At Winter Interim Business Meeting, the Youth Committee and Committee for Ministry on Racism brought forward this report on their joint efforts towards confronting White supremacy within SEYM. Their report is “An invitation to one way forward together, as Friends are led, in confronting White supremacy within SEYM, meeting each other where we are, in stages.”
SEYM Joint Youth Committee and Committee for Ministry on Racism Report
Winter Interim Business Meeting
Saturday, January 16, 2021
“Faithfulness in Friends’ experience is rooted in continuing revelation, in being broken open by the power of the Spirit calling us into new ways of living. We believe this is a time of such in-breaking and recognition, a time of turning for this country and for our Religious Society. We believe God is calling us to a profound kind of change, to move from awareness to transformative action.”
A Time for Repentance and Transformation. June 5, 2020 (Excerpt)
In the Love that Brings a New Creation, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)
This year a Young Adult Friend courageously posted on the Southeastern Yearly Meeting (SEYM) Facebook page, his experience with racism within his monthly meeting and SEYM events. He posted with the intention to “bring to light an uncomfortable truth that Friends must face,” and with the hope that “one day Quaker youth of color can experience a faith community without the violence of white supremacy. I hope that our future generations can have what I missed.”
As a result, the Young Adult Friend and the SEYM Youth and Young Adult Coordinator, as his support person, asked for joint meetings of the SEYM Youth Committee and the Committee for Ministry on Racism for help in confronting this issue and to bring healing. We are deeply grateful to the Young Adult Friend.
The SEYM Youth Committee and the Committee for Ministry on Racism, including the Young Adult Friend and the SEYM Youth and Young Adult Coordinator, have held five Spirit-led joint meetings, including two subcommittee meetings. The meetings explored how way might open, without blame and with love, to “create a faith community without the violence of White supremacy.” This will be a life-long effort, continuing to build on the many contributions SEYM as a body, monthly meetings, and many SEYM Friends have already made.
The Joint Committee acknowledges, with deep sorrow, that White supremacy has existed within SEYM since its founding, as a reflection of the wider White supremacist culture the United States was tragically founded upon. Most of us within SEYM are White, and because of that are living with and affected by that same culture, often oblivious to its existence and harmful effects. Friends of Color are painfully aware of its existence and dehumanizing effects. They, too, have internalized it.
The Young Adult Friend’s experiences and feelings have been echoed by many Friends of Color for centuries, as expressed in the Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism within Friends General Conference, Report to FGC Central Committee, October 2018; Vanessa Julye’s and Donna McDaniel’s book, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship, 2009; their Walton Lecture, Quaker Racism, 2011; Walton and Michener Lectures by other Friends addressing racism, and thorough documentation elsewhere.
We who are White Friends, apologize to the Young Adult Friend and all Black, Indigenous and other People of Color for our complicity with racism and the harm it has caused them. The harms include the barriers to a whole experience of spiritual nurture and belonging within the Blessed Community.
In making amends, we commit ourselves to continue following Divine guidance in learning more about our own internalized White supremacy and other aspects of racism. By so doing we expect to more effectively participate in the transformational process of creating “a faith community without the violence of white supremacy.” Through confronting racism, which by design is structural and systemic (Ibram X. Kendi*), we pray that our efforts will also inform our opening more widely to all oppressed communities. There is an intersectionality with racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, (dis)ableism, ageism, nonbinary gender identity discrimination, paternalism, colorism and others.
An invitation to one way forward together, as Friends are led, in confronting White supremacy within SEYM: Meeting each other where we are, in stages.
We are inviting SEYM, and monthly meetings and worship groups which comprise it, to have as one of their priorities, the removal of White supremacy from within our faith community. We propose that Friends come together, and build upon the many racial justice efforts they have already been involved with or are planning. We are envisioning this as a coming together into a whole Blessed Community, a coming together that can be energizing and transformational, rather than as one more project to take up. Our vision is that antiracism will be woven throughout all aspects of the life of SEYM. A way of living as Friends.
