Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Becoming The Neighbor

What is it that makes a few city blocks feel like a neighborhood? Of course, the schools, churches and businesses matter. But underneath those infrastructures, within those buildings, living and working and laughing and arguing, are the people. People who have gifts and needs and hopes and fears and dreams alongside other people with all of those things going on as well. People who have stories to share. 

I’ve always seen storytelling as the most distinct element of being a person. When you think about it, it’s kind of a defining aspect of humanity. Other creatures communicate, and certainly some exhibit shades of empathy, but not in the unique way we do as people.

From the intersections of Van Dyke and Mack, the overlapping of the Pingree Park, Islandview, and Village neighborhoods in Detroit’s 48214, Edythe Ford shared an idea with me. “We need a community newspaper. Not just an informational newsletter, but a new newspaper that’s all about this community and our many, many voices.”

Great. How do you create a newspaper? I had no idea.  Especially one that would be more about collaborative storytelling than investigative journalism.  Maybe it should start with working on becoming a good neighbor?

I grew up at the intersection of 13 Mile and Southfield. I was blessed to have parents who did not heed some of our neighbor’s dire “concerns” back in the 80s and 90s ("how can you take your kids to Detroit, you’re just going to get them shot!” More like threats than warnings…..)

I’d often tell my suburban friends about my love for Xochimilco’s back in the day, and they’d usually just scratch their heads. Even so, my knowledge of the city was certainly limited to Southwest, the old Tiger Stadium, some parts of Midtown, and Trapper’s Alley. Before moving to this Eastside neighborhood two years ago, I’d never seen it. The closest I came was Great Aunt Dorothy’s funeral at Mt. Elliott Cemetery, but that’s a far cry from the vibrancy of Pingree Park.

As part of my fellowship with Challenge Detroit, we were asked to partner with a local non-profit for our final project. Edythe’s idea was compelling, so we met up and got to work. Early in the research, I met with Adam Selzer at Civilla, as they had printed a really attractive paper. “Anyone can make a newspaper, there's really no magic to that. But asking and answering 'who is our audience and what do they care about,’ is how to build a readership.” With so many different people in the 48214, this proves to be no easy task. Not only that, some might say printed media is a dying art. But then again, vinyl records are back in action, so maybe what goes around truly comes around?

Years ago, when my family was driving along Mt. Elliott to bury Aunt Dorothy, one extended family member kept making disparaging comments about Detroiters. “See, this is why you shouldn’t give nice things to black people. Look at how they’ve ruined these beautiful old homes.” The teenager version of me was angry with him, but I didn’t have the courage to fight back. What I wanted to do instead, even then, was get out of the car and go meet the families living in those homes and hear their stories.

I’m certain I would’ve heard something similar to what my current neighbors are teaching me: they’ve applied for loans to fix the caving-in roof but the bank tells them the repairs are more expensive than the house is worth. Once so many auto industry jobs left, steady income was much harder to come by. So a vastly disproportionate amount of wealth was circulating out in the suburbs, the place where I grew up, where we were able to fix our roof when the time came without too much trouble.

With that memory, I decided to start my explorations, or neighboring, along Mack Avenue. Edythe had already started polling residents about their overall interest in a paper, what types of content they might read, and what issues mattered to them. So I focused on businesses, wanting to first reach out to resilient owners who’ve been here for years, even decades. Sure, there are exciting new storefronts popping up in The Villages and along Jefferson, and we certainly want to celebrate and make space for that as well, but first and foremost, start with the people who’ve been holding this part of Detroit together all these years.

I met Joe at Bewick Market, Ruby at Jay’s Flower Shop, got to sit down and really chat with Darius at EJ’s Social Club. Eric Hood Jr. shared a bit about the story of Hood’s Tires, and Eric Hood Sr. began to fill me in about the interconnected ecosystem of business owners along Mack. Louis Nafso, owner of Motor City Market Place at the Eastern edge of our zip code, generously shared his perspectives on the need for more focus on residency around his block.  

And these are just a few of the stories I got to hear on two summer afternoons. Imagine what else we might all learn together.

