Knights of Peter Claver will host webinar to identify solutions to racial inequality
by Perry West
Denver Newsroom, Sep 10, 2020 / 03:13 pm MT (CNA).- As part of a five part series on social justice, a historically African-American Catholic fraternity will present a web seminar on the dignity of black lives this Saturday.
The Knights of Peter Claver will host a webinar called “Where is the dignity of black lives? Take your knee off my neck” Sept. 12. It is the first of a five-part series, which will also include webinars on racism, domestic violence, human trafficking, and criminal justice reform.
Rick Sassua, the Knights of Peter Claver national treasurer and an advisor for its social justice committee, said the name relates to the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black American who was killed in Minneapolis by former police officer Derek Chauvin.
He expressed hope that the event promotes the human dignity of African-Americans and helps establish the next steps to tackle racism in the United States.
“I think the goal is to further the concept of human dignity as it relates to black lives. The goal is to enlighten, educate, [and] engage a meaningful dialogue to produce next steps,” he told CNA.
“We will … have some tools to go back to our respective courts, our councils, our cities, our states, our dioceses, and bring something back as opposed to just listening to a talk and just going home. We [will] have like a call to action to try to peacefully resolve some of the issues we’re seeing from these protests.”
The event will include speakers such as Father Norman Fischer, the chaplain for Central States District; Tracy Aikens, the far west regional director for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Ashford Hughes, executive officer for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Metro Nashville Public Schools; and Gloria Purvis, the host of EWTN’s Morning Glory. Bishop Fernand Cheri, an auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, will also make an appearance.
Sassua said each speaker brings a unique perspective on the racial tensions in the United States, including standpoints on media, college formation, and the next steps to push racial equality forward. He said the Knights of Peter Claver has had conversations with police departments to discuss how to prevent similar deaths from happening again and what training steps could be implemented.
He said Hughes will provide advice on solutions to racial problems and identifying next step procedures actually to resolve these issues. He also said Purvis will offer perspectives about how racial equality problems are an aspect of the pro-life movement.
“Hughes has his own nonprofit organization that deals with racial advice within a national area … We talk about what’s going on with the issues; he has been well-versed in identifying next step procedures to actually resolve some of the issues that we see on a daily basis.”
“[Gloria] has a show on pro-life and also the black lives matter issue, where she views black lives matter as being a pro-life issue. She also talks about different ways in which the media and marketing and how that actually [will affect it].”
As a faith-based organization, he said, the discussion will also provide insight into the topic of racial issues with a uniquely Catholic perspective.
He said it has been reassuring to witness the Catholic Church express concern for these issues and take the necessary steps to tackle racism. He pointed to the US bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.
“As black Catholics, it’s like a sense of belonging to see the Church address these issues because …. we worship with our fellow Catholics who are of all races. If you see a race or a certain subset of people that are being hurt as a Christian, as a Catholic, you want to do what you can to try to make sure that person is [welcome].”
He said it was comforting to see the Church’s involvement in the Sept. 9 National Day of Prayer of Fasting to End Racism, and the engagement of other Catholic lay organizations like the Knights of Columbus. He expressed the importance for Catholics to view racial equality as a problem relating to the pro-life movement.
“The Knights of Columbus taking a stance on that, it makes me feel good,” he said. “I just express my appreciation for them doing something like that, because that’s a big step.”
“Being pro-birth is awesome, but we also have to look at the whole spectrum of conception to natural death, because if a person has a child or a woman does not choose to have an abortion at a young age, and that child grows up and the child gets killed in the street … it sparks some concern for that family, but it should also spark some concern for the Catholic Church.”
The Knights of Peter Claver was founded in Mobile, Ala., in 1909 and is now headquartered in New Orleans. The order is named for St. Peter Claver, the Jesuit missionary priest who ministered to African slaves in Colombia.
Its membership is historically African-American but is open to all practicing Catholics without regard to race or ethnicity. Many of its members played a role in the U.S. civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.
The organization has a presence in about 39 states and in South America. Its six divisions include a Ladies Auxiliary, two junior divisions for boys and girls, Fourth Degree Knights, and their companion group Ladies of Grace.