Latevia Priddy, an African-American student at Southern Seminary, knows what it is like to be stereotyped because of the color of her skin. “My story would tell you that I would hate white people,” she said.
Growing up in the projects of Paducah, Kentucky, Priddy realized that being poor and African-American ostracized her in many ways from the community. This was most clearly felt when Priddy, 7 at the time, and two of her brothers were crossing a field on their way home. They were confronted by an elderly white man with a shotgun who, while pointing his gun at Priddy and her brothers, ordered them to never come that way again.
“Experiences like that just shape your upbringing. They change your worldview,” said Priddy. But the worst was still to come.
In 2002, Priddy’s brother, Gary, was murdered in cold blood. While experiencing the grief that comes from losing a loved one in a senseless crime, Priddy said that the trial concerning her brother’s killer is where she “saw the most extreme labeling and stereotyping” of her family because of their race. According to Priddy, an attorney assigned to her family by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, without getting to know whom he represented, assumed that Priddy’s brother was a thug, a bad father, and probably killed over a girl or money. The frustration of having to constantly encounter racist presumptions began to take its toll.
“That’s what started to really shape me,” said Priddy concerning the trial. “I walked around angry for a really long time. I walked around wounded for a really long time.”
Amid the anger and the pain from her brother’s murder and the trial of his killer, Priddy began to recognize her own sin, bringing her to a low and dark place. During her remaining years in college and on into law school, she did not remain there but “came to the end” of herself, seeing Christ as all-sufficient to save her and “grabbed hold” of him.
“He helped me understand that he was right there with me. That he cared about what was happening in my life, and brought me to a point of repentance,” said Priddy.
After experiencing the racism that accompanied her brother’s murder trial, Priddy had a desire to change the way African-American communities were perceived and also help those with similar experiences as her family. This desire led Priddy to receive a law degree from Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase School of Law, allowing her to serve her community with her own firm.
A longing to see social justice done for the glory of God didn’t end with law school but further compelled Priddy to seek out a theological education in order to understand God’s view of justice. However, a majority white student enrollment and a small African-American presence at Southern Seminary brought racial challenges that Priddy would have to face.
“It gives you affirmation to see people that look like you. It gives you a sense of welcome to see people that look like you,” said Priddy.
The noticeable racial disparity on Southern’s campus made it clear to Priddy that further racial reconciliation, even at an evangelical seminary, needed to occur. Priddy was not the only person at Southern Seminary who had concerns over racial disunity and a vision to counteract it. Like-minded individuals, black and white, such as Southern students A.J. Davis and Nicole Pearson, joined with Priddy to form ONE, a student organization which exists to “reconcile people and ideas through cross-centered conversations and to bear one another’s burdens across racial and gender lines,” according to its website.
As of now, ONE’s mission is to bring about more racial and gender unity by hosting panel discussions and a question and answer forums called “What’s the Word” and “The Meet Up” gatherings, which both occur two to three times during the semester.
Priddy views the conversations concerning racial reconciliation at Southern Seminary as strategic because of the future church leaders that will graduate from the seminary and be deployed around the world. Priddy’s theme verse for her vision for ONE is Revelation 7:9-10, where a multitude of people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” worship before the throne of God. Race, ethnicity, and language are not abolished in heaven, but celebrated and unified. Priddy longs for this kind of unity and pursues it with vigor while awaiting its consummated perfection.
Priddy’s passion to seek justice and bring about racial reconciliation among God’s people is becoming more and more realized, even though the journey has not been easy. Through her immense suffering and heartache, Priddy says God sovereignly directed her life toward working to unite his people and seeking his justice.
“I pray that God is glorified, because that’s all I want to do is glorify him. And if I can be a conduit in which to unite his people then, Lord, so be it. Use me however you see fit,” said Priddy.