Activist theologian urges public to work in community

Activist theologian urges public to work in community
February 11
00:00 2016
Rahiel Tesfamariam speaks at Wake Forest University on Feb. 4.



Rahiel Tesfamariam has taken the torch from the African-American leaders of the past and looks to continue with the fight for justice and equality for all.

Tesfamariam is an activist, writer and theologian. She delivered a powerful message on the struggle of the black community Thursday, Feb. 4, on the campus of Wake Forest University. She touched on a myriad of topics such as white privilege and the recent killings of young black men, as well as religion, to name a few. Tesfamariam is the founder and publisher of Urban Cusp online magazine and former columnist for the Washington Post. She has degrees from Stanford University and Yale divinity school. She is a native of the war-torn nation of Eritrea in East Africa and was raised in the District of Columbia.

Demi Day, a hip-hop/spoken word artist and student at Wake Forest School of Divinity, preceded Tesfamariam with an insightful original song and spoken word poem that encouraged individuals to step outside the realm of social media to bring light to a cause and actually go out into the community and participate hands on. When asked how someone gets more involved in the community, Tesfamariam said, “Definitely turn locally and inward. Focus on the fact that you should start every revolution internally and knowing there is always a need locally.  Find that church, school, or nonprofit that is in need and see where that journey takes you. Don’t assume that you are called for national work; most work is done at home.”

Tesfamariam said she had a vision as a young child to be able to use the power of the spoken word to invoke change, and with the manifestation of her dream now becoming a reality, she is humbled, thankful, and will never take it for granted.  She says it was critical for her to frame her message of race, equality, sexism, justice, and class in a theological framework.

Milka Tewolde, a Wake Forest student and Eritrea native said, “I was raised the same way that she was and seeing her perspective of African-American or just African changed my views. Because I come from a family that describes themselves as African and not African-American, seeing her view on that changed my perception and now I see black activism completely different.”

Selina Tesfai, also of Wake Forest and Eritrea said, “I’ve never been able to see a person of faith include social, economical, and political aspects into a message and I was able to get a good understanding of how each impacted racial problems today in America. It was very interesting.”

“One of the main things I try to instill in people is the possibility of transformation within self being a catalyst to everything around you changing. If you can transform your ways of looking at the world, transform the people around you and your immediate environment, you begin to operate as the change you want to see in the world. So that question of who you have to be to create the world you live in, I really want people to wrestle with that question because I think that’s the catalyst to greatness,” said Tesfamariam when asked what she hoped individuals took from her message.

Tesfamariam closed by saying she is always inspired by people’s dreams, vision, and capacity for sacrifice and that is humanity at its absolute best, and everything else beautiful about life and existence flows out of that.

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