To The Questions You Might Have About BLACKCATHOLIC: Answering Couple of Common Concerns People Have Had Concerning My Apostolate

To The Questions You Might Have About BLACKCATHOLIC: Answering Couple of Common Concerns People Have Had Concerning My Apostolate

Question 1: Dude, What’s Up With The Raised Fist?: Choice of Logo – The “Raised Fist”

Catholic Black Power fist, BCB logo use 2

Earlier in the existence of BLACKCATHOLIC there was a little “controversy”. When the Facebook extension of my apostolate started to gain some exposure there were a small number of people that had an issue with my page and its use of the raised fist/black power symbol. Some worried about the symbol’s association with Communism, liberation theology, and other leftist political/theological motives condemned by the Church. This controversy played out in the comment section of a popular Catholic Facebook page that shared my apostolate’s page. There were some who, even before checking my page out, detracting against it for what they mistakenly thought it represented. One person from the comment section who criticized my page beforehand later reached out to me and (respectfully) inquired about my use of the raised fist symbol. Even though it was far from my original intent in employing the symbol, I did understand in this moment how some could be confused, worried, or even angry about its usage with a rosary wrapped about it for a Catholic page. Perhaps there are some of you who have discovered my apostolate and have the same confusion, concern, or anger regarding my logo and need to see some sort of an explanation. Thus, I have provided this page in order to dispel any misunderstandings. Here was my response to the person who reached out to me. This also was my public response on the matter as a whole at the time (with some [ ] updated additions):

“My use of the black fist [or raised fist] is pulling from a symbol the Black community has used since the Civil Rights Movement as one of solidarity and racial/cultural pride as Black Americans, especially during darker times. Think of the raised fist given at the 1968 Olympics by Tommie Smith and John Carlos. My interpretation of its usage here is a gesture of Black strength, power, and identity. Though it can be attached to politics and ideologies, my own use of it for BlackCatholic is and always has been completely divorced from those meanings. I combine my particular interpretation of it with my Catholic faith (see the rosary around the fist in the logo) as a symbol of “I’m proud to be Black and Catholic, and draw my strength as a Black person from God and His Catholic Church. In addition, since it is a symbol known and enjoyed in the Black community, my usage of it is a way to help reach out to other Black people for the Catholic Church.

I strive this page [apostolate] to be absolutely faithful to the teaching Magisterium of the Church. Like stated in the pinned post on this page, if you feel that something is off, please reach out in the comments or inbox me [for the website, send me a message here].

This page [and apostolate] has NO affiliation with any communist or far-leftist propaganda. This is a Catholic page [apostolate] for Catholic stuff.”

It should be said that a lot of others who witnessed  the controversy (both in that particular comment section and the followers on my page after I released this statement) took no real issue with the symbol. Some had positive interpretations, and some never made any connection with something negative. Here are some of their reactions in the comment section of my statement on my page:

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The above screenshots not only show the general intent/goal of my design but also that people saw it as something positive. It also may show the difference a rosary makes!

The whole “affair” only lasted a day or so due to a number of people (complete strangers to me) defending my apostolate and because of my statement being posted both in the original comment section of the other Catholic page and on my own page. The same other Catholic page would go on to share two articles I wrote for uCatholic, and they tagged my page when the articles were shared. There was no other significant incidents of controversy regarding the symbol.

Anyway, I hope this helps in any way it can.

Question 2: “Why “BLACK”Catholic?” Why Not Just “Catholic”?: Choice of Name

My apostolate is called BLACKCATHOLIC. In my work over of these years some (not many) have approached me on my social media extensions directly in messages or comments or tweets, and have either expressed their confusion, dislike, or honest curiosity as to why I call myself “Black” Catholic. I can sum up their concerns up with the following sentiment:

“Why do you call yourself “Black” Catholic? It should just be “Catholic.” The Church is universal. Isn’t this divisive?” 

This doesn’t just come from a particular race of people. Different people of multiple skin colors and nationalities have asked (or even confronted) me about this.

I have different theories as to why some folks might have approached me about calling myself “Black” Catholic, but for right now that’s not important. Regardless, the vast majority of people seem to either have no problem with it or they get why especially after they see my explanation. But the following is the overall synopsis of all the ways I have responded to people online about this.

My BLACKCATHOLIC apostolate is intentionally “BLACK” for a reason. It does not undermine the true catholicity/universality of the Church but actually points to, celebrates, and seeks to preserve and expand the very same catholicity already present because the reason is ultimately evangelistic and pastoral in focus.

