Mercer will hold its 17th annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium from Sept. 15-16. This year’s event will mark the first time the symposium has been held in person and at full speed since 2019, and it will be free to all who wish to attend.
The symposium is a Mercer-held event that gathers members of the Middle Georgia community, as well as faculty, staff and students across various denominational and racial boundaries to work toward racial justice and reconciliation as part of faith, according to the event’s website.
Each symposium seeks to tackle a different theme, with this year’s being: “What Is My Responsibility for Racial Justice and Healing?”
The symposium is put together in part by Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, Matthew Harper. Harper has served as the co-convener for the event since he moved to Mercer in 2014 and has held a passion for Africana studies since he was young. He wants to pour that passion into others.
“We’re trying to bring together people of faith from across race and denomination throughout Middle Georgia so that we can equip ourselves to work against racial injustice,” Harper said. “This is supposed to be a place where people bring their faith commitments and racial injustice healing. We want to start a conversation about what our obligations and responsibilities are.”
The event will include an opening banquet on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. located in the Presidential Dining Hall in the University Center. There, the first keynote address will occur as the sit-down banquet with prayers and music for registered attendees to enjoy.
Following that, there will be a panel where attendees can respond to the ideas of this year’s keynote speaker, Daniel Hill.
Hill works as a pastor of Chicago’s River City Community Church and is the author of "White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White." Hill has made national headlines for praying prayers of repentance at Black Lives Matter rallies and has dedicated himself to confronting race and racism as part of a personal journey.
Hill will provide a white Christian perspective for the panel that will also include Georgia Supreme Court Justice Verda Colvin and a Mercer senior to provide various perspectives on what working for racial justice could look like in a community like Mercer. The event will conclude with a lunch and roundtable discussion also in Penfield Hall.
“I think it’ll lead to some really good conversation,” Harper said. “I don’t expect everybody who comes to the symposium to agree with Daniel Hill and everything that he has to say. But I do hope that he’s going to bring us some things that will be challenging and will make us think more deeply and engage in some serious conversation.”