I was born into a Catholic family and have been a practicing Catholic all of my life, with the exception of a few years in my late teens and early twenties. In my childhood (1950s and most of the 1960s) there was a difference, practically speaking, between “Mass” and “church” as it was the practice of many Catholics who are also African Americans to go to Mass on Sunday then return home to turn on the radio or TV and “have church.” Then the innate spirituality of people in the African Diaspora seemed to be squelched in the confines of the Roman Liturgy. We who were Catholic had to express our spirituality outside the celebration of the Eucharist and in the context of the broader Black Christian community. There seemed a dichotomy between being Black and being Catholic.
However, something happened in the wake of Vatican II and with the rise of Black consciousness among Negro Catholics in the mid-to-late 1960s. Following James Brown’s clarion call to “Say it loud! I’m Black and I’m proud,” the decendants of African slaves in America began to unshackle their chains of the internalized deprication of their African roots and embarked on a journey toward community pride. For Black Catholics it was the founding of organizations like the National Office for Black Catholics and other national organizations dedicated to the advancement of Blacks in the Catholic Church.
The desire and hope to bridge those elements of our faith and spirituality began the creative force of expressing the exhuberance and passion of Black spirituality in the Sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church. Black Catholic liturgical composers like Fr. Clarence Rivers and Grayson Brown, among others, made strides in Catholic liturgical music that expressed the “soul of Black folk.”
Today the Lyke Foundation that presents the Archbishop James P. Lyke Conference (named after my late uncle) is dedicated to the continued development of powerful and effective Black Catholic worship that explodes any notion that Black spirituality cannot be expressed in Catholic worship, or that one detracts from the other.
On Saturday, October 15, 2011 a team of nationally renowned Catholic liturgists and composers will present a workshop that focuses on the revisions of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. The workshop will be presented through that expression of the “soul of Black folk.” The team, lead by Richard Cheri of New Orleans and the Executive Director of the Lyke Foundation, will guide participants through the assembly responses in the revised liturgy, and will present original musical compositions for worship that is authentically Black and truly Catholic.
While this workshop’s context is from the “soul of Black folk,” it is also contextually Catholic and for the whole Church. All are invited and welcomed to participate and be enriched. The workshop will be at St. Thomas the Apostle Church at 5472 S. Kimbark Ave., Chicago, Illinois. Registration is at 9:00 a.m.; the workshop will begin at 10:00 a.m. and end with the regular Mass of Anticipation at 5:30 p.m. For more information go to www.blackcatholicchicago.org.
Questions: What are your experiences of Catholic worship expressed within Black culture?