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 10:45 am ET on Sunday mornings during Black History Month for music, sermons, and other worship experiences that center Black musicians, artists, and leaders.

King in the Garden: A Conversation with Robert L. Newman III

Join us after worship on Sunday, February 13, 2022 for a special conversation with Robert L. Newman III, a Black artist who was recently commissioned to paint a portrait of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Riverside’s Faith Formation ministry.

In this special “artist talkback” Minister Richard X III will talk with Robert about his work as a Black artist, the legacy of Black creators in the arts, and this most recent painting. Watch the video below to hear more from Robert and see the painting and click the link to join this conversation on Zoom after worship.

Robert L. Newman III is currently working as an EID Program Manager for Neuberger Berman, supporting the firm’s overall diversity strategy and execution. Outside of the office, he spends the majority of his time working as a freelance Artist, doing exhibitions in galleries across New York City and serving the community through various mentoring and arts-based nonprofits.

Rhythm Road Across The Continents: Three Centuries of the African Diaspora

Join the Alexander Wu piano trio with Frederique Gnaman, violin, and Eric Cooper, violoncello, on Sunday, February 13 at 2:00 pm ET for Music of the African Diaspora showcasing the vast contributions to music by Africans and the descendants of enslaved Africans around the world. Alexander A. Wu, Frederique Gnaman, and Eric Cooper and guest musicians, bring together tradition and history with its modern-day influence and cultural relevance. A universal celebration in the beauty and diversity of African diasporic music and culture.

This event will feature music of Harry T. Burleigh, Florence B. Price, Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, Modesta Bor, Mary Lou Williams, Tania León, Hale Smith, Varlerie Capers, and more.  Listen here for a sample piano solo and quartet strings.

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.

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Mandela Visits Riverside

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.

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