February is African American History Month. Ash Wednesday is February 17. These two things could/maybe should go together!
Kick-start events with a robust celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Sunday, January 17. Check out our related Great Idea or Church Anew’s Martin Luther King, Jr. worship service, for options. Invite folks to commit, in worship, that the month of February (or the entirety of Lent) will be a month of study, confession, and action.
Use the final two weeks of January to expand the invitation, promote, and distribute materials.
Begin February with two weeks of study: One idea: have adults and teens read together Rev. Michael W. Waters’ Something in the Water: A 21st Century Civil Rights Odyssey (Chalice); children might share Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson’s, The Undefeated (HMH).
Let study and discussion lead toward Ash Wednesday community (local, regional, and national systems of oppression) and personal confession, discovered in your studies. Fire and Ashes: A Ritual to Begin the Season of Lent or an Ash Wednesday bonfire can help you name both corporate and personal brokenness, followed by an imposition of ashes that remind us of our fragility and promise of transformation (see Rev. Cook’s final paragraph).
Within Ash Wednesday worship, transition from confession to action: name how you will engage – as a community – with the work of equity.
Let your action be informed by your study – the sky’s the limit!
One option: throughout your studies, highlight specific events or individuals from African American History, particularly the Civil Rights struggle. Build online or physical “Information Stations” for each of these events or individuals to inform your neighborhood. Let the “building” be a (safe, outdoor, or virtual) intergenerational event.
Information Stations might be pop-up lemonade-stand-like booths; they might be infographics that are created for online and posting on local bulletin boards or (where legal) street lamps, etc.; they might be Little Free Library notices (see below).
Create a neighborhood walk/pilgrimage of learning. Post an online map of “Stations” and invite neighbors and friends to join you in honoring the month by learning about African American History. Let the Stations remain in place until the end of February – or throughout Lent. Participants would accept responsibility to keep stations clean, organized, and supplied, as needed.
You can find additional adult study and small group suggestions throughout our Racism: Young Adults & Adults lib guides, including (but not limited to) the History of Race in America, MLK and the Civil Rights Era, Past & Present, Antiracism, and Restorative Justice – just to name a few.
Keep study and conversation intergenerational with books for Tweens & Teens (especially appropriate are options from our Anti-Racism & White Supremacy or Perspectives & Stories lib guides) and Children and Parents, especially the History of Race in America and Anti-Racism/White Supremacy suggestions.
Add-on: Once books have been read, share them with your community with an anti-racism Little Free Library: build one for the church property and/or several for members’ homes. (Library-building in and of itself can be an intergenerational, community-wide event – see our related Great Idea!)