We propose that each monthly meeting, partnered monthly meetings, or partnered monthly meetings and worship groups, schedule a Zoom worship sharing or a threshing session in February or March 2021 in response to the Call to Action from the Outgoing Epistle of the 2020 FGC Virtual Pre-Gathering Retreat of Friends of Color and their Families. The worship sharing or threshing session would consider those queries (below). The Outgoing Epistle… is attached. We propose this focus because SEYM is affiliated with FGC, and Friends of Color attending an FGC event brought forward their concerns and asked, “All Quakers” to “heed a Call to Action” and “Please sit with these queries.” In addition, FGC is implementing the recommendations of their Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism (2018), which has been a support to SEYM Friends and to which SEYM contributed financially. Many SEYM Friends are engaged with FGC in a variety of spiritually deepening ways.
- Following the worship sharing or threshing session, at another time, Friends could select one area of growth or learning that will strengthen the meeting’s or meetings’ capacity to engage in discernment and action around racial justice. They could develop a plan for how Friends might collectively engage on that topic in any number of ways. For example: Friends might plan a book discussion group, a sharing of their personal stories around racism, pre- or post-worship discussion, or a workshop. Friends from the SEYM Committee for Ministry on Racism would be available to support Friends as needed in their discernment.
- In April, the SEYM Committee for Ministry on Racism could host an online check-in for Friends to share what arose in their meeting’s or meetings’ worship sharing or threshing session times, along with any follow-up steps that they are planning. It could be a time of seeking support, sharing resources, and engaging in collaborative problem-solving for any challenges that are arising. Support could come from members of other meetings, the Committee for Ministry on Racism, or both.
- In May, we suggest that Friends attend SEYM’s screening of Just Mercy, another movie suggested by Friends, or organize their own movie event focused on a racial justice topic.
- In Fall 2021, we propose that each monthly meeting might place the following query on their agenda for meeting for worship with attention to business: How are we called, as a community, to further live into racial justice and healing within and beyond our meeting and the Religious Society of Friends? This query might be considered several months in a row, so that Friends have ample time to reflect and seek unity.
- Another ongoing query that could be raised as part of SEYM’s, monthly meetings’ and worship groups’ decision making process: How does this decision impact our goal of removing White supremacy from our faith community?
- Search: “Becoming an Anti-Racist Faith Community,” Friends General Conference fgcquaker.org
- Clarifying Definitions – compiled by SEYM Committee for Ministry on Racism
- Robin DiAngelo. Deconstructing White Privilege, Youtube https://youtu.be/h7mzj0cVL0Q, General Commission on Religion and Race, United Methodist Church
- Ibram X. Kendi. How to be An Antiracist, 2019.*
- Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples: Friends Peace Teams- friendspeaceteams.org.
From the Outgoing Epistle of the FGC Virtual Pre-Gathering Retreat of Friends of Color and their Families, July 3, 2020:
We ask all Quakers to heed a Call to Action. Please sit with these queries:
- What is the Spirit leading me to do about the historic and ongoing racial pandemic across my meeting, my community, my work environment and my country?
- How can we honor the memory of people who have lost their lives to the struggle for a better world?
- How can we construct ways for people to engage and remain engaged beyond good intentions in the struggle for true equality in health, education, wealth and against state sanctioned violence?
- How can we encourage the support of Friends of Color in Quaker worship and meetings around the world?
- How can Friends de-center themselves in order to listen to and hear Friends of Color?
- How can I support respite for Friends of Color?
With love, in the Spirit actively at work strengthening SEYM’s Blessed Community,
Joint Committee of the SEYM Youth Committee and Committee for Ministry on Racism (CMOR)
Co-clerking: Cecelia Yocum (Tampa) Youth Committee and Susan Taylor (Tallahassee) CMOR
Youth Committee in participation: Jennifer Mendoza (Sarasota), Co-clerk; Aurelio Anderson
Youth and Young Adult Coordinator: Kody Hersh
CMOR: Wendy Clarissa Geiger, Co-clerk (Jacksonville); Minerva Glidden (Orlando), Beverly Ward (Tampa), Jean Larson (Gainesville), Jane Westberg (Miami and Boulder), Cheryl Demers (Gainesville)
Kathy Hersh (Miami, Deland WG), Mainus Sultan (Savannah), Katie Green (Clearwater)