On Thursday Feb. 25, the “Five Amigos Celebrate Black History Month’’ event took place in the Sacred Heart University chapel. This event was sponsored by the Office of Mission Integration, Ministry and Multicultural Affairs and moderated by Robert Johnson, Director of Multicultural Affairs.
“This event is an opportunity to discuss such real and important issues that many face on a day-to-day basis,” said sophomore Matthew Davila.
Valerie Kisselback, Imam Gazmend Aga, Rabbi Marcelo Kormis, and Reverend Sarah Smith discussed the importance of Black history, not only in society, but also in their respective religions.
“We’re going to be highlighting different African Americans who have made an impact in different faiths,” said Johnson, prior to the event.
Junior Colleen Shaffer helped open the event.
“Sacred Heart could be the first school to have this race and faith discussion,” said Shaffer. She concluded her introduction encouraging everyone in attendance to listen with “open ears, open hearts, and open arms.”
During the event, speakers identified people within their faith who they felt should be acknowledged.
“Reverend Tracey Blackman made a great impact through preaching and is very high up within the United Church of Christ as a strong Black woman,” said Smith. “She is a Black person who is making that difference.”
Kormis acknowledged famous Black Jewish individuals who have made a great impact in their communities such as Walter Mosley, as well as athletes and musicians.
“Two organizations within the Black community include the Jews of Color Initiative and the In Every Language Organization,” said Kormis. “These organizations bring people of different backgrounds together.”
Shaffer asked the panel, “How does your faith traditionally create spaces and opportunities for equitable leadership for people of different backgrounds?”
“This year, Pope Francis named Bishop Wilton Gregory (US) a cardinal, making him the first African American cardinal,” said Kisselback.
“The Congregational church was the first mainly white denomination to ordain an African American man named Lemuel Haynes in 1789,” said Smith.
“The Jewish community is relatively small and growing up I was never really exposed to Jews of colors, that is something I never could have imagined,” said Kormis. “When I began my studies as a rabbi , that was my first exposure to Jews of color.”
Panelists also discussed how their faiths can mend broken relationships with marginalized communities.
“We shouldn’t teach our children and our youth to be colorblind, but we shouldn’t be blind to the values of each other,” said Aga. “Being different is beautiful.”
This event was the first of its kind here at Sacred Heart, many students gathered together to discuss the issues about all marginalized groups, but especially, people of color and how they have historically been affected and how to stop hate.
“I personally believe in something higher than we traditionally think of that being Jesus, and I also think that we all in these different faiths have the same belief that all people should be treated equally,” said Johnson.