Rev. Deborah Penny
Assoc. Director of Field Education
North Park Theological Seminary
Why is Black History month important to you?
It’s an opportunity for me to recall the good, the bad, and the ugliness of a history that continues to write itself. It is not that the shadow of my history isn’t ever present the remaining 337 days (or 336), but rather the month of February is a time for intentionality. I intentionally use Black History month to reflect, learn anew, to share the stories of a rich history, and to re-evaluate my role in the continued work for justice wherever I find my feet planted.
Who is someone famous in Black History who has inspired you personally? Why?
Josephine Baker. Indeed she was a great entertainer. However, she is also known for things such as adopting children from around the world beginning in 1950 to show that people from various races and ethnicities could live as a human family as God intended, and working with the Civil Rights Movement through boycotting racist venues in the entertainment industry. She also dedicated her resources to the work of equality worldwide. The NAACP named May 20 Josephine Baker Day in honor of her activism for equality. She lived in France because she experienced harsh racism in the USA, and worked with the Red Cross in France during WWII. I like to think that she was doing cross-cultural work before it became popular.
How have you impacted the black community?
There are many ways that I have been impactful and a positive influence on the black community. I serve as a community builder through the development of a community garden. This task gave me an opportunity to work with politicians, churches, local businesses, and community dwellers in my neighborhood. It’s amazing what a community can do when we come together on one accord for the good of the whole.