The morning at Continuing Sessions was devoted to our ongoing work to address the Query: What is God calling PYM Quakers to do next to end racism and white supremacy in the Religious Society of Friends and beyond?
We began in worship, and all ages gathered to play “Beach Balls of Inclusion” led by youth program staff. Passing beach balls around a theatre and making sure 400 some people all had a chance to touch a ball turned out to be quite an adventure! After that, Children, Middle School Friends and Young Friends had their own age-specific programs. Children were joined by Shavon Norris, a movement artist and educator, whose practices are rooted in the desire to give herself and her students opportunities to explore and deepen the understanding of self and the collective. Michele Ewing, of Virginia Beach Friends Meeting, led the adults in looking at our work to address racism and white supremacy through the lens of who we want to be, who we are right now and how to get to where we need to be.
Michelle presented two of the frameworks that are in Niyonu Spann’s Beyond Diversity 101 classes and described these frameworks as, “foundational in the work of equity and social justice.” She said the classes focus on how individuals and organizations. may be instruments, “in this work of unity.” The frameworks give us an idea how and why we think or act in certain ways and empower us with the knowledge and the ability to make different choices from a new place of increased awareness. She described a brand new set of lenses that can enhance who we are as people and enhance our identity as Quakers- the people who choose to see that of God in everyone.
One framework Michelle covered was the three circles. The three circles are categorized as individual, group and societal. They indicate three levels of consciousness, three different motivating factors and three levels to be considered and addressed in order for social transformation to happen. Michelle said, “As community leaders, change agents, transformers, Quakers, our roles require the ability to see clearly in order to effectively outline actions that will actualize our vision and mission. But most importantly our Quaker values.” Michelle is an active member of the social concerns committee at her meeting, retired naval officer and holds a BA in psychology and an MA in urban education community counseling from Norfolk state University. She has 18 years of experience in teaching, training and facilitating a long list of diversity, inclusion, leadership, management and life skills classes, courses, and workshops.
After Michelle’s presentation, we broke into smaller worship sharing groups to continue to worship together, listen to one another’s stories and share concerns. This work carried into the afternoon Thread Groups which began by considering how work in a particular area, such as Pastoral Care or Finances and Giving, might address our guiding query.
As PYM Clerk Penny Colgan-Davis has said, our query is going to be with us for a long time to come. We have much work ahead of us. The commitment to addressing racism and white supremacy is evident in the numerous ideas for action that came of the Thread Groups, in that many of the suggested actions relate to this work. Friends may view the full list of ideas and sign up for work that calls you on the Work and Witness Connection form. We also encourage Friends to visit the Undoing Racism group pages on the website, where you can find resources, learn about traveling workshops, and sign up to be connected with the work of Undoing Racism.