Saturday, July 30, 2016

On the Road: L. Tsegaye of Silver Spring, MD #DismantlingWhiteousness

Lene and I met twice during our stay in the DC area.  All told, we spoke together for about two hours over coffee, and I wish I could have had a professional videographer with us to get a larger cross section of our conversation, as her observations on this country as a person who grew up in Ethiopia were freshly provoking and encouraging to me.  Nonetheless, she has great hope in the potential of the United States to truly set the bar for conversations that transcend race, culture, and religious differences to find our common humanity.  If we have the courage to sit down, face to face, and learn.  

peace by peace by peace,

Friday, July 29, 2016

On the Road: Heather Glady of Washington DC, #DismantlingWhiteousness

Heather Glady, born and raised near Phoenix, Arizona, has an internship at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.  The story of race in this country is also a story about who controls the historical narrative, and Heather has much to say on what that means.  Hear her focus on the story of Geneva K. Valentine, and why she believes we need to move the narrative of diversity in this country into broader arenas than just oppression and injustice.

Please note that Heather speaks from her personal opinions which do not necessarily reflect those of The George Washington University or the Smithsonian.

Learn more about the important work of the DC Africana Archives Project here.

peace by peace by peace,

Thursday, July 28, 2016

On the Road: Michelle of Holly Springs, NC #DismantlingWhiteousness

Right about the time we most needed it, as my wife and daughters and I were starting to emotionally fray, we made it to North Carolina, where our friends the McCrazies (not their real name, but real to us) are living.  Years ago, Michelle and her husband Will were part of a small-group newlywed accountability fellowship with Darcie and I, and we all have shared many tables together with tough, vulnerable talks.  We pulled into their driveway, they helped us unload, and the next morning said: you two need a little time, we'll take care of the kids.

Which was a huge blessing, as Michelle and Will have four kids of their own, and regularly watch another boy from the neighborhood who's Zimbabwean father is managing multiple business endeavors (and also bringing them eggs and corn regularly).  It was a real piece of the Beloved community to me, and it truly recharged our spirits.

Before we left, Michelle sat down to share her thoughts on neighbors and on remembering that Jesus commands us to love, and to listen to everyone's stories.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On the Road: DOOR Atlanta at Holy Taco #DismantlingWhiteousness

Met up with Chad Wright Pittman and Justin Chambers, directors at DOOR Atlanta, as well as one of their board members, Pete Paulsen.  We had lunch at Holy Taco, and a generous and robust discussion on the intersections of Christianity, race, politics, and service came together.  Listen in:

Part 2, Pete Paulsen was sitting in a seat with lighting issues from my perspective, so we swapped chairs.  Hear him weigh in on how, as Jesus-followers, inclusivity should always trump exclusivity.

peace by peace by peace,

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On the Road: the Radical Hospitality of Alterna

Our stop these last few days has been at Alterna, a bilingual community of Christ-followers devoted to faithful acts of hospitality, mercy, and justice, particularly around immigration and economic issues, in both Georgia and Guatemala.  It was co-founded by my mentor and friend, Anton Flores-Maisonet, and it was true delight to share life with his family, and the families of his community.

Today, Anton gave us a tour of the "two LaGranges:" the South has the highest level of poverty as well as being the highest concentration of African-Americans; and the North has the highest concentration of wealth and Anglo-Americans.  In fact, Anton told us, LaGrange has one of the highest levels of income disparity in the country.  Alterna is located in the South.

Anton gave us a tour of the "two LaGranges"

In Northwest LaGrange, one neighborhood has it's very own 
neighborhood retreat chapel, complete with a Steinway.  
Hear the troubled improvisational piece 
that came out of me, called Cross-Over, at the bottom of this blogpost
In lieu of writing my own impressions and thoughts at this moment (all very positive and hopeful), I'll insert our photos alongside this version of the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father, that Anton and the congregation used as part of our worship service this afternoon (he had also added Spanish translations and more Alterna specific language, not reflected here). It is a lengthy breath of fresh, Spirit-filled air, in the midst of the rancor that fills our feeds and airwaves right now.  Let it nurture and challenge you, and I suggest you read it out loud.  It fills me with hope and encouragement for our launch of The Table Setters.

