Where to find African American religious gifts for people you cherish
Most Christian gift shops and websites offer elegant statues of angels, beautiful and inspiring art work and lovely religiously-themed accessories. But a closer look reveals that most faces on the figurines, paintings and accessories are fair skinned, usually paired with blue eyes and golden hair. Notably absent are images of worshipers, saints and angels with darker skin, brown eyes or black hair.
And yet in real life, Christians, saints, and one would expect, angels, come in all shades of skin. So too should religious gifts and images.
For those looking for more diverse options, the search for African American religious gifts can be challenging. But where mainstream religious gift shops may be lacking, online sites offer many more options for culturally appropriate choices. Here are a few ideas to help you in your search.
Worshipers who look like me
Bible bags, art work and other religious accessories can feel much more comfortable when the people pictured look more like the people using them. Children and adults alike gravitate towards pictures that “look like me.” Look for tote bags, bible covers and notebooks which feature worshipers of color as a way to tie heritage to faith.
Search for black Jesus figurines
Despite the “standard” pale skinned, blond haired Jesus so commonly pictured, odds are high that Jesus would have had dark skin, kinky hair and deep brown eyes. While “black Jesus” statues used to be rare, a Google search now reveals hundreds of options for ordering dark-skinned images of the Messiah, whether you need a gift for a child or a piece of fine art to adorn a loved one’s home or office.~
Celebrate the churches
African American churches have dotted the cities, towns and countryside of this country for decades. Why not honor these inspiring structures by gathering photography or artwork depicting these houses of worship? Collect pictures of historic structures, grand churches, or small and welcoming neighborhood gathering places. Make a family project of photographing the churches in your area and those you find on vacations and day trips, or purchase pictures online to frame and display or give as gifts to family and friends.
Angels and saints
History tells us that saints and great religious leaders come in all skin colors and ethnicities, so why not give a figurine, icon or piece of wall art that shows these great men and women from our past? Or if an angel seems like a better choice as a present, look for one that reflects the rich skin tones and beautiful hair of your African heritage.
Jewelry and Accessories
Jewelry which combines traditional religious symbols with ethnic materials or images is a wonderful choice. It may be difficult to find these online, so look to local artisans, craft fairs and regional shops to find the perfect piece for gift-giving. Other fashion accessories like scarves, pashminas and neckties can also be found as a way to blend religious imagery with African motifs.
Don’t forget the books!
Books are a wonderful choice as a religious gift. From a child’s first picture book of prayers to a devotional to celebrate a retirement, books can blend faith with heritage seamlessly. Online and local bookstores offer a wide variety of books to inform, inspire and honor African American faith.
Searching online can provide endless inspiration for the perfect gift. And don’t forget local small shops, museum gift stores and neighborhood craftspeople. Sometimes the right gift of faith is waiting in the most unlikely place. Keep your eyes open, and you’re sure to find exactly what you need to honor a friend, celebrate a special occasion, or bring a smile to a family member’s face.