Our hope is to create a newspaper filled with compelling narratives from our diverse Detroit community. We certainly want to focus on the positive stories, but we also want to not shy away from the friction. Alongside being a writer, I am also co-founder of The Table Setters, a small non-profit dedicated to creating vulnerable and brave intersections between groups of people that, because of how zoning and residential laws of the past have sequestered us into homogenous groupings, never cross paths. I’ve learned that authentic diversity is actually really, really hard. Tolerance is easier, but we all know tolerance goes out the window when conflict hits. That script is well-worn. Like when an accident on your street brings everyone out, and then because everyone is out, old wounds resurface and fights break out and suddenly you have three options: take a side, try to be a peacemaker, or remain indoors and not get involved.

Diversity is indeed hard work. But I think striving towards equitable diversity is the only way forward. It’s one thing to come to the table, it’s quite another thing to come back to the table, again and again, with hope that doing so will truly build up a stronger community.

In that spirit, The Neighborhopes to make space to explore tough questions:

As Detroit is changing, is it for all of us, the newcomers and the long-term residents? And if it’s unbalanced, how can we redirect in mutually beneficial ways?

Knowing that the suburbs were intentionally designed with legalized segregation, what will it take to make a more integrated city? Could we do it here? Places like The Commons give me glimpses of hope.

What might it feel like if we strove to become color-brave instead of color-blind?

How do we celebrate the successes of schools, churches, and businesses and help to share the wealth in our community?

How might we hold each other accountable to actively listening to each others’ perspectives? And, as a European American who gets to be called “white,” how can I do a better job of trusting the ideas of my neighbors with more melanin and many more drops of sweat, tears, and even blood, in this place called Detroit?

How do we work together to find a good balance between all of our needs to feel safe, both physically and socially, with our hopes to not diminish the full humanity of people who are different from ourselves on the grounds of race, class, gender, age, cultural, economic backgrounds?

How do we become better and better neighbors to one another?

I pray this paper may become a bridge building space. I look forward to hearing and reading your stories soon, to learning how to be the best neighbor I can be.

See you around.

(this blogpost is also a draft of an article for an upcoming issue of the new community newspaper)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

544 Days....

544 days of learning just how far wealthy white male privilege stretches. Piles of shocking moments, new depths of indecency, seemingly endless passes granted. The ability to be purposefully underprepared, purposefully obtuse and contradictory, unashamedly self-serving, unapologetically dishonest, and even outright threatening: these allowances are not granted to everyone.  Not even every "leader of the free world," whatever that is supposed to mean....

We've seen that massive human power, left unchecked and without accountability, leads towards monstrosity. I write against the spectre of whiteousness, which is the assumption that everything "white" is the most "natural," "best," the most "human." When that fallacy is joined with great money and power, it has historically proven to be destructive. Yes, for all people who are not white, wealthy, and male, but I believe it hurts every single one of us. I am recovering, still, always, from how this assumption has marked my life, both with blessings that I am learning to not take for granted, but also with an expectation, both overtly and deeply hidden in the fabric of our social systems, to keep this as the status quo. It comes out in ugly ways in my arguments with the woman who married me, with my expectations about "how something is supposed to go," with some of my deepest struggles. Please continue to hold me accountable.

#DismantlingWhiteousness is about finding more authentic and deeply formed love by looking outside that status quo. It's about recognizing that diversity was part of the plan, part of God's endgame, and what ultimately brings more strength, resiliency, and beauty in our day to day living. 


Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Fire Hazards of Diversity

Here's the truth: diversity is hard.  

Do we let our child cry herself to sleep or comfort her because she's expressing irrational fear over the sounds of the radiator?  This is a question that two different parents, that would be Darcie and I, come at from two different angles.

Our last play at Teen HYPE, focusing on the deep challenges caused by the over-incarceration of parents in Detroit, sparked a range of conversation and dialogues.  So for next year's production, do we go deeper into the school-to-prison pipeline?  What about school shootings and gun violence?  Or should we turn away from the "confronting barriers" of our mission statement and focus on "celebrating youth?"  These are real questions that our staff is wrestling with today, but beyond that, what do the young people have to say about all of it?  Literally, hundreds of ideas are bouncing around right now.

At Challenge Detroit, my team is currently working on imagining how the Detroit Historical Museum can harness the successes of the nationally recognized Detroit67 exhibit and related events (detailing many perspectives on the uprising in Detroit during the summer of 1967), and move forward with new themes and structures that invest teenagers and young adults for the long haul.  If Mayor Mike Duggan truly wants Detroit's youth to "stay in Detroit," what kinds of investments and plans do we have to engage their interests, ambitions, hopes and dreams?   

