Thursday, May 19, 2016

An opportunity to show up ...

When people think about our congregation's racial justice programming, one concern sometimes raised is that we do a lot of thinking and talking about racism, but not a lot of doing anything proactive and productive to change things.  It can certainly be argued that, for people who have been raised to think of themselves as white, thinking and talking is doing something, and something quite important.  People who have been raised white have been acculturated in the dominant world view so deeply that we often don't recognize that the way we see the world is not the way the world is but, instead, one of the ways the world is ... and one which intentionally and systematically oppresses people who are not seen as white.  Coming to see this truth is hard work for many of us, and even when we've done so there is always more unlearning to do.  Many racial justice advocates of all races assert that this unlearning is one of the most important people who think of themselves as white can do.  [Tim Wise's book Dear White America: letter to a new minority and Debbie Irving's Waking Up White, And Finding Myself in the Story of Race are two great resources.  Both are available in our Undoing Racism Library.]

All that said, though, there are more concrete, hands-on ways we can be involved.  One is showing up to listen and learn, to be with people of color as they address the issues that affect their communities.  (Issues that those of us who think of ourselves as white often have no inkling about.)

On Saturday, May 21st, at 4:00 pm, Mt. Zion African Baptist Church will be hosting a panel discussion on race relations, education, and gun control in Charlottesville and the surrounding communities.  Joyce Murrary will moderate the discussion, and the panel will include:  Mozell Booker (Fluvanna County Supervisor), Rev. Dr. Alvin Edwards (Pastor of Mt. Zion), Kathy Galvin (Charlottesville City Council), Steve Harris (a health care professional), Robert Tracci (Albemarle Attorney General), and Alex Zan (a community activist and motivational speaker).  There will be an opportunity for the audience to participate in the discussion.

Do not for a moment underestimate the importance of showing up, showing solidarity, and demonstrating your commitment to the eradication of all that divides us.  This is one opportunity ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An opportunity to deepen your understanding

The group Allies for Racial Equity, in collaboration with the Church of the Larger Fellowship, is hosting a series of webinar conversations to support racial justice efforts, and the next two sessions focus on white resistance.  Youth and adults of all ages are encouraged to participate, whether this is their first experience with this topic or their hundredth.

Getting at the Root: Over Under Around Through...  White Resistance

Wednesday, May 18th, 7:30pm EST
Wednesday, May 25th, 7:30pm EST

"Guided by B.D. Tatum's Racial Identity Development Theory, and our own experiences, we'll talk about how to recognize, address, and work through white resistance.  We hope you will join us for both sessions, but if only one fits your schedule, feel free to attend the one that works for you!"

Connection Info (for both events)
PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
iPhone one-tap:  16465687788,191532107# or 14157629988,191532107#
Telephone: Dial: +1 646 568 7788 (US Toll) or +1 415 762 9988 (US Toll) Meeting ID: 191 532 107

For additional discussion and resources, join the events on Facebook

The foundational sessions (on White Supremacy Culture) can be viewed here:

Monday, May 16, 2016

TJMC Hosts the NAACP

Last night Dr. M. Rick Turner, President of the Albemarle-Charlottesville chapter of the NAACP, spoke to a group of about 3 dozen people who had come to hear his thoughts about the most serious issues facing Charlottesville's African American community, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the best way white allies can really be of help in the ongoing struggle for racial justice.  The impetus for the event was an invitation from our Racial Justice Steering Committee (which holds its regular meeting on the 3rd Sunday evening of each month).  There were people from our congregation, of course, as well as folks from the NAACP (including their Board's Secretary and Vice President), and people from the wider community.  (NBC 29 was also there, and this is how they covered it.)

In his welcome, RevWik noted that part of the sense of urgency the TJMC community feels for the work of racial justice comes from the twin legacies of the man for whom we are named -- Jefferson wrote some of the most eloquent and stirring words about freedom while, at the same time, owning 600 women, children, and men.  Dr. Turner began his remarks by saying that he appreciated our recognition of the "egregious dichotomy" of Jefferson's legacy, and that this recognition, "gets to the core of our common humanity."

