Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Healing Hurts of Racism through Sharing

Workshop Number: 
Kathy Miller, Victoria Greene
Who may register?: 
Open to All (adult & high school)
Experiential Activities: 
full-time attenders only

Through sharing our experiences we affirm for Friends of color that what they know and feel is true, that they are heard and it matters; for white Friends we increase awareness of how to notice and change subtle racist behaviors. The last session will focus on individual and collective ways to counteract racism.

Workshop Description

As an African American woman and a white European heritage woman we work as a team, to model listening to each other.  We hold the conviction that all people are good and want to know and understand each other’s lives.

As a group we will set the ground rules to create a safe workshop environment for sharing our life experiences around race and racism.

Through sharing our stories we make it possible for Friends of color to affirm that what they know and feel is true, that they are heard and it matters; for white Friends we increase awareness of how to notice and change unaware racist behaviors. To truly see that of  God in everyone, we need to understand how racism has been used to blind us to the lives of others.

Each morning will begin with a period of silent worship, followed by sharing based on the query or queries of the day.  These include queries like:

  • When were you first aware of racism?
  • What is a childhood story that shaped your view of race?
  • When is a time you were treated on the basis of a stereotype rather than as a person?
  • When is a time you stood up against racism and when was a time you kept quiet?                                                                                                                                            

Other queries will grow out of the discussion as we begin to know each other and can ask deeper questions.

A variety of interactive games, sharing circles, sharing pairs and sharing about our cultures will create different ways to open up our experiences so we can learn from them. We will also use role-playing moments of disrespect to explore how we might handle them.

Participants, who wish to, are encouraged to ask others at the Gathering the query of the day and report back on the experience the following day.

We will close each morning with worship.

We encourage workshop members to think about what they would like to share from their culture and bring any items that would aid in that sharing. It is not required but we encourage the reading of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice by Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye. There are many myths about Quaker history that often shape our current misconceptions.

The last session will focus on individual and collective ways to counteract racism


Leader Experience

Victoria has lead support groups for families who have experienced homicide for the last seven years. She has developed programs for and led workshops with young people in high school about grief and trauma. She worked as a drug and alcohol counselor in the Philadelphia Prison system for 20 years. During this time she facilitated one-on-one counseling and group counseling.

Victoria participated in a play called “Beyond the walls, the road to redemption”. This play was about mothers who lost their children to homicide, and perpetrators who have turned their lives around. The play was made into a video, which was shown at Green Street Meeting’s film series. Victoria attended as a cast member to answer questions from the audience. This was her introduction to Quakerism and she ultimately became a member of the Green Street Meeting.  Victoria has attended the Gathering the last two years.

Kathy grew up Quaker with parents who where active in racial justice issues. She has lead peer counseling groups and workshops for the last 40 years both in the USA and internationally. She has found that people sharing their stories is a vehicle through which they can hear the difficult experiences of racism that are harder to understand in the abstract.  In 2010 she co-led a workshop with Laura Melly at FGC on “It Takes a Meeting to Raise a Ministry”. It was a chance to combined skills in listening and spiritual growth.

When Kathy and I met we automatically felt a connection. We realized that we were able to ask each other difficult questions about race. When we asked each other questions, our answers were stories about our lives. Telling our stories enabled us to go deeper about race. I encourage others when you meet someone that you feel a connection with, take that opportunity to ask difficult question by using stories. We are using our experience to guide us in the workshop.