The BYM Working Group on Racism (WGR) pursued its mission this year with particular emphasis on one point from the WGR’s 6-point mission statement: “Raise the awareness of BYM Friends regarding the realities of racial and ethnic discrimination and oppression in America, including institutional and cultural racism, and the ways these phenomena affect all of us.”
The 11 active members of the WGR have offered to visit monthly meetings and Friends schools to consult and to participate in their efforts to enhance work on issues of race and racism. Individual members were invited to visit Valley and Patapsco Friends Meetings, and the Board of Sandy Spring School. At two locations, we facilitated the screening and discussion of the DVD “Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible,” and at the third we led a more general discussion. In addition, we have lent out books and DVDs from our growing pool of resources.
At the 2008 annual session, two workshops by the WGR drew a large number of participants: one “White in a Multicultural Society,” included the screening and discussion of the DVD above. The other, “Walking Our Talk: Diversity in Our Meetings and Becoming More Aware of Our Cultural Blinders,” gave participants the opportunity to experience the emotional, spiritual and intellectual depth that can come up when discussing race. It drew on existing ideas and generated new ideas about organizing sessions on race and racism at monthly meetings. In addition, the WGR designated one table at lunch each day for interested Friends to come by and discuss issues of race. The response to this table was modest in volume, but those who participated were very appreciative of this initiative.
We have collaborated on two occasions with William Penn House. We had co-sponsored a weekend-long workshop (Feb. 29-Mar. 2, 2008), White Friends Confronting Racism: Doing Our Work, led by Lisa Graustein of New England Yearly Meeting. On February 8, 2009, we facilitated a viewing and discussion of “Mirrors of Privilege” to a large group at WPH’s monthly potluck event.
We eagerly awaited the February 5, 2009, publication of the FGC book Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship – Quakers, African-Americans and the Myth of Racial Justice, by Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel. We are now scheduling events related to this book, with the authors and also with Friends who have received training from FGC to facilitate planning and discussions. We encourage all Meetings within BYM to obtain at least one copy of the book.
We initiated a long-range planning process in November 2008 to set future goals and activities. The plans include an effort, spearheaded by David Etheridge of Friends Meeting of Washington, to “prepare a history of the response of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends to slavery when it existed with legal sanction in the United States.” The results would be presented at the 2010 Annual Sessions. David is offering a workshop at the 2009 session, “BYM Slavery History Potluck,” to elicit stories and other material. The other workshop in 2009 will be a repeat of “White in a Multicultural Society.” We look forward to the presence at BYM this summer of David Zarembka of the Africa Great Lakes Initiative. We also look forward to continued collaboration with and support from the Committee on Ministry and Pastoral Care.
Elizabeth DuVerlie, Clerk, Working Group on Racism