Old Cambridge Baptist Church has been involved in racial justice issues from its earliest years, when it supported abolition and welcomed at least one fugitive slave into its congregation. During the 1960s, its racial justice work included a task force on civil rights and a substantial Community Development Fund for “black self-determination.”
More recently, OCBC members formed a Racial Justice Group, which began meeting informally in members’ homes in 2012. Following several months of conversation, reading, and reflection, the group sponsored a series of Sunday adult forums, focusing on white privilege, minority housing and education, mass incarceration, and other issues. In our final session, inspired by a reading of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, we decided to put a major effort into prison
One outcome of that decision has been our involvement with the Jobs Not Jails campaign. We participated in a petition drive and rally organized by that group in 2013, and continue to gather at the State House and contact legislators regarding prison reform legislation supported by Jobs Not
Another outcome has been our involvement with Partakers, a program that connects mentoring teams with incarcerated persons taking courses through the BU program. Our first Partakers team has been meeting with a young man in Norfolk Prison since 2014, and a second team was just formed to mentor another person in the same
The Racial Justice Group has continued to hold one or two series of adult forums each year. Some have been designed to educate us on such topics as the history of slavery in Cambridge and the involvement of the American church in racial justice history; others—such as a recent series based on the book Gather at the Table—invite us to reflect more deeply on our personal and corporate experiences of race and racism.
The adult forums have drawn record numbers of people to the after-church gatherings, and the Racial Justice Group itself has grown so large that it’s no longer possible to meet in people’s homes. Starting this fall, the entire congregation will be involved in a full year of worship, study, reflection, and activism focusing on racial justice, which we are currently calling Dismantling White Supremacy. More information about this exciting year will be coming soon!