Category Archives: Racism

Invitation to Prophetic Imagination: Community Safety for All

Today Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Faith is launching a campaign inviting people of faith to analyze their relationship to policing. As we have seen made more visible through the work of Black Lives Matter, policing structures have a radically different relationship to people of color than to white people and white communities. We have seen that black and brown bodies people face much greater risk of being targeted by police violence and injustice in arrests, detainment, in court proceedings, and in sentencing.

Communities of faith can be complicit in upholding white supremacy in policing but they can also be leaders in creating alternatives to policing, in order to help keep our communities safer.

In this campaign, we are asking questions like:

How do faith/spiritual communities legitimize and reinforce the “need” for policing?

How are faith/spiritual  institutions tied to institutions of policing?

How can faith communities act to disrupt the prison, detention, and deportation pipelines?

What might alternatives to policing look like?

What might community safety look like without relying on policing, and how might faith/spiritual communities participate in that work?

While SURJ Faith is oriented to multi-faith work, the early phase of this campaign will be focused on helping Christian communities identity the connections between Christian supremacy and white supremacy. As we move into the Lenten season this winter, we will use this season to analyze and reflect on our personal and collective relationship to white supremacy. How is white supremacy internalized in our being? How is white supremacy expressed in our liturgies, our rituals, and interpretation of scripture. What would it look like to “give up white supremacy for Lent,” as individuals? As congregations and communities?

I am particularly drawn to this campaign as a contemplative Christian and anti-racist because I know I need to continue to do the work of pulling the poison of white supremacy out of my being. I have also seen how my religion has been used to justify white supremacy historically, and this history troubles me deeply. I believe white supremacy is alive and well in our denominations and that they manifest in ways that further marginalize people of color and put them at great risk. I hope you will join me in urging your faith community to join this campaign. Contact me to learn how you can engage in this work and I will loop you in!

ICE Cold: Posting a bond at ICE

I have been volunteering and getting trained in sanctuary organizing this past year.  One day a couple weeks ago a message came through the network talking about posting bond for a Hendersonville man who had been detained since an ICE traffic stop last summer. His family had finally raised the $8500 in cash. I offered to help since I was already in Charlotte. The money was deposited into my account. I went to the bank and got a certified check and drive to the DHS offices in Charlotte. I was seen immediately and was able to get my request in to the ICE detention center in Lumpkin. Then I waited for nearly three hours for the request to come back as approved and then to actually post the bond. I was treated respectfully and walked through the process professionally.

During my wait, I observed a woman who was visibly distraught come into the office and go to the window where she was tearfully looking for her husband. She was told that he was here illegally and that he was being detained and deported. She was in visible emotional distress my heart went out to her. Two female DHS officers were called and they escorted her into the waiting room. They asserted that her husband is here illegally and that his case lies with the judge, that being at DHS was a waste of her time. They were unkind and insensitive to the woman was in the midst of a traumatic and life changing event. They kicked the woman out of the building and then came back to the hallway adjacent to the waiting room. We could hear everything they said. I am sad to report that they made fun of the woman. Not only was there no empathy, they expressed great distain for the woman and her experience.

If we are not training DHS officers in handling emotional trauma with therapeutic skills like unconditional positive regard, we are de-humanizing the officers as well as the people they are supposed to serve. I have a friend and co-trainer who is a therapist by training and an activist. When we work together doing racial equity training, she often shares the concept of “unconditional positive regard,” with our students. She shares that she is holding unconditional positive regard for everyone in the room and invites the students to do the same. I have always found that when she does this, the room relaxes a bit and trust is built, which is vital to the work of racial equity training.

The Wikipedia page on Unconditional Positive Regard states that:

“Unconditional positive regard, (UPR) is a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers in 1959, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does, especially in the context of client centered therapy. The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within him or her self vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behavior—and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.”

Why aren’t our police forces trained in trauma and healing? At the very least, could they try to see the good in people?

Meet the New (Black, Female) Democratic Mayoral Candidate for Charlotte, NC!

This fall I have had the pleasure of volunteering on Vi’s campaign and watching this political star rise! Vi Lyles just won the primary, unseating the current mayor of Charlotte, Jennifer Roberts, as the Democratic candidate for mayor in the general election in November. Vi would be the first black female mayor in the city of Charlotte, NC.

Charlotte is facing a lot of challenges:

-A city council that has failed to maintain anti-discrimination laws for transgendered people in the face of NC State Legislature’s HB2. 

-A police force that has a steady track record of shooting unarmed people of color which resulted in Charlotte Uprising one year ago.

-People who work in Charlotte very often cannot afford to live in Charlotte.

-Charlotte has had major redistricting and redlining issues that have created poor and under-serviced areas of primarily black communities of Charlotte in the name of “urban renewal.” This has been such an issue there is a current effort to create a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to look at systemic racism in Charlotte.

I believe Vi Lyles, former assistant city manager and current mayor pro team can tackle these and a host of other challenges face.

Here is Vi’s 7 point plan from Vi

Charlotte is a tale of two cities where the opportunities and tremendous growth we’ve seen have not benefitted all. Unfortunately, in many instances, a heavy burden is placed on our most vulnerable residents. We need to do better for a more equitable, just, and fair Queen City. If we truly value all of our people then we must provide opportunities for all Charlotteans to fully participate and flourish here.