Our Father who art in heaven

Norma, Arturo, Charlotte, and Anton discuss the pains of 
our world, of LaGrange, or our personal lives.
Father of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US who currently have no path to legalization.

Father of every guest who comes to our door at Alterna.

Father of the asylum seeking family fleeing the violence in Mexico, the children whose father was killed for refusing to be a drug mule.

Father of the economic migrant from Central America, forced to come to the US to be able to provide for his family due to poverty in his home country.

Father of the small business owner who was being extorted by the drug cartels, who moved his business 5 times and they still found him and physically attacked him.

Father of the 5,100 US citizen children in the foster care system because of our broken immigration system that has detained and deported their parents.

Father of the hundreds of thousands of detained and deported parents of US citizen children, most of whom have committed no criminal offense.

Our father, you sent your son to be born into a refugee family and found no room at the inn. You are being denied welcome over and over again as we are inhospitable to the stranger in our midst.

Father of Jesus, our “buen coyote,” who “crosses us over into the Kingdom against the law, by grace…for if salvation were about obeying the law then all of us are damned."

The potential burial site of Horace King,
a master bridge builder who had purchased his freedom
from slavery, just outside the Confederate cemetery.
Hallowed be your name

Hallowed be your name in the women and men who work for justice, advocating for the immigrant and welcoming the sojourner as your scripture commands.

Hallowed be your name in those who go to visit you in the for-profit detention centers all over the US, as private corporations make a profit off of you, you who are not authorized to work in the US but get paid between one and three dollars per day to work behind bars.

Thy Kingdom Come

Charlotte and Ruby prepping for the pot-luck.
Let your kingdom come, your kingdom that abolishes borders, and freely offers grace to all, for none deserve to enter.

Your kingdom that makes no distinction in nationality; your kingdom is kinship and love.

Your kingdom that values all human life as equally sacred; your kingdom is justice and freedom.

For when your kingdom comes, we will see:

An end to drug addiction that creates the demand for drugs in the US at the cost of the lives of so many in Mexico and Central America.

A path to legalization, so that nobody has to live in fear.

Thriving economies in Mexico and Central America, so that people will not be forced to migrate to find survival.

Reciting the Lord's Prayer before dinner.
Safety and security instead of impunity in Mexico, and justice and truth brought to the thousands of families who wonder what has happened to their disappeared loved ones.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

May your will be done, and not the will of the oppressor that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. May your will be done that there may be enough for everyone, as you intended.

May your will be done, that none should be afraid because of their race.

Give us this day, our daily bread

The bread of the freedom to migrate.

The bread of family reunification.

The bread of justice.

The bread of economic opportunity for all, so that people are not forced to migrate.

The bread of abundance, as in your Eucharist, where there is enough for everyone.

And forgive us our trespasses

The name of this game might make this blog lose it's PG rating (ha!)
Forgive us for demanding conformity as a condition for offering welcome; for placing unrealistic expectations on the immigrant to abandon their own language and customs in the name of assimilation, because we fear that they will threaten our way of life.

Forgive us for not seeing the innate value in every immigrant, but placing a priority on those who can serve our country more than others, those with higher education and special skills, and forgetting that every human being has value and something to offer because you love them.

Forgive us for scapegoating the immigrant.

But either way, Anton and I won the first match!
Forgive us for not taking responsibility for the ways that our own hands have contributed to the struggles in Mexico and Central America, for not taking responsibility for our part in creating poverty and impunity. Forgive us for our self-righteousness. (and our Self-Whiteousness)

As we forgive those who trespass against us

Lord, we choose to forgive those who have illegally entered our country or who have overstayed their visas, because we know if we were in their shoes, we would do the same thing. We would search for economic opportunity, safety from violence, and a better life for our children in the land where “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

And lead us not into temptation

Let us not be tempted to believe myths about the immigrant, but rather let us build relationships with our immigrant brothers and sisters that lead us to the truth.

