthcare, the economy, infrastructure, housing, employment and the climate often requires effort. This dialogue is difficult when politicians and experts prefer myopic figures to represent a community that is not monolithic. Ultimately, policies and spending become tools to treat symptoms instead of solving chronic systemic community issues.

Professor Henry Louis Gates recently told Time magazine: “No pillar of the African American community has been more central… than the Black Church. It is America’s most successful and self-sustaining black nonprofit – and a good partner in crisis recovery.

The Black Church has always been at the forefront of community solutions – and the pandemic has made it clear. And, like Fisher, the church is still standing and still strong. So why not give it the same funding and consideration as other nonprofits? It is not a handout. In business, this is called investing and winning collaboration.

Les Bramlett is a pastor and Air Force veteran in San Antonio. He retired from the Pentagon.


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