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Black History Month Book Discussion Guide: Light in the Dark Belt

February 16, 2024 by University Equity Team
Concordia University Texas students in a discussion

Earlier this month, we published a blog post that delved into the celebration of Black History Month at Concordia Texas, focusing on the theme of 'Building Bridges of Access to the Academy.' If you haven't had the chance to read it yet, we encourage you to do so as it sets the stage for the following blog post, providing a discussion guide for the book "Light in the Dark Belt," the autobiography of Rosa Young.

Vocation and Service go hand-in-hand and lie at the core of the mission, vision, and values of Concordia University Texas. In "Here I Learn in Order to Lead: What it means to be a student at Concordia University Texas," the authors explain, "vocation means that one is called to different spheres of influence, oftentimes simultaneously in life" (3). While these "spheres" can be a profession, project, role, or even relationships (i.e., parent, child, spouse, etc.), we observe how leading a life of service is the ultimate vocation and one which we all share as, "God calls us to serve thy neighbor" (3). Throughout the month, we will be celebrating the ongoing legacy of individuals like Rosa Young who have dedicated their lives to the service of building bridges of access to higher education and to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod for their neighbors. As we reflect on what this means for the future of Concordia University Texas, I invite faculty, students, and the entire campus community to reflect on the following excerpts by Rosa Young during a valedictorian speech entitled "Serve the People" which she delivered at Payne University on June 1, 1909:

"There rests upon mankind a moral obligation, the highest law, by which they are mutually bound to aid each other. This is the highest conception of duty both to God and man. The demand of the civilized world has ever been for efficient service, and the man who has learned the art of serving is the man who will succeed best in life. It is by this philosophy one creates his own atmosphere and makes his life yield its best and rarest fruits. Every vocation in life implies service. Those who are aspiring to high positions should seek to become the servant of all. So let us come to the rescue of the people and seek to introduce new methods, by which they can better their condition and thereby become public benefactors. The talent we possess is for the service of all. The truth we hold is the truth for all mankind. Truth has been the same in all ages and is the common property of all mankind. Human estimates of truth may change, but truth itself is invariable. Truth is the written Word of God. It should be a guiding principle in our lives. It should mold our characters and shape our destinies. The work of life is placed before us. The best service only can accomplish satisfactorily the duties that now await us," (Light in the Dark Belt, 39).

"'He that is greatest among you shall be your servant,' is the language of the Great Teacher. To serve is regarded as a divine privilege as well as a duty by every right-minded man. Do something worthy for mankind, is the cry of the civilized world. Give light to those who are in darkness; sustain the weak and faltering; befriend and aid the poor and needy [...] The people want men and women as leaders who will improve their condition. If we want the people to serve us, we must first be willing to serve the people. As we go from these university halls into the battle of life, where our work is to be done and our places among men to be decided, we should go in the spirit of service, with a determination to do all in our power to uplift humanity," (Light in the Dark Belt, 40).

"We must carry to others the blessings which we have received here. The purpose of education is not personal enjoyment. It is a preparation for the most efficient service. It sends us out to do something for the masses. The people are looking to us for strength and help. They need our best efforts, our bravest words, our noblest deeds, our tenderest love, and our most helpful sympathy. This is a needy world; outstretched hands may be seen by the thousands asking for aid. It is our duty to relieve human wants. Let us place our standard high, but be willing to do the lowest task, the most distasteful labor, be ever helpful and generous, and be ready to lend a helping hand," (Light in the Dark Belt, 41).

"There is nothing more reputable to a race or nation than Christian service. So let us not hesitate, but grasp every opportunity that will enable us to do some good for others. As teachers, teach the people; as merchants, supply their needs; as doctors, administer to their wants; and as preachers, proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It makes no difference how circumscribed opportunities may be, show yourself a friend to those who feel themselves friendless. Do not sit with idle hands, but take up the first task that offers itself to do work in the field, at the desk, at the washtub, tending to customers behind the counter, or whatever it might be, and be faithful in the task at hand," (Light in the Dark Belt, 42).

Reflection Activity

Please answer the following questions after reading the excerpts above and reflecting on your own experiences. You are encouraged to discuss and answer these questions individually or within groups.

How might a liberal arts education expose you to the "art of serving"? Where have you observed the art of serving in your classes? In your campus activities?Why do you think Young says the person who learns the art of service is the person who will be most successful in life?

Who is someone at CTX who has modeled the vocation of service for you? This can be a faculty member, staff, administrator, or even a peer. What have they taught you about service in particular? How might you build on their legacy of service and share it with others in your life?

Is it possible for service to be a "privilege" and a "duty"? Why do you think Young characterizes service this way? How might we explain this contradiction?

Young says the purpose of education is not personal enjoyment. If our education is not just for ourselves, who else might it be for? Think of someone in your life who could benefit from your education. How might you use your education to bless them today?

Young states: "So let us not hesitate, but grasp every opportunity that will enable us to do some good for others. As teachers, teach the people; as merchants, supply their needs; as doctors, administer to their wants; and as preachers, proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Picture yourself in the future working in a job related to your major field of study. Based on what you know about that job, what are some opportunities you can seize that might present themselves for you to do some good for others. Create an exhaustive list ranging from the smallest opportunities to the largest. Are there any that you can begin seizing today? What might this look like?

As you continue to ponder and discuss these questions, we invite you to join us for our month-long Black History Month program honoring Rosa Young and celebrating this year's theme, "Building Bridges of Access to the Academy: Tracing the Contributions of Black Americans towards Increasing Access to Higher Education."

Celebrate Black History Month

Check out all of the Black History Month events happening on campus.

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