When white supremacist Dylann Roof gunned down nine black Christians at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Jun. 17, 2015, Latasha Morrison said her predominantly white church “didn’t even know how to handle it.”
No one, she said, seemed to notice.
“That day I came to church and people were carrying on like it was a normal day. I was devastated,” she said.
This was a church where a fellow member had decided during a staff meeting to explain to Morrison “what Lincoln did to the South and that people loved their slaves.”
That did not go over well, Morrison said.
“I actually wanted to become the Incredible Hulk and knock over the table,” she said.
That conversation stuck with Morrison. She wondered how people who shared the same faith could have such different views. And she wondered if church members from different backgrounds could ever really talk about race.
“We’ve grown up in two different worlds, two different Americas. I think that was the beginning,” Morrison said. “It took me three days to process that conversation. If she’s thinking this, that means a whole lot more people are having these same thoughts. If I’m going to be in this environment, then I want to help re-shape perspectives in worldviews and change lenses and really bring truth in those spaces.”
That experience led Morrison to found Be the Bridge, a faith-based nonprofit that provides a framework for meaningful cross-cultural relationships and dialogue about America’s racial history.
When it launched in 2015, Be the Bridge’s Facebook group had about 69 members. Today, the online community fostering racial reconciliation is more than 21,000-strong, with more than 1,000 groups in 48 states.
The nonprofit was tapped in September to receive up to $1 million in grants by Facebook’s inaugural Community Leadership Program, which also awarded Morrison and four other global leaders a residency.
Morrison, a certified diversity trainer who converted to Christianity in college, worked at several churches and similar organizations after transitioning out of a career in IT and earning her MBA at Liberty University. The 45-year-old North Carolina native grew up in a military family and was raised in diverse communities.
But when she left Atlanta to work at a church in Austin, Tex., she said she began to feel out of place.
Morrison said she had a hard time finding black friends. And her white friends had a hard time talking about issues related to race. That was true in her personal life and in the church.
She describes Be the Bridge as a ministry and the organization’s successes as guided by God. Yet, when she presented Be the Bridge at a Facebook summit, Morrison was unsure if she should identify it as a faith-based organization.
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Source: Religion News Service