CARSON, Calif. – Professors and preachers came together in Ballroom A at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) last Wednesday to discuss the role of the Black church in education. A panel of ordained reverends discussed the gap between education and African American religion.
Rev. Monica Coleman, also a professor at Claremont School of Theology, Rev. Lewis Logan II, Pastor Sherman Gordon, and Rev. Paulette Simpson-Gipson talked with educators from the school’s Africana Studies department.
During the discussion, the panelists suggested that churches in the past have been heavily involved with the education of young people, but today the church as a whole has taken a back seat on the education front.
“Education is the key to our own self-esteem,” Logan said. “Churches historically have been integral in encouraging children to pursue college.”
The panelists agree, the church prays, encourages, and supports students through the stress of college, but more congregations need to do more of it.
Gibson suggested the church’s role is to give hope and train leaders for the future. She added that congregations and pastors need to be more involved with their youth’s educational pursuits, and should not stop at high school.
She also believes professors and pastors should work together to create plans and be examples for students in the church.
Gordon said he has found career fairs on church grounds to be an effective way to network and expose students to new avenues.
“I found it helpful to get members involved,” he said. “People in the congregation in certain fields are encouraged to talk about what they do.”
The panelists agreed that the church plays an important role in promoting higher education, but now it is a matter of implementing effective solutions. While the need to address the gap was pushed throughout the discussion, solutions to the disturbing college attendance, retention, and graduation rates were concerns that were not directly addressed during the discussion.
According to the United States Department of Education in 2007, African Americans were on the bottom of college graduation rates at 42 percent (Hispanics 49 percent, Whites 60 percent, and Asians 67 percent).
Coleman says bridges between educators and religious organizations need to be built in order to preserve culturally rich academic disciplines like Pan-African studies and to help students successfully matriculate through college.
“There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between Africana studies departments and churches,” she said, adding that the exposure to unique disciplines and impactful education opportunities strengthen the possibilities for Black students. “I always say, if you can read, write, and think, you can do anything.”
Coleman adds that when professors from diverse departments partner with the church, students will have a broader repertoire of academic options.
The panel discussion was a public lecture presented by the Africana Studies Department at CSUDH. For more information about future programs and presentations, log onto cah.csudh.edu.