How Are We Doing?
MLK’s Notion of a Beloved Community
Each year, along with institutions around the country, the Roberts Wesleyan University community takes time to honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a Christian institution, we deeply connect with the spiritual ideologies of the Reverend Dr. King and our founder, Reverend Benjamin Titus Roberts, who was, like King, a courageously passionate proponent of social justice. Our history and our mission compel us to be a community that seeks to carry on that kind of faith and that legacy of social influence. Let us reflect on how we are doing.
One of the many ways in which Dr. King’s Christian character has been demonstrated lies in the conviction he had to nurture a Beloved Community. He spoke often and passionately about cultivating a community that exudes the love of Jesus, where everyone feels seen, cared for, and valued. A community where economic and social justice is the standard. A community where peaceful conflict resolution is not a dream but a reality and part of the culture of that community. This type of beloved community was a central theme on the Roberts campus over the past year. While we haven’t fully arrived, there are some memorable moments that highlight how we have tried to embody this sentiment:
● Faculty, staff, and students from various backgrounds, including our President, Dr. Deana Porterfield, came together in a healing circle to offer support and comfort at the news of the Buffalo tragedy that senselessly took the lives of 10 Black individuals in a racial hate crime. I was so moved by the individuals in our community who showed up in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in Christ to stand against racism. That reflected a Beloved Community in which my non-Black brothers and sisters conveyed the message that “your pain is our pain, because when one hurts, we all hurt.” Many of my Black colleagues and I felt seen, cared for, and valued in those healing circles.
● This past year, departments and committees hosted clothing and food drives and donated needed items, blood, and money to help support individuals and communities who were experiencing food scarcity, struggling financially, or dealing with the deleterious effects of a natural disaster. One of our Latina sisters reached out to me and was so moved by Roberts’ response to send relief to Puerto Rico after hurricane Fiona.
These efforts are a reflection of a Beloved Community felt by members in our community.
● Many faculty have reached out to me expressing how they want to help create an environment at Roberts that is more inclusive and equity focused to help all their students feel seen, cared for, valued, and that they belong.
● We published statements for Hispanic and Native American Heritage Months and will continue to do this for future Heritage months. When both the Hispanic and Native American Heritage statements were released, individuals emailed to say how much that meant to them and how appreciative they were that their cultures were celebrated.
● Northeastern Seminary launched the Black Church Studies certificate program, a first for our community. Such gestures, practices, and initiatives help members of our community feel supported and aided in the experience of belonging and what it means to be a member of a Beloved Community.
● I’ve had the pleasure of seeing how our community has embraced peaceful conflict resolution through the utilization of restorative practices in which the impact of our actions/words are acknowledged and any hurt caused is attempted to be repaired.
Recently, two of our colleagues worked through a restorative exercise to repair harm that was caused and make amends, because they both valued being in right standing and relationship with one another. As members of a Christian community, they did not want there to be a rift in our community. Their engagement in this restorative work exemplified what it means to be a Beloved Community.
● Many were deeply touched to learn that our late sister in Christ, Ruth Logan’s, Memorial Fund will go towards the adoption of the Culture of Care Framework that is rooted in restorative practices and will create a structured approach for how we respond to conflict and incidents of bias.Through listening to one another to gain understanding, seeking to make amends, engaging in behavior to repair harm, and preserving and strengthening our relationships with one another; these efforts will help foster and strengthen our Beloved Community.
We each have to do our part to help build our Beloved Community at Roberts, and I’m pleased to witness how many in our community have taken this challenge seriously throughout the past year. I’m encouraged that Roberts doesn’t simply celebrate MLK Day out of obligation or formality, but that we employ the model he gave us and can see ourselves as being a part of the hard work that Dr. King called us to do as Christians–to live and love as Christ commanded. Iurge us to continue to grow and demonstrate what it means to be a Beloved Community. God bless!
Dr. Sonnette M. Bascoe
Special Advisor to the President for Diversity and Belonging