Pennsauken, NJ, native Calvin Bell graduated from Moorestown Friends School in 2020 with an impressive roster of accolades, including a Yale Award for Community Engagement, the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, a White House visit as a video game innovator (for an app that enables residents to report environmental hazards, in English or Spanish, to local government), and a lead role in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone.’ At MFS, Calvin served on the Diversity Committee; today he’s a junior at Morehouse College, an historically Black college. He’ll join Moorestown Meeting’s Anti-Racism Committee to talk about his experiences at MFS, at Morehouse, and through many richly varied experiences of a young life. You are welcome to join us on Zoom, at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81587816369 or meeting ID 815 8781 6369.
Join F/friends from Moorestown Meeting and beyond for a free-ranging conversation about race and racism. Share stories, experiences new and old, questions, concerns, recommendations, testimony – whatever comes up is welcome. We meet on Zoom at 7:30pm EST, https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81587816369, meeting ID 815 8781 6369.
In 2020, traditional country music artist Tyler Childers released an album of Appalachian fiddle tunes and one original song supporting those protesting the deaths of George Floyd and others. Join Moorestown Friends Meeting’s Anti-Racism Committee, watch a couple of short videos together, and discuss what they suggest about whether and how “white” equals “normal” in America today. To preview the videos, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_I3Rp1CQak and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ3_AJ5Ysx0.
Thirty years ago, Toni Morrison told a newspaper interviewer, “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” For most of us, whiteness is still the default, the norm, in our communities – and that makes identifying and eradicating racism more difficult. Our Friend Prof. Janet Gray, currently editing a book of feminist writings on whiteness, joins us online to discuss the idea of whiteness, and how it affects us as individuals and in community. We all have much of value to contribute to the conversation – so Let’s Talk. All are welcome at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81587816369 on Thursday 15 December at 7:30pm for this conversation sponsored by Moorestown Friends Meeting’s Anti-Racism Committee.
Katharine Gerbner will examine the historical links between churches in Philadelphia and the Caribbean during the early colonial period.
While Pennsylvania was founded as a Quaker colony, slavery was foundational to its early success, and there were many links between Philadelphia and Barbados. Gerbner will look at the tensions around slavery in early America, when many Quakers and Anglicans were trying to reconcile their Christian beliefs with slavery, rather than trying to end human bondage. Gerbner will also show how the history of Christian Slavery helps us understand the emergence of race and White Supremacy. She will show why it’s essential to remember this uncomfortable history, and ask what we can learn from it today.
Program presented in partnership with Christ Church Preservation Trust.
An online First Monday lecture with Drick Boyd
In 2021, two weeks after the January 6th attempted takeover of the U.S. Capitol Building by supporters of former President Donald Trump, Drick Boyd released his latest book, Disrupting Whiteness: Talking With White People about Racism. In the book, Drick proposes a particular dialogical approach to talking with white people in their personal, familial, and professional networks about issues of race and racism. However, Drick did not anticipate the gross and continued distortions of the facts of the 2020 presidential election and the attack on the Capitol. In this presentation, Drick will build on his discussion of dialogue about race and pose possible ways we can and must continue to engage white people on the important issues of race and racism, despite the growing polarities.
Caption: Donna Fann-Boyle being questioned by the Neshaminy School District attorney during the hearing about the Neshaminy Redsk*ns Mascot, January 10, 2019
The hearings at Bucks County Community College went on for five days. This Friend, member of PhYM First Contact Reconciliation Collaborative, was able to attend on the fourth day when Donna Fann-Boyle (Chocktaw/ Cherokee) was questioned. Afterward, Donna responded to how she felt now that [testimony] was over. She said, “I felt more empowered by the amount of support I received. I feel like I can breathe now and that the hard part is over. The public is now more aware. I feel good about what happened during the hearings but it is still up in the air. Nothing is set in stone.”