The single most important issue facing the African American community today, Dr. Turner said, is unquestionably that of racial profiling.  He spoke of the collaboration of the NAACP and attorney Jeff Fogel in bringing a class action lawsuit against Albemarle County police officer Andrew Holmes, who has been accused of a pattern of targeting people of color.  They are also working together to ask the police force for clarity and transparency about the way the "stop-and-frisk" policies are being carried out.  (He cited the statistic that nearly 80% of local stop-and-frisk incidents involved black and brown people.)
As to the Black Lives Matter movement, Dr. Turner noted that from the Niagra Movement, through the Civil Rights era, up to and including the current Black Lives Matter movement, "if it has to do with Black people it's misunderstood."  He said that, again and again, the movements created by people of color to work for racial justice have been accused of being "anti police" and of "hating white people."  The Black Lives Matter movement is being criticized for not having leaders, but, he added, "that's what they said about us!  They don't have a Jessie Jackson.  They don't have an Al Sharpton.  But they don't want that kind of leadership from the old guard."  He recognized that this movement is reaching out to the transgender and queer communities and, "trying to bring everybody who's on the margins into the middle."  He also pointed out that it is concerned about a lot more than a singular focus on police shootings as it is often portrayed.

When discussing how white allies can be of most assistance he recommended the book Dear White People:  letter to a new minority by Tim Wise.  [There was an AFD book group that studied this book a year or so ago, and we could certainly do so again.  For anyone interested in reading it right away, we have a copy in our Racial Justice library in the church parlor.]  He, said, though, that talking is not enough.  It's important, but it's not enough.  Showing up and lending our support is key.  When asked how we can know about events at which it would be helpful for us to "show up" he suggested, not surprisingly, that a good first step would be joining the NAACP.

The NAACP, of course, is the preeminent institution in the United States involved in the work of promoting racial justice.  And while it is estimated that approximately 75% of its membership is African American -- there are no precise statistics because they do not keep records by race -- a great many members are white.  (In fact, when the NAACP was founded in 1909, W. E. B. DuBois was the only person of color on its first Board.  All the rest were white.)

Joining the NAACP does not commit a person to "being put to work," as Dr. Turner said.  (Although there are 19 standing committees that a person could join, because there is a lot of work to do.)  But joining does demonstrate solidarity, and it is the best way for keeping on top of the various initiates and actions the group is involved with.  When people in our congregation express a desire to stop talking and do something, this is one concrete step anyone can take.  [Sara Gondwe told me about a UU congregation she has heard of in which every member of the congregation is a member of the NAACP!]

If you are interested in joining, here is the link.  If you are interested in knowing more about the NAACP, visit their website (local or national).  And if you are interested in knowing more about what TJMC is doing in the area of racial justice, the Racial Justice Steering Committee meets at 6:30 pm on the 3rd Sunday of each month.  You can also talk with Sara Gondwe or RevWik.  And keep your eyes and ears open for racial justice AFD programming in the fall!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Social Justice Spotlight: Emotional Wellness Ministry

On the third Sunday of each month we lift up a non-profit that's doing good work in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area as we take our monthly Social Justice Collection.  Since January 2016 we have begun on the first Sunday of the month we lift up one of our Justice Ministries. 

This is the first Sunday of the month, so it’s time to shine the Social Justice Spotlight on one of the justice efforts we are involved with.  This morning our focus is our Emotional Wellness Ministry.
There are really two dimensions to this ministry.  One is a group that seeks to:
·         Help TJMC become more welcoming as a congregation to people with mental illness.
·         Create a safe place in our church for those who experience mental illness, and to reduce the stigma and the discrimination they so often experience.
·         Empower those who live with mental illness to take their rightful place as equal and respected members of our church community
·         And advocate on behalf of those with mental illness to end their isolation and marginalization in congregational life and society.
With this in mind the Emotional Wellness Ministry has held five workshops, created handouts to provide information to the congregation (which have been available at their table in the Social Hall), and joined with other groups to provide films on mental health topics in the Film Fiesta series. They held a pot luck dinner with Tom Hemert as the speaker. He trains police officers about how to approach and communicate with mentally ill persons to increase the likelihood of these interactions having a positive outcome. Our folks are also working on offering additional training programs. So do keep your eyes open.
The second dimension of the Emotional Wellness Ministry is a group called On Level Ground a Peer Support Group that is intended to create a safe, respectful, and confidential space for people living with mental illness to discuss what's going on in their lives and other topics of mutual interest.  On Level Ground has not been meeting recently, but if anyone is interested in participating, you can contact Carol Saliba.  She and Shirley Paul are the contacts for both of the dimensions of the Emotional Wellness Ministry, something so needed.