Catherine Meeks was an instructor and the director of Afro-American studies at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia when this interview appeared. She was also working on an interdisciplinary doctorate at Emory University in Atlanta, combining studies in Jungian psychology, women in West Africa, and Afro-American literature at that time. Meeks is a Sojourners contributing editor. She was interviewed at the Sojourners office in December 1985. --The Editors
Sojourners: How did you first become involved in work on racism, and why do you continue?
Catherine Meeks: The first time in my life that I realized race in America was something I had to address myself to was as a college student at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. A 16-year-old boy, named Larry, was shot and killed on our campus by a campus security guard. This was in the mid-'60s, when black people were very tired of having that kind of thing happen and having everybody say, "Well, isn't that too bad," and just go on about their business.
So we, as black students, waged a lot of protests around the whole event—how the funeral was handled, how the family was dealt with, and how the security guard was dealt with. Larry's death led to a time of questioning for me, a time of trying to figure out what kind of response I, as a Christian, should make in this situation.
I was a member of a black student organization, and I wanted to be really committed to it. But I also had a fairly strong and long-standing Christian commitment. I went to my church for advice, and their advice was that I should stay home until the whole situation got settled. To think that somebody who's supposed to be a Christian should run away from a situation where it looks like they could make a difference was appalling to me!