But deliver us from evil

Deliver us from the evils of ethnocentrism, racism, and xenophobia.
What happens when we welcome strangers and share life?

Deliver us from the evils of scapegoating and blame.

Deliver us from the evil of oppressing others in the name of our own comfort.

For yours is the kingdom,

Which we long to see already.

And the power,

greater than the power of any government, law, border fence, or drug.

And the glory forever.
Driving through Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia, especially in the Causeway across Lake Ponchartrain, there were spaces to "Cross Over", or make a U-Turn, or what some friends call a Rainbow turn. Today, on a tour with Anton Flores-Maisonet of @antonofalterna Alterna we learned of the two tales of LaGrange, GA, a city with some of the greatest discrepancy if wealth in our nation. After driving through the Southwest, we drove to the Northwest and came across the Chapel in the Pines, a beautiful neighborhood chapel with its very own Steinway Piano. Unlocked, available for anyone to use at any time. Anton asks what does this say about our faith? Do we, who have an abundance of wealth, hide it away in a private and beautiful enclave, meant for individual use, or do we open our doors and gates to learn and stretch our understanding of God through one another? Do we learn about faith from another's context? What does this say about the war between #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter? Could we turn around and look at the other? Could we cross over to their side of town? Prayerfull, I entitle this improv: Cross Over. #DismantlingWhiteousness #TheTableSetters #Mathyudjan
A video posted by mathyu djan (@mathyudjan) on

Friday, July 22, 2016

Birmingham to Selma to Montgomery

A break from the videos for a moment:

Today was a reverent day about US Civil Rights: from Birmingham to Selma to Montgomery to LaGrange, GA. We teach our girls because it deeply matters; because civil rights activists and prophets were not glorified in their own days, but had insults and stones and ropes thrown at them; because it is good to wonder if the same dynamic is at play towards the majority of the #BlackLivesMatter activists; because 4 little girls not much older than my own were killed at their Sunday School and the responsible terrorists were known and free for most of their lives afterwards; because most of C & R's best friends will have to have talks with their parents that we may never have to have, unless we choose to. We trace these stories and these journeys and commit to doing all we can to turn the arc of history towards justice. It is an act of following Jesus.

This country is great because we can peacefully fight for change. May God guide our next steps, together.

Say their names: Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, and Denise

peace by peace by peace,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

mathyu djän covers 'Tis of Thee by Ani DiFranco

on the road, this song came on our music mix.  It's about 20 years old.  Still painfully and poignantly relevant right now, even more so.  

they caught the last poor man on a poor man's vacation
they cuffed him and they confiscated his stuff
and they dragged his black ass down to the station
and said "ok the streets are safe now.
all your pretty white children can come out to see spot run
and they came out of their houses and they looked around
but they didn't see no one.

and my country tis of thee
to take swings at each other on talk show tv
why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
'cause we'll never live long enough to
undo everything they've done to you
undo everything they've done to you

and above 96th street,
they're handing out smallpox blankets
so people don't freeze
the old dogs they got a new trick
it's called criminalize the symptoms
while you spread the disease

i hold on hard to something
between my teeth when i'm sleeping
and i wake up and my jaw aches
and the earth is full of earthquakes

and my country tis of thee
to take shots at each other on prime time tv
why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
'cause we'll never live long enough to
undo everything they've done to you
undo everything they've done to you

they caught the last poor man
flying away in a shiny red cape
and they brought him down to the station
and they said "boy you should know better
than to try and escape"
and i ran away with the circus
'cause there's still some honest work left for bearded ladies
but it's not the same goin' town to town
since they put everyone in jail 'cept
the cleavers and the bradys

and my country tis of thee
to take swings at each other on talk show tv
why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
'cause we'll never live long enough to
undo everything they've done to you
undo everything they've done to you

special thanks to Bohorfoush tribe...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Davon Hayes: Terrytown, LA #DismantlingWhiteousness

Davon Hayes, self-declared as my mother south of the Mason-Dixon, spoke to me from her Principal's office at Livaudais Middle School in Terrytown, LA, (aka New Orleans' West Bank.)  17 years ago, Davon saw me, a scared little white boy from the North who thought he was gonna come down south and change the world.  I wanted to quit every day.  Davon waited until I was ready, and then said, "now you got that quittin' itch outta ya, let's get down to work."