As much as I celebrate the active pursuit of expanding diversity, I recognize how tempting it is to want to just work alone, or seek out people who think exactly like I do.


In the early days of The Table Setters, Marvin and I were working on a presentation for DOOR Los Angeles about racial reconciliation.  We knew that we agreed that using the text commonly known as The Good Samaritan (though Jesus never uses the word "good"), was the right foundation.  We wanted to underline that sometimes the best idea, the most compassionate solution, comes from the person you might be inclined to look down upon, the person you might see as the enemy, or in the case of DOOR, the person you came to "serve" in your mission work.  But where to go from there? Marvin gave me a few weeks to put together the flow of a presentation that we would review together, while he was sourcing video content and other material.

I started.  Then I scratched my head.  A lot.  Was I going to focus on reparations?  Was I going to focus on the loophole in the 13th Amendment that repackaged slavery into the modern prison industrial complex?  Was I going to keep the conversation centered around black and white issues, or should I weave in dynamics of injustices done upon Native, Latinx, Asian, and Arab-American peoples as well?  If I do so, will it just water everything down into the basic "tolerance training 101" that we had both grown so tired of? 

But on a deeper level, I wanted to have something to show Marvin that I had truly been listening to the issues he was most concerned about.  In short, I wanted to present him something perfect.

Marvin asked me to show him what I was working on.  I hemmed and hawed, uh, gimme another day or two.

On the morning of the third day past my deadline, he texted, "CALL ME."  I was walking along Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles to catch the bus into Hollywood.  

I called him.  He asked me if it was ready, and I stalled with rifling through some of the questions I wrote above.  He interrupted and a huge argument erupted.  I'll spare your eyes the curse words.

"Why are you trying to shut me out of this plan?!  Why won't you show me pieces of what you're working on?!"

"You can see it, but you said you wanted me to have a full draft ready!!"

"Oh, I'm about to call you the white devil!  Just like always, white people take the story from people of color and shape it how they think it should be."

"You kinda just did call me the white devil!"

By this time, we are yelling near the top of our voices. I've just watched the bus roll by and I've stepped into an alleyway.  I failed to notice a man, I presume living homelessly, sitting on some crates alongside the building.  He gets up, taps me on the shoulder, and scoffs, "man, keep it down, some of us are trying to rest in this alley!"  My face was hot with a new embarrassment amidst my anger.  

"I'm sorry, I'm really sorry."

Marvin thinks I'm talking to him, "I don't need your apologies anymore, I'm sick of this waiting on you, I'm ready to just be done...."

I interject, "No, I was saying sorry to the homeless man I just woke up from our yelling."

Pause.  One or two beats.  And then, Marvin just busts out laughing.  So hard I think he might be crying.  But it's clearly laughter.  And it's contagious, starting to catch a fire inside me as well.  Both of us gasping and trying to come up for air, he's joyfully working to convey that he's standing on his porch in Burbank in his boxer shorts, yelling his head off at this white guy on the phone, and his neighbors must think he'd lost his mind.  It's a pretty epic scene.  A story we love to tell.

Then Marvin starts to reflect on how this is just what makes it hard: one person trying to get it perfect to impress another person, meanwhile shutting that other person out of the decision making process, even unintentionally.  It threatened to upend our entire project.  We decided to meet up at a coffeeshop and just hash it out.  We decided instead of calling it quits, we bring everything we'd gathered up to then.  We decided to come back to the table.  I'm thankful for that man who interrupted our argument, I looked for him later, but I think he actually caught the bus I was supposed to be on.

Diversity initiatives are indeed a good thing, but so many stop short of actually considering the challenge that will come when diverse ideas collide.  Ideas that come from our experiences of being diverse in genders, religious beliefs, countries of origin, and how society has treated us based on our skin color and other things we have absolutely no control over.  Who gets the final say?  Who gets the veto power?  Marvin and I realized how critical it was that our own workflow was a microcosm of the challenges every organization faces when they claim to honor diversity.

