In response to the most recent police shootings in Charlotte NC, over one hundred and fifty people gathered in the Race Street room of the Friends Center on September 26th to learn about Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). SURJ is a national organization comprised of chapters in cities all over the country. The group’s main goal is to mobilize white people to engage in the work of undoing racism and white supremacy.
For about a year and a half now, the Philadelphia chapter of SURJ, primarily white folks of varied ages, genders, class backgrounds and more have been working to call white folks in on the conversation around white supremacy. Through demonstrations that point to the systemic oppression of communities of color and canvassing in predominantly white neighborhoods, SURJ hopes to normalize the conversation about race and encourage white people to dive into their own learning (or rather, unlearning) of white supremacy and how it keeps us all oppressed. SURJ understands that it’s important for white people to do their own work, and not rely on people of color to teach them about systemic and personal bias. At the same time, the group seeks to be externally accountable to organizations that are person of color lead. While SURJ provides a space for people to process, they try to prioritize relationship and being responsive to the call to action from communities of color, joining them in the struggle for justice.
As SURJ continues to grow here in Philadelphia, PYM Friends are beginning to have more of a presence within the group. With collaboration from PYM-affiliated SURJ attendees, PYM staff, and Philly SURJ leaders, PYM has developed an exciting new work and witness group. PYM’s corporate witness includes undoing racism within the Religious Society of Friends. Collaboration with a group like SURJ could prove to be extremely helpful in pursuing this goal, and a way to plug in individual Friends as well as groups of Friend into doing this work.
The Meeting on the 26th was intended to give people from the community, who might be interested in involvement, an understanding of what SURJ is all about and the sort of things they have been involved in in the past. Later in the evening, the group split into three different breakout groups to focus on specific issues; the uprising in Charlotte NC (https://charlotteuprising.com/), anti-trump canvassing, and the Movement 4 Black Lives platform (https://policy.m4bl.org/). This gave folks an idea of how SURJ organizes in different areas and plugs people in depending on their interests. At the end of the night, the group was able to raise over $300 for the Durham Solidarity Fund (http://durhamsolidaritycenter.org/bondfund/) which supports the ongoing struggle for racial justice in Charlotte.
If you are interested in getting involved with Philly SURJ reach out to Gage Beemish at firstname.lastname@example.org. SURJ general meetings are the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. The location varies but is occasionally at the Friends Center. The Philly SURJ FaceBook page can be found here (https://www.facebook.com/PhillySURJ/) If you want to receive more information and keep up to date with what Philly SURJ is up to, sign up for the newsletter here (http://facebook.us12.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=7c7d9c77d7f6b7add5df6743e&id=e1d9387cb5).