Youth Leaders Share Stories of “Why Black Lives Matter: Becoming Beloved Community”

“Young people are not the church of the future. Young people are the church, NOW.”

–Rev. Christopher Richardson

On Saturday, October 10, three young leaders gathered to be celebrated and to share their award-winning stories of “Why Black Lives Matter: Becoming Beloved Community.” Karah Paddock (16 years old; St. Christopher’s, Fairborn); Thomas Howton (16 years old; All Saints, Cincinnati); and Grace Hall (20 years old; St Andrew’s, Cincinnati) submitted creative stories as part of the Youth StorySharing contest, each representing a unique perspective and taking diverse forms including poetry, visual design, and a podcast.

Rev. Christopher Richardson, Nia McKenney, Darien McCoy, and Kate Howton served on the review and design team, reviewing the story submissions and designing the StorySharing event for the youth. In celebrating these youth, the team noted about each of them:

“Karah’s story was like listening to a powerful sermon. It spoke of sorrow, hope, and innate strength.” 

“Thomas’ image was powerful…racism behind him in the form of the ancestors and behind all of us as we move away from it.” 

“After listening to Grace’s podcast, I subscribed to Say Grace! I was so glad to know she’s regularly creating content like this. Such sadness and hope.” 

During the event, each of the young leaders shared their story submissions with the team and their invited friends and family. Then, each were asked a few questions to dig deeper and inspire further dialogue.

When asked about when she’s experienced leadership that invited the sort of strength and hope she wrote about, Karah shared, “If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never been the sort of person to be ahead of something, to lead something. But I think that it is important in times like these to speak up for what you believe in, for what you feel, and it’s ok to be a little bit uncomfortable because if you’re not uncomfortable, then not much is going to change.”  She went on to say that most of the hope she finds is in her own generation and this hope inspires her to take action.

When asked how he might rewrite the narrative of race + racism, Thomas shared, “To grow, you have to go through pain…it’s good to acknowledge all the bad things that people of my color have done in the past. We do need to acknowledge it so we can move forward…Like Grace said, after these wounds, this is our way to get better, to heal. I don’t know that I would rewrite the past because it is important…to move forward, we really have to understand how everyone is affected. It can’t happen instantly. You really have to be open to listening. That’s how we can all get better and heal.” 

In speaking on the role of grief in healing, Grace shared that it’s about having the uncomfortable conversations and being willing to go there. “People most affected by injustice, in this case Black people, aren’t always going to be there to lead you through these conversations…even as an allies or someone who supports a cause, you still could have unintentionally hurt someone you intended to support. Coming to terms with those things and not being defensive about it, the choice to talk about it and be better is what sets you apart from others. It’s not a failure. Acknowledging it is important, putting our pride aside…no one is not racist. Acknowledging it within each of us, is important.” 

Our youth have wisdom for all of us and taking time to listen makes us all stronger. Connecting across generations roots us in the knowing of our history and ancestors and brings forth the hope and vision of our future.

Check out Say Grace, Grace’s podcast.