The use of Native names, slurs, images and symbols is a stark reminder of how our communities are still colonized. Donna has persisted for over four years to educate the Neshaminy community about the true meaning of the R-word. The Conqueror Mentality: we took their land, we took their resources, we took their lives when they got in our way, we took their children and the latest version through the mascots – we take their identity and tell them what it means.
Testimony of a Neshaminy HS teacher and a community member occurred before Donna’s testimony. The teacher who advises their Student Council talked about the students coming up with a “Mr. Redsk*ins” event and didn’t say anything to them about the deeper meaning of the name. The community member, a lawyer, father of students in Neshaminy Schools, and also a coach in the community, said he knows lots of young people. He supported the greatness of the school district and saw no problems with the mascot and its effect. Though, when asked if he was aware of the meaning of “redsk*ns” he said he never did any research into the subject and saw no negative effects in the schools.
One of the more disturbing reports from the hearings was the testimony on day 5 by Stephen Pirritano, a school board member. When asked if he felt the information about scalp bounties to be true–his answer: “I’m sure it happened you know–just like any other races through history you know [have] been eradicated. My parents came from Italy. When the Africans came over went to Sicily and Italy and killed all the men and impregnated all the women, the world’s full of that.” The Spencer Phips Proclamation of 1755 spells out the details of such bounties – money paid for “redsk*ns” or scalps.
The Neshaminy School District hired as its expert witness Andre Billeaudeaux, a self-proclaimed amateur historian who wrote a children’s fictional book about how the Washington r–skins got their name. He is also the executive director of NAGA, an organization that supports the use of native mascotry and promotes harassment of natives and allies who work on changing harmful mascotry in their schools. He travels the country trying to convince school districts with Native mascots that it is to honor them. (See NAGA, http://www.naguardians.org/.)
It is remarkable that the school district is willing to spend precious educational monies to defend such an indefensible mascot. And ironic that the most vehement Euro-American community members, who say the mascot is an honor to Native peoples, are the most disrespectful to actual living Native peoples. This Friend contends that the fierce connection between symbol and identity has its roots in our Euro-American loss of ancestral territories. On a cellular level many of us long for our tribal identity and connection, long lost through early migration and or intense cultural mixing. Tragically, Native culture is very compelling to appropriate when you long for tribal identity.
Leading Native American tribal organizations condemn the use of Native mascots and many studies have shown the negative impacts. These negative impacts are also on the non-native students – increasing divisions, attitudes of superiority, and racism. Research led by psychology professor Chu Kim-Prieto (The College of New Jersey) showed that exposure to Native American team mascots, increases a person’s negative stereotyping of other races. When society condones stereotypes, youth and adults think it is okay to use other stereotypes –
which ultimately leads to more bias and discrimination.
There is a great deal of evidence about the cyber-bullying and backlash on Donna Fann-Boyle over the years: death threat phone calls and a great deal of nasty social media attacks. None of this evidence was brought up at the hearings, as it was up to the Neshaminy lawyers to bring it up, which they wouldn’t do given the negative light it would shine on the community. It is part of what the judge and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) panel [may] have to examine.
One of the lawyers for PHRC (https://www.phrc.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx) is about to give birth and is taking maternity leave. This means that the findings will be delayed until July 1st. It will be an 11-member panel who makes the final decision.
How might Friends move faith into practice, act to decolonize our communities? If a racist mascot exists in your community, speak to the negative effects it holds over everyone – Native and non-Native Peoples alike; and/or support any CHANGE THE NAME effort, including the Washington D.C. NFL team. With Spirit, toward community unity, wonderings and comments may be shared with PhYM First Contact Reconciliation Collaborative, https://www.pym.org/first-contact-reconciliation-collaborative/. Wanishi (Lenape, thank you)
On January 13th, Chris Crass spoke at Friends Center on “Courage for Racial Justice, Courage for Collective Liberation in the Era of Trump.”