She is still setting tables across division and fear, and is one of my heroes in this work.  I look to her for guidance to this day.

peace by peace by peace,

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Emily Klein Morris of New Orleans, LA #DismantlingWhiteousness

I sat down with Emily Klein Morris, Director of District and School Partnership at Teach For America of Greater New Orleans, for an extended interview.  She opens up about her process from color-blindness to color-bravery, and how it's taken her 25 years.  It is deeply personal for her.

This is not fast work, this is a commitment to building relationships for the long haul, for our lifetimes.  It's what truly makes our country great, what truly gives me hope, that we even can...

Monday, July 18, 2016

On the Road: Dana & Danielle Boyd of LaPlace, LA #DismantlingWhiteousness

Twin sisters Dana & Danielle Boyd (Danielle was a student in my classroom at Fannie C. Williams 16 years ago) remember when their father, a minister about to graduate from Bible college, was murdered on their driveway.  Adding insult to tragedy, the pink-skinned police officer quickly dismissed the entire thing as "just another drug crime."   They also passionately believe in anti-racism as Christians.

Follow Dana by clicking here.

On the Road: Dwayne Richards of New Orleans, LA #DismantlingWhiteousness

Dwayne Richards of New Orleans, who also was in my sixth grade classroom at Fannie C. Williams 17 years ago, shares about a kind Italian woman who loved him like a son.  Pray for him as he prepares to get married and open his first restaurant!

Friday, July 15, 2016

On the Road: Provocative Statements from Texas #DismantlingWhiteousness

On our road trip from Denver to New Orleans (just arrived!), we drove through Texas. It takes a long time to drive through Texas. Thankfully, we stopped and visited some folks who had amazing things to share in this ongoing discussion:

My aunt, Jeanmarie Theine, currently living in Austin but who's heart is always in Hawaii.  We met at the Magnolia Cafe on Congress Street where and Jeanmarie spoke eloquently about the islands where people with pink skin are not the majority, and further, how that has truly been a gift in her life.  However, not all white people have the kind of patience needed to share, to listen, or to take turns.


Further east down I-10 at Abdallah's Lebanese Bakery, Pastor Alex Lee-Cornell of St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church in Houston, answers this question: who are the modern day Samaritans?  Alex surprised me by saying that one clearly despised group by many Christians today are none other than the racists of our country.  Do we have the courage to love them too?  (Alex was one of the earliest Dwellers at DOOR Los Angeles through the PCUSA's Young Adult Volunteer program while I was the director.)

I Stand With #BlackLivesMatter

The problem with racism in this country is not a problem of people of color. The biggest problem is Whiteousness.  I stand in support of #BlackLivesMatter as a white, straight-ish, Christian, male. I am not, nor will I ever be outright anti-cop, but I am certainly against systems that unjustly favor the powerful and the armed over the unarmed and unwealthy. I believe this to be a posture in line with following Jesus. I pray that those who feel threatened by #BlackLivesMatter and worry that all cops are under attack would realize that we actually have the same enemy: the idolization and glorification of an American way of life that is not intended for all of us. I pray that cops and people of color, that you and that me, could loosen the same chains, together. The enemy is Whiteousness.  Period.


+Matthew John Schmitt @matthewjschmitt

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On the Road: the DOOR Denver Movement #DismantlingWhiteousness

Had the honor and privilege of spending a community day with the DOOR Denver Dwellers, currently serving a full year through the Presbyterian Church's Young Adult Volunteer program.  Here's what they had to say.

