Friends General Conference

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Vital Friends: Responding to Systemic Racism with Systemic Love

 

 

Below is the text of the Vital Friends eNewsletter distributed to Friends on June 4th, 2020. We will add resources to this page in the days ahead.

 

 

Dear Friend,

On Saturday, Friends gathered for FGC's weekly Saturday evening worship on Zoom. Our hearts were heavy over the instances of racial hatred that we had witnessed through news reports earlier in the week, from the profiling of Christian Cooper in New York City to the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. Peaceful protests in response to the incident in Minneapolis had given way to violent rioting in cities across the United States, and for many of us, the sounds of helicopters and emergency sirens could be heard over our heads as we sat in virtual worship together.

Out of the silence, our General Secretary Barry Crossno shared - "As we work to dismantle systemic racism, how can we replace it with systemic love?"

Before we can create systemic love, we need to confront the realities that got us here. People of Color in the United States are being attacked on many levels right now - from the COVID-19 pandemic (which is disproportionately infecting and killing Black patients) and the subsequent economic downturn (which Black workers are feeling the brunt of) to state-sanctioned violence. We are still seeing persistent patterns of police brutality towards communities of color and the murder of Black people at the hands of police officers, and the lack of accountability from the justice system is also an ongoing issue. The murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis was the final straw for millions of people, which, when you put all of these factors together, explain the nonviolent protests and the incidents of rioting that are occurring across the United States.

There is also anger among People of Color over white culture's push to go back to normal (a desire that is rooted in white supremacist thinking). Normal wasn't working for everyone. When a group of white citizens can storm a state capital with assault rifles, scream in the faces of law enforcement officials about not being able to get a haircut or eat dinner out, and walk away without a scratch while Black and brown community members who are peacefully protesting police officer-involved murders are beaten and tear-gassed by the police and National Guard, it's clear that there is a different standard of justice at work. Now is the time to focus on the need for change, and to learn about and understand the oppression and the trauma that has defined the lives of too many of our loved ones for so long.

Love can be powerful and transformative.  It can ground us for action, motivate us to set boundaries with those who are perpetuating harm, and help us call for change when there is pain and suffering occurring. Right now, people we love are being hurt and killed by the scourge of systemic racism and structures of white supremacy. Love in this instance means change. It's time to make a commitment and say:

"I no longer want the people I love to be in pain, and I'm willing to make the sacrifices needed, as a person and as part of a community, so that my loved ones are no longer suffering."

It was love, commitment to our spiritual principles, and the desire to heal the wounds of racism and white supremacy that helped move FGC’s Central Committee to approve an Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism in 2016. The assessment led to the creation of the Institutional Assessment Implementation Committee that now holds FGC accountable as an institution to identify and heal the wounds of systemic racism as we face them within the FGC community.

Many Friends, wishing to see that of God affirmed in all people, have already committed themselves to dismantling systemic racism within the Religious Society of Friends and beyond.  If you have not done so, we prayerfully ask that you join us in the urgent commitment.

Members of the Institutional Assessment Implementation Committee have organized a listing of resources to guide Friends and Quaker communities that are seeking ways to respond to systemic racism and bring about lasting change. If, like us, you are mourning George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many individuals who have been killed by systemic racism in the form of police-involved shootings and the response to COVID-19 that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, we encourage you to explore these resources, materially support those who are pushing back against systems of oppression, and join us.

In solidarity,

FGC Staff  &  Members of the Institutional Assessment Implementation Committee

In this issue:

  • Ways to Take Action
  • Worship Opportunities for Friends of Color
  • Recommended Articles and Recordings
  • Self-Care and Mental Health Resources for Friends Who Are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)
  • Minutes from Quaker Monthly and Yearly Meetings

 

Ways To Take Action

Recommended by Members of the Implementation Committee

Note: The fundraisers shared below are community-organized and are not connected to FGC.

Responses and Resources Organized by Quaker Organizations

FGC is setting up a regular Meeting for Worship for Friends of European Descent Confronting Racism. We are planning for it to meet weekly at 12:00pm EDT on Fridays. It will be hosted by the Ministry on Racism Program and co-clerked by Carolyn Lejuste and Janice Domanik.

People can check the worship opportunities page of our website for up-to-date information and to register.


Worship Opportunities for Friends of Color

One of the most important ways we can further anti-racism work as Friends is to create spaces where People of Color can foster community and share their experiences together in spaces just for them (we share this article from The Arrow frequently to explain why this is so important).

FGC's Ministry on Racism Program organizes virtual Meeting for Worship (weekly midday and evening opportunities as well as a monthly worship), a virtual Open House, and weekly virtual worship sharing for Friends of Color. This year, we will hold the Pre-Gathering Retreat for Friends of Color and Their Families online as part of the FGC Virtual Gathering. To learn more about our virtual opportunities for Friends of Color and to register for them, visit the Ministry on Racism's page on the FGC website.