It’s Black History month, and though what has happened in the lives of African-Americans should be woven into the fabric of what we learn daily; there is just a dedicated month of focus on our contributions to this Country. One Oscar-award winning film from 2014, “Selma,” depicts the struggle of African-Americans for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, and the events of ‘Bloody Sunday,’ March 7, 1965, as peaceful protesters attempting to march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were met with a violent response from sheriff’s deputies and state troopers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The officers used tear gas, horses, and billy clubs to drive them back across the bridge. (You may know that Edmund Pettus was a Confederate brigadier general and later Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.) After the first incident, Dr. Martin Luther
King and other activists, clergy, nuns, and people of goodwill (whites made up 30% of the marchers) joined the protesters from across the Country. That night, a Caucasian minister from Boston, James Reeb, was attacked and killed by members of the KKK. Two weeks later on Sunday, March 21, 1965, Dr. King and 3,000 activists persisted to begin the 12-mile trek yet again. The group swelled to 25,000 along the way under the protection of federal government troops. This act was EDIFYING to the Civil Rights Movement and to the Country. To EDIFY means to instruct or improve someone morally or intellectually; to build; to construct a building; to strengthen. It ultimately led to Congress passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the registration of thousands of African-American voters in Selma, Alabama in 1966.
As we think about the writings of Scripture, we often view ‘edifying’ as encouragement that is primarily done with words. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) We know that the five-fold gifted ministries (I believe Dr. King fell into the Apostolic/Prophetic category), were ordained by God to mature, equip and edify the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:12) Edifying is also action. “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” (Romans 14:19) We are commanded, “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.” (Romans 15:2) Certainly, many of us who are African-Americans have been morally and intellectually stimulated to cast our votes in elections because of the sacrifices that our forefathers and mothers invested into that right. Those who care about God’s justice have thankfully stood right alongside us in our fight for Civil and Human rights. Dr. King said, “I have come to see more and more one of the most decisive steps that the Negro can take is that little walk to the voting booth. That is an important step. We’ve got to gain the ballot and through that gain, political power…Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”