Boaz Matlack, a criminal justice activist and former Camp Dark Waters counselor, joins Moorestown Friends Meeting’s Anti-Racism Committee for a conversation about working with law enforcement, school districts, F/friends and neighbors to address racial justice issues in our communities. Click here to join the conversation on Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 pm, or phone 646-558-8656 and use meeting #815 8781 6369.
The Anti-Racism Committee of Moorestown Friends Meeting seeks to identify political and legislative priorities to support anti-racism. Given the Meeting’s roots in NJ farming, one obvious area of interest is agriculture. The committee acknowledges the systemic racism that permeates agriculture and farming in the United States. US Senator Cory Booker has taken note of the relative paucity of Black-owned farmland not just in NJ but throughout our nation. The direct connection between discriminatory practices of the USDA and the status of Black farmers was first documented by government-sponsored reports in 1997. The discrimination primarily took the shape of denying Black farmers timely access to government loans which caused Black farmers to lose their farms. The 2002 Farm Bill and the 2018 Farm Bill signaled progressive efforts to address this discrimination. While some progress has been made, e.g., an increase in the number of Black farmers and the acreage of Black farms, more is needed as the average farm income of Black-operated farms in 2017 was 40% of that of white-operated farms. To address this gap, the Justice for Black Farmers Act, co-sponsored by Senator Booker in late 2020, seeks to provide land grants to Black farmers.
On the recommendation of Member Pete Small, several committee members met for a tour of Free Haven Farm in early November 2020. We fell in love with the owners, the kale, and the fire sauce. Established in 2017, Free Haven Farms is a Black-owned farm in Lawnside, NJ. Its owners are Cynthia (Moorestown Friends School, 1997) and Micaiah Hall. The Halls are passionate about their mission of sustainability and attainability. To that end, Free Haven Farm produces much more than produce – farm tours, ag workshops, soil testing, garden consultation, a science camp for kids, and yoga and capoeira angola (Brazilian martial art) classes. Mr. Hall is the former Farm Director of Mill Creek Farm in Philadelphia. Dr. Cynthia Hall is an environmental geochemist and Associate Professor at West Chester University. Their farm reflects their interest in building bridges into the community through healthy food and food education for those with limited access to both.
Please join the Moorestown Meeting’s Anti-Racism Committee on Thursday, February 25 at 7:30 pm by Zoom for a conversation with Cynthia and Micaiah Hall. Click here or phone 646-558-8656 and use meeting #873 3565 8140.
Join us for a discussion about “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent” by Isabel Wilkerson, a New York Times Bestseller and Oprah’s Book Club Pick. Hosted by Haddonfield Monthly Meeting, the discussion will be facilitated by Karriem Lateef Salaam, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Friends Hospital, Philadelphia, and Clinical Assistant Professor, Drexel College of Medicine. This event will be held on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, from 7-8:30 PM.
This is an online event. A link to Zoom will be emailed on the day prior to this event to all who have pre-registered. Please use this link to pre-register: https://www.southjerseyquakers.org/caste-registration/
The Anti-Racism Committee of Moorestown Friends Meeting invites you to a conversation about America’s journey toward equality as reflected in various events of inauguration day 2020. Click here to join us. Some useful resources you may like to review include:
Many media outlets have reflected on the many ‘firsts’ related to this inauguration day; there’s a brief overview from Forbes magazine here.
Many of the proclamations and orders President Biden issued on his first day relate to racial justice.
Video of seven hours of the day’s events is here.
Moorestown Friends Meeting’s Anti-Racism Committee sponsors Let’s Talk with Karen Reiner and Meredith Butts, President and Vice President of Moorestown’s MooreUnity, about the group’s efforts “to raise awareness of divisive forces in our community and promote inclusion by building bridges across those divides.” Reiner and Butts formed MooreUnity after KKK materials were distributed in Cinnaminson and a Jewish community center in Cherry Hill received a bomb threat. Their efforts and experience are relevant far beyond Moorestown. To join the conversation, click here, or phone 646-558-8656 and enter meeting ID 815 8781 6369.
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 email@example.com. 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.
We strive as Quakers to live our daily lives grounded in the center of our beings. In this striving, we gather as a community away from everyday challenges to strengthen our spiritual practice. As we strengthen our practice, ever deeper insights emerge, and we ready ourselves to embrace their transformative power.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Friends have continued to experience ever deepening insight into how gravely racism and white supremacy persist in the Religious Society of Friends and beyond. As this insight grows, so does a shared sense of urgency; there are many things to learn and do, because the work to end racism and white supremacy is truly a matter of life and death.
At our 2016 Annual Sessions, the learning and doing carries on. Please find below a brief review of the elements we have put in place to engage and support each other around anti-racism work this year. It is hoped that Friends will find this review helpful as we prepare to gather at Muhlenberg College, Wednesday, July 27 through Sunday, July 31.
We collected demographic information in registration.
This will help us see better the impact of racial identity on Friends’ experiences at Annual Sessions.
There will be three affinity group spaces again this year.
Affinity groups provide safe environments for people who share similar racial identities to explore the dynamics of race for their racial group. There will be three race-based affinity groups; one for people of color/Indigenous people, one for white people, and one for people who identify as mixed or multi-race.
There will be Undoing Racism Group Resource People.
These Friends are our elders in ending racism and white supremacy. They make themselves available to the community to support anyone in need of listening or questioning around issues related to racism and white supremacy. Because we had the painful experience during the 2015 Annual Sessions of some white people intentionally entering the affinity group space for people of color, this year Undoing Racism Group Resource People will also make themselves available specifically to ensure that white people do not disrespect this space reserved exclusively for people of color.
During Meeting for Worship for Business, we will address racism and white supremacy in several ways.
- We will track patterns of diversity during our business sessions. These are patterns of behavior within group dynamics that often map onto various social roles, positions and identities.
- We will consider a multicultural organizational development continuum and reflect together about how far along Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is on its journey toward becoming an anti-racist institution.
- We will imagine what an anti-racist Philadelphia Yearly Meeting will look like.
- We will hear about the work of our Undoing Racism Group, including several invitations and some struggle as we discern a way forward in identifying a place for our Undoing Racism Group within our governance structure.
Workshops will facilitate focused learning and doing.
There are many workshops being offered this year with topics pertaining to the work of ending racism and white supremacy.
Find out more on the Annual Sessions page of the PYM website.
The Annual Sessions page of the PYM website is pym.org/annual-sessions. There, you can find most of this information, with a few more details.
Do you have questions?
Call the PYM Help Desk, and we will find you an Undoing Racism Group Resource Person, 215.621.8481.
A Continual Practice
Ending racism and white supremacy is a continual practice, extending beyond the particular moments when we are singularly focused on it. Worship sharing, meeting for worship, business sessions, conversation spaces, and informal fellowship during meals represent important opportunities for learning and doing in every moment. We share what is on our hearts, and we seek divine guidance and support from each other. Through a discipline such as this, may we be transformed.