Black History Month 2023: Lessons from Benjamin Crump, Black Civil Rights Lawyer and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Pastor, Theologian and Anti-Nazi Dissident

Benjamin Crump in 2023 NAACP Awards Ceremony

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The Black History Month in the United States is soon ending. The theme for the year is Black resistance. Once again, this month has helped Americans and the World to take time to remember and reflect on the discrimination Blacks have endured and the continuous struggle against the remnants of slavery, segregation, discrimination, and racial legacy. 

As the month is about to end, we are reflecting on the achievements of two people: Benjamin Lloyd Crump, the well known Black Civil Rights Lawyer who is changing the history and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a White German Pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident, who made history. Both pointed to the hypocrisy of leaders, either political or religious, of promoting racial and social injustice, by hiding or trying to erase history, factual races or ethnic groups, or documented historical events.

The experiences and achievements of the two influential people highlights the fact that Black History Month is also a time to focus on understanding the question and dynamics of race in American society today and to remember the people who made sacrifices in building the foundation and helping attain some achievements for Blacks in America. 

Among the critical topics highlighted this month has been the Critical Race Theory.  Some American political leaders have been trying to erase the history by banning the teaching of Black history, that includes slavery, Black emancipation, Jim Crow laws, and Civil Rights movement.

Black leaders and civil rights activists, including Whites and people from other races with integrity, have decided to resist against such political actions. Black Resistance is a long process that will need the actions of all people with integrity, including Blacks, Whites, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other people of color. The two people  in this article changed or continue to change history, pointing to hypocrisy and the need for integrity, love, and righteousness as humans or christians and people from all religions.


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A. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Anti Nazi Dissidence Cultivated in the Black Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, born on February 4, 1906 and executed on April 9, 1945, for resisting Nazism, was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident.

He was a key founding member of the Confessing Church.

Then the age of twenty-four, too young to be ordained, Bonhoeffer went to the United States in 1930 for postgraduate study and a teaching fellowship at New York City's Union Theological Seminary. In New York City, he met Frank Fisher, a black fellow-seminarian who introduced him to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. At the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Bonhoeffer taught Sunday school, interacted and bonded with African-American spirituals, and attended the sermons by Adam Clayton Powell Sr. in which he preached the Gospel of Social Justice. With that experience, Bonhoeffer became sensitive to the social injustices experienced by ethnic minorities in the US as well as the ineptitude of churches to bring about integration.

It is during his experience in Harlem, New York that Bonhoeffer began to see things "from below", that is from the perspective of those who suffer oppression, and "turned from phraseology to reality.". He observed, "Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God… the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision."

The author Reggie L. Williams of "Bonhoeffer's Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance", summarizing the understand of the suffering of the Blacks in USA by Bonhoeffer wrote that Bonhoeffer concluded that" Jesus was evidence that God knows suffering: if God was Jesus in his suffering at the hands of injustice, then surely God is with black people who suffer in America.""

Bonhoeffer then asked himself, while questioning the integrity of the Christians who do not challenge slavery or try to cover up the injustice, the history, and the damages committed against the Blacks during and after slavery:
"Isn't it downright cynical to talk about consolation in heaven because one does not want to give consolation on earth? Is this gospel for the poor not basically the deception and dumbing down of the people? Does it not show that one does not take the suffering at all seriously butt hides cynically behind pious phrases? Oh, countless times it has happened that way -- who would deny it? -- right up to our present time. And millions have become estrange from the gospel for this season!"

Sentenced to death on April 8, 1945 for resisting Nazism, he was executed by hanging on April 9, 1945. His life and execution were an inspiration for Christians with high ethics, righteousness, and morality and civil rights activists around the World including Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.



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B. Benjamin "Ben" Crump: Social Justice Impact, Sacrifice, and Black Resistance

Benjamin Lloyd Crump  aka Ben Crump was born in 1969 in Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S., the oldest of nine siblings and step-siblings and was raised by his grandmother. According to Benjamin Crump, his grand-mother inspired him and fueled his drive to civil rights activism.

