Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Join us as we celebrate the contributions of Black artists, activists, and leaders this month and every month.
Sunday Morning Worship
Join us for worship at 11:00 am ET on Sunday mornings during Black History Month for music, sermons, and other worship experiences that center Black musicians, artists, and leaders.
Sunday, February 5 | Preacher: Rev. Adriene Thorne
Sunday, February 12 | Preacher: Rev. Adriene Thorne
Sunday, February 19 | Preacher: Alisa Castilla
Sunday, February 26 | Preacher: TBD
Lunch and Learn with Dr. Willie Jennings
Sunday, February 5 | 1:00 p.m. | 9T & online
The Education Commission invites you to a Lunch and Learn in room 9T with special guest Dr. Willie Jennings in conversation on his book, “After Whiteness: An Education In Belonging,” moderated by Dr. Andrea White. After Whiteness explores several themes that we have been in conversation about here at Riverside. Jennings says, “Theological education has always been about formation: first of people, then of communities, then of the world. If we continue to promote whiteness and its related ideas of masculinity and individualism in our educational work, it will remain diseased and thwart our efforts to heal the church and the world. But if theological education aims to form people who can gather others together through border-crossing pluralism and God-drenched communion, we can begin to cultivate the radical belonging that is at the heart of God’s transformative work.”
Join us in 9T or online for a special Space for Grace gathering in honor of Black History Month.
Worship begins at 7:00 pm ET with a light meal provided at 6:30 pm ET.
A Book Discussion with Rev. Dr. Robert Polk
Sunday, February 19 | 1:00 p.m. | Assembly Hall & online
Membership, Care & Parish Life invites you to a conversation with special guest Rev. Dr. Robert Polk on his new book, Fly in the Butter Milk: One Black Man’s Odyssey, moderated by Rev. Dr. Debra Northern.
The event is free and open to all. Please register in advance online.
About the Book: Can past circumstances about social justice and racism continue to be relevant in this era? That is the core question addressed, and answered, in Fly in the Buttermilk, a poignant memoir by Rev. Dr. Robert L. Polk about his time, 1955-1960, as the 48th official Black resident (as he was told) in the state of North Dakota.
Fly reveals the amazing story of a freshly minted, young, Black, urban, seminary graduate who dared to accept his first call as a pastor in the nearly all-white state of North Dakota. Polk has always had a deep and innate passion for race relations and social justice, all of which he endeavored to blend, both in his ministry to a tiny and decidedly rural parish and, later, as youth director in the Minot YMCA for over three hundred teens.
This candid memoir explores the highs, lows, joys and sorrows, daily routine and the dynamics of racial isolation and race relations.
In a land that is weary, come join the Riverside Inspirational Choir as we lift God’s name in song for a concert titled “Our God Is an Awesome God”
Black History at The Riverside Church
The Black Manifesto
On Sunday May 4, 1969, black activist James Forman stormed the pulpit of The Riverside Church, demanding that white churches and synagogues pay $500,000,000 in reparations. Forman, the former Executive Secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was one of the key leaders of the 1964 Freedom Summer, a project to register as many black voters in Mississippi as possible, as well as the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, infamously put down with billy clubs and tear gas on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, an event now known as Bloody Sunday.
On the morning of May 4, as ministers processed through the nave to the hymn “When Morning Gilds the Skies”, Forman climbed the steps to the chancel and began to read The Black Manifesto, a series of demands endorsed by the National Black Economic Development Conference. The Black Manifesto argued that white churches and synagogues of the United States must pay for their part – direct and indirect – in the historical subjugation of black people if they wished to maintain their moral authority. It cited their reliance on the patronage of wealthy whites enriched by slavery and the violent expropriation of resources from communities of color.
Before Forman could begin to explain the reason for the service interruption, the organist drowned out his words with the hymn “May Jesus Christ be Praised”, as preaching minister Rev. Dr. Ernest Campbell led a silent walkout of the majority of the congregation.
This event threw The Riverside Church and the concept of reparations into the national spotlight. The Riverside Church and other faith groups struggled to respond. The intellectual struggle over reparations continues today.
In late June of 1990, between negotiations with the South African government, Mandela made a visit to the United States on a campaign to raise money for the ANC and to encourage the international community to continue economic sanctions until the agreement to end apartheid had been reached. Mandela was greeted by an estimated 750,000 people at a ticker tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan, and given The Key to the City of New York by its first black mayor, David Dinkins (whose call for a police oversight Civilian Complaint Review Board would cause a massive police riot two years later). The next day, on June 21st, before speeches at Yankee Stadium, the United Nations, and a townhall at City College with Ted Koppel, Mandela attended an interfaith “Service of Thanksgiving for Nelson Mandela” at The Riverside Church.