Report: White Privilege Conference Task Group, Fall Sessions 2015


Good morning Friends

My name is Judy Meikle. I am a member of Wilton Meeting and appointed by the Prisons Committee to the Yearly Meeting Task Group for the White Privilege Conference which is being held in April 2016 in Philadelphia. Our Group is tasked to build a significant presence of New York Yearly Meeting Friends at the conference and I have a few minutes this morning to share with you our sense of excitement and enthusiasm about this task, and why we believe this is a huge opportunity for our Yearly Meeting.

First I want to state why I believe this is a particularly important moment in the movement for racial justice and a time when Quakers are being called to step up.
Last week, I participated in a national tele-conference with more than 100 white leaders from congregations and faith communities from around the country. The conference was convened by SURJ – the acronym is for Showing Up for Racial Justice – a group that began several years ago in response to a call from people of color requesting that more white folks join in the cause for racial justice and actively show up at events and actions. With attacks on black churches, attacks on students of color in their schools and the ongoing deaths of people of color on our streets at the hands of the police, this call has become increasingly urgent and there is a critical need for white congregations and faith communities to respond.

SURJ leadership reported that what were once small numbers of people among faith communities has now become a flood and they are looking for ways to connect and ways to move from thinking about problems of racial justice to taking collective action. Leaders from different denominations reported how they are using different strategies –focus groups and racial justice potlucks, sharing stories and hosting events. There was a strong desire to connect with congregations of color.

A Quaker from Minnesota spoke of the racial justice work of AFSC and Friends General Conference and how Friends will be significant sponsors of next year’s annual White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia.

I was greatly moved by this National inter faith response to the crucial questions asked of us by the Black Lives Matter movement – Questions such as will you show up and support us in our hour of need? Will you step into leadership in your own communities and stand with us as we challenge inequality and injustice? Will you do the hard work necessary to understand our lived experience?

Friends in New York Yearly Meeting have responded to that call in many ways. For example, individual Friends are bearing witness to the systematic racism within the criminal justice system. Friends are standing with the Black Lives Matter movement at rallies and marches protesting police violence. The Yearly Meeting has spoken strongly in support of racial justice and equity, through a minute on racism and white privilege (2009), an Apology to Afro-Descendants (2013), renunciation of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (2013) followed by a letter to the Pope in 2015 requesting that he too denounce the Doctrine, and a statement in support of Black Lives Matter (2014). At Summer Sessions this year, the numbers in our racial healing worship group swelled during the week from 17 to 35 as we considered how to maintain our faith and spiritual practices in the face of the brutality and despair of racism.

Next April, we can continue our momentum and keep putting our values into action by showing up in powerful numbers at the White Privilege Conference! We are already members of the host team and the task group has begun planning how to get a metaphorical (or literal) busload of New York Yearly Meeting Quakers to Philadelphia!

Let me describe the conference. It is a three-day experience described by facilitators and participants as transformative. It brings together a multi-racial community in an intensive learning environment with workshops from beginner to advanced levels, plenary speakers, film screenings, and spaces to share and learn from each other.

Here’s an A-Z sampling from last year’s more than 120 workshops:

  • Active Listening for Social Justice
  • Building Anti-Racist Schools – talking about race and racism with children
  • Compassion and Anti-racism
  • Disease and Race
  • Equity in the Environmental Movement
  • Facilitating Difficult Conversations
  • Get the Hell Out of Here! – the church leading the way
  • How Do We Talk About Privilege – For Real!
  • I Can’t Breathe – Integrating disability studies into our intersectional anti-racist perspective
  • Karate Chops, Nerds and the Asian Invasion
  • Learning from the Elderly – Jim Crow’s Legacy
  • Monologs vs. Dialogs
  • Not Whistling Dixie – breaking down the white wall of privilege
  • Our Minds – Their Message
  • Police Accountability & Citizen Oversight
  • Race(ing) to the Border – the Colonial legacy of U.S. immigration policy
  • Stop Blaming White People Let Freedom Ring – Reimagining Equity and Justice in the United
  • Teaching the New Jim Crow
  • US Colonialism & White Supremacy in Puerto Rico
  • We are Mike Brown – how the lost voices from Ferguson helped spark an international call for justice
  • You Mean There’s White People In My Movie?

So who might attend the White Privilege conference? The theme of the conference in April is States. All Friends with a concern for peace and justice and equity will have a reason to attend.

Friends witnessing for indigenous peoples’ rights, LGBTQ concerns, earthcare – you Friends will surely find the conference of interest. Friends engaged in youth ministry and working in education, involved with immigration issues or conflict transformation – you will find like-minded people to talk to. This conference is a really good place for Friends who are beginning to think about white privilege and what they can do. You will not be alone if this is your first step into anti-racist work and challenging inequality.

What are the details?

  • Dates - Friday April 15 to Sunday April 17 2016.
  • Separate Youth Action Project for high school youth meets Friday and Saturday then joins the main conference on Sunday.
  • Registration opens on Monday January 18 (MLK day).
  • 2000-2500 available registrations could sell out fast. Register early!!
  • Register through the FGC website. They offer a substantial discount on the full conference fee of $375. Last year the FGC rate was $184
  • Other costs that Friends will need to budget for are travel, accommodation and food.
  • FGC is working on ways to keep these costs down including local hospitality.

What do we ask of you at this time?

  • First ask yourself if you are led to attend the conference.
  • If the answer is maybe, be sure to let a member of the Task Group know and sign up for regular email updates by contacting Jeff Hitchcock.
  • Save the date

    • Help us get the word out.

      • Take information back to your Monthly Meetings. There is a flyer available on the table…. And a packet has already been mailed to every Meeting Clerk.
      •  Encourage people to attend the conference and to sign up for the email updates. Ask that the Meeting identify at least one, preferably two people to attend the conference.
      • In particular, ask if there are high school youth who are interested in attending. Mike and Chris are planning to take a group from Powell House so that is an exciting option. Contact them for more details
      • Identify sources of funding within your Monthly Meeting to help support Friends who are expressing an interest in attending the conference.
      • Friends may need financial help in the form of scholarships. Donations to assist Friends with the cost of attendance can be made to the Yearly Meeting. Please write checks to NYYM and write WPC in the memo line.

Friends, please listen to how spirit is moving among us. How are we hearing the call from communities of color to show up for racial justice? One way we can do this is to gather together in a critical mass in Philadelphia in April. As you spread the word about the White Privilege Conference, please know that the gathering is a joyful one. It is not an atmosphere of blame and shame but a coming together to celebrate the work that we all do to fight inequality. Thank you for all that you do and for your support of the conference.


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