On Sunday, Jan. 16, the St. Andrew Catholic church community will celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 9:30 a.m. mass, which will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. At that mass, Cameron Whitten will give the reflection, and two people will be honored with the 2022 service awards that the parish gives annually in the name of Dr. King.
Guest speaker Whitten is the CEO of Brown Hope, which he founded in March of 2018, motivated by “a deep sense of urgency to overcome the vicious cycle of wounding caused by historical and ongoing racial trauma.”
Within two months of its founding, Brown Hope caught the attention of the New York Times by hosting an inaugural “Reparations Happy Hour” for black, brown and indigenous people and passing out $10 bills to attendees as they arrived. At the time, Whitten was 27 years old.
Today, Brown Hope is a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization which serves as an umbrella for a number of programs designed to create economic opportunities, foster healing and resilience, and build community.
In 2020, Whitten and Salomé Chimuku co-founded the Black Resilience Fund to provide rapid emergency financial support to the local Black community as it dealt with what some have called two overlapping pandemics: Coronavirus and systemic racism. This project, now also operating within Brown Hope, has thus far raised over $2.5 million, enabling the organization to give small grants for groceries and rent totaling more than half a million dollars each. Other categories include utility bills, childcare, legal and medical bills, transportation and even help with student loans and credit card debt.
Last year St. Andrew honored Whitten with the 2021 MLK Service Award. In his brief acceptance speech, Whitten talked about the racism and violence that threatens both “the vision of the egalitarian America we all want to see” and our common “hope that someday we shall overcome.”