Trillia Newbell – A history homework assignment

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, February 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. As we’ve noted, this is Black History Month, and WORLD commentator Trillia Newbell wants you to read up for yourself on why that’s important.

TRILLIA NEWBELL, COMMENTATOR: Over the past few months I’ve been asked by various organizations to write about Black History Month. I’ve said no to each one. I’m an African American who is asked to write and speak often about topics related to race and ethnicity. I wrote a book about the race-transcending gospel. But I found myself saying no this year.

Was it race-fatigue? Am I weary of speaking and writing about race and ethnicity? Am I afraid I’ll be pigeonholed into focusing only on this topic?

No, I don’t believe that’s it. 

For example, this month my family will be cooking through the book Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking and discussing various aspects of black history. Each week I briefly share about what we discussed on social media and my website. My family is consistently engaged in these conversations. 

So, my hesitation is definitely not about race-fatigue or fear of people pigeon-holing me. I love talking about race and the Bible and what I continue to learn through study. It’s a thrill to imagine the next life when every tribe, tongue, and nation will be gathered together around the throne of grace. Together. United. 

As I dissected my heart, I realized the source of my hesitation: I simply don’t want to make it too easy for people. In other words, I want to inspire and encourage others to do their own homework—learning both American history and what God’s Word says about race and ethnicity. 

I’ve spent a majority of my ministry giving away this information. And it’s a joy to do so. But now I want to encourage those interested in hearing more to pull up a chair, a computer, or a library card. Read books, find resources, and develop a muscle for engaging the topic. 

This month is a great time to learn about the many achievements of African Americans in this country. Maybe you’ve wondered why we ever needed a Black History Month. Well, I’m not going to give the answer. Let’s research and discover it together—apart. 

Maybe there is an aspect of our shared history that you’ve never considered. For example, did you know there was a slave revolt in Louisiana? There’s a world of information at our fingertips.

But here’s what I will say: Gaining knowledge about our shared history increases our understanding and helps us love our neighbor. As we understand our past, we can better understand our present and look toward the future with greater awareness. We cannot rejoice with those who rejoice, or weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), if we do not know their stories. Learning about them helps us guard against self-centeredness. 

Ultimately, our aim as followers of Jesus is to love God and love our neighbor. Black History Month is a great means to that end. Our hope is for the gospel to move in the hearts of those who do not know Him and for our light to shine in the darkness. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Trillia Newbell.

(Photo/Creative Commons, Flickr)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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