Faculty Stories

Blount and Lee Co-Edit New Book on Justice for Children and Youth

Let Your Light Shine Book Cover

It is “for such a time as this” that Let Your Light Shine: Mobilizing for Justice and Children, a new book edited by Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary professors, Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount and Rev. Dr. Virginia A. Lee, has emerged. From broken immigration policies, hunger, school shootings, mass incarceration, human trafficking, failing schools, and child soldiers in wars worldwide, the harsh realities our children are living in cannot be ignored. Blount and Lee, together with contributors like Marian Wright Edelman, Rev. Dr. Janet Wolf, Rev. Dr. Gregory C. Ellison II, Ched Myers, and more, believe there is still hope and present ways to engage in works of justice that offer life, meaning, and hope to our children and youth.

“Let Your Light Shine is a wake-up call to see, learn, and respond to injustice,” said President Lallene J. Rector, “It’s a wake-up to see the plights of so many children and youth. It’s a wake-up to learn from these young persons. And, it’s a wake-up to respond by educating and advocating for all of them. Let Your Light Shine is an inspiring must-read for anyone who truly cares about children and youth – right NOW!”

Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount is assistant professor of formation, youth, and culture at Garrett-Evangelical, an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and pastor of Arnett Chapel AME. Rev. Dr. Virginia A. Lee is associate professor of Christian education and director of Deacon Studies at Garrett-Evangelical, and an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church. Blount and Lee are co-executive directors of the Garrett-Evanston Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. They are also on the faculty of the Dale Andrews Freedom Seminary, part of the Children Defense Fund Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy held each summer at Haley Farm in Clinton, TN.

Let Your Light Shine: Mobilizing for Justice and Children is published by Friendship Press and is available at the publisher’s website, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. To learn more about this exciting new book, we reached out to Blount and Lee.

What inspired you to write this book? What was, or where did you find, your motivation?

We are a part of a group of faculty and theological educators who are committed to working for justice for children and youth in a variety of ways. One way is through our leadership at the Dale Andrews Freedom Seminary during the annual Children’s Defense Fund’s (CDF) Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry held each July at Haley Farm in Tennessee. For the last five years, approximately 60 seminary students from about 30 seminaries have participated in the Proctor Institute. The Dale Andrews Freedom Seminary faculty wanted a text that would introduce students to the work of CDF, the Proctor Institute, and its work of mobilizing for justice with children and youth. We were asked to edit the book and we enthusiastically agreed. So, we were motivated by this group of theological educators who have become friends and collaborators.

The dedication in the book notes other inspirations for our work and for the book.

  • First there is Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president emerita. She had been a tireless advocate for children for more than fifty years, and she is just as passionate and motivated today as she was 50 years ago – maybe more so! At the Proctor Institute each summer, she challenges, motivates and inspires us.
  • Shannon Daley-Harris has been planning and leading the Proctor Institute since it began 25 years ago. It is an enormous responsibility to plan and coordinate a week-long event for 500 participants, but she does it with such grace and hospitality. She welcomes us home to Haley Farm where we can rest and re-charge for the next year.
  • Janet Wolf was the collaborator who brought all of the theological educators together to create what is now the Dale Andrews Freedom Seminary. She had the vision to bring seminary students to the Proctor Institute so that they might go back to their seminaries with an understanding of what justice for children might really mean.
  • I (Virginia) am inspired by my great-nieces and nephew who continually remind me what a gift children are to us. I (Reggie) am inspired by all of the children and youth with whom I have worked who help me remember that their voices matter.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the scholars of the Garrett-Evanston CDF Freedom Schools Program and the Morgan Park CDF Freedom Schools Program inspire and remind us that children can make a difference!

Who do you hope reads this book? How do you hope it can be used?

We hope EVERYONE reads the book, but especially seminary students, clergy leaders, teachers (or anyone who is interested in education), and child advocates…really anyone who is interested in justice related to children and youth.

We hope it will be used as a textbook in seminaries, as a resource for churches that want to engage with their communities, and as a book club possibility for churches and communities.

What makes your book unique, and how is your perspective important?

We think it brings together a unique combination of scholars and practitioners who are committed to the thriving and flourishing of children and youth. This book also offers the voices, insight, and wisdom of both elders and contemporaries who continue to be engaged in justice-seeking work.

What are the common threads throughout the essays in the book regarding children, justice, and religious education?

The main thread is the centering of children and youth. All of the authors believe that ALL children are sacred, and that we are called to stand up with and for them.

Some of the other threads include:

  • Knowing the history of the movement is important
  • The importance of adult mentors
  • Alternative theological education that graduates persons who will not be complicit with empire
  • The need for the formation of justice-seeking leaders

What are some of the ways your work with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program have impacted your own practices as religious educators?

Through our work with CDF, the Proctor Institute, and with the Freedom Schools program, we seek to redefine theological education and faith leadership through the lens of the sacrality, the sacredness, of every child. With this lens, the ways we teach are different in terms of both content and pedagogy. Every year, Freedom Schools remind us of the giftedness of the scholars and it also keeps us keenly aware of the challenges and obstacles many children and their families face that often hinder children from living their fullest potential. We cannot not see what we’ve seen, heard and experienced from our engagement with Freedom School. So, it informs our liberative practice in the classroom and prioritizes our commitment to encourage our students to become justice-seeking leaders.

What role can Garrett-Evangelical play in preparing ministers, theologians, and theological educators for public theology and child advocacy?

We believe that we are already doing many things to prepare our students for public theology and child advocacy. In fact, several of our Proctor Institute colleagues have told us that they consider Garett-Evangelical to be a forerunner and leader in public theology.

We prepare persons through our courses including the travel course to the Proctor Institute; our degree programs, especially the new Master or Arts in Public Ministry (MAPM) with a track in Child Advocacy; and through our partnerships in the community including the Garrett-Evanston CDF Freedom Schools Program.