It was birthed from the experiences of slaves, and handed to their sons and daughters. When thousands of blacks migrated north at the turn of the 20th century, they brought their church with them, and it developed a deeply rooted tradition of activism.
Over the decades, black churches have helped change history in Chicago and in the country. Chicago’s oldest African-American church, Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal, played an integral role in the abolition movement. In subsequent years, black churches were at the forefront of civil rights, education, housing and health reform.
Today, the black church is addressing youth violence.
“African-American churches are still relevant,” said David Byrd, the youth director at Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn.
While at the black church’s center has always been a message of spiritual restoration, it has also had a multifunctional role in the community. Many churches conduct clothing drives, provide food to the hungry and offer financial counseling to their members. Today, churches are working to channel young people’s energies in productive activities, providing supervision and adult role models.
Byrd said his church offers more than 40 activities, including after-school sports, music and tutoring programs to 3,500 youths. “The doors of the church never close,” he said.
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