Announcing the Black Friday Scholarship Fund

Fall 06 007
What do we do to to recognize the birthday of our late son? It’s a question my family and I have been asking and answering for 7 years. Thanksgiving always provides an opportunity to express gratitude for his life and the Christmas season offers an excuse to lay a pine blanket on his grave. These are paltry remembrances. This year, his birthday falls on Black Friday and coincidences with #BlackoutBlackFriday and #NotOneDime, boycotts for racial justice. I didn’t plan this timing, but today on Gabe’s 31st birthday, I’m excited to announce a new project that will honor his life and support some of his highest goals related to racial justice.

Jeff and I are launching a memorial scholarship fund for economically challenged youth, with an emphasis on African American boys. For me, this work goes hand in hand with the mental health, suicide prevention, and neurofibromatosis work I’ve done since his death in 2008.  So, our scholarship will be unique in that it will also set aside funds to provide mental health and/or other support services to scholarship recipients.

What we’ve been doing

For several years,  Jeff and I have partnered with Compassion International to support a young man who is growing up in Tanzania, the country of Gabe’s paternal lineage. We’re committed to seeing this partnership through until Jeremia is grown. This year, we’re also partnering with Generation Hope to provide financial support to a teen parent who is working to finish her college education. We’ve also been supporting the work of Aslan Youth Ministries and Westside Christian Academy, organizations run by people we know and respect who tirelessly devote themselves to bettering the lives of economically challenged youth at the Jersey Shore and beyond.

Westside especially has a place in our hearts. Gabe volunteered there when he was in high school and the school’s director, the Rev. Elmer Jackson, was his sponsor when he was inducted into the National Honor Society at Long Branch High School. In his letter of support, Rev. Jackson said, “Gabe is one of the finest young men that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His work ethic is inspiring. Our organization and students (who actually stand up and cheer, if they get the chance, when Gabe arrives) are the better because of him.”

What we plan to do

All our efforts—from mental health and suicide prevention activism to supporting neurofibromatosis research to providing financial support for the educational goals of economically challenged parents and children—are done in honor of Gabe. So, it makes sense to consolidate these activities into one unified effort.

Why a special focus on African American boys, aside from the fact that their educational prospects are especially compromised? As Gabe’s college friend Dave Woo said in an email, “Nothing would better honor Gabe’s memory and his commitment to justice and education than a memorial scholarship for African American boys. He was always acutely aware of his position as an African American man at a predominantly white institution like Wheaton College. Although he never intended to become a spokesperson for his race, he willingly engaged his peers on issues of race and challenged them to question their assumptions.”

How we’ll get there

Over the next year, we will work through the legalities of launching this fund. Our goal is to officially launch on November 27, 2016, Gabe’s next birthday. I also envision an annual Black Friday Birthday campaign to grow the fund. (How much better would that be than just laying a blanket of pine on his grave?)

For now, we are unofficially launching with a memorial donation to Westside Christian Academy. I’m also opening a savings account to pay for the establishment of the scholarship fund. Special thanks to Dave and Grace Woo for the first donation to this fund! If you’d like to support our efforts, I invite you to make a memorial donation to any one of the organizations I’ve linked to in this post. Please let me know if you do! Or, email me through the contact form for more information about how to help us launch the scholarship. I’d love to hear from some of Gabe’s friends, especially those who contacted me in the months after his death to share how he inspired their passion for racial justice. On that note, I’ll end with this challenge from Gabe.

For Chris

 

Yo, I been here too long in compromising silence;

sitting here, all sick to hear

of all the war and violence.

 

Blood has been shed, just to get some oil;

more blood was shed right here on my own soil.

 

I can’t forget watching them doing it;

mad tears, two towers and the plane that flew

into it.

 

With snipers on TV and snipers in vid games;

snipers in school cause kids callin’ kids names.

 

From pervert minds to our children’s eyes,

blood and sex don’t bother kids; they too desensitized.

 

As movies and music just get worse and worse,

our social condition just gets hurt and hurt.

 

They say they copy life from how it seems,

but with nudity and cursing,

innocence has become a dream.

 

Before they’re ready, kids get their maturity;

only 12 years old, with 10 years of purity.

 

I see young minds corrupted every day;

you see me every night on my knees

to pray.

 

Look, I got no problem with media that’s graphic;

just don’t sell “R” movies to a

pre-teen demographic.

