As we traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue, America's Street, we found ourselves situated between the United States Supreme Court and The White House in the building of the Newseum. The sight of scholars from six major black seminaries was inspiring. The room reaped of anticipation as we all waited to hear from the esteemed thought leaders who would guide our conversations.
Throughout today's message, there was one theme woven in the lectures of each of the presentations: a cup we all can drink from. It surfaced in Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook's talk of her work, where she reminded us that "to be diplomat, you have to sit with whomever is on the other side." She encouraged us to "be open to cross the aisles." Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, President of the Historic Black Church Family of Christian Churches Together (CCT), continued this thought when she brought the word ecumenism (the principle or aim of promoting unity among the world's Christian Churches) into the space. Ms. Tschika McBean, Human Rights Officer with the U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs (OPA), shared with us the beliefs of the Baha'i that "there is one religion of God with many chapters." Dr. Sabrina Dent, Director of Recruitment and Admissions, Religious Freedom Center, boldly proclaimed that "the narratives have to be written differently and must include the voices that were no there before." And, our very own Dr. Itihari Touré provided us with the beautiful imagery, so we could visibly see theology in practice.
As we worked through the tension of what was missing and looked at how we handled our own cup, I thought of the varying ways we leave leave others out, but after a conversation with a classmate, my questions were expanded to not ask who was missing, but who’s at the table that we are ignoring? Which cups do we see no value in? Which cups have we and do we constantly overlook? And, in what ways are we enslaving others either through the silencing of their voices, the shackling of their body, or the ignoring of their presence.
I believe a cup that does not speak to someone's authenticity is missing from the table, but in saying that, a major hindrance can be the table itself. The space can be limited. And, if you spread out to make room, it may get to a place where it’s too big. We have to question if it is accessible and attainable to everyone. Is it too high? Too low? Have adequate seating? And, is it open seating or assigned seat? We have to look at how we allow access to the table, so they can share their cup.
By: Rev. Tashara Void