So: our honest solution was that we just have to keep showing up and doing our best.  Listen, reconsider, and come to the best conclusions we can make when everyone feels like their contribution has been respected.  The perfectionist in me has to constantly learn there is so much work, so many bad and unjust habits to dismantle, and so many true opportunities for incremental healing embedded in the process alone.  Which means that sometimes, the process employed might be more important than the end product.

I bring this forward with me in today's work.


I've come to see Challenge Detroit as a place where we whittle big questions down to, hopefully usable "idea kindling."  Some of us bring our talents to focus on the small but very necessary twigs, while others contribute larger sticks as structural support.  As we only have six full working days with each project, this is what we can realistically provide.  We invite the partner to light the match and hope that our concoction of ideas, generated by a diverse bunch of individuals, actually catches some fire.  Of course, the partner will have to supply the logs for sustainability.

Our aim is to present something balanced and effective, that can be stoked to generate more and more warmth and energy.  But if anything is out of balance, the fire might not start, or the fire might explode into something destructive that threatens future processes.  1967 didn't just happen.  That bonfire was building for decades and decades and might have been prevented if the major change agents in the city actually took time to value the input of each member of the city, not just their highest paying customers and constituents....

So how can we honor everyone's ideas and still produce really good results?  How can Detroit move forward in a sustainable way for everyone who calls this city home, for everyone at this table?  There is so much energy, so many sparks flying right now, that I'm thankful that the Detroit Historical Society is working on how to come together in new and sustainable ways to prevent the fiery summer of 1967 from happening again.  

I believe change might have to happen slower than many people like to consider, but I also think that there can be healing in the process if we commit to staying at these tables and making sure we value the thoughts and perspectives of each person sitting next to us.  

It will not be easy, but I believe it will be worth it.  If we commit to keep coming back together.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent 2018 Final Week

It's been a challenge and an honor that Andre Henry asked a bunch of white Christians to educate other white people about the specter of systemic racism for Lent.  You can see the entire project here: Repenting Of Racism For Lent.  Our final post is below, in the form of a conversation between collaborators Luke, Maddie, and myself:

And I'll close with this: on Good Friday, Darcie and I took our daughters to the Prison Creative Arts Project's Annual Exhibit of Art by Michigan Prisoners. PCAP's mission is to bring those impacted by the justice system and the University of Michigan Community into artistic collaboration for mutual learning and growth.  This was a foundational program in my life, and it's something I look forward to every year.

Reflect on Jesus’ habit of spending time with the unheard and unvalued, the marginalized. I confess that one of my strongest lessons on who Jesus is came from a lifer named Levi many years ago, who I wrote about in the launch post of this very blog, and many times since....

I invite you to listen with your eyes and your heart.

Just Human (A Portrait Study), by Payaso  
I Need to Breath, by Sara Ylen 
Prisoner On a Field of Flowers, by Oliger Merko

Better Times Self Portrait 1980, by Cory Hill 

Imaginary Celo, by Oliger Merko

Mindtricks, by Sludge

One Of A Kind, by Susan Brown

Time to Bloom, by Susan Brown 

Painting His Way Home, by Martin Vargas

Erasures, by Yusef Quavo

Stigma, by Nicole Kipfmiller

Prison Life, by Oil City Choppers

A Life Tougher Than Normal, by JAE

My Entire Prison Closet, by Jillybean

Will You Stop For This, by Spyder

Father and Daughter Time, by Curtis Chase

Face of a Nation, by Tran 

The Bridge of Peace, by Free Ray Gray

Boxer’s Dreams Deferred, by Hoodybraids

God’s Love, by Jason Stafford

The Artistic Drive Personified, by Bryan Picken

Sarayu, by Sara Ylen

Harlem, by Tommy Curtis Owens

Monday, March 26, 2018

Challenge Detroit: Interview with Matthew Schmitt

Tell us about one of your favorite neighborhoods in Detroit and what makes it unique?

