Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, a leader since the early ‘60s, is still making footprints for justice. On January 27, Bishop Talbert received the prestigious Carver Medal from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, during the Iowa Conference, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Upon receiving the Medal, Talbert delivered a speech, ‘The Intersection of Oppression and Privilege,’ reminding everyone that “all these years later, our society still has a long way to go in overcoming its many biases.”
During Bishop Talbert’s days in college, he shared in planning the student’s first sit-in demonstration in Atlanta, Ga. in 1960. Talbert was joined with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the students and they were ultimately arrested. He and Dr. King spent three days and nights in the same jail cell.
“This experience changed my life forever,” he said.
He set the precedent for many as the ‘first African American’ in many areas while serving in the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Talbert began his lecture by stating: “The intersection of oppression and privilege is a reality for all of us. The question is, how do we embrace that reality in a way that fosters the beloved community envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and of course by George Washington Carver? After prayerful reflection, I came to the conclusion that the most helpful way that I could do this was to share from the perspective of my experience as a person of color, one who has known oppression. My oppression had to do with race, an African American born and lived through a time when Jim Crow was the reality–and my church sanctioned that oppression.”
Talbert spoke on many areas that describe the usefulness of each person, stating that racism is not our society’s only terrible ill where prejudice is concerned. Other ills include racism, heterosexism, and sexism. Bishop Talbert described how “sexism reaches across all races and cultures, manifesting itself everywhere from the family to the political arena.”
Bishop Talbert made it clear that racism, sexism and heterosexism are all attempts to usurp God’s authority. He said that Dr. King often quoted the English philosopher Edmund Burke in saying: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Talbert ended by saying: “As people of faith, we are called by God to be part of a force for good in the world, so that evil will not triumph. It is my prayer that God’s spirit will prod us into being active agents for the common good of all.
Bishop Talbert often says: “There is room at God’s table for everyone.”
The Carver Medal is named for the inventor and scientist George Washington Carver.
The entire speech can be viewed by visiting www.iaumc.org.