The New Baptist Covenant was represented at the United Nations on Nov. 3 for a powerful dialogue about the impacts of structural racism on people of African descent. Dr. Tyrone Pitts, who serves as a member of NBC’s Executive Leadership Team, and Dr. Scott Stearman, who was a part of NBC’s first Covenant of Action as a pastor in St. Louis, participated in the UN dialogue on NBC’s behalf. Dr. Stearman also serves as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship liaison to the UN.
“Confronting the Silence: Perspectives and Dialogue on Structural Racism against people of African Descent Worldwide,” was one of many programs and activities planned for the “International Decade for People of African Descent,” which the UN General Assembly declared for 2015-2024 to address the unique ways in which African people have been impacted by racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Famed civil rights activist, actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte delivered one of the key note addresses for the meeting where he acknowledged the importance of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent noting that “…the United Nations is the perfect place for us to sit and to have exchanges and to find our deeper humanity in settling the affairs of the cruelty of racism and classism,” said Belafonte.
Dr. Stearman agreed that the UN’s emphasis on the impacts of racism on African people can make a difference internationally. “Most of the world pays a lot of attention to the United Nations and focusing on structural racism could impact millions of people by highlighting best practices and what is being done…This is a good moment for the New Baptist Covenant to be involved in the UN.”
Dr. Stearman also believes that NBC’s participation was both necessary and significant as global leaders search for impactful solutions for ending racism. Having been involved in a Covenant of Action with Harrison Avenue Missionary Baptist Church when he was the pastor of Kirkwood Baptist Church in St. Louis, Dr. Stearman witnessed firsthand the significance of NBC’s Covenant of Action initiative.
“Real friendships grew out of our ongoing work with one another. We had Bible studies together about structural racism and other moments that built real relationships so when Ferguson happened, we had a different lens to which we could look at what happened. This is a model of a best practice that the UN can use globally,” explained Dr. Stearman, who believes NBC’s approach is unique and one that should be replicated internationally.
“We talk a lot about racism and its effects. All agree it’s horrible. All want to do something about it. Covenants of Action is one way it’s being dismantled,” said Dr. Stearman who is now the pastor at Metro Baptist Church in New York City.
The UN resolution cited the need for national, regional and international cooperation relative to the “full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent, and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society.” Using the theme, “People of African Descent: recognition, justice and development,” the main objectives for the decade-long observance is to promote respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights and fundamental freedoms; promote knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contributions of people of African descent to the development of societies; and, to adopt and strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks and to ensure their full and effective implementation.
In addition to Harry Belafonte other speakers who addressed international, Latin American, Caribbean, North American and European perspectives on structural racism included: Nicole Lee, a human rights lawyer and former President of TransAfrica; and, Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.
For more information on this meeting or the International Decade for People of African Descent, visit http://www.un.org/en/events/africandescentdecade.