Many organizations, agencies, faith communities, and other groups have issued statements decrying racism and acts of violence against black people and people of color, including the killing of George Floyd. We share in the outrage and affirm the calls for our nation to seriously and unrelentingly address systemic racism, which is ingrained in our society and embedded in our way of life. Another statement to this effect is likely not what is needed in this time, and yet we stand in support and solidarity with those seeking an end to racism, and the rebuilding of a world where justice and true peace are for all people.
In addition, as faith leaders in our communities, we know that not all who might wish to do so are able or comfortable attending protests or other outward actions, especially in this time of social distancing. Some are asking, “what can we do?”
It is important to know that the work for peace and justice is a long and multifaceted journey. Each of us must continue a process of learning and engagement, and to endeavor to make real changes within our hearts and our world. Therefore the members of the Bedford Interfaith Clergy Network challenge ourselves, our congregations, and our communities to diligently continue the work of educating ourselves, and of eradicating the sin of racism.
Toward that end, and acknowledging that our own personal journeys to accomplish these goals are incomplete and ongoing, we offer some resources that have been helpful to each of us along the way in our efforts to understand racism, white privilege, and the experiences of our black and brown brothers and sisters. There are also some suggestions for action/engagement that can be done on a personal level. There are many such lists and ways to support these efforts that are being circulated and published by many organizations, and it can be overwhelming. We hope this might be a place to begin, with personal recommendations from some of our members.
From The Rev. Chris Wendell
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bedford
“How I learned to stop worrying and love discussing race” a 10-min TEDx Talk by Jay Smooth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU
I came across this talk during an anti-racism training several years ago. Watching it helped me to realize that, as a white person, I was letting my fear of making mistakes in talking about race prevent me from fully engaging this topic. This presentation helped me to better understand that attitude as a feature of white privilege. The fear of saying or doing something racist is a key driver that perpetuates a culture of white supremacy. We live in a time when we cannot be silent about race, racial oppression and violence against people of color, and this resource may be helpful to you in finding more courage to risk making mistakes for the sake of helping our nation move forward.
From Rev. John Gibbons, Senior Minister
First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Bedford
In recent years, I’ve preached multiple times about how my own eyes are opening to issues of race, mostly as a way of unpacking my own racism. In 1988, when I was a minister in Mendon, MA, at short range I witnessed the police homicide of an unarmed black man named Marc Murray. Many years later, after the murders of Trayvon Martin and so many others, I recalled my experience. This became a sermon titled “December 8, 1988: I Witnessed a Homicide – or Was it a Murder?”: https://www.uubedford.org/december-9-1988-i-witnessed-a-homicide-or-was-it-a-murder/
More recently, when Bedford Town Historian Sharon McDonald discovered that Bedford’s first minister, Nicholas Bowes, kept an enslaved African woman as his servant, I preached another sermon, titled “Slavery Is Not an Indefinable Mass of Flesh: Nanne’s Life Matters”: https://www.uubedford.org/slavery-is-not-an-indefinable-mass-of-flesh-nannes-life-matters/
From Rev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken
Minister of Faith Development at First Parish in Bedford
#FreeOurFamilies Newcomer’s Action Guide. www.tinyurl.com/MAactNOW
Every week there are suggested actions to take to end incarceration of women and girls. The organization that created the guide, Families for Justice as Healing (FJAH) is a scrappy and beautiful community group in Boston that is working to shift resources from policing and prisons, to benefit Black and Brown communities. Their informal community style organizing with folks in jail is one of the inspirations that informed the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network that I am a part of. I count FJAH as one of our organizing partners and mentors and am grateful for their work.
From Rev. Alexx Wood
Chaplain, Carleton-Willard Village
Book: The New Jim Crow — I had been raised with values and ideals that all were equal, and that anyone who worked hard could achieve whatever they wanted. Growing up, I had certainly never heard of systemic racism, nor had I considered the term ‘white privilege’ or what that meant. When I went to seminary, we were required to read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” It jolted me to an awakening of the racism, criminalization of the poor, and white privilege woven into the very fabric of society, and it radically changed the ways I perceived and understood the historical events that happened in my lifetime, and the way the world is now.
Movie: “Just Mercy” – Warner Bros. has made this available for free on digital platforms, and the company writes “based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, [this] is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society.” It is based on a book, so that is available too.
From Rev. Claude Solano
Chaplain, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital
Ideas that can be helpful in moving the conversation forward
1) Self-educate by reading former presidents’ statements on the current state of affairs.
2) Self-inform by purposely engaging (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually) with relevant news articles.
3) Keep focus on main issues (i.e., addressing police brutality) and not shifting to side issues.
4) Try purposely honoring Black and Brown people for their contribution in building America, whenever and wherever engaging with them.
From Rabbi Susan Abramson
Temple Shalom Emeth, Burlington
Using your voice to speak out against injustice is extremely important at this time. Small actions add up to big change. You can sign the following petitions and share them on social media:
Reclaim the Block petition: https://secure.everyaction.com/eR7GA7oz70GL8doBq19LrA2
Justice for Floyd petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/justice-george-floyd-0
Justice for Breonna Taylor petition: https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor
Justice for Tony McDade petition:https://www.change.org/p/black-lives-matter-activists-justice-for-tony-mcdade
Note: recommending signing of petitions, but not recommending monetary donations to change.org
Educational/informational recommendations from Temple members include:
Documentary: “13th” by Ava DuVemay. A great place to start. It provides a comprehensive history of the US prison system and its roots in American slavery. Offered free for viewing.
A collection of helpful articles that address white people directly: http://whitesforracialequity.org/index/essential-reading-viewing/
Adam Foss is “an amazing prosecutor and criminal justice activist.” The link below is the talk he gave at Williams College, and another of his viral TED Talk:
“Swords and Shields: A Discussion of Power, Privilege, and Opportunity”: https://youtu.be/tV1Jrla7JHI
From Rev. John Castricum
First Church of Christ, Congregational in Bedford
Here is a two-part video podcast on Processing Racially-Fueled Events by Nikki Lerner that has been very helpful to me.