Dumb question - of course they do. If you're reading this sentence then the title worked. It grabbed your attention for one reason or another. Perhaps you answered the question for yourself. Maybe you were salivating at the opportunity to tear me apart. Maybe, just maybe, you disagreed... Do me a favor and keep reading.
The tendency of the general public is to look at the urban poor with pity or disdain. The temptation, which easily entraps many, is to view the urban poor as always taking away from society and not adding to it. What's worse is that many are diametrically opposed to the #BlackLivesMatter movement because it makes them uncomfortable out of fear for losing their privileged control. If you know me then you know I'm white. I admit my privileged upbringing and my ignorance on the implications of the historic challenges of the black community instituted by my caucasian heritage. I am not writing this pretending like I am a savior of black lives or black communities. I'm not trying to catch up the trend. I am not late to the game or somehow just discovering this. So, why even jump into the foray of blog posts, discussion forums, press releases, and Twitter trolling? I am a pastor to mostly black lives in a majority black neighborhood and our youth killed it this Christmas.
Since the beginning of our ministry in south Chattanooga we have always emphasized this truth: our people have just as much to offer the greater community as anyone else - Rich/poor, black/white, PhD/GED it doesn't matter. Too often, particularly with urban youth, black lives are reduced to dope slingin, trouble makin, drains on carefully budgeted government resources. That rhetoric only serves to oppress and demean the otherwise equally bright futures of these young citizens. Furthermore, it drives an even deeper seated prejudice that #BlackLivesDon'tMatter.
Christmas this year proved our emphasis that our youth have just as much to offer the greater community as anyone else. Programs like Angel Tree, Toy Drives, and Salvation Army bell-ringing are always geared toward the poor under the guise of solving their holiday problems. At Bridge City we don't actively promote guilt assuaging in these types of endeavors because the poor are not a problem to solve but a people to join. Instead, we earned front row seats to an incredible display of generosity, servitude, and humility last Thursday night when our youth spent over three hours wrapping presents for neighbors.
Many people in Chattanooga will believe, but not necessarily admit, that these young black lives don't matter. Keep em contained in the projects so they don't blow my blissful, privileged lives #MyLifeMattersMost. Discriminatory postures like that are ignorant of the joy that comes from teaching youth how to wrap presents so they can "give back" to their community. Nothing fulfills our mission to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly than to witness young men and women escaping the road to incarceration by wrapping presents and living generously.
#BlackLivesMatter. Don't ignore this or overlook them. It is not a movement. It is not a hashtag. They are people to join not a problem to solve. They are neighbors and residents of our shared streets, grocery stores, and shopping malls. They are fellow students and sports fans. They matter to God. Let them matter to you too.
Check out our Facebook page for the pics.