In 2016, we packed up our life and moved back to Detroit from Los Angeles. Darcie and I had been feeling increasingly called to move back, so we took a leap of faith with our two daughters. I had grown up in the suburbs, at 13 Mile and Southfield, and had always loved spending time in the city, mostly downtown and Southwest. Knowing that one of our deepest longings was to live in closer context with neighbors, and that our girls would be raised in a diverse community, both socio-economically and racially, friend after friend kept pointing us towards the 48214 zip code and the Mack Avenue Church community. For about 8 months, we rented an apartment in Pingree Park and worked jobs with Lyft, The New Teacher Project, and Citizen Detroit. And then in May of 2017, we were able to buy a home for our family of four, just a block away. We have been blown away by the kindness and intentionality of our neighbors, both from within and outside of the church. Sitting on our porch swing, walking to the park, clearing out overgrowth in alleys, and even having to get up early to shovel snow has provided a tapestry of invaluable moments connecting to families and people who’ve lived here for decades. MACC Development, the CDC of our church, has just opened The Commons, the first laundromat/coffeeshop/tutoring/community gathering space at the corner of Van Dyke and Mack. It’s only been open for two weeks, but already I’ve caught conversations about the pros and cons of charter and public schools; a hearty Kendrick vs. Tupac debate; and a sustained celebration of the new Black Panther movie. All over the low buzz of laundry and espresso machines doin’ their thing.

Tell us about the challenge project you’re currently working on, what are you learning from the experience?

Currently, my team and I are working with the Detroit Land Bank Authority to help them streamline the process of selling vacant lots to community partners and non-profits. We have interviewed about a dozen representatives from churches and service agencies looking to buy adjacent land for community gardens, outdoor performance spaces, and other projects they hope will bless their neighborhoods. The process of buying any property can be daunting and intimidating, but the mission of the DLBA is to see lots purchased and re-activated by Detroiters as soon as possible. I’ve learned that there is some confusion between the function of the DLBA and that of the Wayne County Treasurer, the entity involved in foreclosing and auctioning homes, too often starting a process that evicts people from homes they’ve lived in most of their lives. It is also clear to me, that if not done with ample care for these long-term residents who have challenging financial situations, the Land Bank’s urgent mission to deplete their property holdings as soon as possible will tip the balance of ownership towards those with the most ability to pay quickly. Thus, the Land Bank must proceed thoughtfully and attentively if they are to ensure that Detroit remains a city that is truly for everyone, and not just people like myself who had the means to move back from Los Angeles and purchase a home.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.

At my host company Teen HYPE, I serve as the Manager of Mission Advancement. Teen HYPE’s mission is to Celebrate Youth, Confront Barriers, and Build Bridges, and they do this in a variety of ways. Each year, the organization produces a stage production that shines light on a particular aspect of being a teenager growing up in the Detroit of today, so the play is written in large part by the students themselves. This year, our topic is the negative impact of long prison sentence on the families of the incarcerated, particular the kids. With my experience having served at the Prison Creative Arts Project  at the University of Michigan, I was brought on board to help develop the curriculum and plan some events. We had learned that about 90% of the teens that make up the leadership of Teen HYPE are experiencing a parent or close family member either in prison or currently on parole. Where I grew up, just north of 8 Mile, this is definitely not the reality. So, we watched Ava DuVerney’s documentary The 13th, exposing the massive expansion of private, for-profit prisons in our country, and the troubling reality that slavery might be operating under a different disguise. We pondered the ideas of over-incarceration and over-policing of some communities. Ultimately, we asked: what are the emotional, social, and economic impacts on the kids who have to live in the reality of having a caretaker taken away? We invited students and people who are currently incarcerated to submit artwork for a gallery and community conversation, and this ultimately led to our stage production called Mis-Taken?, performed 5 times in early March of 2018 to roughly 4,000 student and community members. The response was overwhelmingly positive. 

What kind of impact do you hope to have with your host company and within the city?

Teen HYPE is doing critical work. I hope that while I’m here I can do my part to get the story out to both Detroit as well as the suburbs. I know full well how suburban folks often misunderstand my neighbors in the city, how that trickles down to expecting the worst from our local teenagers. These misunderstandings lead to ill-informed assumptions and continued disconnect, and this nudges people into making both political and everyday choices that continue to damage communities outside of downtown. I am living a very different reality, seeing every day how resilient and brilliant our teenagers are, how they have hopes and dreams and ideas that could truly move Detroit towards becoming the kind of city that sets an example for the rest of the country. I will continue to build bridges towards new perspectives and possibilities.

What are you most looking forward to during springtime in Detroit?

This will be the first spring in our new home in Pingree Park, so I’m excited to start planting vegetables in our backyard garden, to finish fixing our porches, and to start having neighbors and friends over. I am also looking forward to cheaper gas bills, as it’s been a really long and cold winter!

