Riverside Book Club
Join the Riverside Book Club online the 2nd Saturday monthly for a time of fellowship and lively discussion over a monthly book selection.
Join the Riverside Church Book Club with Dr. Smith to review her book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, published by Whitaker House.
The book choice was inspired in part by the gradually escalating turbulence associated with American politics, — turbulence unheard of, since the violence that erupted near the end of the 1960’s – in spite of Dr. Martin Luther King’s calls for non-violence. Indeed, social science researchers have been noting that social justice activism has become an extremely stressful enterprise, particularly for Progressives, who are “pushing back” against the “far right”, fearing tht they will reverse gains brought by the Civil Rights Movement.
For example, Kennith Smith, in “Politics is Making Us Sick” attempted to track the negative impact of political engagement on public health during the Trump administration, as the country moved toward the 2020 presidential election. His team interviewed 800 people in 2017 and interviewed 700 of them again just before the 2020 election. They tracked stress indicators such as loss of sleep, suicidal thoughts, inability to stop thinking about politics and intemperate social media posts. They documented a statistically significant rise in such stress indicators, particulary for young adults on the “political left”. K. Tutashinda, in “The Stress of Politics in Lifestyles in African American Development” also observed social activists from marginalized groups such as African Americans, the Latin X generations, members of the LGBTQIA community and called for “self care” for social activists.
Rest for the Justice Seeking Soul, by Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith in that tradition. However, while concerned about the “self care” of social justice activists, unlike most writings on that topic, she focuses on the value of establishing an intimate relationship with God. The book contains a three month supply of daily devotions. It is designed to become a companion that is accessible, even in the midst of “the struggle”. The book is available in both paperback and can be ordered instantly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is Director of Clergy and Resource Development at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC). She has been a past member of its Board of Directors and is currently Secretary of the Board. Proctor is a social justice ministry that seeks to empower churches and ministers in urban settings as they deal with problems they face within that context. Dr. Smith assists with that at Proctor through training, resource development, acquisitions, and organized attempts to change public policy.
Additionally, she serves as co-chair of the Minority Outreach Subcommittee of the Nonpartisan Ohio Voter Outreach Committee (NOVOC) and is founder of Crazy Faith Ministries of Columbus, Ohio. For 22 years, she served as senior pastor of Advent United Church of Christ. She is also a national organizer and trainer for the African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC), a division of People for the American Way. She was recently named the first Gordon G. Cosby Seasoned Voices Fellow by the SpiritHouse Project, an organization that has been on the forefront for social justice for decades.
She graduated from Occidental College in 1976, where she earned a BA in English literature, and is also a 1986 graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she earned an M.Div. She also earned a D. Min. from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, studying under the late Rev. Drs. Samuel Proctor and Charles E. Booth. At Yale, she was awarded the Wolcott Preaching Prize and has since preached nationally and internationally. Moreover, she was recently inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. College of Ministers and Laity.
She is the author of Crazy Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, and The Book of Jeremiah: The Life and Ministry about the work and ministry of Jeremiah Wright. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in the United States was released in October, 2020, and earned two awards: the 2021 Independent Press Award in the “Cultural and Social Issues” category and the 2020 Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishing Association (IBPA)
Regularly, she contributes to The Dallas Examiner, and to The Wilmington Journal. Her work has appeared weekly in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. She has a blog, “Candid Observations,” that concentrates on the intersections of race, politics and religion. Additionally, she distributes a “Tuesday Meditation” nationally and internationally. She is the mother of two adult children, Caroline, a certified music therapist, and Charles, a writer and performer of music throughout Ohio.
On September 10, 2022, at 11:00am, via ZOOM, The Riverside Church Book Club, will be reviewing the book, Lanterns, by Marian Wright Edelman. In her preface to the book, Edelman prays, “O God, I thank You for the lanterns in my life who illumined dark and uncertain paths calmed and stilled debilitating doubts and fears with encouraging words, wise lessons, gentle touches, firm nudges, and faithful action along my journey of life and back to You.”
Edelman was born on June 6, 1939, and entered young adulthood midway through the first year of the turbulent 1960s, a very dark and uncertain decade for people of African descent. Their average life-span was seven years less than that of White Americans. Black children had only half of the possibility of completing high school and only a third of the chance of completing college as White children.
They had less than a third of the chance of ever entering a profession. Black Americans earned no more than half as much as White Americans and were twice as likely to be unemployed (“Digital History of Black America, 1960, Online, 2022).
Moreover, six years after the landmark Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education decision of 1954, only 49 Southern school districts had officially desegregated and less than 1.2 percent of Black school children in the 11 states of the Old Confederacy attended schools with White children. Less than a quarter of the South’s Black population could vote, serve on grand or trial juries, use public beaches, use restaurants or use hotels occupied by White people.
In the North, most neighborhoods, businesses, and unions openly excluded Black people. Technology displaced Black workers, putting severe strains on Black families. This was also the time when, according to the Tuskegee Institute Report, that, by 1968, an estimated 3, 445 Black people had been lynched.
In Lanterns, Edelman describes her encounters with certain “lanterns” during those dark times. She explains how they had a permanent impact on her life. These included her parents, Arthur Jerome and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright, educators at Spellman College and others, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Fannie Lou Hamer, William Sloan Coffin, Ella Baker, Mae Bertha Carter and her husband, Peter Edelman.
As a result, Edelman became a significant “lantern” in her own right. Through her influence, she helped to organize and impact: the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, the Poor People’s Campaign, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Washington Research Project, and the Children’s Defense Fund. She also founded the Freedom Schools currently operating in at least 24 states with at least 7,200 children enrolling (www.childrendefense.org). As such, inevitably she has been a lantern, lighting the pathways of following generations of such “lanterns”, who have in turn found their niches in a variety of professions that advocate for children. Her book includes 25 lessons with guidelines for current and future “lanterns”.
MODERATOR, Eileen McArthur is one such “lantern”. She will be facilitating the Book Club discussion. McArthur has focused on children and adults with communication disorders, as well as the arts and spirituality. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from St. Lawrence University and a Master of Education degree in Communication Disorders from Seton Hall University. She then entered a career that spanned over 40-years as a Speech Pathologist. Eventually, she focused primarily on children with autism and also hearing impaired students.
Over the course of her career, she contributed much to the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with communication impairments. She worked within and supervised departments in hospital, clinics and school settings, including Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, New York. She also created and distributed a quarterly newsletter for parents of deaf children, and has received awards for her outstanding work, serving as what Edelman would consider a “lantern” in a field which was growing in its understanding of children and families with special needs. Parents were especially appreciative of the impact that McArthur had on their children.
Her advocacy for the needs of children has not been limited to her profession as a speech pathologist. She also spent decades addressing the spiritual needs of typical children, not just those with communication disorders. For example, at churches such as Stamford First United Methodist Church, she supervised the team of Vacation Bible School teachers and was a head Sunday school teacher. In those spaces, McArthur focused on helping children to form an understanding of God and of how to translate that understanding out into their relationships with others within their church, community and families.
In addition, she advocated for young people in the Arts. She coordinated the annual “FUMC Young Artist’s Showcase”, where young artists from throughout Fairfield County, Connecticut competed and performed. In her retirement, she fondly reflects on her years as a “lantern” within her community and family.
She has three sons: Damon, a college art professor; Timothy, a physical therapist; and Daniel, a real estate financial analyst. Her husband, Rev. Dr. Douglas McArthur, recently retired as pastor of Stamford First United Methodist Church in Stamford, Connecticut.
The book is available online, at Amazon.com and via The Riverside Church Bookstore.