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Announcing The Witness 2019 National Conference: Continuing the 400 Year Journey of Joy and Justice

October 31st. Reformation Day. Five hundred years ago a German monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the church doors at Wittenberg and helped spark the Protestant Reformation. Through a bewildering amount of twists, turns, schisms, fractures, and revivals Protestant Christians have become a worldwide and diverse people of faith.

Our organization, The Witness, a Black Christian Collective, is part of the legacy of the Reformation. October 31 also happens to be the anniversary of our ministry. It’s been seven years since we started with a modest Facebook page. Now we have over 30,000 followers across our social media platforms. We launched a website that now hosts hundreds of articles on race, religion, and culture. We now have a podcast, Pass The Mic, with over 140 episodes that have been downloaded tens of thousands of times. We had a Pass The Mic Live tour and visited cities from New York to Dallas to D.C. And we’re not done yet.

We have traditionally reserved Reformation Day and our anniversary for special announcements in the life of The Witness. This year we may have our biggest announcement yet.

For the first time ever, we are hosting a national conference. It’s called “The Witness 2019 National Conference: Continuing the 400 Year Journey of Black Joy and Justice.”

 

In 1619, records show that “20 and odd Negroes” arrived at Point Comfort, a British colony in Virginia. Although it appears other Africans had arrived on other parts of continent before, this date is widely marked as the start of what became race-based chattel slavery in North America. These women and men were traded to the British for food. Treated not as people but as property, the history of African-descended people in North America has always been about a struggle for justice.

 

But the black struggle against injustice is not the whole story. There is another theme that deserves attention—joy. 

Even in the midst of crushing circumstances—slavery, Jim Crow segregation, institutionalized racism—black people have found a way to hold on to joy. This is particularly true for people of faith. As they say, when it comes to joy, “The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.” Black joy has brought us gospel music, durags and afro puffs, homecoming at HBCUs, black preaching, #blacktwitter, Wakanda, and more. Black people have enriched what it means to both fight for justice and do so without losing hope or happiness.

It is for joy and with joy that we pursue justice.

More details will follow, but we invite people of all races and ethnicities to join us as we continue the 400 year journey of both black joy and justice. We’ll gather in Chicago the weekend of October 4-5, 2019. Mark your calendar now for an event that will be filled with warmth and truth, love and grace, joy and justice. See you there!

Jemar Tisby is president of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective where he writes about race, religion, and culture. He is the co-host of the Pass The Mic podcast and a PhD candidate in History at the University of Mississippi. Jemar is the author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (forthcoming Jan ’19 from Zondervan) Follow him on Twitter @JemarTisby

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