Catholic speaker, author, and former host of the “Morning Glory” radio show Gloria Purvis discusses Black History Month and how the Church can better serve Black Catholics.
Gloria explains how Black History Month came to be, “There was a gentleman named Carter G. Woodson, a son of formerly enslaved parents. He was born in Virginia and worked on the family farm and in West Virginia coal mines throughout his youth. He only had erratic schooling. It took him until his 20s to attend high school. He eventually earned his doctorate from Harvard. Carter thought that the world needed a better understanding of Black people’s contributions to society, mainly to counter racist misperceptions about Black people’s abilities and aspirations. So, Dr. Carter G. Woodson wanted to counter these racist misperceptions by telling people about all the wonderful things that Black people have done.” Carter G. Woodson went on to established Negro History Week in 1926, which eventually turned into February’s Black History Month.
In honor of Black History Month, Gloria shares stories about the accomplishments of African Americans. “Have you ever heard the term, ‘The Real McCoy?’” She asks. “That came from this inventor named Elijah McCoy. He was born into an enslaved family in the 1800s. At a young age, he became interested in mechanics and later developed something called a lubricating cup, which would help trains run continuously for long periods of time without pausing for maintenance, which was unheard of at the time. Many other inventors attempted to sell their version of his invention, but the companies weren’t fooled by their cheap knockoff and they insisted on the authentic device, calling it the Real McCoy.”
Gloria sees opportunities for Catholics to learn about Black stories and honor the accomplishments of Black people with their parish communities. “I think getting to know these wonderful achievements is a great way to celebrate Black History Month. We could do Black History Month celebrations at parishes with this kind of information, or even just watch documentaries. November is Black Catholic History Month. It was established in the 90s by Black seminarians and clergy, so that people could know there are Black Catholics. And there are plenty of African Americans on their way to canonization as we speak!”
Gloria reflects on how the Church can create a place that feels where Black Catholics feel more at home. “Say hello to someone, it isn’t going to kill you! Invite them to parish groups. I know someone who was in a parish for over 10 years, and one of her white girlfriends joined the parish years after her and was invited to the moms’ group, while her Black friend no idea that it existed. Those kinds of things really hurt. So I would say, just treat somebody like a long lost family member you met before. Also remember what John Paul II said when he spoke to Black Catholics in New Orleans. He said, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, your Black cultural heritage enriches the Church and makes her witness of universality more complete. In a real way, the Church needs you, just as you need the Church. You are part of the Church, and the Church is part of you.’” Original Air 2-22-21