By Tom Stites and Nicole Salemi, Director of Community Engagement
The congregation is currently undertaking the important and necessary work of raising and evolving its consciousness around race and racial justice. We had the honor of hearing Rev. Karlene Griffiths Sekou preach on this during the October 14 worship service. Listen to her homily “Let’s Get Free”.
Following her powerful and moving homily, about 60 individuals from our Beloved Community (including two children), as well as people from the local community, joined Rev. Karlene for a viewing and discussion of the film Race: The power of an Illusion.
This film screening and discussion was the first of four visits Rev. Karlene will be making to our congregation this church year to foster discussion on race consciousness, expand perceptions and broaden understanding. Rev. Karlene is a community organizer who is pursuing a Ph.D. in religion, gender and culture at Harvard– and who is also pursuing dual fellowship as a UU and UCC minister. As the workshop’s facilitator, she set off a deeply engaging conversation by asking the group for ways to define race – and for a list of its impacts.
A rich context and expanding discussion followed the film’s vivid documentation that science has disproven the notion, woven deep in the fabric of Western culture, that race has a biological basis. This discussion ranged from pigment to privilege by way of power, to organizing to repairing systems infused with outdated and harmful racial ideas such as housing, education, health care, policing, and elections. Moving from the conceptual to personal, some told disquieting stories of local children of color who have experienced name-calling that led to fear of leaving the safety of their homes.
Rev. Karlene was gentle and bold in her facilitation of our conversation about a topic that can create discomfort and struggle. At the end, she challenged us with questions to think about:
What am I going to do with the power and privilege I have in the world we live in?
How do we begin to choose something different in light of this?
She also challenged us to bring a friend to the next conversation.
The sessions are all open to the public as well as our congregation.