The Courage to Show Up: A Response from Christine Scheller


That word has been rolling around in my thoughts since I attended a conversation between Brené Brown and Deray McKesson at a packed Riverside Church in New York City on Feb. 1. Moderated by the church’s senior minister, Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, the talk — “The Courage to Show Up” — was inspired by an August 2016 Twitter exchange between the popular author and anti-shame advocate (Brown) and the racial justice activist (McKesson).

While the two had previously spoken, this was their first meeting in person — one arranged by Riverside, the church’s executive minister of communications Rev. Rachel Johnson, said.

“Riverside staff saw the [2016] Twitter exchange online and thought it would be a powerful event to see in person where the two could expand beyond the character limits of Twitter,” she said.

Although neither McKesson nor Brown addressed their faith, Brown has spoken publicly in the past about returning to church after a 20-year absence. And kicking off the “Race, Faith and Community” convocation in Louisville three years ago, McKesson highlighted Jesus’ radical roots.

“Jesus was a protestor,” he said. “It hurt us when the black church didn’t show up for us. The Jesus I learned to love would have been there.”

At Riverside, McKesson drew a distinction between the terms “ally” and “accomplice.” An ally holds herself at a safe distance from the fight for justice, he said. What turns her into an accomplice is proximity: proximity to the fight and/or to those who suffer oppression and/or injustice.

Of course, even proximity to a person doesn’t always lead to activism. And proximity to an injustice doesn’t always lead to relationship.

Click here to read Christine’s full response on the Sojourners blog.

Christine A. Scheller is a multimedia storyteller working on an MFA in Visual Narrative at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Click here to return to the list of responses to The Courage to Show Up.