BY ELLA KIRBY
The Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS) conducted its 26th annual meeting at St. Norbert College from Oct. 15-18, 2015. The meeting began on Thursday, Oct. 15, in the Fort Howard Theater with a public lecture presented by BCTS members Shawnee Daniels-Sykes and Jeremy V. Cruz.
The public lecture began with an introduction from C. Vanessa White, a Professor at Catholic Theological Union, Ill. and a past convener of the BTCS. White stated, “The [BCTS] annual meeting is a time when we as theologians address events that impact the lives of our people and try to offer a theological response to the suffering that is all too evident.”
Jeremy V. Cruz presented his lecture titled “Recognizing the Brutalized Image of God: From Latinos, Undocumented Blacks and Empires Collateral Damage,” first. Cruz emphasized that within our society “black life and God’s image in black is being stamped on and stamped out by state violence” and “We as a church remain woefully unprepared to name and to resist this sinful structural violence.”
Cruz recounted three theses about state violence:
1) “Latinos as race-less and Latinos as a brown race both function to marginalize over 100 million African-American-descended Latinos,”
2) “Modernity’s global network of walls and cages is constructed on a fundamentally anti-black logic, viewing blackness as inherently threatening and criminal.” One can see this through the isolation, segregation and violence directed at black persons and communities.
3) Anti-black racism overlaps towards Latino persons, as Cruz stated: “[Latino] lives are the collateral damage of a fundamentally anti-black transnational social order.”
Cruz indicated that racism directed towards Latino persons can be stopped when anti-black racism is combatted.
Cruz ended his lecture by saying “I hope that we can struggle together for fullness of life amid a fundamentally anti-black neoliberal social order.”
Shawnee Daniels-Sykes then followed with her lecture, titled “Death Shrines as Memorial Acclamation: Black Lives Matter, Gone but Not Forgotten.”
Daniels-Sykes’ interest in death shrines was sparked by her routine journey to work, as each day she witnessed more shrines, all within a close proximity of each other. She engaged in this topic further by stopping at the shrines, taking photographs, documenting their locations and researching the back-story behind each one.
Currently living in Milwaukee, WI, Daniels-Sykes stated that there is “a daily occurrence of intentional gun violent murders of black men, women, boys, girls and even infants.”
Daniels- Sykes supported cited the evidence of a 2015 MICA Homicide Report issued on Sept. 27, that reported that “Milwaukee had 125 homicides of black men, women and infants.”
Strengthening Catholic faith, praying, sacraments and emphasizing right over wrong are just some ways a theological approach can look to combat this anti-black violence.
A variety of items are left at death shrines.
“These artifacts and objects become for us a popular religiosity that I believe touches into the black spirituals and black spirituality,” said Daniel-Sykes.
Daniels-Sykes ended her lecture by saying, “The internally oppressed have taken on an invisible hand of the oppressor, and the violent behavior engenders an entire way of life for those caught up in the cycle.”
The rest of the BCTS 26th annual meeting consisted of a theological dialogue between St. Norbert students and members of the BCTS on Saturday Oct. 17. The BCTS concluded their visit by attending Sunday Eucharist at 10:00 a.m. at Old St. Joseph Church.