21 July 2020, The Tablet

Young black Catholics speak out on racism in the Church

Cardinal Vincent Nichols requested that Catholics listen to the video testimonies "with an open heart".

Young black Catholics speak out on racism in the Church

A still from the video

Young Black Catholics have spoken of their experiences of racism and discrimination in the church in a video for the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who introduces the frank and challenging 18-minute-long video, urges its audience to listen carefully, “with an accepting heart; don’t be thinking, ‘hang on a minute’. Make space to hear what they have to say.”

In the video Kamara Katama, one of the four people to be interviewed for the project, and a lay chaplain at a Catholic sixth form college in south London, urged churches to do a better job of representing Black Catholics at all levels - doing so should be a conscious effort, she said.

Describing a recent visit to a church that had prominent images of Black saints, she said: “I so rarely see other Black faces on the wall in the religious art in my churches I go to. I'm so rarely represented. How can young people feel empowered and like they belong in church when they never see their faces in the people that we venerate?”

Discussions of Blackness in church often focus on suffering and poverty within those communities, rather than celebrating them, she warned.

Rev Paschal Uche, a deacon who is soon to be ordained as the first British-born Black priest in the Diocese of Brentwood, said that the church showed symptoms of a lack of integration.

“Look at the clergy, look at the leadership, and the Black population isn't represented there,” he said.

Caroline King, an Executive Headteacher in the London Borough of Hackney, spoke of the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Fr Joseph Okoro, Assistant Priest at Holy Rood Church, Watford, called for an increased recognition of the equal dignity of all.

In a statement thanking the contributors for sharing their experiences Bishop Paul McAleenan, an auxiliary in Westminster, said that the death of George Floyd in May and the subsequent demonstrations were of vital importance.

“What was revealed must not slip from our minds. To end unjust discrimination, to strive for equality of opportunity and equal treatment before the law, a recognition of the injustices suffered by members of the Black community and the need to make everyone feel welcome and accepted in the Church must be kept firmly on the agenda by the Catholic community.

I ask you to listen [to the contributors], deeply. Attentive and sincere listening calls for a willingness to hear, to respond, and often requires a change of attitude.”

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