Celebrating Our Diversity

This month is Black History Month (February 2021). To celebrate, Carolyn, one of our parishioners, "invites" special people of African American Heritage to join us during services on Sunday mornings. Rev. Tricia shared a little bit about each person today at the announcements, and on this page we fill in a little more. Join us as we celebrate these significant individuals!

Jack Roosevelt Robinson | Althea Gibson | Bill Russell

Last week's Guests: Bishop Curry  |  Bishop Harris  |  Barak Obama

Jack Roosevelt Robinson

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
~ Jackie Robinson

At first glance you'd probably think Robinson was talking himself in this quote, or was he talking about his single Mom who raised him, along with 4 other siblings, or maybe it was the impact his older brother, an Olympic medalist, had on his life. Regardless of who he meant, Robinson exemplified this ideal. In high school as well as college, Robinson was a well rounded athlete, playing football, basketball, track and baseball. In high school, and also as the first player to accomplish this at UCLA, Robinson lettered in all 4 sports.

Robinson was unable to finish his college career due to monetary reasons, and was then drafted to a segregated unit in the Army. Even though Army buses in his location were unsegregated, the MPs were called to arrest Robinson because he refused to move to the back of the bus one evening. After being court-marshaled, Robinson was unanimously acquitted, and subsequently honorarily discharged.

As a rising star in the Negro league of the MLB, Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, chose Robinson to join his team, making him the first black player in 63 years to "break the color line" in major league baseball (learn more). After his big break he had an illustrious, although somewhat controversial, baseball career, resulting in an induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the retiring of his number, 42. This number is the only number that is retired across all teams in the MLB.

To learn more about his life after baseball (where he became the first black person to serve as vice president of a major American corporation, Chock full o'Nuts), his family, and his never-ending advocation of equality, click on... oh and check out "42" an excellent movie, starring Chadwick Boseman, about Robinson's life. 

5 Interesting Facts about Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson Biography

Jackie Robinson on Wikipedia

William Felton Russell

If you're a fan of basketball you certainly know who this man is! Would you be surprised to know that basketball didn't come naturally to him? But a high school coach saw his potential and helped develop Russell into an excellent player. 

Russell started to excel his Junior and Senior years in high school and then went on to become a NCAA championship winner with the University of San Francisco, twice. Between his college career and his first year with the Boston Celtics, Russell captained the US Olympic basketball team and helped bring the to a Gold Medal victory 1956. He was almost ineligible to play for the olympic team because he had already been drafted, but the Olympic committee deemed him eligible. Apparently Russell commented that if he wasn't, he would have entered into the Olympic competition as a high-jumper. Oh, did I mention he had stellar track and field skills?

Throughout his career as player/coach, Russell was a 12-time All Star player, was voted MVP 5 times, and won 13 NBA championships. In 2011 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the court and in the Civil Rights Movement.

When Russell was in college, UCLA coach John Wooden called him"the greatest defensive man I've ever seen." A skill that launched Russell into an amazing professional basketball career. 

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry

“If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”
~ Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

It's no surprise that Bishop Curry became a Priest. His father was a Reverend and both his Grandfather and Great-Grandfather were Baptist Ministers. What may seem as a surprise is that he chose the Episcopal church, but there's a good reason for that. When, during segregation in Ohio, the Episcopal church started allowing both blacks and whites to receive communion from the same chalice Bishop Curry's parents, Kenneth and Dorothy, converted.  

After college and divinity school, Bishop Curry was ordained deacon and priest in June and December of 1978, in upstate New York. After serving as Rector in North Carolina, Ohio, and Maryland, Bishop Curry was elected the eleventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina on February 11, 2000 and installed as presiding Bishop and Primate on November 1, 2015, All Saints' Day, during a Eucharist at Washington National Cathedral. He is the first black man to hold this position in the United States. These are just milestones, if you wish to learn more, wikipedia has done a nice article about him. 

