Dr. Fikkert

Dr. Brian Fikkert

Friday was Day 2 of the inaugural Hope Conference sponsored by Simmons College and St. Stephen Church. You can read coverage of Thursday events here.

Like Tim Wise the day before, Dr. Brian Fikkert echoed the sentiment we tend to blame individuals for their failures and forget about how broken the “system” is. Dr. Fikkert is the founder and executive director of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development, “a research and training center that is dedicated to helping churches and missionaries to declare the kingdom of God by bringing economic development and spiritual transformation to the poor. “

In his speech, “When Helping Hurts: the Tragedy of Cruel Kindness,” he said poverty can’t be resolved by throwing money at problems; the only way to make a significant impact on poverty is to realize it’s about broken relationships and broken systems.

He quoted Bryant Myers’s definition of poverty: “Poverty is a result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable.”

Then he elaborated: “Human beings are hardwired for relationships. If poverty is broken relationships, then we’re all poor.”

In his speech, Fikkert took Republicans to task for their attitudes toward support programs and health care reform. He also said he was ashamed that Caucasian evangelical Christians are the least likely to believe in systemic brokenness. (Dr. Fikkert, by the way, is white.)

Dr. Robert with David Jones, Jr.

Dr. Robert Franklin with David Jones, Jr.

Dr. Robert Franklin also spoke. He was the 10th president of Morehouse College. Now he is the senior advisor for community and diversity at Emory University in Atlanta, and director of the religion program at The Chautauqua Institution in New York.

The title of Dr. Franklin’s speech was “Black male culture vs. school culture: bridging the cultural disconnect.”

Franklin said black boys have been “problematized,” adding, “We know how to stigmatize, incarcerate and medicate black boys.” But we don’t know how to empower them. Dr. Franklin is worried that “male empowerment too often puts women down.”

He then went through a list of goals he has for black boys, with the disclaimer that he borrowed liberally from Jawanza Kunjufu, author of “How to Raise Black Boys.”

His list:

  • Reading at grade level.
  • Believing that being smart is black, masculine and cool. Being smart doesn’t mean you’re “acting white.”
  • Using history and culture to overcome Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder.
  • Recognizing and overcoming racism.
  • Understanding capitalism and overcoming poverty.
  • Understanding anger management, conflict resolution and how to walk away from a fight. (Many kids would be inclined to walk away from a fight, but do not understand how… role play with the kids in your neighborhood.) A soft answer turns away wrath.
  • Developing goals and life plans.
  • Understanding time management.
  • Selecting quality friends.
  • Having a positive attitude.
  • Balancing emphasis on sports, entertainment and academics.
  • Avoiding gangs and violence.
  • Forgiving their fathers.
  • Being a good father.
  • Avoiding STDs and AIDS.
  • Respecting authority, elders and women. Boys are willing to die, demanding respect. They need to show respect.
  • Understanding the impact of media on values.
  • Developing high self-esteem.
  • Understanding the impact of illegal and legal drugs.
  • Avoiding incarceration.
  • Valuing education.
  • Thriving under the guidance of a male mentor.
  • Having a good work ethic.
  • Living to see their 80th birthday.

He concluded by quoting Rabbi Joachim Prinz who spoke before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”