A high-profile attorney, he has represented the families in civil rights cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tyre Nichols, among others.

On February 25, 2023, Benjamin Crump received the Social Justice Impact Award during the 2023 NAACP Awards ceremonies in Pasadena Civic Auditorium in California. The crowded audience gave the standing ovation, with people cheering and raising their fists in the air.

During his acceptance speech he vowed to continue his “fight against the legalized genocide of colored people.” and pledged to take the fight to the classroom, alluding to the on-going challenges of Critical Race Theory, about Black Americans’ rich history, culture, and lineage through AP African American Studies courses.
In the speech, he called out the state of Florida’s barring students from learning about Black Americans’ rich history, culture, and lineage through AP African American Studies courses.

We are prepared to fight for Black history,” Benjamin Crump said. “We have to stand up for our children’s future. … We have to fight for our children’s future. If we don’t … we can’t expect anyone else to. … [We have to be] prepared to fight for our children’s future until hell freezes over. And then, we have to be ready to fight on the ice.

Benjamin Crump also gave a call to action against discrimination and injustice everywhere.

I accept this award as greater motivation to continue to be an unapologetic defender of Black life, Black liberty, and Black humanity. I promise I will use this Social Justice Award as greater incentive to fight against the legalized genocide of colored people, and vow never to stop fighting racism and discrimination when it rears its ugly head.

And now that they are trying to ban our most celebrated Black authors and AP African-American Studies,” Crump continued. “We must advocate for our children and our culture in the classrooms and demand that they acknowledge that the teaching of Black history matters. Harriet Tubman matters. Frederick Douglas matters. Ida B. Wells matters. Thurgood Marshall matters. Dr. King matters. Rosa Parks matters. Malcolm X matters. Charlie Chisholm, John Lewis. They were not mere footnotes in the history books. They were the heroes.”

And as Carter G. Woodson prophetically warned, “If a race has no history, if it has no traditions that are respected and taught to the young people, then it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and thus in danger of becoming exterminated.” We will not let elected officials exterminate our history, our literature, or our culture. Not in Florida or any of the other 50 states because it is so important that both Black children and white children, and all children, know that Black history matters because Black history is American history. And all of our children must know that their culture contributed to the progress and the history of the United States of America.

“Because if we don’t fight for our children’s future, we can’t expect anybody else to fight for our children’s future. And we as a people care to fight for our children’s future until hell freeze’s over. And then we have to be ready to fight on the ice.”

Benjamin Crump has represented or is representing families in the civil rights cases of:

  • Trayvon Martin, murdered by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012;
  • Michael Brown, 18-year-oldwas shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri;
  • Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, killed by three policemen in Pasco, Washington;
  • Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man shot and killed by a Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer;
  • Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American man murdered by two White civilians in Georgia;
  • Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, killed by the police in Louisville, Kentuck;
  • George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, murdered by Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin;
  • Trayford Pellerin, a 31-year-old black man killed by police in Lafayette, Louisiana;
  • Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man shot seven times and hit four times in the back, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin;
  • Christian Hall, a nineteen-year-old Asian-American, shot and killed by Pennsylvania State Troopers in Monroe County;
  • Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man shot and killed by a Brooklyn Center Police Department officer;
  • Amir Locke, a 22-year-old black shot and killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while police were executing a search warrant;
  • Patrick Lyoya, 26-years refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa, killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan;
  • Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan political leader and permanent resident of the United States , kidnapped by Rwandan agents from Dubai, flown to Rwanda, and sentenced to 25 years prison by the Rwandan government;
  • Erik Cantu, 17-year-old black shot by a San Antonio Police Department officer while eating a hamburger in his car at a McDonald's parking lot;
  • Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, who died three days after a traffic stop, when five Memphis, Tennessee police officers tried to arrest and beat him;
  • Malcolm X, the civil rights, for the wrongful death lawsuit against the CIA, the FBI, the NYPD and others for allegedly concealing evidence related to the 1965 assassination of leader and for alleged involvement to it;
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