Yes, the Catholic Church is the “Universal” (Catholic=universal) Church calling all people to with be within her care. But my apostolate has a particular mission to reach out to a part of the Church that is both underserved in order to help minister to them and under-evangelized in order to attract them to full communion with her more effectively – African Americans.

One of the biggest goals I have for BLACKCATHOLIC is to draw more African Americans into the Church and strengthen the ones already here by simple being an available, good example of a Black Catholic for them to see. Also, I want my apostolate to be a signal to Black American Catholics in the Church that, hey, even though we are small in number, I am here, we are here, and we have a home in the Catholic Church that can never be taken away.

So, I write and share about different aspects of Black Catholicism, Black saints and holy ones on the road to canonization, and Black Catholic history. I also try to connect Catholicism to the Black experience and occasionally speak on some of the topics and issues in the Black community. I believe all of this can be used to bring comfort and visibility to Black Catholics who have historically been under-ministered and racially discriminated against in the US Church and who often still feel left out. This work can also help lead more of my people to their rightful place in the one Church Jesus founded, the place Christ Himself made for us to share alongside all. This visibility also proclaims to all others the place Black people have in the Church as part of the worldwide mission given to her by the Lord.

Additionally, fair representation within society and its public institutions has always been a key value and desire of the Black community in the US in general, and this overlaps with Black Catholics. The unfortunate history of systemic racism and oppression of African Americans in the history of the US had its impact on many things in our community including the freedom and ability of Black expression and cultural pride in the past. And, just like within any other people, there is high regard for explicit expression as Black people.

This is especially true for certain past cultural movements like “Black is beautiful” and celebrations like Black History Month. Thus, the ability to just be explicitly Black and have explicit expressions racial/cultural identity point to our valid presence in society. This is highly important in fair social representation. These realities factor in how some Black Catholics in the US can feel (for different reasons) that the Church fails in making a place for and representing them. The relative few number of Black American Catholics both in proportion to other racial groups in the American Church and among the clerical leadership often exacerbates this sentiment. Not to mention, “Only 54 percent of U.S. Black Catholics who were raised in the faith remain so as adults.” Furthermore, I believe the lack of explicit representation and statistical presence among other things leads to why I have seen some Black non-Catholics have the impression that the Catholic Church is a “White people” church. Now this impression is theologically, socially, and statistically far from the truth when it to comes to the Catholic Church in both its substantial and demographic realities, but it can pose an obstacle in drawing more African Americans into the fullness of the Faith.

Thus, I am drawing on all of the above in order to be explicitly Black as a Catholic in expression in the sense that I have outlined, which is in harmony with all other cultural/folk expressions of Catholicism that exist among her many peoples in the world. My BLACKCATHOLIC apostolate bears witness to the form of Catholic inclusion that Mother Church has for African Americans and other Black people and our unique cultural ways of being Catholic.

So to accomplish my evangelistic and pastoral aims I am a visibly “BLACK”CATHOLIC by design to address evangelistic and pastoral needs that I see. My and other’s ability to be visibly Black with being visibly Catholic points to the true universality of the Church. I believe the universality of the Church is better served when we can say what the visible reality of the Church tells us, that she is made up of Black Catholics and White Catholics and Hispanic Catholics and Asian Catholics and Catholics of all shades. We can make this collective statement about her reality without being divisive. She is universal like her name. She is not afraid to show off her many colors and name them too while telling of her many children. Keeping the Truth of our Catholic Faith that unites all of us together above all and at the forefront, we can still acknowledge all the ways the different peoples of the Universal Church are racially and culturally distinct from one another. Because these beautiful differences (divorced from all prejudice) are simple facts of Mother Church’s children, together they are meaningful, and together they show her universal reach in the way only the Church. And if she is not afraid to say them, I am not afraid either. So all of this is what is behind when I call myself  “BLACK”Catholic.

While my apostolate is primarily targeted towards African Americans and other Black people in general for the above reasons, at a basic level it also seeks to reach the wider audience of non-Black Catholics, Christians, non-Christians, and anyone else interested in matters related to Catholicism and Christianity.

Above all else, however, BLACKCATHOLIC puts forth the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that all of humanity is broken through sin and in need of the salvation that can only come through repentance and belief in Jesus and His once-for-all sacrifice on the Cross. Every human being is called to a saving relationship with Jesus that begins through incorporation into His Mystical Body, the Catholic Church, through baptism and sustained by a grace-filled life of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, leading to final enjoyment of transforming union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in that Kingdom to come in the world without end.


– Justin