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Weems speaks at 4th annual Black History Month program

Renita Weems was the keynote speaker for Union's fourth annual Black History Month program Feb. 14. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
Renita Weems was the keynote speaker for Union's fourth annual Black History Month program Feb. 14. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.Feb. 16, 2011 – The transition between generations in the black community is similar to the transition between the Israelite leaders in Moses’ day, Renita Weems said at Union University Feb. 14.

“Moses my servant is dead,” Weems said, quoting Joshua 1, when God appoints Joshua to lead a new generation of Israelites into the Promised Land. The chapter (in Joshua) captures the solemnity, expectation, even the irony of the end of one generation and the beginning of another.”

Weems, author and vice president of academic affairs at American Baptist College, was the keynote speaker for Union’s fourth annual Black History Month program.

“It’s now your turn, Joshua generation, to build even on our mistakes,” Weems told the students in the audience.

Growing up in the Deep South in the 1960s and then becoming the first black woman to receive a doctorate in Old Testament studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, Weems said she knows from personal experience the strides which her generation made in breaking down racial segregation and increasing opportunities for black Americans. She also acknowledged, though, that her generation left work for the next.

She said that her generation is leaving a weak economy and a world wrought with civil war, revolutions, disease and human trafficking to the younger generations. In addition, she said, blacks and whites in her generation did not fully overcome racial prejudice.

“We work together, but we don’t always socialize together,” Weems said. “Our children, hopefully, will go into these new places different than us.”

MOSAIC, an organization dedicated to encouraging multi-cultural understanding on campus, hosted the event with the theme “Being the Change: African American Leaders from Civil War to Social Justice.” Students in MOSAIC provided music and read Scripture during the program.

Reflecting on Weems’ address, Union President David S. Dockery said the path to racial reconciliation is filled with tension.

“But, by God’s grace we’re going to move forward together,” Dockery said. “These events are a reminder that we can do so much with a common goal.”

By Samantha Adams ('13)

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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