Letter 90

DAY 90

Shively T. J. Smith

Assistant Professor of New Testament
Boston University School of Theology
April 19, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

At the end of his autobiography, With Head and Heart, Howard Thurman declared: “I take my stand for the future and for the generations who follow over the bridges we already have crossed. It is here that the meaning of the hunger of the heart is unified. The Head and the Heart at last inseparable…” I offer this quotation as encouragement. Cultivate the habit of stilling yourself to ponder: What bridges am I building and crossing for future generations today?

Howard Thurman was a mentor to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and became the first African American Dean of a predominantly white university: my own institution, Boston University (1953-1965). He believed that bridge-building and bridge-crossing are deepened through intentional dialogue between diverse heads, hearts, and hands. Unified in collaboration, not uniformity, diverse communities can build, cross, and stand for the flourishing of all God’s creation.

“What bridges am I building and crossing for future generations today?”

No matter the fear or resistance before you, I hope you commit to Thurman’s principles. To encourage such reflection, I offer my meditation inspired by his autobiography called, “Bridge Crossings”:

“We take our ‘stand for the future and for the generations who follow…’
We cross our bridges so they will have bridges to cross.
Not everyone will construct the bridges we know must be built;
but we build them anyway.
Not everyone will travel across the bridges we know must be crossed;
but we travel across them anyway.
Sometimes we will have to brace ourselves for the backlash,
which waits patiently for us to cross over.
But like John Lewis and the 600 marchers
crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge to stand for the voting rights
of African Americans and all American citizens,
we must travel to the other side, nonetheless.”

I hope your resolve to create bridge crossings deepens, so that future generations cross our bridges, extending and reinforcing them as they travel, while charting their own bridge-building projects.

With head, heart, and hand,

Shively T. J. Smith

Rev. Shively T. J. Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of New Testament
Boston University School of Theology
Resident Scholar of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church (Washington, D.C.)

the author

Shively T. J. Smith, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Boston University School of Theology, is dedicated to extending academic theological studies and interfaith and ecumenical conversations into the global, public square. Her research focuses on: epistolary and Petrine studies, diaspora rhetoric, hermeneutics, and Howard Thurman. Dr. Smith has appeared on the History Channel Documentary, “Jesus, His Life” and presented at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Smith is also the author of Strangers to Family: Diaspora and 1 Peter’s Invention of God’s Household. She proudly serves as member and resident scholar at the historic Metropolitan AME Church (Washington, D.C.).