Penn State, Centre County neighborhood displays on significance of Black church buildings in civil rights motion | College Park Campus Information

On Thursday, the WPSU hosted a community discussion on the role of black churches in central Pennsylvania and in the civil rights movement as a whole. Will Price, a 2017 Penn State graduate of the College of Communications, moderated the discussion portion of the event.

As the current producer, multimedia specialist and youth leader of the Calvary Church in Boalsburg, Price was active as a chat moderator in “round table discussions” about justice within the university last summer.

Price said the black church issue is important to him because he identifies as a black Christian.

“Much of it is my story, too,” Price said. “I think we want to put black history in a month when black history is really all year round, and at least in the United States it has been for hundreds of years.”

Moderating the event, Price said he wanted to have an insightful discussion that shows the care for everyone at the event and allows people to learn something new.

The event broadcast part of the PBS documentary “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song”. Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s four-hour, two-part series discussed the role of black churches in the civil rights movement. For example, music derived from the gospel that has been modified has helped shape the movement, according to the documentary. Events such as concerts provided funds to fund Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Rides.

Following the documentary, the panelists chatted with Price and with each other. Panellists included a founding member of the Penn State Black Caucus and a past president of the Penn State Black Affairs Forum Gary Abdullah, former director of multicultural affairs at Penn State College of Information Science and Technology and the first female black director of the state college Area District, Barbara Bauer, Pastor of Albright-Bethune and Park Forest Village United Methodist Paul McReynolds and Pastor of Payne Church in Huntingdon Sylvia Morris.

The panelists’ discussion was divided into four main themes: the importance and education of the black church, the role of gospel music, the black church and its participation in the civil rights movement, and the hopes for the future of the black church.

According to Farmer, the Black Church was once an important institution. He said it was “a safe place, a place of community, a sense of discovery, strength and confidence” as well as a “meeting place”.

McReynolds said the role of gospel music in the black church is the “heartbeat” of the black church.

Farmer added that music is the “heartbeat of hope” and that “lyrics are from personal struggles that people survived.”

Referring to the civil rights movement, Abdullah said black churches endured tragedy by “turning to God”.

Looking to the future of the black church, Morris hopes it will be “unstoppable” and will “come out stronger.”


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