by Rev. Elizabeth Peter Eckman

Happy Black History Month!

Honestly, every day should be black history day. There are so many people to learn about and a deep and rich history to unpack. I feel as though we have barely scratched the surface.  I encourage you to really set a goal to learn this month and stick to it!

So much of what we are taught about black people in America fouses only the slavery and civil rights movement. There is so much more to black history than just the suffering. I don’t have a history lesson or resources for you today. I encourage you instead to reach out to your local libraries who usually cultivate programs and resources for your use.

Today, I’m sharing what I learned in September of 2020. For months, we had been surrounded by the images and protests following Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbury, and George Floyd’s murders. For months in this pandemic, it was addicting for people to feed on black pain and suffering. And then this hashtag started appearing.

#BlackJoy. I was immediately intrigued by what it meant.

“#BlackJoy as Pastor Elizabeth and her sister celebrate her ordination on June 6, 2021.

#BlackJoy has many different meanings. For some, it reflects lived experiences, for others it’s a goal to teach black history beyond a deficit experience. For me, it’s always a both/and. Our joy comes from knowing there is more than our suffering and pain, that blackness is not a burden. We will not be defined by the injustices we experience.

This joy that we have is a form of resistance. It is amplifying the truths we live as black people living into our full selves in a country set up to keep us from doing just that. When we have things to celebrate and people to honor, we know it comes from overcoming obstacles and trials others may not have to overcome.

It is a revolutionary spirit that embraces joy, selfcare, and love in order to move toward wholeness. We acknowledge joy. Actually, we do more than just acknowledge it … we unapologetically celebrate it.

We proclaim the joy we have for all to see and participate in it with us.

Your charge this month is to look at how you are cultivating spaces for those around you to be their authentic selves, to share their stories and be brave. How can you meaningfully integrate joy into your curriculum/workplaces/churches? Where do you see #BlackJoy in your learning this month?

Rev. Elizabeth Peter Eckman (she/her) is an Associate Pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Shiremanstown PA. After receiving her B.A in Telecommunications from The Pennsylvania State University, she worked at CBS 21 News as a Production Assistant/News Director before feeling a call to ministry. Never having thought of being a Pastor before, Elizabeth dove into seminary trusting in God’s plans for her, receiving her M.Div from United Lutheran Seminary in 2020. Elizabeth has been a part of three ELCA Youth Gathering Planning Teams (2015, 2018, 2022) and spoke on the main stage in Houston 2018. She is a member of the Lower Susquehanna Synod’s Toward Racial Justice Task force and the planning team for Winterfest. Elizabeth loves singing with her Alumni Choir from Penn State, singing in the kitchen, cooking, cats, and taking lots of naps as well as every Marvel movie made. She loves going on walks and navigating life with spouse Rev. Jay Eckman.