(former video of Helen removed by request)

Michael Watkins of Raleigh, North Carolina, ironically discusses how social media is hindering authentic community, and how we may need to rethink how we establish good communication in this very heated social climate.

Emma Moore of Indianapolis, Indiana corrects me on my question by carefully explaining the difference between "anti-racist" and "anti-racism."  You can also follow Emma's blog here.

Melissa Rift of Louisville, Kentucky, wonders how brown-skinned people feel about the subtle and not-so-subtle uses of "black exceptionalism" as it relates to Obama and people serving in law enforcement.

Click here to learn more about this video project.

If you'd like Table Setters to facilitate in a town near you, click here.

peace by peace by peace,
+Matthew John Schmitt @matthewjschmitt

Saturday, July 9, 2016

On the Road: Kyla Garcia of Los Angeles #DismantlingWhiteousness

Currently, we are in Taos, NM.  Kyla Garcia messaged us from Los Angeles to send this passionate and poignant reading of her piece, You Matter.

More words from Kyla: At the heart of all humanity, YES All Lives Matter. But, the Black Lives Mattermovement started because until black men and women STOP being gunned down without trials or convictions when their murders are caught on camera, then we must remind each other that our African-American brothers and sisters MATTER because murder after murder after murder without trial communicates to an entire community of people that their lives don't matter. And the way my friends have to fear for their parents', brothers', sisters', and their own lives every day is not something that ALL people have to go through. To be killed for a missing tail light when you get pulled over by an officer or selling CDs outside of a convenience store...even as a brown, biracial woman is not something I have to fear. But my black friends do. Until they no longer have to fear this. I will echo and support and remind them‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬. When that day comes...then we will all remember that we are one. Until then, I'm here to keep reminding and supporting because the system (that we need to transform and change together!) tells us we are not one through blatant Racism and Murder.

Click here to learn more about this video project.

If you'd like Table Setters to facilitate in a town near you, click here.

peace by peace by peace,
+Matthew John Schmitt @matthewjschmitt

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On the Road: Emily of Phoenix #DismantlingWhiteousness

Emily shares about her experience working in Addis Ababa with Dr. Belay Abegaz and the Children's Heart Fund of Ethiopia.  While her only understanding of Africa was starving children from the infamous Sally Struther's commercials, she learned of immense hospitality at the tables of families throughout the city.

Click here to learn more about this video project.

If you'd like Table Setters to facilitate in a town near you, click here.

peace by peace,
+Matthew John Schmitt @matthewjschmitt

This. Is. Not. Okay. -by Bethany McKinney Fox

Now interrupting the video blog project to bring you this: Bethany McKinney Fox is a longtime friend who is fed up at the lack of concern for our brothers and sisters who are getting killed, unjustly. I am with her 100 PERCENT. Also, her call for more conversations: 1000% yes, and it's why Marvin and I are launching the Table Setters. Email us here to set up a conversation in your hometown.

This is not okay. We cannot abide this. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. I am deeply sad and angry. AT THE SAME TIME, I am sad and angry as someone who, when I leave the house to drive to work today having found out yesterday I have a burned out brake light on one side, even in light of last night's events, I am ZERO PERCENT more worried about my personal safety. When my husband leaves the house today, even with his big fro, the events of the last two days have increased my fear for his safety by ZERO PERCENT. This is not the same for our Black sisters and brothers, who my heart breaks for and with. I cannot begin to comprehend the depth of pain and fear and anger and trauma that community is having to live with EVERY DAY.

But White people, we have GOT to get it together with our white sisters and brothers. We need to keep/start having those uncomfortable conversations with our family members and all those other white people we'd rather just keep it smooth with. People are dying in part because we aren't finding ways to have these honest conversations and do the uncomfortable and long and tiring work though this stuff with other white people. But I think we can put up with discomfort since other people are losing their lives. If you have ideas for ways we can create spaces where white folks can have these conversations together and walk through the defensiveness and fear and all the other things that keep our white sisters and brothers from fully joining the beloved community, I am with you and want to help facilitate that. If you are a white person and feel like your instinct is to side with other white folks, and you don't get why people are angry and you don't see the injustice in what is happening - please message me and I would love to meet with you and hear you out and talk through things with you and share my perspective on it too.

