Black Students Nationwide Gear Up to Reclaim Identity

At the end of this year, 550 college students from across the United States will meet in Georgia’s capital city for InterVarsity’s Atlanta 05 National Black Collegiate Conference at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel Downtown.

The Dec. 27-31 conference marks the fifth time black students will meet and promises to be the largest ever. The theme, “Identity Theft: Expose, Reclaim, Prevail,” aims at creating a new perspective for black Christians who want to transform their culture.

“Our theme is to take back our identity because our society says that we’re this and we’re that, but we want them to understand who God is saying they are,” says Conference Director Boris Collins.

At the national gathering, black college students will meet to discuss “identity deconstruction,” examining the basis for contemporary perceptions of black identity, and rediscovering their heritage as Africans and as children of God.

“We exist as part of a community and our community is diverse,” states Collins in a press release. “We’re not just Afro-American, but Afro-Caribbean, bi-racial, multi-racial, as well as first generation immigrants from Africa. We identify ourselves in many ways but our most important identity is who God has called us to be.”

Youths going to college have dreams of “finding themselves” while there and Collins says identity issues are a hot topic among ethnic subcultures today. Indeed, various conferences have sprung up around the country to deal with this issue, but few of them address God’s role in a student’s identity.

The announcement for the Atlanta 05 conference asks students to pinpoint how others label them.

“By what names have you been called? Smart? Stupid? Ambitious? Lazy? Trouble-maker? Heartbreaker? Too Black? Not Black Enough?”

In all the confusing labels, the conference hopes to remind the students of God’s plan for each person.

“With all these voices telling you who you must become, what is the Voice of God saying about who you are?” it asks.

The conference will take a look at what are the names God calls his children, and then seek to redeem that identity by the power of the Holy Spirit, and apply that in church, relationships, culture, and money, according to the announcement.

“Ultimately, God gives us the power to outlast our challenges, reclaim our redeemed identities, and to prevail in His Name,” proclaims the announcement.

Speakers at Atlanta 05 include three pastors – Pastor Esther Ibanga, senior pastor of Jos Christian Missions International in Jos, Nigeria; Dr. Cheryl J. Sanders, senior pastor of the Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C., and professor of Christian Ethics at the Howard University School of Divinity; and the Rev. Byron Williams, syndicated columnist and pastor of the Resurrection Community Church in Oakland, Calif.

Two InterVarsity staff members round out the speakers – Ed Ollie, InterVarsity Associate Regional Director from St. Louis, and Harvey Cozart, InterVarsity Campus Staff Member from Kentucky.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is a national ministry working on 564 U.S. college campuses. It believes that college students – who are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ – will transform the world.