 

We need to become one unified nation;

kids minds are important;

they need preservation.

 

You need to be careful, even just a little B;

don’t rap about just anything ’cause you got

ability.

 

Anyone can flow about bitches and hoes,

but I try to spit knowledge so the

public knows.

 

I want you walk away like, “That ain’t right”;

I want you go home and not sleep at

night.

 

I’m not just another rapper spittin’ his own

praises;

I’m concerned with the children

and seeing how they’re raising.

 

People pushed too far, yeah, you  got

what you want;

you’ll soon be on your face prostrate

before God.

 

[© GGS 9/11/03, all rights reserved.]

Please note: Due to the wonderful response this post received from friends and family, it has been updated to invite gifts to establish the scholarship fund.

Religion + Life with Elaine H. Ecklund, Part 6: Putting It All Together @TheHighCalling

Retreat, Mt. Bethel, Pa

Our five-part series on the work of Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Elaine Howard Ecklund focused on her research into what scientists really think about religion. It’s been a compelling and fascinating series.

In part one of the series, we introduced Ecklund and her work on this topic. We learned that she has also investigated women’s presence in physics, feminist women in the Catholic church, how pediatricians and pediatric oncologists grapple with religion, how new immigrants bring change to Christian churches in America, and how religion shapes the political engagement of immigrant communities.  …

Read the whole summary at The High Calling.

Religion + Life with Elaine H. Ecklund, Part 5: International Attitudes @TheHighCalling

Retreat, Mt. Bethel, Pa

In her book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think, Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Elaine Howard Ecklund focused exclusively on the views of American scientists at elite universities.  Now, with a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, Ecklund will spend the next three years exploring how scientists view religion and how religion influences scientists in different national and cultural contexts. She says her Religion Among Scientists in International Context study is the first of its kind, and she’ll work on it in conjunction with two colleagues, Kirstin Matthews and Steven Lewis.

“With seemingly constant developments in the areas of science and religion, these two subjects have taken an important role on the global stage,” Ecklund said. “Our team can think of no better way to discover how the international science community negotiates religion than to go straight to the source and study scientists themselves.”

The notion that science is incompatible with religion and culpable for secularization is a common one, Ecklund explained. It causes tension “on a global scale as scholars argue that religion hinders the progress and acceptance of science in the United States, Europe, and parts of Asia.” …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

A Funky Retirement: Celebrating Cornel West @UrbanFaith

Cornel West enjoying his retirement party

In this audio clip, Lupe Fiasco dedicates a song to the well educated women of Princeton and talks about West’s influence. And, in these videos he, George Clinton & P-Funk jam.

In this audio clip, comedian Bill Maher talks about how he’ll use Cornel West to get into heaven if there is one.

In this audio clip, actor Harry Belefonte talks about how Cornel West inspires him.

Princeton University Gospel Ensemble

In this audio clip, the Princeton University Gospel Ensemble, who opened the show, gives praise to Jesus.

Terence Blanchard

In this audio clip, jazz musician Terrence Blanchard talks about Cornel West’s influence on him and then he and his band jam.

13the Cornel West Theory

In these two audio clips, you’ll hear the Cornel West Theory perform. You have to see them live though. Really you do.

Video Tribute to Cornel West

Finally, in this audio clip, Dr. Cornel West gives thanks.

To read my reflections on Cornel West, go to UrbanFaith.com.

You’ll find my full photo set at Flickr.

Religion + Life with Elaine H. Ecklund, Part 4: Worshiping Science @TheHighCalling

Retreat, Mt. Bethel, Pa

“There are generally two sides to every lovers’ quarrel and this is true in the argument between theology, once known as the “Queen of the Sciences,” and modern science, now the undisputed king. In two previous articles about Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Elaine Howard Ecklund’s book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think, we looked at what people of faith sometimes contribute to the impasse. In this article, we’ll briefly consider what role scientists play. The scientists themselves provide clues.

Whether they were Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, believing scientists told Ecklund that they disapproved of an ‘extreme form of scientism that sees science as the only way of gaining access to truth or reality in the world.’

Science, for example, doesn’t provide a rational reason to care for students, they told her, and it doesn’t provide a framework for knowing what to do with their science or how to evaluate its ethics and impact on the world. …”

Read the whole introduction at The High Calling.