Nine years ago the worship center of The First Baptist Church of Glenarden was packed with thousands who displayed optimism as the churched teamed up with D.C.-area radio station WHUR for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s holiday forum just days before then president-elect Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.
Fast forward four years, on Jan. 15, the church will host another King forum where a panel of millennials are going to be asked about how they plan to take up the social justice banner at a time when President Donald Trump is in the White House and is focused on reversing many of the gains President Obama championed, including several that applied to King’s dream of racial harmony.
“Often millennials get a bad rap for being ‘self-adsorbed’ and part of the ‘me’ generation but this is an opportunity for them to talk about advancing Dr. King’s dream of racial harmony,” WHUR News Director Renee Nash told the AFRO. She added that the station’s general manager wanted to make sure the panel included a cross section of millennials from across the Baltimore and Washington areas.
Panelists will include Jade Agudofi, president of the Howard University Student Association and Adam Jackson, CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle: Baltimore Rising, a think tank focused on finding solutions to the social ills in the Baltimore community. The group was started in 2010 but after the death of Freddie Gray their profile grew even larger.
“People are so triggered by Trump and his ridiculous[ness] but the problem, when its time for elections, the [only] option is going with another Democrat and we are feeding into a system that is electing the same type of leaders because both Democrats and Republicans are molded into each other,” Jackson, 29, said. “It is time for Black people our age to build the power and infrastructure to build our own leaders.”
On Jan. 7, the worship center of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden was filled with people who had come to hear Bishop T.D. Jakes. Jakes, who pastors to a 30,000 member congregation in Dallas, tailored part of his message to millennials who, he said, are no longer looking for “Superman,” in the pulpit. “They want Clark Kent.”
Jeremy White, who worked in the Obama White House in the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, said that it is time for ministers to reach out to a new generation of church goers because the old model is not working. He said people are not looking for a “4th generation son of a preacher to lead them, but someone who can relate to their struggles.”
Nash said, “The church has always been at the center for people of color for hope and transformation. We want to use the umbrella of Dr. King’s birthday to have an honest conversation and take that conversation back to our homes for further dialogue.”