I confess that, until this year, I had not been aware that November is Black Catholic History Month. Given that the day was designated such by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States in 1990, shame on me for my ignorance.
Why do we have a Black Catholic History Month? Jesuit Billy Critchley-Menor, writing in the Jesuit Post, explains it this way:
Why is studying and celebrating Black Catholic history so important? There are a myriad of reasons. But one of the most important, in my mind, is that Black Catholic history reveals that there have always been a people with moral voice in the Catholic Church who never needed to be taught that slavery, segregation, or racism was evil. There were always voices of Black people in the Church who knew better than the many white bishops, theologians, and priests who taught that slavery and vitriolic racism could be compatible, or even supported, by Catholicism. The voices and the struggle of these Black Catholics cannot be forgotten because, like Jesus, they tried with great effort to speak the truth and were persecuted for it.
The month provides an opportunity to learn and share the history of a part of Catholic history that is often ignored. Here is one opportunity: Georgetown University recently sponsored an outstanding panel discussion on Religion and Race: The Future of Anti-Racism and the Catholic Church. You can access it here.