How do you believe your fellowship will shape your career moving forward?

Challenge Detroit has provided me with a range of Detroit perspectives on business, politics, development and community activism. Just over half way through this fellowship, I am grateful for the stories and lessons I’m learning. I will continue to work on The Table Setters, the non-profit that Marvin Wadlow Jr. and I officially launched in 2016 to produce improved relationships across humanly created racial, socio-economic, political, and religious lines. We combine launch events in churches, schools, businesses, and civic institutions with customized plans for ongoing cultural accountability. We’ve seen that diversity training days are never enough, but that ongoing relationships that nurture connections and share brokenness, hopes and dreams, can be mutually healing and productive. Challenge Detroit has revealed to me, time and time again, how very true and critically urgent this is, what with the rancorous divisions in our city and country. I also sense that I will reconsider my call to ordained ministry, as this Fellowship has required me to take a significant break from my coursework at Fuller Seminary. I sense a growing call to community development, to continue learning how to really listen to people, story by story, and discern how to rebuild, or many times, build for the first time, trust between neighbors and neighborhoods in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.

Friday, March 16, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Week 4: Community & Beloved Community

What is community?  How does it come into being?  Do people always, "naturally," group together with their own "kind?"  Or, do we discover that systems have been in place for a long time to keep certain people separate from the ones who are most preferred?

This week, I got to create the content for our Repenting Of Racism page, and I was excited to draw heavily upon my new life in the community of Detroit.

How has your sense of the word “community” been limited to the neighborhood you’ve been living in? 

Do you find yourself living in a community that some might view as “over-advantaged?”

How have you mis-understood other communities?

What is God showing you about His definition of community?

Part of truly learning how to understand a community other than our own involves, first, removing the blockages and misconceptions many of us have been raised to maintain.  One might argue that this is close to the heart of the Samaritan parables of Jesus, casting the hated outsider as the hero in several passages. 

For today’s #HabitOfJustice, watch this video by Imaeyen Ibanga​ on the community-based work of The Black Panthers.   What surprises you as you watch?  Does it rub against understandings you have trusted for decades about black activists? 

Part 2, and if you have time to dig deeper: I, Matthew​, personally invite you to watch this recent video made here in Detroit last December by Building the Engine of Community Development in Detroit​ (BECCD) about a diverse community bringing many stakeholders together to think deeply about change in our city:

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and I was told by many of my childhood neighbors that black Detroiters were dangerous and ready to hurt me.  Living here, I have certainly found that to be false, and beyond that, incredibly sad.  This video shows a glimpse of the many ways a diverse community can truly commit to work together, despite disagreements and difference of backgrounds.  

Based on narratives you may have heard about #Detroit, as the largest city to file for bankruptcy, how does this sit with you? -Matthew

For more on Repenting of Racism for Lent, click here.

#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Week 2: Communication

This week, we focus on communication, how white people tend to "other-ize" people they deem as not white, or not "normal."  A friend sent me this Key & Peele video, imagining a black teacher in a mostly white classroom, mispronouncing all the students' names.  I definitely remember hearing painful stories of my African-American and Vietnamese-American students in New Orleans' reporting to me that various white substitute teachers had butchered names like Geraldnisha, Deshondalisa, Troychelle, and many others, and even would say insulting things like, "why couldn't your parents have just given you normal names??"  This was certainly made to honor that struggle.

How do I, how do you, treat people that do not pass as white like they are "other," like they are "not normal?"

And, continuing on with our repenting of racism work for Lent, here were this weeks' posts:

#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

All I Know, All I Know, Love Will Save the Day

I confess, a little bit of a stretch during #RepentingOfRacism while giving up "white" entertainment, we allowed it because the main character is black and incredible, (Jahi Diallo Winston is a glorious young actor, though the writers and producers are, indeed, all white...)... but we checked out Everything Sucks on Netflix. It's 90s high school nostalgia for the two of us, complete with one character's die-hard love for Tori Amos.   Yes, completely set in a mostly white suburban high school, which is, yes, similar to the high schools Darcie and I attended. scene has Jahi re-enacting 90s music videos, and he referenced this one. I had forgotten all about this song, and Yvette and Josh know how much this fit right into the lessons I re-learned this week:

All I know, all I know is love will save the day.  Thank you Des'Ree.

