CHICAGO (CBS) -- This week marks the beginning of Black History Month - and here at CBS 2, we're honored to celebrate Black leaders working to advance culture, community, and change in Chicago.
It's barely been two years since the Rev. Reginald Sharpe Jr. arrived here. But his dynamic voice is already reverberating around the city.
As CBS 2's Ryan Baker reported, the mission of this Black History maker in the making is to bridge the gap between spirituality and social activism - particularly with today's youth.
"To look around at all of the young people who are losing their lives - not just from racism, not just from police brutality but so many young people are losing their lives because of violence in our own communities," Sharpe said from the pulpit.
Indeed, Sharpe doesn't have a problem bringing politics into the pulpit.
"Well, I come out of the African-American church tradition - and part of that is you don't separate the spiritual from the social," he said.
As just the third-ever Pastor of the South Side's historic Fellowship Baptist Church, 4543 S. Princeton Ave., the soon-to-be-30-year-old Sharpe is following in the freedom fighter footsteps of legendary founder, the late Rev. Dr. Clay Evans.
"This physical building - this is a symbol of the civil rights movement in Chicago," Sharpe said. "These steel beams and frames sat for seven years because Rev. Evans defied City Hall and said, 'I'm going to welcome Dr. King to Chicago, to my church.'"
Sharpe continued: "I'm reminded that as I stand in this building, this sacred space - standing on the shoulders of the Rev. Clay Evans, Rev. (Charles) Jenkins, that I have to continue that work."
The Atlanta native is also connected to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a fellow graduate of Morehouse College.
"He talked about this beloved community, and that's what I'm working towards," Sharpe said. "I want everybody's humanity to be respected, valued, and appreciated."
But Dr. King's decades-old message of non-violence doesn't resonate with some of today's younger generation of social activists. Believing that the Black Church is still a catalyst for change, Pastor Sharpe took part in several peaceful protests after the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
"We were dealing with a double pandemic," Sharpe said. "One pandemic, systemic racism, could take your breath away, literally. And then the other pandemic which is COVID-19, it can take your breath away.
"So me going out and protesting, me preaching a social gospel, me using my platform and privilege as a pastor to help bring awareness to some of the social ills, it's because I'm connected to a revolutionary and I'm connected to a people who throughout history have been revolutionary," Sharpe continued. "Even outside the church I see you guys have made a statement, 'Black Lives Matter,' it means something here at Fellowship."
He added: "The church and political leaders, spiritual leaders - our work is to help direct that anger, because anger is an energy. We've got to direct that energy towards something that can be positive and productive and helpful for our communities. 'We shall overcome someday. Is that day coming soon, that we're going to overcome? I pray. That is my hope."
One reason Pastor Sharpe's message resonates with millennials is because he's one of them. He turns 30 during Black History Month on Feb. 18.
Despite his tender age, Sharpe is definitely a man beyond his years.
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- Celebrating Black History Month In Chicago: Rev. Reginald Sharpe, A Young Pastor With A Dynamic Voice And A Powerful Mission
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