The event was hosted in collaboration by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Showing Up for Racial Justice – Philly, Jewish Voice for Peace – Philly, and American Friends Service Committee.
Over two hundred people filled the room for lecture and discussion with longtime anti-racist/collective liberation organizer, author, and educator Chris Crass to explore how we can all rise for racial justice and work for collective liberation in these times.
The event was recorded by American Friends Service Committee.
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).
by Lucy Duncan
The Undoing Racism Group of Philadelphia YM has been working for two years to support the yearly meeting’s central corporate witness expressed in this 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 have offered 10 workshops at sessions last year and this, provided learning materials, a group of traveling workshop leaders, hosted a YM wide viewing of “I am not racist, am I?,” hosted affinity groups and led events at YM annual sessions and continuing sessions, led events at Quarterly meetings and young adult Friends gatherings, created a vision and plan for our work going forward, held open monthly meetings that always included learning activities… all while having no formal relationship or place at the table of the new PYM structure. We have been encouraged to keep working, with an earlier proposal to form a committee having been rejected.
We labored for months with what might work to support this work as a central PYM concern. A Friend of color in leadership received advice from people within PYM about how to weave our work throughout the YM. We presented this proposal to the Implementation committee who rejected it, asked us to continue as an informal body focusing on sessions planning (this is a Quaker pattern: teach us, we want to learn, but not more). We consider what we are trying to do to be about creating the courageous many, deep change that can transform our body to carry this work as a central spiritual concern and show up for the broader community that is deeply impacted. I have experienced true, real, tender community in the Undoing Racism Group, we are practicing imperfect, loving, community: what we are trying to birth within all of PhYM, one of our members says we are his spiritual community.
We asked to meet with the Implementation committee and those who came to the meeting of 30 of us seemed willing to support this as an experiment. They met, could not find unity, decided to lay themselves down and propose an ad hoc committee to consider the work. We presented the proposal to the body inviting many folks to labor with the questions. We offered an action on Saturday that represented the sense of growing support and that the body take action. Some of us persisted after and disrupted the faith and practice presentation after the clerk said we would grapple with it the next day. Though it felt as though there was urgency and spirit moving, I can see how some would interpret this as pushing too hard, perhaps even bullying.
The next day the clerk masterfully clerked a session in which she asked the body to consider with their hearts if we could move forward with the proposal for a two year experiment. Many voices expressed support and others expressed fears, concerns, the one which resonated with me most was what about our spiritual sanctuary? It resonates for me because for too many Friends of color Quaker spaces are not sanctuary, but hostile spaces and the work of Undoing Racism is to try to help create sanctuary for us all. And when asked for a decision most people said, “Yes” and the few who said, “no” did so very loudly.
I have been grieving, been perplexed, been in dialogue. I know we were asking a lot … and shouldn’t we?… and one thing that keeps rising for me is a story about a Haverford professor of African American studies, who left years ago saying you want me in your institution but you treat me as a guest: if you wanted me to really live here, you would consider letting me move some of the furniture. We were asking to move some furniture to support the change, as an experiment. We were asking for seats at tables where decisions are made that impact the whole…
As my spiritual grounding returns I am praying about, “What next?” I am praying about mistakes we made and openings, too. Some of my Friends will not return as this journey has been too painful. Each day I think differently, some days I want to get back in the struggle, finish the work we began, because I love my faith community. Other days I feel depleted, and wonder if I might be called to pursue this work in another space, another form. I am clear that if called elsewhere others may emerge to carry forward what we started. What I grieve the most is what we have co-created together as a group, as a community within Undoing Racism: a space where we can be real, ourselves without apology, and where love is tender and palpable. I have been awakened and enlivened by relationship in particular with Noah and Vanessa, as co-clerks. This has been the fuel for the journey. Perhaps we didn’t share that enough with the wider body… I am striving to hold the tensions and the learnings, let my heart grieve and open and rise for the next calling.