This is not okay. We cannot abide this.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On the Road: Lenay of Phoenix

Lenay breaks down the problem with color-blindness: the threat of a mono-culture that values some of us higher than others. #DismantlingWhiteousness

Calling for Color-Bravery.

Click here to learn more about this video project.

If you'd like Table Setters to facilitate in a town near you: click here

peace by peace,
+Matthew John Schmitt @matthewjschmitt

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Querido El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula,

Fare thee well LA, I never meant to stay, you wooed me from the start. those very particular angels, T&T, setting dynamite along the faultlines of my soul, clearing the way, preparing a new path.

Your salty waters drew out pain, privilege, toxins right through my sweaty pink, churned me on your sandy edges, scrubbed off ashes until I floated, until I bobbed safely, before I turned back eastward.

Your mountainous spine strong, your peaks and valleys a mysterious temple to meet my Creator once again, a vantage point to feel the light of my days anew, to love with fresh exfoliated heartskin.

Your many splendored fruits fed me, fed Darcie’s body, the magic of soul mixing with sand happened within, we do like we do, your grit slowly churned up the children we carry, the daughters who lift us with singing and moving and shaking: they learned from listening to you through their feets.

Your arteries, your veins, where I roamed freely from peoples to peoples, sensed their unique code scripts pulsing, DNA tales to enact a healing on your blood pressure, the sloughing of your thick plaques and façades, a clearing of your airways, an easing of your strained heart.

Let me love you this last day on your dirt.  

You have all you need. All the messages on your skin, in your soul, in your libraries, in your neighborhoods. Listen within, dear friend, listen to the 1,000 angels you sent to me, and the 1,000s more from the many bloodlines of the many rivers of the many tribes.

That is not your muscles quaking or your bones breaking but the sound of the many feets quietly marching upon you, under breathing winds whispering: Si se puede, Այո մենք կարող ենք, 我们可以, نعم نستطيع, Ya kita boleh, Ja lahko, Oo kaya natin, Oui nous pouvons, Ναι μπορούμε, Wi nou kapab, כן אנחנו יכולים, हाँ हम कर सकते हैं।, Ya kita bisa, Si possiamo, 私たちにはできます, 그래 우리는 할 수있어, بله ما میتوانیم, Yebo singakwenza lokho, Ndio tunaweza, Ae makou e hiki, Ioe e mafai ona tatou, sim nós podemos, ใช่เราสามารถ, Vâng, chúng tôi có thể, да мы можем, Ja det kan vi, Ja wir können, Yes we can..........

yes, we can.

Your wild orange fire hairs cauterized my wound, warmed my ache, seared me with story. I am forever yours, I will wear your tattoo and sing of your heart and your soul and your pain and your triumph.

from love,

On the Road: Marvin Wadlow Jr. of Los Angeles

Marvin Wadlow Jr., my partner in Table Setters, answers some of the many questions we ask participants to wrestle with at our table settings.

For the first question, Marvin discusses a topic he'd love to ask local Armenians about:

Next, Marvin vulnerably and generously shares a time when he was hurt by a pink-skinned father who was against him dating his daughter, while also being blessed by his coach who helped him process it all.

And finally, Marvin drives it home with the most important element of improving race relations in our country: break bread with someone who doesn't look exactly like you, and do it often.

Click here to learn more about this video project.

If you'd like Table Setters to facilitate in a town near you: click here

peace by peace,
+Matthew John Schmitt @matthewjschmitt

Saturday, July 2, 2016

On The Road: Andrew Paiva of Los Angeles

Andrew Paiva of Los Angeles discusses the very U.S. concept of hyphenated racial markers. My question after hearing this: do the folks with Japanese heritage in Brazil feel like citizens with the same privileges as the native Brazilians?