Friday, February 23, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Week 1: Entertainment and Representation

This week, we focus on entertainment, and representation, and why it matters.  We ask how and what we choose to spend our "fun" money on, for those of us who have that in our budgets...

If you think this is trivial, or that we should be "beyond" it, consider how much entertainment you watch, listen to, consume, stream, and consider how that shapes your understanding of the world: both yourself and how you view "others."

Why do you think the way you do? How have you come to think that way? If you tend to live in mostly or all white areas, work in mostly or all white companies, how else do you form your concepts of other cultures?

And thank you Rissa Long for sharing this with me, too:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent, Day 4

The #HabitofJustice on this #DialogueDay is to engage in at least 15 minutes of discussion with another white person regarding what you've learned about yourself this week. What is one behavior or attitude which you are committed to change? Pay close attention to your own implicit biases, especially ones that frame people of color in negative ways, and how a system that favors white people over everyone else has made your life more comfortable. 

Here I am discussing week 1 with Lauren Grubaugh

For more on Repenting of Racism for Lent, click here.


#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Day 2

For today’s #HabitofJustice, we invite you to find a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths, and watch this video: Author Jen Hatmaker On Raising Black Kids In America: 'This Is On Us ...

Having watched Jen’s story, we invite you to enter into prayer, noticing:

- What moment was most life-giving or hopeful for you? Speak to God about this moment of consolation. Listen to how God might be seeking your attention. What might God be inviting you to be, do or change?

- What moment did you find most upsetting or concerning? Speak to God about this moment of desolation. Listen to how God might be seeking your attention. What might God be inviting you to be, do or change?

Write these reflections down to carry with you into the rest of the 40 days.

For more on Repenting of Racism for Lent, click here.

#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent:Day 1

A Daily Prayer to Practice Anti-racism at Lent

God our Creator,
We affirm that You have made all people in Your image,
Instilling us with dignity,
Calling us good.
You created us in a beautiful array of colors,
Each one, fearfully and wonderfully made.

God, in overt and subtle ways, we have been taught a lie:
The lie of white supremacy.
The lie that white lives matter more than other lives.
This lie denies Your image In our non-white brothers and sisters.
We confess of consciously and unconsciously falling prey to this lie.

Eternal God, we confess the sins of our ancestors,
Ancestors who built systems to enrich and empower themselves
On the backs of millions of people of color.
They carried out genocide against indigenous peoples.
They enslaved Africans.
They used and abused immigrants.
The list of injustices goes ever on....

God, we confess to actively and passively maintaining a system that sins.
It denies healthcare to the needy,
Incarcerates at a profit,
Unjustly shoots precious lives...
When any of Your children suffer, our souls suffer too.

We confess that we fear the cost of following You, O God:
If we stand up for justice,
Our reputation may suffer.
If we stop ignoring cries of injustice,
We will lose the illusion of innocence.
Ending our sin of ‘no action’ means we have to get to work.
To ‘take up our cross’ is painful.

And so, God of Justice, we come to You.
Reveal to us our blind spots.
Surface our unconscious preferences.
Give us the courage to withstand honest self-examination.
Give us the strength to fight for change that relieves suffering and provides fairness.
Give us Your vision of the community You designed us to become.

This Lent, God of Mercy and Hope,
convict our hearts, stir our spirits, transform our minds.
May this transformation create a ripple that lasts beyond this season.
May it extend beyond our personal lives and into our communities.
May we be agents of Your liberating work in the world.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Friends of European Descent with skin the same color as mine: Andre Henry wondered, amidst his Facebook community, if white people might take on the task of educating other white folks about undoing systemic and overt racism: why it matters that we do this, what kinds of attitudes to work on adopting, and tangible steps that can be taken. For the next 40 days, several colleagues from seminary and I will be devoting time to this challenge, calling it #RepentingOfRacism and #AntiRacismForLent.

We very much hope you engage, attempt, question, wrestle, pray, and open your hearts to actively fighting the impacts of ongoing racism in your consciousness, in your conversations, in your financial decisions, in your choices of entertainment, in the moments you find yourself where you know something is just wrong.

樂樂樂 I wonder if I know any white people that would take on the following challenge for Lent. Every day for 40 days,...
Posted by Andre Henry on Saturday, February 10, 2018