Committee 10, Mission Coordination, spent most of June 21 discussing and amending overture 10-03 from Pittsburgh Presbytery, “On Taking Specific Action to Address the Worsening Plight of the African American Male.” The original overture called for pilot programs in five cities and $5 million in funding from the Hawkins-Buchanan Fund for Racial Justice, a fund not currently large enough to be accessed.
The overture advocate, Eugene Freedom Blackwell, said he realized that this was an “audacious financial ask” but that now was the time “to act fearlessly in the face of crisis.” This pilot program to disciple, educate and lift up young African American men in five cities – Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Baltimore, Cleveland and New York – would be a model for other cities. Blackwell said. “The time is now to be the moral compass of the nation.”
Comments and questions expressed a shared sense of deep concern and urgency. Commissioners wanted to know about past efforts to address the crisis facing African American men, and Blackwell noted that although past General Assemblies had passed measures, they “didn’t have a place to land outside of GA,” and hence didn’t have much impact.
This overture would allow for both needed resources and accountability.
After a series of amendments, including one that would have added the words “women” and “female” and was changed further to say “African Americans” in order to be inclusive of transgender persons, the overture was split into two parts.
The first part, after all the amendments, states, “Take specific action, not just in word, but also in deed, to address and improve the worsening plight of the African American male in any of the five specified cities as a pilot initiative pointing toward future and further nationwide intervention.” Actions include encouraging the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Mid-Councils and congregations to advocate for policies at the local and state levels that will change the structures that contribute to the demise of the black male.
After approving the first part of the overture, the committee took up the second part – how to fund these actions. Ultimately, the committee settled on language that encourages mid-councils and congregations to direct monies from the Peace and Global Witness offering to this endeavor, as well as take up a one- time special offering. The final source of funding will come, should the assembly pass this overture, through partnering with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Both parts of the overture passed unanimously with the addition of the comment: “This concern prevails in the U.S.A. beyond the African American communities and applies to Hispanic, Native American and all poor communities.”
Following the affirmative vote, the committee stood, held hands and sang the doxology.