The following is a transcript of an interview by Tiffany Malone of the Center for Youth Ministry Training with Dwight Johnson, taken from our admissions newsletter sent February 1st, 2021. Some of the questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Dwight is one of our alumni who decided to follow a calling to work with young people like many of you. Dwight grew up in Mississippi, attended Millsaps College, and then became a Graduate Resident at CYMT. While in CYMT, he served as a youth director for a nonprofit in Nashville. Recently, Dwight joined our staff as the Theology Together Director. We sat down with Dwight to learn more about his heart behind a piece of the curriculum he recently wrote, centered on MLK and social justice. Download the curriculum here.
Q: Tell us about the heart behind this piece.
A: Theology Together is continually trying to build conversations around justice. MLK day is a day people are often willing to have this conversation. However, for me and for MLK, this is a conversation that needs to be ongoing. We thought, “This is a special opportunity to put a conversation piece in the hands of churches, organizations, and youth leaders.” From a world perspective, there has always been violence and issues of racism against people of color.” We wrote this resource with the words of MLK in mind, “You cannot be on the sideline for the fight on freedom. You have to be immersed in it.”
Thus, we used a video from a friend of mine, Tyler Merritt, to create a disorienting dilemma in which he says, ‘I just wanted you to know… before you call the cops.’ In essence, he humanizes his experience—something we should NOT have to do. We want young people to feel the struggle and thus figure out where to go from there.
Q: Tell me about the stories that took place around MLK in your home and how that shaped your upbringing.
A. My family highlighted MLK during MLK and Black History Month, but, for me, the realities are more lived realities than storytelling. We had some lessons around the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in school that typically ended in ‘we are the dream realized.’ However, when I look at my reality, I disagree. People sometimes think that because we aren’t where we were, that the progress made is enough. But no- we are not there yet. “We are not there until people are not being shot in the street. We are not there until all rights are equal. We are not there yet until black people are not thought of as less than because of the color of their skin.”
Q: What do you hope this piece will do as far as its impact on young people?
A: One of the hopes of Theology Together is to transcend the diversity lines so that it will serve the urban, rural, and suburban communities that will encounter it. We hope that communities will connect across their boundaries and contexts. “I hope that this curriculum will awaken people where they are asleep. I desire for people to be convicted for their actions because that is the soil in which change happens.” “It has to move beyond talking. Talking is good because that is where insight happens but it cannot stay there. We have to move to the pragmatic.”
Q: Tell us about the curriculum you are writing for CSM, City Service Mission, through Theology Together?
A: The topic that CSM will be using for their summer mission trips is Race and Justice, so our curriculum will center around social justice. We see ourselves as partners with CSM, but we are really one entity moving in the same direction.
Q: What are some of your other hopes for Theology Together?
A: I hope that we will facilitate pieces of training for youth ministers and youth ministries. In the next ten years, we will grow into more spaces to allow youth ministries to be strategic.
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