In November 2014, Benjamin Watson, then a tight end with the New Orleans Saints, posted a Facebook essay expressing the different emotions he felt after a Ferguson, MO, grand jury voted not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Watson’s Facebook post, which effectively expressed an assortment of emotions that ranged from anger to embarrassment to hopelessness to hopefulness, was “liked” by nearly one million people. After this horrible situation, Watson asked the question that so many have wondered: Can it ever get better?
One year later, Tyndale House Publishers released Watson’s Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race—and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us. Watson’s book unpacks the question that he and so many have wondered: Will things ever get better, and is there hope for honest and healing conversations? In Under Our Skin, which has been referred to as part memoir and part social commentary, Watson examines both sides of the race debate and appeals to the power and possibility of faith as a step toward healing. The book offers a challenging and fresh perspective on the issue, opening the eyes and hearts of many.
On February 16, 2017, the conversation will continue as Benjamin Watson and other national thought leaders—including author and Hall of Fame football coach Tony Dungy, former NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner Warrick Dunn, Heisman Trophy winner and executive director of Desire Street Ministries Danny Wuerffel, author and speaker Mo Isom, Detroit pastor and author J. Kevin Butcher, University of South Florida head coach Charlie Strong, esteemed broadcaster James Brown, and executive director of Restoration Academy Ben Sciacca—come together at The Crossing Church in Tampa to discuss race and faith. The event will be moderated by ESPN’s Sage Steele, and music will be provided by Lizzy Cameron and Seth & Nirva. Although oftentimes the racial divide is a political position, divisive argument, or debate taking place on TV, very rarely do people leave with a change of heart or plan of action to apply to their everyday lives. Attend the forum unlike any other, in which the participants desire to move this argument and debate to a place of understanding different perspectives by really putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. At this forum, panelists will set their pride aside in order to have an authentic and meaningful dialogue.
“I think it’s important for all of us to let down our guard, to show some empathy, and be open to someone else’s experience, even if it’s different from our own,” said Watson. “Though our forum panelists won’t agree on everything, we’ll be intentional about having honest, heartfelt, and respectful dialogue. We all need a change of heart on the subject where our own lives intersect with this dialogue. Our greatest desire is to equip people who view the Under Our Skin forum with tools to help them engage in their own communities.”
In order to transform hearts toward the racial divide and provide a fresh perspective, the event will not just provide great insights but will give attendees a call to action to take with them to their own communities so that the discussion does not end with this three-hour panel, but continues to occur.
Under Our Skin: A Forum on Race and Faith will take place Thursday, February 16, 2017 at The Crossing Church in Tampa. General admission tickets are on sale now at www.underourskinforum.com for $29.99. VIP tickets (limit 50) are on sale for $199.00 and include an event ticket, dinner with the panelists, a signed copy of Under Our Skin, and a seat in one of the first three rows at the event. Can’t attend the forum? Purchase a livestream feed for churches or groups of more than twenty at $149.00 or for individuals at $9.99. Tyndale House Publishers will be providing a charitable donation to the charity/foundation of choice of panelists.
Please consider inviting your family and friends to join Tyndale House Publishers, along with an impressive panel of leaders, as we come together to take a closer look at the issue of race and faith in America.
Article by Celia Leibow