A sprint (a goal-oriented short-term team that tackles a project and does the work quickly) has formed under the care of PYM’s Administrative Council to propose ways for our yearly meeting community to intentionally hold the work of anti-racism and anti-oppression.
This sprint is working closely with PYM’s Anti-Racism Collaborative. The sprint is interviewing anyone who has an interest in sharing their story and their wisdom. It will then take all of the content from the interviews to propose a system that PYM can use to both coordinate and celebrate work happening across the yearly meeting.
The goal is to address racism and to hold PYM’s governance structure accountable to its commitment to becoming an anti-racist and multicultural organization.
Calling all interested in sharing your wisdom!
If you’d like to know more about the work that has been done, find below the DEI Sprint report delivered at the March 2021 Continuing Sessions of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Since the report was delivered, the DEI Sprint and the Anti-Racism Collaborative have formed a partnership. The collaborative will help develop what is proposed, and is basing their work on that of the Undoing Racism Group (which presented it’s vision to Yearly Meeting in 2016).
After a pause to receive and integrate feedback, the sprint group will be moving forward with a transparent trajectory.
DEI Sprint Report Delivered at 3.27.21 PYM Continuing Sessions
Charge of the DEI Sprint from the September 2019 Admin Council Minutes:
- c)We approved creating a sprint charged to form recommendations about governance and education for structural change in order to realize our 2015 Minute addressing racism. The sprint is charged to look at the Undoing Racism Group proposal, best practices, and similar structures for inspiration. The sprint should be trained by a consultant, such as Prototype Entities, to focus their work and perhaps to develop trainings and resources for monthly meetings. The sprint should report to Admin Council by February.
- d)We are appointing a sprint of 5-7 individuals.
After several months of recruiting in 2019 and 2020, the Administrative Council experienced difficulty with finding people with experience in Quaker governance, organizational development & change, and anti-racism/anti-oppression work. The most qualified people either were unable to serve or proffered timelines of availability that did not align with each other. The council began to think creatively about how to convene the people we need. In the fall of 2020, we decided to try an adjusted model. The DEI Sprint would be populated by staff and leadership with experience in diversity, equity and inclusion to conduct interviews and focus groups with those from whom we need to hear. This would allow a much broader set of voices to be heard, including those we had earlier attempted to engage.
During the interviews and focus groups, sprint members would ask questions related to how we can create a structure that is cross-cutting and does two primary things: 1) coordinates and celebrates all the various work across the yearly meeting related to anti-racism and 2) holds PYM’s governance structure accountable to its own commitments to become an anti-racist organization & community. Once the interviews were complete, sprint members would develop a proposal for this structure, get feedback on it from everyone who was interviewed, and then submit this proposal to the Administrative Council for review, to be forwarded to Annual Sessions for approval.
The sprint shared this idea with several members of our yearly meeting who have long been part of our ongoing work to address racism, including the Undoing Racism Group and our new Anti-Racism Collaborative. There was a great deal of feedback shared, and a review of this feedback can be found in the next section, entitled Feedback So Far.
Individuals who have been identified as potential interviewees have received interview requests, and some interviews have been conducted. However, the sprint group has paused our work. We believe it is important to ensure we are addressing the feedback we received and working more closely with the Anti-Racism Collaborative to understand more fully the different roles of the collaborative and the sprint group. We hope that the two groups can find a way forward together in carrying out the original charge of the Administrative Council.
Feedback So Far
Friends have been concerned that the sprint includes only members of leadership and staff. There also remains a sense among some that PYM has yet to truly reckon with the past harms done to BIPOC within our yearly meeting. There is fear that this process represents the continuation of patterns in need of interruption. One such pattern is engaging people who have not been involved recently rather than people who have direct experience with the harms that PYM’s organization and community have committed – in other words “cycling through” people of color. Another pattern is an unwillingness on the part of our leadership and councils to respond to Friends who have gathered organically with the expressed desire to serve, instead to engage in what may be experienced by some as a “top-down” model that allows the councils and leadership to hold on to power.
Another concern was skepticism that those people being interviewed truly do have the experience we need—of the racism in our yearly meeting and of organizational change.
Yet another concern was that our yearly meeting’s leadership would seek to manipulate the Anti-Racism Collaborative rather than truly partner with this collaborative in the context of mutual accountability.
The sprint holds these concerns and patterns along with others. Sprint members are also aware of the various ways in which relationships with power have kept us from moving forward on addressing racism as a yearly meeting. We yearn to develop a structure that stitches together the Ministry & Care Committee, the Anti-Racism Collaborative, monthly and quarterly meetings, and all the other parts of our yearly meeting into a group or structure that stewards our whole community toward successfully dismantling these patterns and others. We recognize that our charge has evolved somewhat since its inception, and we look forward to way opening further as we seek genuine partnership with the Anti-Racism Collaborative.
The sprint sincerely hopes that its work will help our yearly meeting to build a foundation for truly reckoning with the past harms done to BIPOC within our organization and community. We are balancing two truths: 1) that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and 2) that we still must move slowly enough so as not to miss important insights into to the root causes of harm within our yearly meeting.
Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, PYM Co-Presiding Clerk and Ministry & Care Committee Clerk
Oskar Castro, PYM Director of Human Resources and Inclusion
T.J. Jourian, PYM Events & Resources Coordinator
Zachary Dutton, PYM Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life