Communities in our yearly meeting and in other yearly meetings have been increasingly focused on racial justice. We’ve assembled a summary of monthly and quarterly meeting e-news submitted to PYM firstname.lastname@example.org this past month. This is by no means a complete portrait of all the work being done across the yearly meeting, but it testifies to the energy and breadth of work among Friends.
Wanda Wyffels, clerk of Abington Meeting opened her community newsletter with this report
“June 7th was a powerful day across the Abington Quarter. We gathered together in Spirit to bear witness to the systemic racism of the present day. Bearing witness is not simply a theoretical idea of our faith but rather an action, our practice. It is making a public statement of our testimonies, in this case to peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Abington Friends Meeting is continuing to hold the vigil every First Day at 4pm until further notice, practicing social distancing/mask wearing and collecting food for the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry. If you’re interested in taking more action, here’s a list of 75 actions for you; try one.”
Wanda is also a member of PYM’s newly formed Antiracism Collaborative (ARC). She writes they’ll be providing accompaniment and support to meetings within PYM in becoming “welcoming and safe for all people, including people of all races and ethnicities, so that all will be nurtured and grow.”
In addition to continuing their own learning and encouraging others to continue theirs the ARC will be developing relationships with groups and individuals within PYM concerned with antiracism. They’ll be creating and updating resources on the Antiracism Collaborative pages of PYM’s website; visiting meetings to invite others to join in learning and doing antiracism work (including classes, programs, and workshops on antiracism); and making sure there is someone within each meeting and quarter that receives updates/materials.
Radnor Meeting reports it has re-hung their “Black Lives Do Matter” banner in front of the Meetinghouse and has hosted Andrea Swinton for two forums on race (one was in-person, pre-coronavirus, and the other was in June via digital means). They plan a third forum soon. These forums were not exclusive to Radnor and were initiated by Andrea, but Radnor has been a main supporter to this work. Andrea Swinton had an event on 28th June called ‘OPEN FORUM ON RACE.’
Radnor’s reparations workgroup has shared some resources for those interested to learn about and/or celebrate the Juneteenth holiday Friday, June 19th. Juneteenth commemorates the 1865 date that Union troops arrived in Texas to let African-Americans know that the Civil War had ended two months earlier and that they were no longer slaves.
Bob Sutton, clerk of Merion Meeting reports that the meeting “has held a number of silent vigils at the corner of Montgomery Ave and Meetinghouse Lane. They have been low key and cathartic” and members/attenders were joined by several Sisters of Mercy from the convent next door.
Haverford Meeting’s community formed an Anti-Racism committee in June which quickly posted Black lives matter signage on the meeting grounds. They convened for a first meeting two weeks ago to discuss ways to educate the meeting and shape long term initiatives that push change.
Chestnut Hill Meeting (CHM) shares its monthly newsletter with PYM. This month they report that the community, which has been formally working on anti-racism since passing a minute in November 2017, shared the findings from CHM’s Ad Hoc Committee on Racism’s survey. The survey, which was written by the meeting, established the CHM’s interest in and commitment to addressing racism. It also assessed community knowledge of concepts of racism, solicited feedback and facilitated some dialogue, and generated ideas that could direct the meeting’s work. The survey was created to guide education and action steps within the meeting, and documented a baseline assessment of the meeting’s capacity to use as a benchmark for future progress.
The survey featured many interesting questions that teased out how people felt, and what they knew. It also asked questions, like how many times over the course of a year a person of color had been invited into homes, and made room for people to fully express thoughtful and grounded feedback.
Chestnut Hill Members and Attenders are deeply engaged in community relationships through literacy, garden, and educational projects at Fair Hill Burial Ground. They’ve been advocates for The Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, or PIHN, which pays rent and supplements other needs for the shelter families and providing emergency assistance to over 100 families to keep them from becoming homeless. Prior to Covid-19 they were scheduled to host homeless families for a month. Their book group is currently reading Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad.
Lancaster meeting’s newsletter reports its Healing Racism Working Group is grieving police violence against Black people, and acknowledged a shared, personal responsibility as individuals and members of Quaker institutions, to commit to dismantling white supremacy.
Germantown Monthly Meeting reports in its Newsletter that John Colgan-Davis, who serves on Germantown’s Racial and Social Concerns Committee, has shared a useful list of resources and websites to help people learn more about racism, its effects, and ways to move forward in ending it. His personal book list follows. He also recommends an online list of resources compiled by Project Home.
- Black Theology & Black Power and The Cross and the Lynching Tree, both by Rev. Dr. James Cone
- White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
- Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia, by Michael Countryman
- So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
- How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Celars
- A Black Women’s History of the United States, by Berry and Gross
- Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- Driving While Black: African American Travel & the Road to Civil Rights, by Gretchen Sori
On June 14th State College Friends Meeting reports that it adopted the following action plan for racial justice:
State College Friends Meeting believes that together we can build the beloved community of respect, equity, and human dignity. We are all people: daughters, mothers, brothers, fathers, and children of the light/God and so embrace each other as equal, valuable, and loved. We commit to answer this call through the following actions:
- Work to actively dismantle structural racism;
- Support local and national racial justice initiatives;
- Work to end the silence about racism and white privilege;
- Lobby for nationwide reform and demilitarization of state and municipal police;
- Act to dismantle methods of mass incarceration;
- Support actions to recognize and make amends for the historical injustices done to black people;
- Conduct an institutional audit for racism in our Meeting;
- Learn and take action as an anti‐racist religious community;
- Learn and be trained to become allies for black people, indigenous people, and people of color.
As part of its corporate response to racism, Newtown Friends Meeting’s Peace and Social Justice committee brought forward for June approval a recommendation that the meeting become a full member organization of POWER Bucks. By joining with the interfaith coalition, the meeting will access gatherings/trainings with other POWER congregations and serve on POWER’s steering committee.
Upper Susquehanna Quarter convened at North Branch Monthly Meeting to discuss racism and white privilege on July 15th. Covering the largest geographic region in our yearly meeting, Upper Susquehanna Quarter in PA, is made up of nine meetings and one worship group.
Upper Susquehanna Quarter convened at North Branch Monthly Meeting to discuss racism and white privilege on July 15th. Covering the largest geographic region in our yearly meeting, Upper Susquehanna Quarter, in Pennsylvania, is made up of nine meetings and one worship group.
PYM publishes several articles a week, and recently published a story on how to talk with children about racial injustice. Another story posted this spring developed a pastoral care message around the Black Lives Matter movement. It linked to an article published by Sarah Willie LeBreton, Swarthmore College’s Provost, and a link to this definition of White Supremacy.
Members of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Reparations Action Group also shared Juneteenth resources, and lists of Black owned businesses to support. Five local bookstores are listed below.
- Uncle Bobbies Coffee and Books in Philadelphia, PA (can order online)
- Harriet’s Bookshop in Philadelphia, PA (can order online)
- Amalgam Comics in Philadelphia, PA (can order online)
- Comic Cosmic Collectives & Games in the DMV area (can order online)
- Making Worlds Bookstore in Philadelphia, PA
Finally here are some books that monthly meetings have chosen to read in book groups:
- Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debbie Irving
- Between the World and Me, by Ta Nehesi-Coates. Equally excellent are Coates’ new work of fiction, The Water Dancer and We Were Eight Years in Power a collection of essays.
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of color blindness, (2020 edition) by Michele Alexander
There is also the book — Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which can be paired with the recent film by the same name.