Our Anti-Racism Work

Apr 24, 2018

 
Will Taber

In June of 2015 concerns about  racism, white privilege, and injustice in our society appeared in the vocal ministry at Fresh Pond Meeting. At the same time, in business meeting we were considering a minute in response to racial violence and a slate of other minutes concerning a variety of social justice issues. We were not clear to adopt any of these minutes as speaking for the whole body, but this sparked conversation about what it means for the meeting, rather than individuals in the meeting, to hold a concern. Later, an ad hoc committee began to look at how Fresh Pond Meeting might be more welcoming to visitors and people new to Quakerism. One consideration was how we might be welcoming to people of color. So, the ground was already being prepared within Fresh Pond Meeting when the Yearly Meeting approved the minute on White Supremacy at 2016 Sessions.

In September 2016 our Spiritual Growth Committee decided to hold an open-ended series to explore racism and white supremacy, how it functions and ways in which we are complicit with it. In January Bruce Neumann spoke about a course in racism and white supremacy that he and Holly Baldwin had taken at the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Dorchester. Other sessions included watching and discussing “Allegories or Race and Racism,” a TED talk by Camara Jones exploring the differences between multiculturalism and interculturalism. At our final session in May 2017, Lisa Graustein led us in an exploration both of the ways that Quakerism exhibits the hallmarks of white supremacy and also antidotes that also exist in our tradition. We also held a well-attended series to watch Race, the Power of an Illusion. We shared a potluck meal and watched an episode of the video, and then discussed our reactions to what we had seen.

In September of 2017 we held a threshing session to explore next steps. It was clear that combating racism and white supremacy was still a major concern of the meeting, but it was not clear how that concern would be held in the meeting. The Spiritual Growth Committee felt that it could address issues of racism in its programming, but could not hold the entire concern along with its other work. Someone asked what our vision for the meeting was, and in February we held a mini-retreat that used collage, weaving and worship-sharing to begin developing that vision.

The meeting put off deciding what to do with its gift from Rachel Carey-Harper until we had completed the series on racism, so that we could respond if something concrete arose from that exploration. An idea arose to provide bystander training so that members would feel empowered to deal with racist incidents in public places. Another idea was to have marshal training so that the meeting could provide trained marshals for protests and demonstrations. We finally decided to raise funds for the trainings and to use the gift from Rachel to support the Metrowest Workers Center. We would never have had the discussion of what to do without that gift. The realization that we could do more with our own resources was itself a gift.

Fresh Pond Meeting is still feeling exercised by a concern for fighting racism and white privilege, but is still unsure how to proceed. We are continuing to take the steps that are clear and seeing what emerges from this for our next step. We are grateful for the many resources we are able to draw on in the Boston area, the Yearly Meeting, and elsewhere. We are also grateful for the resources available within our meeting, since we have people who have been working on these issues for a long time.

We have found that we don’t have to be experts to do this work. There are many books and videos that can provide a starting place for meaningful discussions. All that is required is an open heart and a willingness to face the reality of our world.

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