Some interesting facts about Bishop Curry...

• Even after sanctions, he maintained his public support for same-sex marriage

• He was invited and performed the sermon at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding.

• He is a cancer survivor

• He has authored several books, including Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times, published in September of last year.


Althea Gibson

Like the success of Jackie Robinson, Althea Gibson's skills as an athlete led her on a path to become "one of the first Black athletes to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1956, she became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title (the French Championships). The following year she won both Wimbledon and the US Nationals (precursor of the US Open), then won both again in 1958 and was voted Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in both years."* Billie Jean was quotes as saying, "Her road to success was a challenging one but I never saw her back down." All told, Gibson won 11 Grand Slam titles, and was inducted into the International Tennis and International Women's Sports Hall of Fames

A woman of many talents, Gibson was also a pro golfer, and pursued a career in the entertainment industry after retiring from tennis. Gibson competed and performed as a vocalist and also saxophonist.

But she never forgot to give back. I came across an article titled, "My Inspiration: Althea Gibson" written by Katrina Adams, a former President of the US Tennis Association. Adams speaks about meeting Gibson at a tennis clinic in Midtown Chicago that changed her life.


While researching Absolom Jones, I came across this fantastic film which will be premiering on PBS on February 16 & 17, 9/8c. The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song is a moving four-hour, two-part series from executive producer, host and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, that traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power.

The documentary reveals how Black people have worshipped and, through their spiritual journeys, improvised ways to bring their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, while translating them into a form of Christianity that was not only truly their own, but a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was found in their ancestors’ enslavement across the Middle Passage.

A production of McGee Media, Inkwell Media and WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Get Lifted. More info


The Right Reverend Barbara Clementine Harris

One of the most difficult parts of doing this is really conveying the essence of a person. From what I know, Bishop Harris was, well, larger than life. Bishop Harris was a fighter for civil rights, and participated in civil rights freedom rides and marches, including Selma to Montgomery. She held a corporate human resources position, and then folIowed her calling in the Episcopal church and ultimately became the first woman, and black, Bishop.


I give you this from Bishop Curry and will provide links below for you to learn more about Bishop Harris and hear her speak:

“Bishop Harris was not large of physical stature. In fact, the opposite,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said. “But she was larger than life. She was larger than life because she lived it fully with her God and with us. She did it by actually living the love of God that Jesus taught us about. She did it walking the lonesome valley of leadership, paving a way for so many of us whose way had been blocked. She did it lifting her voice for those who had no voice. She did with a joke, a whispered word, a secret joy in spite of anything that got in her way, including death. No wonder she titled her memoir, ‘Hallelujah, Anyhow!’”

Barbara Harris on wikipedia

Bishop Harris leads Sunday worship at the 2019 Connecticut ECCT Convention

An interview clip about the Philadelphia High School for Girls

Right Reverend, Most Reverend, what does it all mean? Well in the U.S., Right Reverend is a title you receive when you become a bishop. The Most Reverend title is for those who become Archbishops and Primates. For example, The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry is both a Primate (or leader) and Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA.


Barack Hussein Obama II

We all know Barack Obama, first African American man to hold the office of President of the United States. Rather than go over his very accomplished career below you let's find out about what he's doing now, and maybe a few facts you didn't know!

• Obama graduated from Columbia University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in political science (international relations specialization) and English literature.

• He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law school.

• He was the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review.

• Obama is the child of a bi-racial marriage. "In a 2006 interview, Obama highlighted the diversity of his extended family: 'It's like a little mini-United Nations,' he said. 'I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher.'"

• Did I mention he has a great sense of humor?

So where is he now? 

After staying in Washington, DC for his youngest daughter to finish high school, the Obamas moved to Martha's Vineyard. They have received an enormous amount of money to publish their memoirs which helps them to fund their foundation and the Obama Presidential Center. I also enabled their foundation to  donate some $2 million to job-training programs for low-income residents in the Chicago area. 

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