I am committed to advancing the following seven proposals, more an Equitable Charlotte:

  1. Build upon a culture of trust, respect, and cooperation between CMPD and Charlotte citizens by creating community advisory groups within each Police response area.
  2. Examine the structure and procedures of the current Citizens Review Board with community members to ensure its purpose and results are building community trust. The analysis should focus on increased visibility of how citizens can become members of the board as well as complaints and board findings. The board must also better reflect the Charlotte citizenry.
  3. Explore requiring contractors that seek to do business with the City of Charlotte “Ban the Box” on employment applications.
  4. Establish a program to promote the hiring of low-income residents in projects funded with public dollars.
  5. Adopt a meaningful apprenticeship program that focuses on training and development for people with multiple barriers to employment, with a focus on a diversion program for adjudicated youth.
  6. Accelerate the Council goal to provide 5,000 units of affordable housing from five years to three years.
  7. Continue the policy to progressively increase the minimum wage for City employees to $15 an hour.

How White People Need to Talk to White People About Race (and Why)

11295935_10152781809716363_8945463482166101151_n-2Last night we had a live stream conversation on YouTube about “How White People Need to Talk to White People About Race.” Over 400 people RSVP’d on the Facebook event, which is a much larger audience than we have ever reached in our monthly Open Conversations.  During the video we had over 250 views, social media engagement was really strong and it has been shared and viewed widely.  This makes me think that white people are really struggling to talk about race.  I invite you to scroll down and watch the video below and share what you think in the comment section below. 

This is how we billed the event.

Transform Network Open Conversation on white (identifying) people talking to other white people about race and racial justice. Have you as a white person. . . .
+ Felt unsure, insensitive, confused and scared during conversations about race?

+ Felt like, “Hey, I’m not racist!” Why do I get lumped in with “all white people?”

+ Want to talk about race, racial justice, ask questions and even get involved in bringing about change but have no clue what that really means or how to start?

+ Feel passionate about racial justice but get frustrated talking to other white people about it?

As a person of color. . . . .
+Get frustrated being the “racial counselor” to white friends, colleagues or church?

+Want to have more productive interactions in mixed race groups when discussing racial justice?

Transform Network has always been focused on taking on big growing edge issues faced by church and creating a safe place for people to express doubts and practice generative community. We are one of the only progressive church networks actively engaging in training around anti-oppression and intersectionality.

As Christians, we believe racial justice is just one aspect of God’s vision of shalom for the world – that people of all races, ethnicities and people groups are recognized, valued and seen as equally precious parts of the Divine’s beloved creation.

Panelists include:

Dara Silverman – consultant, coach, organizer and trainer who has been building movements for economic, racial, gender and social justice for over 20 years. Dara is the National Coordinator for SURJ: Showing Up for Racial Justice, a network of 55+ groups across the US moving white people into action for racial justice. Dara was the Executive Director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) in New York City from 2003-2009. Dara is a certified Somatic Coach through the Strozzi Institute. She supports leaders to be in the movement for the long haul.

Holly Roach – a contemplavist with her activist roots in numerous social justice movements including the struggles for Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Big Mountain, AZ and the Global Justice movement. Holly has a bachelors degree in art and social change and graduating from the inaugural class of Richard Rohr’s Living School for Action and Contemplation this fall. She is an organizer for the Faith-Rooted Organziing Un-Network and mentored by Rev. Alexia Salvaterra. Holly is president of the board of Transform Network and producer of the it’s annual national gathering. Holly is a practicing writer and contemplative and “mother-of-dogs” to over 200 pounds of dogs.

Jake Dockter – one of the editors behind Theology of Ferguson, an activist in Portland, and dreamer. He was worked in the nonprofit and creative space for years, helping launch and consult brands and projects. He edited a book, American Dreamers (published by Wieden+Kennedy: Sharp Stuff), and was a columnist for Relevant Magazine’s social justice column, The Revolution. He is a dad and husband, loving every minute of family time.

Chris Crass -writes and speaks widely on anti-racist organizing, feminism for men, strategies to build visionary movements, and creating healthy culture and leadership for progressive activism. His book Towards Collective Liberation: anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and movement building strategy draws lessons from his organizing over the past 26 years with groups such as Catalyst Project, Heads Up Collective, and SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice). Rooted in his Unitarian Universalist faith he works with congregations, divinity schools, and religious leaders to build up the spiritual Left. He lives in Nashville, TN with his partner and their son. You can learn more about his work at

Hosted by Micky ScottBey Jones, Director of Training & Development of Transform Network

Race, Class & Power @ TransFORM

Steve Knight and I taught together for the first time at TransFORM last year in Fort Worth. The workshop was called Challenging White Supremacy. We’re doing it again this year with a few tweaks. We want to make anti-oppression training for white folks in the emergent church really accessible.

We want this to happen so that we can be ready to encounter other movements for change and be ready to work with them in a movement of movements for personal and social transformation.

In order to do this white people need to understand privilege. This workshop will be a safe place to ask questions, express doubts, and be as vulnerable or guarded as you need in facing personal privilege and systemic oppression. If you haven’t gotten down with your social location, this is the one for you.

There are at least two other workshops dealing with race, class and power, at TransFORM.

Marie Onwubuariri is leading a conversation about racial/ethnic self (RES) Awareness as spiritual discipline for missional leadership.   This talk is most suited to people already engaged in an awareness of their social location and focuses on how we engage that awareness for spiritual and social transformation.



Elsie DennisKathryn Eckert and Elsie Dennis are going to present an Episopalian view of the doctrine of discovery. The presenters will share their experiences of the Episcopal Church’s process of responding to genocide, white privilege, and cultural/historical ignorance through historical education, spiritual formation, worship, and community development.


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